Grassroots support for Six Nations land defenders grows, while local mayor voices opposition

“We know that this issue will not be resolved by the use of injunctions,” say Haudenosaunee hereditary chiefs.

The second convoy in a week arrived at the site of a land reclamation by Haudenosaunee and allies just outside of Six Nations Tuesday evening.

Dozens have taken over the McKenzie Meadows construction site, a planned housing development in Caledonia, Ont. that sits on land at the centre of a long dispute between Haudenosaunee and successive Canadian and Crown governments.

Land defenders have renamed the site “1492 Land Back Lane” and have occupied it for almost a month, despite court injunctions granted by Ontario’s Superior Court and one enforcement by Ontario Provincial Police that resulted in nine arrests two weeks ago.

One member of the convoy from Guelph, Ont. that arrived Tuesday evening said the solidarity is about protecting what land the people of Six Nations have left.

“We’re here to be united together, so that people know that this is our land and that, we as Aboriginal people, we’re not giving up one acre more, we’re not giving up two acres more of our land. So much has already been taken and stolen,” said Sayokla.

Meanwhile, Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt posted a lengthy statement on the municipality’s website Wednesday, saying he is “tired of hearing about stolen land and that we are guilty of stealing land.”

Hewitt acknowledges the land dispute “is a very complex issue,” and then lays out a number of statements he says “illustrate some facts that some do not want to hear.”

Earlier this week the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council issues its own statement in support of land defenders who have reclaimed McKenzie Meadows.

Read more: Six Nations Elected Council agreed to ‘publicly support’ McKenzie Meadows development, help stop protests as part of accommodation deal: court docs

They called the development “unlawful” and are asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford to sit down in good faith and address the longstanding land issues.

“We know that this issue will not be resolved by the use of injunctions which escalate matters with the attempt to impose Canadian law and criminalize our people for simply asking that the Crown honour its treaty commitments,” the council said.

On Aug. 10 Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said in a statement that Canada is working with Six Nations on historical claims and land rights issues — land claims that were initiated more than a quarter century ago.

“It is our hope that the parties involved continue to work together to find a constructive, respectful, and positive way forward,” Bennett said.

Bennett has not responded to APTN News‘ subsequent requests for comment.

Allana is a graduate of the Indigenous Studies program at Trent University and the new media journalism program at Sheridan College. She worked at Sudbury.com and TVO before coming to APTN National News where she now covers Indigenous stories in Southern Ontario as a video journalist. McDougall is a member of Hiawatha First Nation.