by M. Gouldhawke (Métis & Cree)
May 21, 2020
The 2000’s were a time of heightened struggle and conflict for communities of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) Confederacy located within territories fraudulently occupied and claimed by Canada.
In 2004, Kanehsata:ke Mohawks repelled an attempted invasion by dozens of outside police officers, and then removed the police station itself from their community.
In 2006, people from Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest reserve community in terms of population within Canada, reclaimed part of their territory on the edge of the town of Caledonia, beat back repeated attacks from the police and white townspeople, and successfully stopped a settler housing development project.
The re-occupied territory was named Kanonhstaton, the protected place, and after a few months of conflict over it, the Ontario government bought the land from the developer Henco Industries for $12.3 million dollars. However the site remained as re-occupied Six Nations territory.
In 2007, Tyendinaga Mohawks started a re-occupation of their territory at a quarry in the town of Deseronto.
These two actions in different parts of Haudenosaunee territory became focal points around which further community actions were launched and solidarity actions in other Indigenous territories across Canada were carried out.
On April 25, 2008, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), with guns drawn, raided the Tyendinaga quarry land reclamation and arrested 10 people.
Two days later, in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory, Indigenous people from various nations blocked a major trucking corridor in solidarity with both Tyendinaga and Six Nations of the Grand River (who were still under the threat of another raid by the OPP at the time).
Coast Salish Territory (Vancouver) action of solidarity with the Haudenosaunee communities of Tyendinaga and Six Nations of the Grand River in 2008
“This short documentary offers a portrait of a group of women who led their community, the largest reserve in Canada, Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, in an historic blockade to protect their land” (National Film Board)
Part 1 of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network documentary on Tyendinaga and the OPP attack on the community in 2008
Part 2 of the APTN Investigates series on Tyendinaga
Kanonhstaton — Tyendinaga Time Line:
February 28, 2006: Women from Six Nations of the Grand River begin re-occupying their territory, Kanonhstaton, at the partially-built Douglas Creek Estates, located right next to the settler town of Caledonia and close to the Six Nations reserve.
March 22: Over 200 people, led by clan mothers and other women, rally at Kanonhstaton to defend it from a threatened OPP raid, given the go-ahead by an injunction granted by Judge David Marshall to Henco Industries. Police occupy a former elementary school in Caledonia but decide not to raid the reclamation site at this time.
April 4: A few hundred Caledonia residents hold a protest against the Six Nations land reclamation.
April 11 & 12: Solidarity with Six Nations demonstrations are held in Montreal, Toronto, Guelph, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Vancouver and Victoria.
April 20: More than 100 OPP officers raid Kanonhstaton, using pepper-spray and tasers, and make 16 arrests. Land defenders fight back and manage to de-arrest a few people, as more than 200 people rush to the site from the nearby reserve.
Two cops are reportedly injured and hospitalized, and a police van window is smashed as cops retreat, revealing a officer with a weapon drawn inside. New barricades, consisting of burning vehicles, tires, and wood, as well as dumped gravel, are set up on the Highway 6 bypass and Argyle Street. A footbridge that goes over a railway line next to the site is burned down and the remains are left to block the railway. Patrols and watch points are set up to protect the site and prevent another police invasion.
That same day, Mohawks at the Kahnawake reserve raise flags on top of the Mercier Bridge as a show of solidarity with Six Nations of the Grand River. Kahnawake Mohawk warriors say they are engaging in defensive vigils at entrances to the reserve “to ensure that no further violence is initiated by the Governments of Canada and Ontario upon our people.”
In the wake of the raid of Kanonhstaton, spokespeople for government-funded Native political organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations, the Metis Nation of Ontario, the Union of Ontario Indians, and the Six Nations band council tell all Indigenous people from across Canada to stay away from Kanonhstaton, to not travel to the reclamation site to lend support.
April 21: Tyendinaga Mohawks take action in solidarity with Kanonhstaton by blocking a Canadian National railway line with a bus and burning material for about 20 hours, shutting down national freight and passenger service. Also that day, a solidarity demonstration is held on the Seaway International Bridge at the Mohawk reserve of Akwesasne, which is located on both sides of the colonial Canada/US border.
April 22: Secwepemc Native Youth Movement members at the Neskonlith reserve in British Columbia respond to the police raid of the Kanonhstaton by setting up their own camp and posting signs, banners and Unity/Warrior flags along the Trans-Canada Highway. The signs read, “Stop OPP Terrorism” and “OPP Out of Six Nations.”
April 24: About 400 people attend a Vancouver demonstration of solidarity with Six Nations of the Grand River, marching to the the entrance to the Lion’s Gate Bridge at Stanley Park and stopping one direction of traffic for about an hour. A security team orders Native youths out of the opposing lane of traffic and acts as a buffer between the crowd and the cops.
Kanehsata:ke Mohawks put up signs and flags in support of Kanonhstaton along the highway at the hilltop location of one of the iconic barricades of the 1990 Oka Crisis.
