On Nov. 21, Fightback organizers made a solidarity visit to the 1492 Land Back Lane reclamation camp. The camp was set up by members of Six Nations of the Grand River to defend against incursions by Foxgate Developments onto stolen land.
Six Nations community members have been protesting the project— which was pushed through without any meaningful consultation—since July. In that time, they’ve been subject to violent raids by tactical police units, arrests and injunctions, near the sites of similar, previous incursions at Kanonhstaton where the Douglas Creek Estates development was planned.
Yet, the land defenders continue to stand their ground. While Premier Doug Ford threatened to “come out swinging” against them, solidarity marches and demonstrations have been called across the province. Many of these have been endorsed and assisted by CUPE Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Labour and others.
Fightback traveled to assist the ongoing action this past Saturday. As the result of a solidarity appeal, we were able to offer the land defenders a $1,300 donation for their legal fund, as well as donations of food and other supplies. While at the site, Fightback also lead a solidarity demonstration. Donations can be made to 1492 Land Back Lane’s legal fund here.
Land Defender Skyler Williams told the crowd that police have so far arrested 33 activists, and issued 20 more warrants. And, he said, another round of attacks is expected.
“It’s been an amazing gift to have friends and allies in every big city and small town in Ontario and beyond able to come out here and help out,” he said. “The friends and allies that we have allow us to keep pushing forward—because right now the OPP are going to start pushing really, really hard right now. They want to see us off the roads, they want to see us off the land.”
Williams was joined by organizers from Fightback who linked the land defenders’ struggle to the long history of Indigenous struggle against oppression by Canadian capitalism, its racist courts and state. Mass action must be organized to support their struggle—to overthrow this brutal system and provide justice and decency for all working class and oppressed people.
The following interview with Skyler Williams has been edited for length and clarity
FB: Tell me about the site we’re on:
For me, it was a year of my life and six months in jail after taking this land back, in 2006. So, now I am currently residing at 1492 Land Back Lane – directly across the road from here.
How does this compare to the 2006 reclamation?
Very similar. I spent a year of my life here and seven months in jail for this patch of land. To roll up this development right across the road is a real kick in the pants for a lot of people in our community who dedicated large parts of our life to it. It’s something we should have been expected to resist.
Is it comparable? Absolutely. And there has continued to be massive community support and folks like yourself who keep coming out—it’s fucking amazing.
The developers didn’t get the message last time?
Well, 15 years is a long time for some people.15 years is enough time to forget.
But for folks at Six Nations and personally for me—I certainly did not forget.
If you look down from Google Earth on Six Nations, you’ll see one grey square in the middle of Southern Ontario—which has a weird, dark green spot—because it’s like the biggest Carolinian forest that is untouched by development or agriculture—it’s just left to be. We see this massive development, 1400 homes, being built directly across the street from Kanonhstaton, on the doorsteps of our community. We want the same opportunity every small town and every big city across the country has had—we want to be able to grow. Grow as a community and our landbase needs to grow with us.
The only communities that have gotten smaller over the last hundred years—as every other city and town has grown exponentially over the last hundred years—have been reserves. They’ve gotten nothing but smaller. That’s not just here, that’s all across the country. Now, we’re on 5 per cent of what was allotted to us.
One of the biggest booming populations across the country is us, Indigenous folks, we want the same opportunity as everybody else.
You’ve been residing here roughly since July, how’s it been going?
Yeah, July 19 was the day we moved in here. We’ve maintained a peaceful occupation of our territory. The only days that violence has ever been brought here is at the hands of the OPP.
When was the last incident?
Oct. 22 was the last time rubber bullets were fired at our people. That was the last time people were tasered.
On Aug. 5, on their first incursion, they came in. One guy has scars for the rest of his life on his face from being dragged across his pavement, people were tasered in the neck and head and there were very, very forceful arrests of young women that were on the side of the road, just video-ing.
And this is what has become typical for police action, not just here but everywhere. There’ve been these massive, massive police actions in order to quell Indigenous folks standing up for our rights.
On Oct. 22 how many police were here?
On that day, maybe about 20 of them here to do small scale arrests as opposed to the large scale arrests they were here for on Aug. 5. On Aug. 5 it was 100 OPP that raided the site.
Has there been any word from the OPP or government since?
Very minimally, just to say they’re interested in nation-to-nation conversations and starting that process, but no action. Police are still completely surrounding the area.
Do you think the support you’ve received has stopped the police from coming here in almost a month?
Absolutely. This was the same thing in ‘06. They sent in 225 officers—and we were able to retake the land. They sent in 100, and we were able to retake the land. To be able to retake the land again, the sheer numbers, the force they would need is astronomical.
Right-wingers have tried to portray the land defenders as “a few bad apples” without the support of those on the reserve or recognized Six Nations leadership. What do you have to say to that?
For the OPP to stay the hell away from Six Nations is key for everybody. Even before the development started, our community came out in a huge way to say, “Absolutely no.”
Right now, I have conversations with the band council folks every week to update them on what’s going on, to hear concerns from them and their constituents. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs came out in support from day one. I have conversations with them on a daily basis almost.
The band council did accept an accommodation deal for $350,000. The cheapest house over there, that’s been listed, is $405,000. So I’ve got no blame for them. There was no negotiation. It was, “Here, you take the money and development goes on, or you don’t and the development is still going on.” For [the company] to call this a negotiation or to call this a consultation is absolutely ridiculous.
Part of the council’s deal with Foxgate was that they had to advocate for our removal within the first fifteen days. And Foxgate would reimburse any money they put out in order to do that. But they did nothing. They’ve breached their contract with Foxgate in order to not say anything about us. They’re gonna get sued by the developer at some point, but so far they’ve been quiet.
You’ve also had some solidarity from outside?
Absolutely, folks like yourselves, CUPE, the Ontario Federation of Labour, Steelworkers. It’s been an amazing go. Teachers have been out and just regular grassroots folks who see a problem and want to come out and say, “We support you guys and we understand what our country’s obligation is, and it sucks that we’re at this point again.”
And it hasn’t just been union leaders coming out and taking photos, it’s also been the rank and file that’s come out, right?
There are membership folks out there right now building houses. It’s been really amazing to see that kind of support—people coming out to do actual tangible things
The stand your community has taken, saying, “This far and no further,” to the Canadian capitalists is a model for working class and oppressed people across the land, here.
Absolutely it is. Absolutely it is. I’m a union iron worker and I see other fellow working class, union folks who understand: there ain’t fuck all we can’t do when we stick together and amplify each other’s voices.
There ain’t no parliament, no legislature that won’t hear those cries from our people when we fucking cry out.
It’s also been amazing to see the solidarity from Indigenous folks across the country. It’s unprecedented, knowing, “You fuck with us, you fuck with all of us.” Economically, dealing with landclaims—you can spend $200 million policing us, or you can buy out the developer and fuck off.