Indigenous

OPP arrests Six Nations traditional government employee over alleged 1492 Land Back Lane involvement

The Ontario Provincial Police arrested an employee of the traditional Six Nations government in connection to the ongoing land reclamation of a planned Caledonia, Ont., housing development. 

Multiple Juno award-winning musician Tom Wilson also arrested by police

Todd Williams, coordinator for archeological and environmental monitoring for the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, was arrested on Oct. 9, the same day he was involved in blocking three construction sites. (CBC)

The Ontario Provincial Police arrested an employee of the traditional Six Nations government in connection to the ongoing land reclamation of a planned Caledonia, Ont., housing development last week. 

Todd Williams, the co-ordinator for archeological and environmental monitoring for the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, said his vehicle was swarmed by OPP cruisers during his arrest on Oct. 9.

"They rushed my car and tried to unlock it, to get me out," said Williams. 

Williams was involved that day in actions temporarily blocking three Caledonia subdivision construction sites —  currently in the archeological phase — on land that forms part of the Haldimand Tract granted to Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British during the American Revolution. 

Caledonia sits about 20 kilometres south of Hamilton. Six Nations members took over a subdivision site, known as McKenzie Meadows, in July and remain on the land, dubbing it 1492 Land Back Lane. 

Six Nations today has less than five per cent of its original lands which have been eroded as a result of squatting, questionable leases, flooding and sales — some of which are still contested. Six Nations has 28 outstanding claims over lost lands and owed monies made from Six Nations lands and never repaid. The claims are currently before the Ontario court. 

Williams said he had removed wooden skids from one site and was on the way to a second site when the OPP surrounded his vehicle, arrested him and charged him for breaching a condition of his Aug. 5 arrest after a police raid on the 1492 Land Back Lane camp. Williams said the OPP allege he was on the site on Aug. 12.

He was released the next day after a bail hearing.

Demonstrators have occupied 1535 McKenzie Road since July. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Williams said the three separate subdivision sites were targeted as part of wider demonstrations set to coincide with a court hearing on a permanent injunction against 1492 Land Back Lane. 

It was also done as a reminder that all developers on the Haldimand Tract — which spans about 10 kilometres on each side of the 280 kilometre Grand River — need to engage with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, not just the elected Six Nations government, he said.

"They need to be consulting. The duty to consult lies with the hereditary chiefs," said Williams. 

"That is what we are trying to get them to understand in all these municipalities... What we are finding is that they only engage with the elected council; just trying to keep it municipality-to-municipality ... to keep us down to that level of governance."

Confederacy Chiefs Council created HDI

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council created the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) to "represent" the confederacy "in the development of lands within areas of Haudenosaunee jurisdiction," according to its website. 

HDI is also meant to manage a regulatory framework which "identifies, registers and regulates development" in accordance with the confederacy's regulations and protocols. 

The Confederacy Chiefs Council has also supported 1492 Land Back Lane which reclaimed land considered by the council to be in a "red zone," according to a previously released statement. 

Foxgate Development Inc., which is behind the McKenzie Meadows development, never consulted with the confederacy. Instead, the developer struck a deal with the elected Six Nations government for $325,000 and 42.3 acres of land in exchange for support for the project.

There have been at least 33 arrests related to the land reclamation since Aug. 5.

Musician and visual artist Tom Wilson. (Marta Hewson)

The OPP also arrested Tahnee Skinner-Wilson, the wife of 1492 Land Back spokesperson Skyler Williams, and four-time Juno winner and musician Tom Wilson on Wednesday. OPP confirmed both were charged with mischief and for disobeying the current court injunction. Both were released.

Wilson released a statement on Thursday saying the OPP came to his home on Wednesday morning.

"I have always stood and continue to stand in solidarity with the Haudenosaunee Land Keepers of Six Nations and my fellow Indigenous sisters and brothers and Indigenous sovereignty," said the statement from Wilson, who is Mohawk from Kahnawake who was adopted as an infant. 

"I look forward to fighting these charges in court."

Wilson performed at a concert held on the reclamation site held in late September. 

About the Author

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca.

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