“Our Home and Native Land” – Caledonia Land Reclamation (2006)

On February 28th, 2006, a group of Six Nations peoples set up camp and stopped production at the Henco Industries development site in Caledonia, Ontario (Hill 2009: 480; CBC News 2006b). Henco Industries received approval from the municipal government to build a suburban housing development called the Douglas Creek Estates, which the Six Nations claimed was on their territory (Hill 2009: 481; Costa and Knight 2011: 222). On March 3rd, 2006, Henco Industries was granted an approval for an injunction to remove the protestors from the site; however, the protestors did not comply (Costa and Knight 2011: 222). On March 17th, 2006, a second injunction was passed, forcing protestors to evacuate before March 22nd, 2006 (p. 223). If they failed to comply, criminal charges would be laid. On March 22nd, 2006, 200 people arrived on the site to prevent the arrest of the protestors. On April 20th, 2006, a police raid occurred, resulting in 16 people being arrested. As a response to the raid, Aboriginal peoples from all over the country came to show their support. On May 19th, 2006, there was a halt on the Douglas Creek production (p. 223), and on June 23rd, 2006, the government publicly announced that they would be buying the land back from Henco Industries (CBC News 2006b). Although the construction of the subdivision has halted, there are still people protesting and living on the construction site (Costa and Knight 2011: 223). The land claim has yet to be solved.

In order to understand the importance of the Caledonia reclamation, it is important to look at the repressive history between Six Nations and the Canadian government. The Six Nations consist of the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, and Tuscarora Nations (Six Nations Council 2007). These nations came together under the Great Tree of Peace during the American Revolution (Six Nations Council 2007). In the Halimand Proclamation of 1784, they were awarded 950,000 acres, six miles of land on either side of the Grand River, as an appreciation for their loyalty (Costa and Knight 2011: 221). In 1792, Lord Simcoe issued a new Crown policy and removed 300,000 acres of land from the Halimand grant (Hill 2009: 484; CBC News 2006a). The Six Nations then gave Chief Joseph Brant authority to negotiate a lease of six blocks of land, which, without Six Nation approval, was deemed as “fee-simple sales” by the government (Hill 2009: 485). As a result, they lost even more of their land in the 1830’s after the Crown neglected to protect Six Nations’ land from squatters, and instead stated that the only way to protect their land was to sell it back to the Crown. Moreover, in 1835, Six Nations agreed to lease a portion of land in order to build Plank Road (Costa and Knight 2011: 222). This portion of land encompasses the current construction site in Caledonia. This lease was accepted by the Lieutenant Governor John Colborne, but it was never finalized. Colborne’s successor Sir Francis Bond Head refused to lease the land, stating that the land was surrendered and it was Crown property. In 1841, the government obtained an agreement that was only signed by a handful of Chiefs, which was less than 15% of the entire council, who sold the remaining land including the Plank Road leases (Hill 2009: 485). This surrender was considered “illegal” in the eyes of the Six Nations because not all of the Chiefs were present and some of those that signed were not Chiefs. The Six Nations were left with 20,000 acres. In 1844, after the community petitioned, the government increased the acreage to 55,000, which was about 5% of what they were originally awarded (p. 485). Since then, the Six Nations have filed 28 separate land claims in order to reclaim ownership of their land (Costa and Knight 2011: 222). What is evident in both the history and the current affairs of the Six Nations, is a continuum of colonialism, repression, power struggles, and exploitation of Six Nations peoples. The state is trying to impose its own sovereignty over the Six Nations sovereignty, by slowly removing the land in which they cherish.

References:

CBC News. 2006a. “In Depth: Caledonia Land Claim Historical Timeline.” CBC News. Retrieved October 16, 2012. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/caledonia-landclaim/historical-timeline.html).

CBC News. 2006b. “In Depth: Caledonia Land Claim Timeline.” CBC News. Retrieved October 16, 2012. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/caledonia-landclaim/).

Costa, Ravi de, and Tristan Knight. 2011. “Asymmetric Encounters in Native Canada.” American Review of Canadian Studies 41(3): 212-227.

Hill, Susan M. 2009. “Conducting Haudenosaunee Historical Research from Home: In the Shadow of the Six Nation-Caledonia Reclamation.” American Indian Quarterly 33(4): 479-498.

Six Nations Council. 2007. “Community Profile.” Six Nations Council. Retrieved October 16, 2012.  (http://www.sixnations.ca/CommunityProfile.htm).

 

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