http://www.peaceculture.org/drupal/node/61 As a settler and as an activist, this fight is equal parts anti-colonial and land protection; fighting against the ongoing war of colonization being waged by my government against the people of Six Nations is as much a part of this for me as is fighting against the destruction of land and the perpetuation of overdevelopment and sprawl.Submitted by alex on Wed, 08/27/2008 - 14:25
And be willing to fight we must.
For the past two months, I have been spending several nights a week camped at a land protection site in Brantford. On Monday morning, August 25, I and a few other AW@Lers joined over a dozen people from Six Nations in shutting down a development site just off highway 403.
The site that was shut down is one of the same sites that Ruby and Floyd Montour had been stopping work at over the winter. It is the same site that the Confederacy Council showed up at early this summer, to warn developers that they were attempting to build on Six Nations land without consultation and that it would not be tolerated. And it is the third individual site that Steve “Boots” Powless has led a shut down of in the last two months. He has been camped in a tepee on the site beside Oak Park Road for over 45 days now.
The original closure was enacted by less than a dozen people, as a few Six Nations men who have been deeply involved in resistance there since the barricades first went up at Douglas Creek over two years ago, stood in front of cement trucks trying to enter a site slated for the construction of the Kingspan Insulation facility. This site lies adjacent to a bike trail along which are signs marking the area as “environmentally sensitive.” It is only a few hundred meters from the Grand River. The second closure happened at the massive King and Benton “commercial/industrial center” development site on the other side of the 403. There are a host of environmental concerns with the development on this site, but frankly, it isn’t the specifics that concern me; I am deeply troubled by the pattern of sprawl and over-development that this whole issue in Brantford is so emblematic of. Upriver in Waterloo, where I live, the exact same issue is of concern and affects Six Nations in the exact same ways.
The King-Benton site was shut down a few weeks ago. I and a handful of other supporters watched as a large contingency from the Haudenosaunee Men’s Fire of Grand River arrived on site to announce that the all work would be shut down pending an environmental assessment, and that, if the results of the assessment did not meet the standards of Six Nations, the site would be shut down permanently (or until it could be made convincingly acceptable). Just yesterday, work resumed at the site with the developer claiming that environmental concerns have been met. I don’t know if they’ve consulted with reps from the Men’s Fire or not, or what their position is on it—I haven’t been by the site since Monday afternoon. And while they may be working today, what happens tomorrow is always another question.
Monday’s shut down was of the Hampton Inn site (just 200 meters up road from the original Kingspan closure), where a new hotel is being put in. The developers had been given two formal warnings of closure, and on Monday morning, a small group of grassroots Six Nations activists, blockaded the driveway of the site where construction had been ongoing while the other sites were closing down. By 10am, the gates were locked and adorned with a large Six Nations flag. A Two Row flag flew high in the air on a flag pole we had erected on site, and a small Unity flag had been planted atop the would-be hotel that is only in the early stages of construction. Yesterday morning (Tuesday) the lead developer visited the site and was told that resuming work was non-negotiable; his only recourse is to seek compensation from the city or the province. After all, it was them who sold disputed land without a proper warning (of the fact that land rights to the area are under open and ongoing dispute). Apparently they showed up again today trying to work, but were again shut down. And again, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
Six Nations have claims open on land throughout the Haldimand Tract. A stage of resistance to colonialism and ecological destruction has begun where people of Six Nations are asserting land rights that should be respected by all settlers. There is an obligation to ensure that our government properly recognizes those rights. Six Nations activists are asserting not only their rights, but also their obligations as Haudenosaunee people to protect the land. I believe that it is also all of our responsibilities to protect the land bases we live on, and to prevent activities in our communities from destroying the land bases of others.
Repeatedly, when I have stood in protection of land on Six Nations territory, I hear that we are protecting the land for future generations. Boots reminds all non-native visitors to the site that we are protecting the land for future generations of settlers as well as for Onkwehonwe. He reminds everyone that money has nothing to do with this. As a settler and as an activist, this fight is equal parts anti-colonial and land protection; fighting against the ongoing war of colonization being waged by my government against the people of Six Nations is as much a part of this for me as is fighting against the destruction of land and the perpetuation of overdevelopment and sprawl.
And be willing to fight we must. This battle cannot be won in the courts or through petitions or any flashy media-stunt tactics. The only way to stop destructive development is to get in its way—to physically prevent it from happening. This I have learned partially from working alongside people like Boots and others from Six Nations. And it is a lesson that we as settlers must internalize. It is not okay for us to acquiesce to the violence of the State that attacks Indigenous peoples. ‘We,’ as a settler/supporter/activist community, must be as willing in our challenge against the State as the people of Six Nations are, to straight-up refuse to allow governments to impose their will on First Nations communities. And we must accept that they do not know how to hear us, in the same way that the courts do not know how to understand language that speaks of dishonoured treaty rights and the traditional obligations of First Nations peoples.
All three of the work stoppages at Oak Park Road in Brantford have been completely peaceful. Reports in July that someone from Six Nations had hit a police officer were false (as has been corroborated by the police’s own reports). However, that activists from Six Nations are willing to fight back against the illegitimate use of force by police is well known, it is a large part of what makes them so effective. That their own direct actions are always peaceful is a part of what makes them so compelling; another part being that, from either historical or moral perspectives, they are right. When we confront our own government we have to be equally forceful. We also have to know that we too are right; the land must be protected, it must be decolonized.