The Grand River land dispute includes 40 hectares in Caledonia. Caledonia is located in Haldimand County, in Southern Ontario. Henco Industries originally planned to build a residential subdivision, to be called Douglas Creek Estates (DCE), on this land. But some aboriginals at the Six Nations reserve claimed that this land was never surrendered and started an occupation there on February 28, 2006; the occupation continues to this day. The federal government maintains that the land was properly surrendered in 1841, and sold in 1844. The Six Nations elected council agrees with the government’s contention, but maintains there should be “fair compensation.” However, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (traditional) Council asserts that the signatories to the sale were deceived (Blatchford, p. 27). Toby Barrett, the Haldimand-Norfolk Conservative MPP, stated in a February 29, 2012 news release that “there are a number of valid land claims along the Haldimand tract area but not on Douglas Creek Estates.” On the sixth anniversary of the standoff, Barrett announced that Haldimand County had lost 650 residents partly because of the “dismal economic conditions locally and the erosion of justice, rule of law and democractic process” that have resulted from the occupation of the former DCE.
Many of the best recommendations for improving the aboriginal situation originate with natives who recognize that changing things for the better is a two-way street. They acknowledge that all the blame for native woes cannot be placed on non-natives’ shoulders. Tsimshian lawyer and entrepreneur, Calvin Helin’s, book Dances With Dependency (2006) is filled with numerous insights that I share. Cree Don Sandberg wrote lots of excellent articles for his former employer, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and continues to write ground-breaking pieces for media outlets like the Winnipeg Free Press and National Post. Helen Miller, a Six Nations elected band councilor, has had a couple of her powerful letters published in the Brantford Expositor and Turtle Island News.
But I also believe that non-aboriginals have a role to play in recommending solutions. In my case, I am speaking from two generations of experience dating back to the late 1950s, and as someone who worked in aboriginal organizations in different parts of Canada for about 12 years. And Sandberg believes people like me should speak out. In a January 2, 2011 National Post article, he was asked his opinion as to what should be done about aboriginal accountability problems. He responded with “[t]he strongest voice aboriginal reformers have is the non-aboriginal taxpaying public, who can let their elected officials know something has got to be done. Because we know the government itself does not listen to grassroots native people.”
Fortunately, at Caledonia and Six Nations, many aboriginals and non-aboriginals found common ground in their opposition to an outrageous April 28, 2012 “parade” through Caledonia, orchestrated by a group of mostly non-natives from other parts of Southern Ontario. One of the parade organizers was Tom Keefer who has been involved with the DCE protests since April 20, 2006. Caledonia activist Mark Vandermaas described Keefer and his allies as a “gang of anarchists, Marxists, radical unionists, and anti-Israel groups who have been supporting the lawlessness in Caledonia since nearly the beginning.”
A media release issued by the march organizers said that participation included representatives from Six Nations as well as non-natives from eight Southern Ontario cities, and that as many as 1,000 could be expected (Day, Dunnville, April 18, 2012; Gamble, Brantford April 27, 2012).
Although local and regional news outlets in the Caledonia area paid considerable attention to the discussions before, during and after the march, it received virtually no coverage outside of those areas. But I think it is important to draw attention to it because it is a very encouraging development.
I first learned about the march through some correspondence I received from Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) Executive Director Gary McHale and Caledonia Victims Project Founder Mark Vandermaas. Both activists said their groups would not be present at the march because they did not believe in interfering with events initiated by natives. However, McHale and Vandermaas did organize a protest the week before, on April 21, at which Vandermaas and another Caledonia activist Jeff Parkinson were arrested. You can read about their unwarranted detainments at the following links:
Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt made it clear he did not agree with the April 28 “parade” in his April 3, 2012 article in the Sachem. He said “[f]or most of us who live here, we need not be reminded of the time that has elapsed when assessing the absolute abysmal failure of government. We do not need people coming from other regions to parade through our community in order to satisfy their personal agenda.”
Dr. David K. Faux, a Caledonia resident whose maternal ancestry includes a Six Nations Mohawk clan mother, also raised concerns about the march. In his April 10, 2012 letter to the Sachem, he said that the ”’parade’ is a euphemism for ‘protest march.'” He went on to say that the “‘parade’ organizers have an agenda and we (collectively known as ‘settlers’) are to be at the receiving end of their anti-establishment aims and aspirations. DCE is just a matter of convenience to them.”
Six Nations elected Chief William Montour was not able to get a resolution passed through his 12-member council opposing the march, but he said his feeling was that “our people are starting to get over 2006” and that the march could “create havoc” (Vo, Sachem, April 17, 2012).
The day before the march, Vandermaas sent an email to his Caledonia mailing list, in which he said:
Tomorrow the people who terrorized your town and those who support them will march in a propaganda effort to convince the victims they created to submit to their twisted logic that you are responsible for the violence against you and your town.
