Haudenosaunee people block Caledonia road over 'lies' from Ontario government

Members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, on Thursday, blocked a street in Caledonia with a hydro tower, flags and shipping pallets.
Members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy protest along a street in Caledonia Thursday. (David Ritchie/CBC)

Members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy blocked Argyle Street in Caledonia on Thursday.

The group has listed several demands, most aimed at the Ontario government, but one directed at the Six Nations elected band council.

They are dissatisfied with actions taken by the province of Ontario to turn over a contentious piece of land, the former Burtch Correctional Facility land, to the Six Nations band council rather than the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the traditional government, said Six Nations woman Doreen Silversmith.

"With that action, Ontario has committed fraud, lied to us, to our people. Ontario is going to be 100 per cent responsible for any actions resulting from their lies," Silversmith said.

"Ontario's actions bring much dishonour to the Crown and it's in violation of the Two Row Wampum, the Silver Covenant Chain, and the William Claus Wampum." 

Silversmith said her people also see the province's actions as directly contradicting a recent federal statement by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, that "First Nations need to prepare for a future where Indian Act bands, such as the Six Nations band council, are done away with, opening the door to more traditional governments."

Six Nations protestors said Thursday they will be blocking the street "as long as it takes" to have their demands met to their satisfaction. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Silversmith listed the group's demands:

  • Ontario and Canada return to the negotiating table with our confederacy

  • Ontario lives by their words of May 17, 2006 and returns the Burtch Lands under the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784.

  • Six Nations Band Council withdraws their injunction against Kris Hill and the people of Six Nations.

That last demand refers to an injunction against Haudenosaunee woman Kristine Hill, who was farming the land under a lease from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council, until the Six Nations Band Council filed an injunction to make her stop, according to Turtle Island News.

Ontario Provincial Police watch as members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy protest in Caledonia Thursday. (David Ritchie/CBC)

On Thursday, as many as 20 people walked along Argyle Street South at Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia. 

"We'll be here as long as it takes," Silversmith said. 

She said the ball is now in Ontario's court. 

Ontario Provincial Police watched as the protest continued and blocked of a portion of Argyle Street.

"Our primary role is just to preserve the peace and maintain safety for the public and the participants," said Haldimand County OPP Const. Rod LeClair.

Previous blockade

The street has been home to a contentious protest before.

In February 2006, members of the nearby Six Nations reserve began a blockade of a residential development in Caledonia called the Douglas Creek Estates. They argued the land was theirs.

The protest sparked a bitter standoff that lasted two years and at times flared into violence, injuries and property damage.

Floyd, a Six Nations member who wouldn't give his full name because of the tensions differences of opinion in the community, told CBC he agrees with the group's cause, but not its methodology. The blockade inconveniences Six Nations residents too, who rely on the thoroughfare to get to work and school.

"I agree that we want to keep the lands, but I don't really think this is the way of doing it," he said. "I think the elected council should be trying to speak to the government rather than doing this."

The community, used to lack of movement on the Haldimand Proclamation, is "just trying to be heard," he said.

"It's way past protesting. I think it's going to the government, writing letters and having people express their issues."

For some Caledonia residents, meanwhile, it brought up frustrations from 2006. They wondered aloud why police didn't stop the road blockade.

Patrick Palmer recently bought a house backing onto the former Douglas Creek Estates.

"I just wish it would be done and over with," he said.