Monday, April 24, 2006

Caledonia: Potentially Another Oka Or Ipperwash?

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The earth was created by the assistance of the sun, and it should be left as it was. . . . The Country was made without lines of demarcation, and it is no mans business to divide it. . . . I see the white all over the country gaining wealth and see their desire to give us lands which are worthless. . . .The earth and my self are of one mind. The measure of land and the measure of our bodies are the same. Say it us if you can say it, that you were sent by Creative Power to talk to us. Perhaps you think the creator sent you here to destroy us as you see fit. If I thought you were sent by the creator I might be I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me, but understand me fully with reference to my affection to the land. I never said the land was mine do do with as I chose. The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim a right to live on my land, and accord you the privilage to live on yours.

-Heinmot Tooyalaket (Chief Joseph), Nez Perce

Well there is another Native occupation involving another piece of land taken illegally by the government of Canada. Reminiscent of both the Ipperwash standoff where protester Dudley George was killed by Ontario Provincial Police Sniper Kenneth Dean and of the 1995 Oka crisis where a Quebec Provincial Police Officer was killed.

The latest occupation of lands illegally taken from the Six Nations of the Grand River, by the Federal Government of Canada, is adjacent to the town of Caledonia approximately 30 km south of Hamiliton Ontario. The Clan Mothers of Six Nations and their supporters have taken it upon themselves, as stewards of the land to stop the further development of a planned sub-division on a 40 hectare piece of property that was once leased to the government and then sold without consent of the Six Nations people.

Protesters say that land, known as the Plank Road Tract, is part of the much larger Haldimand Deed, granted by the Crown to Six Nations in 1784 in recognition of their support of the British Crown during the American War of Independence. The deed included land stretching 10 kilometres on either side of the Grand River, from Lake Erie to Dundalk (midway between Owen Sound and Fergus), about 210 kilometres.That initial 950,000 acres was later downgraded by Lieutenant-Governor John Simcoe in 1795 to 275,000 acres. The Haldimand Tract now ends near present-day Elora in Nicol Township.

Six Nations Reserve: Located west of Highway 6 between the Grand River to the north and Indian Line or Regional Road 20 that runs through Hagersville. Six Nations is the most populous reserve in Canada, with a population of about 22,000. Roughly half live on the 18,818-hectare reserve. That's less than 5 per cent of the land originally granted to the Six Nations

Apparently, neither the Federal Government, nor the Ontario Provincial Police have learned a thing from the latter two stand-off's. I say this because approximately 5 days ago as of this writing, the Ontario Provincial Police stormed the peaceful occupation of this 40 hectare piece of land and arrested 16 protesters at approximately 4:30 am on Thursday. All this heavy handed show of force did was to escalate a peaceful occupation over lands that were illegally sold by the government in the first place. Approximately 4 hrs later, what started out as a small occupation of a few people grew to hundreds of people that actually had the Police retreating. They have not learned that when you back Native people into a corner they do not run away , but they stay and fight, from years of frustration and anger that has been allowed to build up from either the action, or the in-action of the Federal government.

All acrossed the province of Ontario there were protests in Solidarity with our brothers and sisters from Six Nations that drew attention of the national and international media. There was a peaceful protest held here on my reserve of Tyendinaga. The main railroad line between the large cities of Toronto and Montreal were blocked for one day in support of the Caledonia occupation and ended peacefully when there was an appearance of talks that were beginning to make progress between all parties at the negotiating table. Near Montreal the Mercier bridge was blocked for 3o minutes by another group of Mohawks , and the Mohawks of Akwesasne near Cornwall protested near the U.S. border and garnered alot of support.

Unfortunately, with land occupations and protests, comes the hidden racism against Native people that Canada can be so famous for. It seems to rear its ugly head once the Natives start to stand up for what they believe in and non-natives get a bit inconvenienced. It seems we can be tolerated until we go against the norm and try to assert and remind the government of our rights and our independance as a people. Stereo-types and ignorance also rear their ugly heads and serve as a reminder of just how ignorant Canadians are still to the plight of the Natives that exist in their own country.

Some Common Myths:

1. Natives don't pay tax.

A very small amount of Native people that work on reserves do not pay income tax. However; the majority of natives that work off reserve pay income tax. The majority of Natives also reside off reserve and therefore are subject to paying all taxes: income tax, property tax, sales tax etc. The people who reside on reserve are only free of paying one sales tax and that is the provincial sales tax.

2. Natives have access to cheap cigarettes and gas.

This may be the case, but it is because of Treaty Rights that were negotiated years and years ago regarding native lands and the goods sold upon them as non-taxable and probably more non-native people take advantage of our tax-free status by coming to reserves and buying our commodities than we do.

3. Natives get everything for free.

This is my favourite one: I and everyone here happen to pay a mortgage on our homes just like everyone else. The Treaties that were negotiated for education and medications were in lieu of priveledges for being placed on postage stamped size reserves, while the government settled what remained of our vast amount of land.

4. The Natives Discovered the land they call theirs.

Natives have existed on these lands for centuries and utilized many of the lands they call home as hunting grounds for centuries before that.

5. Why Should the government live up to Treaties and obligations that were made years ago?

The treaties and agreements that were made with the Native people, no matter how long ago are legally binding no matter when they were made and the Federal government has a Fiduciary responsibility to the Native people. New land claims are being submitted everyday due to the government not following its own policies and laws put in place for the surrendering of Native lands.

Imagine if the situation were reversed and all the non-natives in Canada were placed on reserves today, even smaller then they were promised and left to negotiate for every inch that was taken away illegally. Talks and negotiation have not worked and unfortunately the only thing that gets attention are the actions that end up inconveniencing the non-native people. If talks and negotiation worked then the over 1000 outstanding land claims would be fairly resolved by now.

The only thing the non-natives see are the barricades and not what forced the Native people to that point. The mainstream processes are utilized first and only after years of frustration from not getting anywhere do they ever end in a occupation or protest. Perhaps if the governement was willing to negotiate in good faith as it supposedly seems so willing to do when things become public, and people are inconvenienced, then they would never have to resort those means.

Also at this point in time I would like to declare the AFN (Assembly of First Nations) does not represent me as a Mohawk person. I think this organization is useless to the grass-roots Native people and only serves the politicians.

Rather than lend their support to what is going on in Caledonia, all the Grand Chief had to say was that barricades don't work and negotiation does. I don't know where he has been, nor where he is right now, but it certainly has not, and is not where he is needed. This is the same man that stated that corruption on reserve is an isolated incident. Mr Fontaine its time to get your head out of the sand and deal with reality and the actual people that you claim to represent and see the truth. The politicians that represent our territories and are corrupt (not all of them I do admit) are obviously the same ones telling you that corruption does not exist on reserve, am I right? You are no better: rather then deal with the current problems and help the people you claim to represent, you turn your back on them. Rather then help to seek solutions you are just full of words and in my mind a part of the problem.

So please do not count me in your claim that you represent all Native people within Canada, because as far as I am concerened you and your political organization are no better and in the same category as the Federal Government when it comes to caring about politics and not people.


Blogger gizmo54 said...

Shelley Brant,
You apprear to me as a very intelligent woman. I respect that.

I am a white man.
I was born into this white skin but I feel uncomfortable in it.
I have dreamt that I was a native woman in a past life.
I have had dreams about my village burning and the panic of not knowing where my children were.
I remember a lot of smoke and noise and confusion. I usually awoke in a cold sweat.

I agree with your blog, love the pictures and I have put your site on my desktop.
I look forward to further comments from you.
Thank you.

11:39 PM  

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