by Gary McHale [PDF]
Regional News (Caledonia), June 08, 2011
For five years the youth on Six Nations have watched their leadership, their parents and so-called community protectors illegally occupy sub-divisions throughout Haldimand and Brant County. They have listened to the wisdom of their chiefs who have repeatedly supported criminal behaviour as the means to resolving issues. Now that these youth have learned their lessons well, they have decided to follow in the same footsteps and resolve their issues using illegal behaviour by occupying the old Police Station on Six Nations.
So far this illegal occupation has resulted in zero police officers being hospitalized, no Six Nations residents have been attacked, no tire fires, no burning of people’s private properties, no roads have been dug up, no disruption of any public services and yet, suddenly, several people on Six Nations believe it is wrong, disrespectful, counter-productive and unhelpful for such tactics to be used.
In a public statement the youth state, “In the spirit of our ancestors, honoring the memory of all those Youth who have died unjustly and in respect to all our relations, We the Six Nations Youth Movement are TAKING ACTION and RECLAIMING the old Police Station…” (emphasis in the original)
They continue to state, “By reclaiming this site, we reclaim ourselves. This is not a violent delinquent or illegal act… We are transforming this building from a site of oppression and colonization to one of empowerment and healing. We reject the idea of private property, which contradicts the principle of our stewardship to the land.”
The Tekawennake newspaper reported that the Men’s Fire and Mohawk Men’s Council are observing at the occupation and providing protection to the youth in case of “any possible negative reaction to their peaceful demonstration” from Six Nations Police.
Skyler Williams, a.k.a political prisoner after being arrested in Caledonia both in 2006 and 2007, is part of the youth movement occupying the site. To date the protest has been peaceful and limited to an occupation of an old unused building. However, the reaction demonstrates a certain level of ironic justice as well as hypocrisy on the part of Six Nations leadership.
First, for five years anyone questioning Native Protesters’ rights to do an occupation, to use violence or to say anything negative about what was happening in Caledonia was immediately painted as a racist white supremacist.
Second, anyone refusing to acknowledge the historical abuses as justification for everything that happened in Caledonia was condemned.
It is amazing how quickly people have come out against this peaceful occupation of an old unused building. Within a week Laurel Curley, Coordinator of Six Nations Youth Movement, issued a public apology stating, “I would like to apologize to… anyone who may have been misled, manipulated, confused, disrespected or dishonoured by recent events.”
Ms. Curley was upset by the fact that the youth involved in the occupation were using the name from her organization without their permission. She has been working with the youth since February of this year and she states, “we would not support any illegal action or criminal behaviour…. we didn’t appreciate our name being used, being lied to, and purposely being misled, we were told by the organizers (of the occupation) that they can do whatever they want to do using the Six Nations Youth Movement name, that we can’t stop them and that the reason they wouldn’t tell us their intentions and plans beforehand was because they knew we wouldn’t support anything that isn’t legal…”
The occupiers claim that after “twenty years of campaigning, asking, pleading, there is NO YOUTH CENTRE on Six Nations… We are creating a Youth Center FOR the people and BY the people. We are not interested in collaborating with any colonial structures: Band Council, Police, CAS or corporations… We are reclaiming this site for Women’s and Youth Sacred Fire, started from ashes collected from sites of struggles and ceremony all over Turtle Island.”
The biggest critic of this occupation is Helen Miller, District 4 Councillor – Six Nations, who provided a public statement in the Turtle Island News stating, “We have members of the Men’s Fire telling people provincial laws don’t apply here or that Six Nations Police have no authority or jurisdiction here all of which promotes lawlessness… People think a youth centre will solve all the problems but it won’t. Some First Nations who have a youth centre claim the centre becomes a haven for drug dealers.”
She then states, “What do we need to do to make our community a better place to live? First of all we have to stop blaming colonization, stop blaming residential schools, and stop blaming 1924… Secondly we all have to take responsibility for what has happened to our community. Too many people find it easier to close a blind eye. Or too many people expect council to deal with and fix everything… ”
I am not sure exactly what the leadership and parents on Six Nations thought was going to happen when they told the youth that the way to resolve conflict was to reject all authority over you and to take the matter into your own hands. What did they think would happen when they sent the youth into Caledonia to do illegal occupations, use violence, disrespect the police and government, threaten and harass the residents while being told all problems in life exist because of the evil white man and colonialism? Did they believe that suddenly these youth would return to Six Nations and obey authority over them?
The occupiers are thanking people for their donations of “water, food, tobacco, medicine, drum/singing, audio equipment usage, gas, tents, blankets, wood, teepees, picnic tables, time and friendship”. They are asking for more “flash/flood lights, cell phone minutes (VIRGIN mobile), Healthy Home-Cooked food (mostly chips and cookies right now), flags, folding tables, Letters of Support, blankets/sleeping bags, umbrellas, tarps, bug spray, sunscreen, projector for movie nite, megaphone…”
As you can see they are planning for a long occupation – ironic justice if you ask me.
NOTE: The Regional News does not publish online.
- VoiceofCanada, June 10/11: Six Nations Councillor Helen Miller: ‘Stop blaming colonization and residential schools’
- VoiceofCanada, June 02/11: Youth barricade of ‘reclaimed’ Six Nations police station represents teaching opportunity for elders
- VoiceofCanada, June 11/11: ‘Violence Against Aboriginal Women’ author agrees w/Six Nations Councillor Helen Miller re futility of blaming colonization & residential schools
- About Gary McHale: Pictures of Leadership
- Regional News (Caledonia/Haldimand): Gary McHale weekly column archive (note: the Regional does not publish online)