Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Aux Barricades

This week the natives are restless just outside of Hamilton, Ontario. The small town of Caledonia has been moderately disrupted this past week since OPP officers muffed an attempt to remove Six-Nations protestors from a disputed building site.

Just what the land claim involves is unclear. The land, originally taken/given(?) for a road allowance was never used for that purpose, but was, apparently, at some time long past (when pounds, shillings and pence were still Canadian currency) sold into private possession. It has lately come into the hands of a developer who initiated construction of a number of homes. At this point the local band of Six Nations recall a claim and set-up an occupying protest.

A court order is issued for them to be removed at which point in step the Province's finest. As usual, they should have kept to traffic stops, because, after some huffing and puffing, pepper spraying, stun-gunning, and attempted mass arrest, they realized discretion to be the better part of valour and beat a retreat. The natives assisted them by smashing-in the back window of a van full of H&K armed 'Swatties'.

The next day the protest had expanded to close the abutting highway with a barricade, the standard alarm-fires and a group of masked 'warriors'. 100 meters down the highway the OPP formed their own barricade - I guess to stop drunk drivers, because it didn't stop the natives.

Schools were closed for a couple of days and the local residents were discomfited by a round-about drive to the Hospital among other things. The government leapt into action - or rather "talks" - which succeeded in calming the natives and the police. The townsfolk however were beginning to simmer. A town meeting resulted in a 1000 person march to the barricade and a confrontation with police over their inaction and the community sentiment that no one was concerned with their safety, or economic loss (earlier the Prov. Gov. said they would pay compensation to the developer and contractors.) There were some harsh words traded with the natives who refused to remove the roadblock.

The next morning the Mayor made a gaff by passing a comment on the economic status of the Native protestors, who seemed to have significant amounts of free time to stand around the bonfire with a stick in one hand and a 'timmies' in the other. I believe she mentioned they might be on public assistance. That resulted in a denial of her representation by the village council and an abject, personal and on-foot apology to the 'brothers' at the road block.

My dear old father used to say, half in jest, that they should, "Give Canada back to the Indians". I would assume the sentiment was shared by many Europeans enjoying their first Canadian winter. That time however is long past. There were no parts of Canada developed by native skill when the 'whites' first arrived. It was a survival society for the most part - one poor harvest, mould outbreak, or poor hunting season away from whole villages dying. The Europeans invented better ways to ameliorate the Canadian seasons. Better ways to husband animals and grow crops. To preserve and store food. In doing so they cleared and improved the land, built all-season roads and developed a new form of society.

One of the things they also did was deal with the native people they met. In the French system, applied to Canada, friendship and mutual benefit were he prime motive factors. The land was large enough and the human element small enough that both sides could live in comfortable proximity, or distance, as circumstances dictated. Under the British, the' rule of law' indicated that land could not be arbitrarily 'taken' in the American style and, as the King's subjects the native population was entitled to more equitable treatment than was afforded to their southern confreres. Many parts of Canada became the territory of this, or that native group, by summary occupation, well after white settlement had begun. The Six Nations are a case in point.

After the American War of Independence, during which they supported the losing (British) side, five of the Six Nations were forced to move from their ancestral home in New York State. King George III granted them lands along the Grand river and near the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Neither area was anywhere as large as the area they'd left behind. The area being argued over now, is part of an area called the Haldimand Grant The areas given to them had been largely depopulated 150 years previously by the Six Nations extinction of the Huron and related tribes. In the interim the Ojibwa occupied parts of the area and removed the Six Nations from it, until George gave some back.

As it is now, they want 'their' land back - not the part valued at the 83 pounds it sold for, the 83 pounds that went to assist the government pay for the subsistance of the Native people for the past 150 years. No, they want the 'big bucks' - what the developer paid for it, or the value of those trespassing houses.

They should have waited until they were complete.

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