Six Nations Men and Caledonia resident Ken Hewitt share perspectives

From the Dunnville Chronicle

There was standing room only when four members of the Six Nations Mens Fire began to speak about their role as protectors of land. When they finished, Caledonia resident Ken Hewitt explained his petition asking for an inquiry into the actions of the OPP and OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino.
Three years ago such a session was beyond anyone’s imagination. On the eve of Feb. 28, people from the two communities shared information in the Wilfred Laurier University Theatre in Brantford.

Later Mayor Marie Trainer heralded this as a start of something. Resolution will come from the grass-roots, not Toronto or Ottawa, she said.
In her introductory remarks, organizer Marilyn Vegso said the evening was an opportunity to hear from Six Nations and Caledonia citizens and to move people toward understanding and friendship. Resolution can only be reached by the communities of Six Nations, Brantford and Caledonia, she added.

The Feb. 27 session was organized by TRUE established by Vegso and her spouse, Jim Windle. The name is an acronym for Two Row Wampum understanding through education.
Members of the Mens Fire sitting on the panel were Wes Elliott, Gene Johns, Kelly Curley and Stan Farmer.

With the purple and white beaded Two Row wampum draped over his hands, Farmer explained that it represented two people living side by side but not interfering in the others laws and customs. The treaty was first struck with the Dutch in the early 1600s and then adopted later by the French and British.

“This document I hold here in my hand is a living document,” Farmer said. “This was supposed to last forever.”
Elliott pointed out that under Section 35 of the Canadian constitution, treaty law supersedes Canadian law. Last February, provincial and federal negotiators told Six Nations negotiators that they were at the table under the Two Row and the Silver Covenant Chain, another treaty of friendship, he added.

Farmer and Curley offered a brief overview of Six Nations history. Before the peacemaker arrived, nations were at war. When the Great Law was created, it became a way of life and is not a religion, explained Farmer.

The Men’s Fire is thousands of years old and was rekindled three years ago after OPP raided Douglas Creek Estates in 2006.
“We are to promote peace at all costs. Once peace is broken it is our job to protect it,” Farmer said of the men’s role. “We were born to protect the earth, to protect our families, our nations, our clans. We can’t surrender nor will I ever.”

At this point, Hewitt took his place on stage. He pointed out that Caledonia residents know very little history and very little about their native neighbours. This has led to racism in some, he added.
Hewitt laid responsibility on governments who did nothing while watching protests, violent clashes, road closures, halted construction and personal attacks. Communities must stop battling it out with each other and put their joint efforts into pressuring government to act, he p>Believing the Ipperwash inquiry policies have failed, Hewitt hoped his inquiry will bring out the truth in Caledonia and the surrounding area and will lead to better policies.

In launching the petition for an OPP inquiry, he gave people in both communities the opportunity to push for the truth. With Brantford and Six Nations endorsement of the petition, their case for an inquiry will be stronger, he added.

Expressing concerns about local economies and social costs, he called on leaders and adults to act responsibly, put “local nonsense” aside and find solid ways to move community interests forward.
“My passion and my hope is that one day we will be the beacon for all others sharing the same struggles,” said Hewitt. “Haldimand, Brantford and Six Nations will be known for its successes in working together rather than its failures.”

Brantford resident Garry Horsnell asked why Six Nations men protect land they will not get back because the federal government will not expropriate land from third parties. Curley responded saying Six Nations had a right to that land even if is a house on it but only if no people are living in it.

Ruby Montour of Six Nations challenged Hewitt on two tier policing. He said that’s not how he describes policing but he has seen mistakes made by police toward both sides. The confusion comes from police ranks above, he added.

Developer Steve Charest presented a few documents to members of the Men’s Fire. One outlined a 1997 agreement between Six Nations and Brantford for economic benefits to both communities. Six Nations protests began in the 1990s, he added.

Then Cheyenne Williams was honoured for bringing awareness to DCE in 2005. She was a 17-year-old mother of a two year old and realized places for children to live in Six Nations were not plentiful.

In Oct. 2005, she and Janie Jamieson began an information mission about the Haldimand Tract. On Feb 27, 2006, they stayed in DCE and then decided to remain there.
“As a woman, I’m a keeper of the land and I bring new life,” she said. “Our women are very strong and they stand beside our men.”

After the session, H-N MPP Toby Barrett said comments about land protection and the Great Law were made by Williams and others when he visited DCE in March 2006. He carried that message from the site to the Governor General of Canada.

Brantford resident Brian VanTilborg has attended TRUE meetings since they began last year. “I realized a solution would not be found without a dialogue with Six Nations,’ he said.
In his opinion, tension and racism has not reached the level arising form DCE. VanTilborg, who was a Brant NDP candidate in the federal election, noted that TRUE is now bringing Caledonia and Brantford issues together creating an opportunity to work together to get government to do its job.

Copyright © 2009 Dunnville Chronicle

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Filed under Brantford, Caledonia, Men's Fire, TRUE

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