The representative for a Mohawk land dispute near Caledonia, Ont. surrendered himself to police Wednesday morning in response to arrest warrants issued last September.
Skyler Williams, 37, of the 1492 Land Back Lane occupation, on disputed Haudenosaunee territory, said warrants have been hanging over his head since 2020 and would like to get the judicial process rolling because his family needs him.
“I need to be able to take care of my kids. I need to be able to see my daughter off to college and I need to be able to take my daughter to sports … without having to look over my shoulder,” said the father of four.
Williams marched up the steps of the Haldimand County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Detachment as a large group of supporters looked on and a drove of vehicles passed by honking horns and bearing Mohawk flags.
The crowd was thrilled when Williams emerged from the precinct a short time later, released on conditions.
Williams described the process as “quick and painless.”
According to an OPP press release warrants were executed, Williams was served documents and is to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Cayuga at a later date to answer to the charges of two counts of mischief, two counts of disobeying an order of the court, intimidation and failure to comply with an undertaking.
Members of the Six Nations of the Grand River have built cabins and other structures on the site at 1535 McKenzie Rd. on the outskirts of Caledonia, which is right beside the Six Nations territory, and have been living there for the past 10 months.
The purpose of the occupation is to halt construction of a housing project by Foxgate Developments.
“Since July 19 of last year, we’ve been wanting to maintain that this is a peaceful occupation of our lands,” Williams stated afterwards and added his surrender was an act to avoid any violent clashes with police.
He was referring to clashes in 2020 where police attempted raids on the camp which evoked Haudenosaunee and supporters to respond by tearing up roads and erecting blockades.
The blockades have long come down and Williams said the damage they caused was fixed in a day but the damage caused by development is permanent.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that we are the destructive ones in this,” Williams told reporters and said he spent seven months in jail for similar protests and charges in 2006, which he eventually beat, but stated he never received an apology for it and will never get that time back.
What needs to happen next, according to Williams, is conversations between provincial and federal governments with local leadership, discussions Williams said, he will take no part in and will leave that to the politicians.
He will, however, do whatever it takes to ensure that the disputed lands are available for his grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the generations to come.
For now he is planning for a summer of get-togethers, concerts and lacrosse games at 1492 Land Back Lane.
Williams may have to plan and observe from afar as his only condition of release is not to set foot at the site and he is to appear in court on June 1, but for today he had simpler intentions.
“I might go sit down by the river and have lunch,” he said with a beaming grin. “Ya, that’s going to top the list I think. I’m going to go and remember what it is that we’ve been fighting for this whole time.”