By Katie Mercer
Bright red, yellow and purple flags representing the Mohawk Warriors and the Six Nations Confederacy unfurl, free in the wind.
A dog, chained to an unfinished shack, licks its chops as it watches cars pull around the cement blockade that guards the entrance to the former housing development site.
It’s more than a year later and the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Confederacy are still standing their ground on the occupied Douglas Creek Estates site in Caledonia.
“We have never surrendered this land and that’s why we are here now,” said Andrea Curley, the spokesperson who toured Ryerson students around the disputed area on March 30 as part of a Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) event.
Nora Loreto, the vice-President of Education and president-elect said that the trip was a way for students to go behind the headlines and challenge what they had heard from the media and what they had learned in classrooms.
“It reminds us of how history is very complex and multi-dimensional but we are all implicated in our history — not to say that we are all to blame, but we do need to remember what people represent us and what people have done in the reality of history in this country,” said Loreto.
For Alicia Murrin, a third-year social work student the event appealed to her aboriginal background. “I’m just trying to work on my identity and come to terms with who I am, and this might help with that,” said Murrin.
For Curley, the reclamation of the Douglas Creek Estates has also been a way for her to embrace her “second life” — her traditional foundations. The confederacy, made up of the six nations of Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora have been occupying the land since Feb. 28, 2006, when a few members from the Grand River Territory reserve set up camp on the construction site.
The move was in protest against the provincial government, which had sold the 40 hectares of land to Henco Industries in 1992, sparking the Six Nations to sue the federal and provincial governments over the land in 1995.
It didn’t go anywhere, so in February 2006, the Six Nations occupied the land. Henco and the provincial government argue that the land was surrendered for sale in 1841. But the Six Nations say that the 40 hectares was surrendered for lease to build the highway that runs through it.
“The bare minimum that we want to see and that the people have said we have wanted from the very beginning is the land. We want the land returned,” said Hazel Hill, the spokesperson for the confederacy. Hill says that the Six Nations never surrendered the land and the government should just give it to them.
But Haldimand mayor Marie Trainer says that drawn out negotiations are only driving a wedge between the Caledonia residents and natives.
“The Six Nations Confederacy should tell them to leave the land. They are only ruining relationships with the people of Caledonia. They are militant and intimidating.
“They should absolutely not be given the land, it was proven that they surrendered it and received money. Why would you give someone something they don’t deserve?” asked Trainer.
Curley says that the land reclamation has caused the Six Nations people to realize just what the mayor and some Caledonians really think about them. “In essence, we’ve always been an ‘Indian Problem’ but we are home. We have no place to go to. We are home,” said Curley.
Tensions between Caledonia and Native protestors have caused racism to rear its ugly head into what Wesley-Esquimaux calls “cowboys and Indians” mentality as Mohawk Warriors are being described as terrorists by some Caledonians.
“Yep, we’re all terrorists,” Oh Weh Hoh (Flower), one of the people on duty guarding the site said as she rolled her eyes.