By: Chris Pimentel
A blockade sparked by Ontario’s “broken promise” to return lands to the Haudenosaunee people was set up around 8:30 Thursday morning, along Highway Six/Argyle Street at Kanenhstaton, ( the former Douglas Creek Estates) just outside Caledonia, by a group of Six Nations people and continues without any sign of coming down.
Organizers of the protest said the barricade came after Ontario broke a promise to return the Burtch lands to the Haudenosaunee people under the Haldimand Treaty. The former Burtch Correctional Institute land is within Six Nations treaty lands in Brant County. Ontario agreed to return the lands to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) under the Haldimand Treaty in exchange for barricades to come down in 2006.
The barricade caused frustrations for morning commuters as one driver screamed “Go f*** yourself” at people he thought were protesters but were actually members of the media. Meanwhile, others like Ashley Smith were more sympatric to the origins of the protest.
“I remember what happened in 2006, trust me I remember and they had every right to do it back then when the housing development was taking place on their land. People don’t forget, did they (the government) think that people wouldn’t remember? They should’ve done it right the first time.” said Smith.
During the Douglas Creek Reclamation, The Province of Ontario along with the HCCC negotiated a peaceful resolution to the 2006 Douglas Creek Reclamation. The HCCC, took the lead in negotiations and assisted the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada with a peaceful resolution that saw the blockade on Highway 6 come down in exchange for the Burtch land to be returned to Six Nations.
Former Premier David Peterson agreed to return the land to Six Nations in the same status that it left under the Haldimand Proclamation of 1794. The letter which is signed by former Premier Peterson says “It is the intention that the land title be returned to its original state, its status under the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784.”
But at the end of March, Premier Kathleen Wynne, and the Province of Ontario transferred the land, not to the HCCC but the Six Nations Elected Council, a system that was imposed by the Federal Government in 1924. The elected council placed the land in a federal corporation, appointed two directors and said it would remain there until it receives reserve status. Under reserve status the land is considered crown land and subject again to expropriation. Under the Haldimand Treaty it is Haudenosaunee land.
With the commitment from the Province of Ontario, the HCCC, who has been managing the Burtch lands since 2006, leased out the land to Six Nations farmer Kris Hill, who was in court on Thursday facing a contempt of court charge, the result of the Six Nations Band Council refusing to recognize the HCCC lease and slapping Kris Hill with a no trespass injunction, and then a contempt of court order when she continue to tend her crops on the over 300 acre property. She is farming just over 200 acres of the land. The judge granted an adjournment for Hill Thursday on the contempt of court order. It was adjourned to August 22 . The trespass trial will be heard in a Brantford courtroom August 18th. The no trespass notice also include John and Jane Doe, preventing all Six Nations people and others from entering the property.
Six Nations Band Council Chief Ava Hill has refused to comment on the barricade or adjournment. “Due to the current legal proceedings surrounding the Burtch Lands, Six Nations Elected Council is unable to accept interview requests/comment,” Six Nations band council Communications Officer Victoria Racette said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
The Six Nations Elected Band Council move sparked a series of protest moves by community members including holding a picnic on the Burtch lands, a hoe-in to help Kris Hill’s crops from dying, signs have gone up twice at the band office opposing the band council injunction and there have been protests at events Elected Chief Ava Hill has attended.
Members of the protest provided drivers with copies of the letter listing their demands.
Six Nations woman Doreen Silversmith read the document saying “With that action, Ontario has committed fraud, lied to us, to our people. Ontario is going to be 100 per cent responsible for any actions resulting from their lies,” she read.
She continued “Ontario’s actions bring much dishonour to the Crown and it’s violation of the Two Row Wampum, the Silver Covenant Chain, and the William Claus Wampum.”
She said Ontario’s move is a direct contradiction of the federal government’s move to reconciliation and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s recent statement to the Assembly of First Nations. Wilson-Raybould recently told the Assembly of First Nations it was time for community’s to prepare for change from bands to nations.
“First Nations need to prepare for a future where Indian Act bands, such as the Six Nations band council, are done away with, opening the door to more traditional governments” Silversmith said Thursday.
The document said they wanted to see:
- Ontario and Canada return to the negotiation table with our (HCC) confederacy.
- Ontario lives by their words of May 17, 2006, and returns the Burtch Lands under the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784.
- Six Nations band council withdraws the injunction against Kris Hill and the people of Six Nations.
Also included in the package handed out was the original letter from former Premier David Peterson and the letter from a press conference that the HCCC held on Jul 27th.
The Ontario Provincial Police have blocked off Argyle Street South or Highway 6 at Braemar Avenue near the Canadian Tire store in Caledonia.
After speaking with the protesters OPP began turning away cars at the Tim Horton’s a couple of kilometers north of the barricade. In a statement, the OPP said “The primary role of the OPP will be to preserve the peace, maintain safety for the public, the participants and police.”
“As with any road closure or blockade, the objective of the OPP is to work to restore the orderly flow of traffic is the safest manner possible. The OPP asks everyone involved or affected by the demonstration activity to remain calm, patient, obey the law and respect the rights of others for the benefit of all.” said the OPP in a statement.
Haudenosaunee Confederacy Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton said he has not been contacted by any Ontario representatives.
Chronology of protest events since Six Nations Band Council served local farmer Kris Hill with an eviction notice in May. (See video under Turtle TV)