Six Nations Warriors Reclaim Traditional Lands
By sunrise on April 21, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) thought they had successfully quelled yet another indigenous uprising in the occupied territories currently known as Canada. But by midmorning, the OPP were forced to beat a hasty retreat as hundreds of people from surrounding Six Nations communities flooded the quiet town of Caledonia to defend their ancestral territories. Indigenous protesters set up barricades of burning tires and vehicles to block access for, as one warrior put it, "as long as it takes."
The standoff began on February 28, when warriors from the Six Nations (a confederacy composed of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora nations) occupied a 130-acre parcel of land slated to be cleared for a housing development. The occupation effectively stopped construction on the planned Douglas Creek Estates, a business venture of Henco Industries.
Canada claims that this land was sold to the government in the late 1800s, despite the fact that the Six Nations were given clear title to the land in 1784. The agreement with Canada clearly states that the land was to be leased, not sold, for the construction of a road. The Six Nations currently control only five percent of the land that was officially granted to them in 1784. Protesters have vowed to hold their ground until the land is returned to their control.
There have been several other armed confrontations between Six Nations warriors and the Canadian government, including one in which government forces fired approximately 60,000 rounds at Native protesters fighting for land rights. The current occupation, while not without violence, has differed from previous Six Nations land disputes in that the participants have vowed to remain unarmed.
The Ontario government reacted to the overt assertion of Native sovereignty with a brutal raid on the night of April 20. The OPP used tasers, pepper spray and bludgeons to evict the occupation. Within an hour, the police had arrested 16 of the indigenous resisters and brutalized countless others.
What the police did not count on was the militant response. By morning, hundreds of Native protesters reoccupied the site, blockading a highway with an appropriated dump truck and piles of burning debris. As the Six Nations protesters raised their warrior flags over the blockade, several other Six Nation communities crippled the surrounding area's critical transportation infrastructure. Six Nations warriors also raided Henco's on-site office and seized computers, architectural reports, equipment and other sensitive information. The company's insurance agency has refused to compensate Henco, because it considers the looting an "act of insurrection" against the government.
That night, Tyendinaga Mohawks seized railways and burned a rail bridge. In Marysville, Mohawks used a bus and burning tires to block a highway at a rail crossing, shutting down both the road and railway. The various blockades shut-down the main thoroughfare in Caledonia, commuter rail lines, the main road to the Nanticoke hydroelectric plant and a major transport route.
The occupation has received the overwhelming support of the clan mothers, the traditional leaders of the Six Nations' matriarchal society. While many non-Native residents have also expressed support, there have been many ugly clashes between racist Caledonians and the Native blockaders. As a good will gesture, the Six Nations demonstrators removed the blockades on May 22, but soon the OPP attempted to evict the protesters. Members of the Six Nations reoccupied the road and were attacked by residents. The police intervened by joining the racists in attacking the Natives. That evening, an electrical transformer was set on fire, leaving thousands of Caledonians without power for days and causing an estimated $1.5 million in damage.
The Six Nations are maintaining their occupation in Caledonia, while negotiating with the government.
For more information on how to donate food, medical supplies and money, visit Six Nations Solidarity.
© Earth First! Journal July-August 2006