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6 Native Nations, and None Have a Word for 'Suburbia'



I found this article in the paper of record, the New York Times as my children-- the great-grandchildren of the last traditionally-elected chief of the Six Nations Mohawk Bear Clan, sipped their iced, whipped creme-topped chocolate milks at Starbucks. All this in the middle of a carefully constructed "New Urbanist" environment where we live, called Orenco Station, recently chosen as Best New Burb in the country by Sunset Magazine.
CALEDONIA, Ontario, Aug. 10 — Blame it on the American Revolution.

The Six Nations Reserve is located in southern Ontario.

At the time, six Indian tribes that had lived for centuries in what is now upstate New York sided with the British Crown, lost and were forced from their lands. For their troubles, however, Britain granted them a paradise rich in moose and deer, across the new border, in southern Ontario.

Today the game are largely gone. The wilderness has been transformed into suburban sprawl. The once pristine lands of the so-called Six Nations Reserve have been whittled away.

This year, one more housing development on the edge of town was one too many, and the Native Canadians decided to make a stand.

Since February, hundreds have blockaded roads, set bonfires, confronted the police with bags of rocks and lacrosse sticks, cut the maple leaf out of a Canadian flag and refused to obey court orders to vacate. During the height of tensions, a van was driven into a power station and set on fire, leaving residents in the dark for days.

Since February, hundreds have blockaded roads, set bonfires, confronted the police with bags of rocks and lacrosse sticks, cut the maple leaf out of a Canadian flag and refused to obey court orders to vacate. During the height of tensions, a van was driven into a power station and set on fire, leaving residents in the dark for days.

And it's true. I was shocked when I went to the reserve for my husband's grandmother's funeral. Just down the road was a suburban bedroom community. Even as we slept at The Bear's Inn, a lovely place run by my husband's cousins on the farm of his great-grandparents, down the road the bucolic lifestyle ended. I didn't really realize what this meant at the time.
“We had a tremendous amount of housing growth in recent years,” Mr. Clark said. “But that’s come to a complete stop. That occupation is creating a lot of economic hardships in Caledonia.”

The police conducted a raid on the protesters in April, but they retreated when waves of Native Canadians arrived to reinforce the occupation.

“They really did us a favor,” Mrs. Hill said of the raid. “That’s when internal politics were put aside and everyone came together.”

The occupied land covers 100 acres among tens of thousands taken over by the government from the Native Canadians in the 19th century after a disagreement that lasted decades over whether the Native Canadians had the right to sell their land to British settlers.

The Native Canadians filed a lawsuit over the land in 1995, on behalf of the Six Nations: the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida and Tuscarora. But, tired of waiting while housing developments encroached on the land, they took matters into their own hands.

A younger generation of Native Canadians has led a resurgence of indigenous culture across the country. Unlike many of their parents and grandparents, these Native Canadians did not attend residential schools, where Native Canadian students were often hit with a strap for speaking their own languages. Entire generations of culture were submerged.

The revival has not only restored pride; it has also opened old wounds over how the British and, later, Canadian governments negotiated land deals with chiefs.

In one such deal, chiefs had signed a document that the British interpreted as surrendering the land where Toronto now sits, but it was later disclosed that the chiefs had signed a blank piece of paper.

The raid, here, this is of course, "all the news that's fit to print" is rather euphemistically described here. To get a fuller account, of course, you must read the Indigenous Press (in this case, Indian Country Today).
OHSWEKEN, Ontario - More than 1,000 residents of Canada's Six Nations Reserve rushed to the site of a standoff between Native protesters and the Ontario Provincial Police during the early hours of April 20 after an armed police raid resulted in 10 arrests and several hospitalizations.

According to one report, two of the hospitalized were non-Native supporters of the protest. About 15 protesters were sleeping at the ''reclamation site'' when a caravan of at least eight police vehicles raided and made arrests.

According to the TV report, police were armed with drawn guns, Taser devices and tear gas, although the weapons were not used.

Protesters at the contested construction site regrouped and pushed police back to the nearby road as the call went out for support from the largely Iroquois community, Amos Key, director of the community radio station CKRZ-FM, said. The Native-run station is broadcasting a live feed from the standoff on its Internet site, www.ckrz.com.

Key said that urgent talks were now under way between the Confederation chiefs and officials of the provincial and federal governments.

Lisa Johnson, of the Bear's Inn in Ohsweken, was following live television coverage of the events all morning and said that residents of the reserve poured into the site as news of the early morning raid spread through the community of 22,000 and by 7:50 a.m. had gathered in sufficient numbers to force the police to leave. As of noon, no police were on the site, although talk spread throughout the community that they were regrouping in riot gear with about 1,000 reinforcements.

The arrests could total up to 15, but protesters who had been arrested were released after being fingerprinted and photographed, although they were warned that they faced jail time if they returned to the site. Several had reportedly rejoined the protesters.

The television coverage resulted by accident. An employee of Hamilton CHTV, noticed the police activity as he drove to work and notified a camera crew, which broadcast from the site all morning. All other reporters were barred from the site by provincial police.

And I thought Canada was such a sweet, mild place. Let's Keep Canada Tidy! I remember the sign saying when we crossed over the border as a child. Maybe, not so quaint after all.
Jacqueline Keeler
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