May 22: Six Nations people remove the horizontal hydro tower blockade of Argyle Street only to be attacked by a crowd of racist Caledonia townspeople. A brawl erupts between the townspeople, Native warriors and OPP officers. Land defenders then bring back the Argyle Street hydro tower blockade and dig a trench in the road, using heavy machinery. That night, a vehicle is rammed through the gate of an electrical station on the edge of the reclamation site, causing major damage and cutting-off power to Caledonia and the surrounding area.
Also on that day, members of the Cree Nation from the Poundmaker reserve in Saskatchewan block a highway bridge for two hours in solidarity. At night, Mohawks at Akwesasne express their solidarity by holding a tobacco ceremony and setting aflame two cars on the Seaway International Bridge, closing the bridge and the US-Canada border crossing there for several hours.
May 23: Six Nations people again remove the blockade of Argyle Street.
June 4: An OPP car is caught driving on the 6th Line road that leads to the Six Nations reserve, contrary to the OPP’s agreement to defer responsibility for the road to the Six Nations police force. Six Nations people surround the car and the officers are forced to leave the immediate area. Soon afterwards, a barn and a security company vehicle near the reclamation site are set on fire. The security company vehicle was guarding the power station that had been previously attacked.
June 9: Six Nations people briefly seize a United States Border Patrol vehicle near the reclamation site. An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agent from the US and OPP officers were using it to engage in surveillance. Documents found inside the vehicle confirm that the OPP used infiltrators to spy on the site and its defenders since the beginning of the reclamation. Arrest warrants were issued for seven people because of this incident and other confrontations that took place that day between Six Nations people, corporate journalists and a white couple in a car who were also spying on the reclamation site.
June 13: Certain Six Nations people remove the barricades on the Highway 6 bypass and railway, despite the objections of some land defenders and before a collective decision could be made on the matter, in accordance with the traditional Six Nations decision-making process.
June 16: The Ontario government buys the land in question from Henco Industries. A few days later, the government reveals that the land had been bought for $12.3 million dollars.
June 28: An unidentified Six Nations man is arrested in Brantford by OPP, and later released on bail. A Six Nations reserve newspaper, Turtle Island News, reports that fires were set on the highway bypass in response to this arrest. Reclamation spokeswoman Hazel Hill says, “the arrest came as a complete surprise and people at the site were angry. We are supposed to be communicating with the OPP policing table, but for some reason they chose not to tell us and this is the result.” Turtle Island News also reported that some of those at the reclamation site were able to “calm people” and “douse the fires.”
June 29: The railway line at the reclamation site is barricaded once again for a short time but this action is reportedly opposed by clan mothers and traditional chiefs, and Six Nations police assist with the removal of the barricades.
August 8: Caledonia townspeople holding one of their frequent racist protests at the edge of the reclamation site are hosed-down with water by land defenders. A judge calls for an end to negotiations between the Confederacy and the government until the reclamation site is abandoned, but is ignored.
August 11: Treaty Three Police Service officers arrest a Six Nations man at the Grassy Narrows reserve in relation to the land reclamation.
2007: Tyendinaga Mohawks start their re-occupation of the Thurlow Aggregates quarry at Deseronto, located within an area of their territory known as the Culbertson Tract and recognized in the Simcoe Deed of 1793 (also known as “Treaty 3 & 1/2”).
Unknown persons burn down a Tyendinaga trailer with sovereigntist messaging on it that was visible from Highway 401.
OPP with riot gear arrest nine people at another disputed construction site in Caledonia near Kanonhstaton, the “Stirling site,” which Haudenosaunee people had now re-occupied as well.
Suspected Caledonia arsonists set fire to a building at the entrance to Kanonhstaton.
Racists hold a protest against a Six Nations smoke shop, leading to five arrests.
April 25, 2008: OPP with guns drawn raid the Tyendinaga quarry land re-occupation and make 10 arrests. A solidarity action takes place in Vancouver two days later, in support of both Tyendinaga and Kanonhstaton.
July 2008: Members of the Six Nations of the Grand River community march onto five different construction sites in the town of Brantford in one day, waiting for workers to leave each site before moving on to the next. Further actions against Brantford and Haggersville developments, along with arrests, take place over the course of the next few years.
September 2008: Tyendinaga Mohawks blockade the installation of a second police station within the community.
2011: The Ontario government pays out $20 million dollars to settle a lawsuit by residents of Caledonia who were opposed to the Six Nations land reclamation.
2017: A hydro tower barricade goes up again on Argyle Street in response to the Ontario government’s transfer of another portion of Six Nations territory, the Burtch Lands, to the Six Nations band council rather than the traditional Confederacy.
February- March 2020:
Tyendinaga community members set up two camps next to Canadian National railway tracks in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people’s land reclamations at Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en in occupied British Columbia. After more than two weeks of passenger and freight train traffic being shut down, OPP raid one of the camps, arresting 10 people.
A solidarity railway blockade goes up on Canadian Pacific tracks at Kahnawake as well, and is voluntarily taken down after several weeks, as the BC government agrees to meet with the traditional Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
A Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockade of the Highway 6 bypass near Kanonhstaton by Six Nations of the Grand River community members lasts the longest out of all the solidarity actions across Indian Country, and is taken down voluntarily after five weeks, as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to spread across Canada. The Six Nations of the Grand River community sets up checkpoints at reserve entrances to stop non-residents from spreading the virus to the community.