Members of First Nations from across Ontario have gathered to remember native protester Dudley George, who was shot and killed by police during a standoff at the former Ipperwash Provincial Park.
About 200 people, many from the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, were at the site near Sarnia, Ont., Friday morning to unveil a monument to George, created by his brother, Pierre.
Chief Liz Cloud told CBC News the gathering was an opportunity to not only pay tribute to George, but also to all those who took part in the protest 15 years ago.
Memorial march planned for Saturday
George was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police officer in September 1995 when a group of about 30 native protesters, with George as one of the leaders, built a barricade at Ipperwash Provincial Park to enforce the First Nation's claim to the land.
The unveiling of the memorial is part of a weekend gathering commemorating the 15th anniversary of that event.
Sections of Highway 21 near the former Ipperwash park will be closed Saturday morning, as a march is planned for 9 a.m. along the highway leading to the site of the standoff.
Land dispute dates back nearly 70 years
The dispute over the territory dates back to 1942, when the Canadian government expropriated land belonging to the Stony Point First Nation to build a military camp.
The band tried for years to get the land back, saying it contained a sacred burial ground, but by 1993 there was still no resolution.
The Stony Point band members began moving back onto the land, resulting in the September 1995 standoff.
The Ontario Provincial Police moved in to remove the protesters from the park and, claiming the protesters were armed, drew their weapons.
The protesters say they were not armed.
Dudley George was shot by acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane of the OPP, who was later convicted of criminal negligence causing death and resigned from the force.
A public inquiry into the events ruled in May 2007 that responsibility for what led to George's death lay with the OPP, the government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris and the federal government.
The original land claim was finally settled in 1998 with a $26-million agreement to clean up and return the land of the military camp to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation.
In March of this year, the province of Ontario began the process of converting the 40 hectares of land along the shores of Lake Huron to Crown land, allowing it to be added to the existing reserve.