Six Nations people take aim at hotel project

Natives take aim at hotel project
‘They can work today, but that’s it’

Posted By SUSAN GAMBLE, EXPOSITOR STAFF
Brantford Expositor [Ontario]
July 19, 2008

Native protesters in the city’s north end moved down the road Friday morning.

They set up a large teepee at the edge of the Hampton Inn hotel site on Fen Ridge Court after successfully halting construction of the nearby Kingspan Insulation warehouse and headquarters.

“They can work today,” said one man about the construction on the six-storey hotel, “but that’s it. They were told by our chiefs a week and a half ago to stop and yet they continue to build.”

Workers on the Hampton site were pouring concrete and finished the day without incident.

About a dozen protesters continue to monitor the area, joined at times by others bearing coffee and fast food.

“We are 100 per cent backed by our people,” said one when asked about how much support for their action could be found on Six Nations.

Meanwhile, there are rumbles of concern among city councillors that Kingspan officials are re-examining plans to build in the city. There’s talk the Irish firm plans to pull out if the protesters are still around the site on Monday.

City Mayor Mike Hancock declined to speculate.

“I have no information on what Kingspan’s intentions are,” he said Friday afternoon.

Both projects are included in a temporary injunction granted to city to stop native protests from holding up development.

On Friday, natives at the Fen Ridge construction site were joined by Dawn Smith who, along with Janie Jamieson, started the protest more than two years ago that took over Caledonia’s Douglas Creek Estates.

“We sat down (to talk) with people for more than two months before making a move,” Smith said. “You might see just two people here or 200 people here but when the natives need to come together in unity, they will come.”

But there are cracks. Some Six Nations members have never publicly embraced the route of protest over negotiation.

David General, former band council chief, said he’s been fielding phone calls from people who are upset at the ongoing protests.

He tells them to take their concerns to the current council but he can’t help but express his feelings about where the occupation is leading.

“Support for the protest is not universal on the reserve,” General said.

“There’s no disputing there are outstanding issues of land claims and I think 100 per cent of Six Nations would support resolving them but people are trying to thwart development in order to hurry up the claims talks and it’s not going to work.”

“SETTLE THINGS”

General said he supports negotiations, which are on a summer break, but has made it plain he doesn’t support the Confederacy chiefs who have been given a lead mandate at the table.

“We have Ontario’s attention and Canada’s attention and the city’s attention: now turn it over to someone with the skills to settle things.”

Hancock has also been exposed to both sides of the debate through phone calls from natives and non-natives who decry the protesters and support them.

“People are upset about what’s going on and feel it’s bad for our relationship. I’m concerned about it. It certainly won’t make our relationship better.”

Six Nations community activist Lisa VanEvery showed up for protest July 7 but can’t see herself blocking a development on an ongoing basis.

“I don’t want Brantford to be another Caledonia, but the sit-in protest is a strategy that some people are using. I understand why they’re doing it because it’s the only way people are listening.”

That’s a common theme among natives: many don’t like the protest but they acknowledge that it’s the first technique that’s shown real results as far as stopping the ongoing development on land they consider to be theirs.

Historian and university professor Keith Jamieson said natives have tried negotiation, court actions and information sessions.

“The only thing that seems to have an impact is if we inconvenience others,” he said.

“I don’t necessarily agree with in-your- face protests, but they’re coming from the fact our people feel like no one is respecting us.”

Jamieson likened the situation to sitting at the negotiation table while someone is building a fence and erecting a shed in your backyard.

“It’s antagonistic.”

He’s calling for more creative thinking to end the impasse.

“I kind of like the developers’ proposal because at least it came at things from a different angle.”

On Fen Ridge Court, protesters said Friday they are angry about what they call intimidation tactics by a couple of teens the previous night. Two young men in a red truck turned into the court and burned rubber marks in the circle.

“When the truck started backing toward us,” said one man, “we jumped up and grabbed rocks. We’re not going to stand for it. Anyone caught doing these things here will be made an example of.”

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