In this post, he also made reference to a July 14, 2009 letter that Helen Miller wrote to the Brantford Expositor, in which she said that certain groups at Six Nations, such as the Mohawk Warriors, “were not elected, appointed or authorized by the people of Six Nations to be their representatives or to speak on their behalf.”
There were other aboriginal and non-aboriginal people who spoke out against the march. If you want to read more about it, you can refer to the bibliography below.
Although the parade organizers announced ahead of time that 1,000 people could be expected, only about 400-500, most of them non-natives, actually showed up (Wong, Spec, April 28, 2012; Pearce and Day, Dunnville, April 29, 2012; Pearce, Dunnville, April 29, 2012).
At the event, Faux carried a sign that stated in Mohawk and English “that 98 per cent of Six Nations and Caledonia want nothing to do with the march.” In his May 9, 2012 letter to the Spec, he said:
The sea of Palestinian, Black Panther, Communist Party of Canada and CUPE flags (what is my former union doing with its members’ wages?) give an excellent indication as to who was at the march. As someone with a foot in both the Caledonia and Six Nations communities, I will proposing a new approach to dealing with the problem since the folks in Ottawa seem to be a bit tardy in getting on with land claims negotiations.
I hope that Faux succeeds. I think he will be building on the work of Caledonia activists, such as McHale, Vandermaas and Parkinson, who laboured for years, often suffering taunts and abuse, before they started to get some recognition from the media and general public.
The mixture of aboriginal and non-aboriginal opposition to the April 28, 2012 march also signals that many residents of Caledonia and Six Nations realize they need to come up with their own solutions. I am greatly relieved to hear this.
Barrett, Toby. “Occupy Caledonia will be six years February 28,” February 28, 2012. <tobybarrett.com>
_____. “There is no valid claim on DCE.” February 29, 2012. <tobybarrett.com>
Blatchford, Christie. Helpless. Toronto: Doubleday, 2010.
Day, Matt. “Caledonia reacts to peace walk.” Dunnville Chronicle. April 29, 2012. <dunnvillechronicle.com>
_____. “No injunction for Caledonia rally organizers.” Dunnville Chronicle. April 18, 2012. <dunnvillechronicle.com>
_____. “Planned Caledonia rally has Hewitt upset.” Dunnville Chronicle. April 13, 2012. <dunnvillechronicle.com>
_____. “Two arrested during CANACE rally Saturday.” Dunnville Chronicle. April 23, 2012. <dunnvillechronicle.com>
Faux, David K. “Caledonia march is opposed by mayor, chief” [Letter]. Hamilton Spectator. May 9, 2012. <thespec.com>
_____. “‘Parade’ euphemism for ‘protest march'” [Letter]. Sachem. April 10, 2012. <sachem.ca>
Foot, Richard. “Reserves look within for fix to accountability problems.” National Post. January 2, 2011. <nationalpost.com>
Gamble, Susan. “Thousands expected for Caledonia peace march.” Brantford Expositor. April 27, 2012. <brantfordexpositor.ca>
Helin, Calvin. Dances With Dependency. Vancouver: Orca Spirit, 2006.
Hewitt, Ken. “Hewitt: DCE a quagmire.” Sachem. April 3, 2012. <sachem.ca>
_____. “What’s April 28 march really about?” Sachem. April 17, 2012. <sachem.ca>
Miller, Helen. “Only elected council can speak for Six Nations” [Letter]. Brantford Expositor. July 14, 2009. <brantfordexpositor.ca>
Parkinson, Jeff. “Video–Two arrested for race in Caledonia.” April 24, 2012. <caledoniawakeupcall.wordpress.com>
Pearce, Daniel R. “Hundreds take part in Caledonia peace march.” Simcoe Reformer. April 29, 2012. <simcoereformer.ca>
Pearce, Daniel and Matt Day. “Caledonia reacts to peace walk.” Dunnville Chronicle. April 29, 2012. <dunnvillechronicle.com>
Vandermaas, Mark. “Dear Caledonia residents–about Tom Keefer. . .” April 27, 2012. <voiceofcanada.ca>
_____. “Email to OPP officer re April 21 DCE rally before two ‘breach of peace’ arrests.” April 27, 2012. <voiceofcanada.ca>
Vo, Jennifer. “Coalition planning April parade in Caledonia.” Sachem. April 3, 2012. <sachem.ca>
_____. “Parade rubbing salt in old wounds says Chief Montour.” Sachem. April 17, 2012. <sachem.ca>
Wong, Danielle. “Friendship walk peaceful, but Caledonia residents fear wounds reopened.” Hamilton Spectator. April 28, 2012. <thespec.com>