—Page Still Under Construction— (last updated Dec 2)
This page outlines ongoing activist struggles for land, sovereignty, and decolonization including:
-Kanonhstaton (Douglas Creek Estates, Caledonia)
-Eagle’s Nest (Brantford)
For a historical context leading up to these instances of land based direct action, see the page entitled “Context/Background” (top menu).
The Reclamation of Kanonhstaton (“Occupation of Douglas Creek Estates, Caledonia”)
In response to continuing development on Six Nations land, in February of 2006, members and allies of the Six Nations community set up barricades and began ‘occupying’ a portion of land known as Kanonhstaton. Kanonhstaton is loosely translated as “the protected place” and is also known as Douglas Creek Estates, in Caledonia—it is situated within the borders of the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784. This action was supported by the Clan Mothers, who issued a statement on March 20th, 2006, reaffirming Haudenosaunee sovereignty and calling for nation-to-nation negotiations. Shortly after the reclamation the Henning brothers, developers of the Douglas Creek Estates subdivision filed an injunction to remove protestors from the site. The injunction was granted by Justice T. David Marshall, and served to the protestors on March 3rd, 2006. Protestors burned the injunction, and refused to vacate the site.
At 5am on April 20, 2006, about 150 Ontario Provincial Police raided the site, armed with tasers, batons, tear gas, and pepper spray against unarmed Six Nations protesters. The OPP raided after promising Six Nations that they would not enter without notification. The raid occurred right around the same time as the release of the Ipperwash inquiry, an investigation into the the shooting and killing of unarmed native protester Dudley George by Sergeant Kenneth Deane during the OPP raid at Ipperwash. Sixteen arrests were made at Kanonhstaton, with charges including assault with a weapon, mischief to public property, intimidation, resisting arrest, creating a disturbance, and assaulting police. Charges of assaulting police officers, according to first hand accounts and witnesses, resulted from self-defence. Hazel Hill writes that upon being restrained and kicked by five police officers, she instinctively defended herself by kicking back. Her son came and tried to pull the police off of her, and was shot in the back with a taser. Unlike at Ipperwash, nobody was seriously injured, and the OPP were eventually driven off the site by Six Nations activists, non-native supporters, and the nearby Six Nations community, who immediately flooded to the site. Hazel Hill, one of the spokespeople at the time, in her ‘Report from the camp on police raid’ wrote, “we had hundreds of Six Nations people gathered at the site within the hour, and had the police surrounded at the back gate; and finally, the police agreed to withdraw. We marched them off the back gate, many women linking arms together walking police off our land followed by the rest”.
The Confederacy Council (traditional Haudenosaunee government) is being recognized in ongoing talks with the federal government in Caledonia regarding struggles for the land. At the time of writing, Six Nations Haudenosaunee are ‘negotiating’ with the federal government regarding compensation for Six Nations land that has been settled, unpaid leases, as well as the return of unsettled land belonging to Six Nations. I have the word ‘negotiating’ in quotation marks, as negotiation implies ‘bargaining in good faith’, which is something Six Nations community members do not see as happening. In fact, not much has been settled since negotiations began two years ago.
“We must recognize this power, the power that we have, because it’s immense…The government can never give us our sovereignty… We’re not here to ask them to give us our sovereignty because we already have it. This is sovereignty, this is freedom. No one can take it from us and they sure can’t give it to us, because we have it, right now…We have the power inside of us to change everything that’s going on.” (Melissa Elliot, Young Onkwehonwe United)
Powerful words, spoken at Victoria Park in Brantford on November 7th, 2009 during a rally and march in solidarity with Six Nations land rights. The rally was held specifically to draw attention to the criminalization of First Nations protesters involved in stopping development in and around Brantford: land which is under land claim, but which continues to be developed by the city. This criminalization is seen a political act, in which injunctions are used to silence Six Nations activists from drawing attention to Canada’s ongoing processes of colonialism: the continuing appropriation of land and continuing interference in Haudenosaunee sovereignty, despite legally binding treaties. (See Sarah Dover’s speech in the multimedia section for more on this).
Over 160 charges have been laid on upwards of 60 Haudenosaunee activists involved in land based direct action. Recent actions follow decades of legal proceedings.
On May, 1990 the Six Nations Elected Council presented to Canada and Ontario documented evidence confirming that Six Nations Lands referred to as the Eagle’s Nest Tract was to be let on short term leases as per the wishes of Six Nations. This includes 1,800 acres as shown on Canada Lands Survey Record T1348.
On January 31, 1995 Canada ceased work on this file. On March 7, 1995, the Six Nations Elected Council began legal proceedings against Canada and Ontario to account for the lands allocated to Six Nations in 1784, How these lands were disposed of, and what has become of the proceeds which ought to have been held in trust and invested for the benefit of Six Nations. It is referenced as Court File No. 406/95 Ontario Court of Justice (General Division), Brantford, Ontario.
In June, 2005, the Six Nations Elected Council were convinced to put the Court Case in abeyance and explore out of court settlement. These negotiations have gone nowhere. The land continues to be sold and developed counter to the evidence that the land in question belongs to Six Nations.
June 24, 1843: Six Nations stated to His Excellency, The Right Honorable Sir Charles Theophilius Metcalf (Privy Council and Governor General of British North America), their willingness to set short term leases of the Eagle’s Nest Tract. (PAC RG 10, Vol.624, p.241-245)
October 4, 1843: Executive Council Order-in-Council confirms the leasing for short term periods of the area identified as Eagle’s Nest Tract. It further states that the Government has no wish to procure the surrender of any portion of the lands against the wishes of Six Nation. (Department of Indian Affairs Registry H045261)
February 7, 1844: Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs confirms to the Six Nations Indians that his Excellency has confirmed that the Eagle’s Nest Tract will be set on leases for a short term of years and not sold. (PAC RG 10, Vol.717, p249-252)
There is no subsequent surrender document produced meeting the legal requirements for the lands identified as the Eagle’s Nest Tract in Brantford to be sold nor does Canada have such a document registered in the Indian Land Registry.
What does this mean
Six Nations has pursued legal recourse for their lands, to no avail. Physically stopping construction has proven to be the only effective way to stop the continuing appropriation of Six Nations land.
Criminalization of First Nations Activists
Rather than taking responsibility for treaties and agreements with First Nations communities across Canada, First Nations activists are intensely targeted and criminalized for standing up for the land when legal recourse is ineffective.
Sarah Dover, criminal lawyer, discusses how Native people are treated within the Canadian court system:
“An Aboriginal is ten times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginals. They are twice as likely to be victims of violence, but more likely to be arrested or charged. They are more likely to be denied bail…And more likely to be the victim of racist and violent experiences while in custody. They are more likely to be categorized in maximum security…less likely to be given parole and more likely to be found in breach of parole for non-criminal offenses (like not being where they are supposed to be at a given time).” (as quoted in the Tekawennake, October 14, 2009).
Since bail conditions prevent those defending the land from participating in further protests, the Brantford injunction and criminalization of Six Nations Activists can be seen as a political move—a way to silence those opposing continuing colonialism.
(See Sarah Dover’s speech in the Multimedia section for more on the criminalization of Six Nations activists and political implications)