October 26 marked 100 days since Haudenosaunee Six Nations land defenders first occupied McKenzie Meadows construction site in Caledonia, referred to by protestors as 1492 Land Back Lane. Protestors contend that the planned development infringes on Indigenous sovereignty as the site is located on unceded Indigenous land near Six Nations of the Grand River reserve.
“The proposed development is on the doorstep of the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve. We want to preserve our ability to be a united Haudenosaunee community, and that ability is threatened by the development of 1400 homes at Sixth Line and Highway 6,” Skyler Williams, a spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane land defenders, said.
Located near Brantford, Ontario, The Six Nations of the Grand River reserve is Canada’s largest reserve at 190 square kilometres. The reserve represents only 5 percent of the land promised to the Six Nations by the 1784 Haldimand Treaty, territory known as the Haldimand tract that also covers the KW region.
Demonstrations to support the 1492 Back Lane initiative were held on Bridgeport Bridge in Kitchener on October 16. Protestors hung banners with slogans reading “1492 Land Back Lane,” “No consent, no construction,” and “No cops on stolen land.”
Callum Batten, a member of the solidarity group, said the decision to hang banners there was intentional.
“We chose that spot mostly because of the implications of it also being connected to the Grand River that connects to Six Nations,” Batten said.
Occupation of McKenzie Meadows by a group of Six Nations land defenders soon began after Foxgate Developments, a joint construction project, initialized 218 detached homes and townhouses in the area.
The group setup up barricades and renamed the site 1492 Land Back Lane, referring to their well-documented claim to the Haudenosaunee territory. According to Six Nations land defenders, the Canadian government unlawfully sold to a private party in 1853.
On July 30, Foxgate Developments was granted an Ontario Superior Court injunction over the occupied territory, which called for an end to the occupation. On August 5, Ontario Provincial Police raided the camp, making nine arrests while protesters responded with group blockades on Argyle Street in Caledonia, the Highway 6 bypass, and Sixth Line, along with a nearby rail line. Since then, Haldimand OPP Constable Rod LeClair says a total of 21 people have been arrested in connection with the occupation of McKenzie Medows as OPP work to enforce a series of injunctions and ultimatums sanctioned by Superior Court Justice R. John Harper.
“I have made numerous attempts to de-escalate the police and explain how their presence causes ongoing harm and stress because of their violence towards our people. Our community’s actions protect our lives and safety. Police continue to threaten arrest, and it’s up to us to keep ourselves safe from these oppressive police tactics. Police have no place in dealing with land disputes,” Williams said.
According to LeClair, The OPP ensures their role is limited to providing public safety and has nothing to do with playing a part in the land disputes.
“Court injunctions are orders from the court. They are delivered, read and served by the Court Sheriff. The OPP is required to assist with enforcement of court injunctions/orders when requested by the courts to do so,” Constable LeClair said.
Supporters and allies have defended the Haudenosaunee protestors with rallies outside a Brantford courthouse and a march in front of the OPP members at the Argyle Street blockade, which drew in nearly 100 supports on October 25.
In solidarity with the land defenders, Matt Green, MP for Hamilton Centre, has pledged $1492 to the 1492 Land Back Lane Legal Defence Fund. Green calls on others to support the Six Nations land defenders.
“As settlers on this land, we have an obligation to uphold our treaty commitments. This means doing our part to push back against the systemic oppression Indigenous Peoples face. It means giving up the privileges we gain at the expense of Indigenous Peoples. The Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane estimate they’ll need $500,000 for their civil and criminal defence. Let’s get them to that goal,” Green said.