Members of Six Nations, as well as the Brantford community, met today at Cockshutt Road to protest the Harper government’s infringement of Native rights.
Cockshutt Road was closed at both the north and south ends where demonstrators held signs and handed out pamphlets. Brantford Police and the Ontario Provincial Police were on hand to keep things peaceful, as well as close the road for the duration of the protest.
Native rights have been at the forefront of nationwide coverage as the Idle No More movement has been gaining traction. However, there are also issues pertaining to the Brant area in particular that were addressed at today’s protest.
“Yes we support Teresa Spence and Idle No More, but we do have our own issues here in Six Nations,” said Lester Green a member of the Oneida Bear clan.
There was also anger towards Harper’s inaction in addressing the issue of treaty infringement.
“He’s letting a woman starve herself to death. He’s forcing us to stand on the roads… we have nothing left to lose. If we don’t have action at this time, we might as well curl up and die. This is really, I feel, the last gasp of our people,” said Andrew Joseph.
Many were also appalled at the attitude of Governor General David Johnston towards meeting with First Nations representatives.
“As a Crown representative, he has completely washed his hands of First Nations issues,” said Carrie Lester, a Torontonian who has familial ties to the Bearfoot Onondoga
Six Nations is not a part of First Nations, however, members of these groups want to make sure their hereditary chiefs are looked after and included in negotiations. The goal is to allow for their governance to be recognized between nations.
The issue of native rights impacts Canadian society as a whole
“Realistically, there should be a whole bunch of your people standing here, too. Don’t think that you won’t be impacted, you will,” said Karkinwanoron Bigvoice.
The response from the public depended on the end of the road. At Erie Avenue, the response was mixed. However, at Tutela Heights Road and Cockshutt Road, the response was much more positive.
“Everybody else we’ve talked to are in agreeance (sic) with what we’re doing, supporting us as well. It’s a good feeling to have that too,” said Lester.
Pamphlets were handed to passing cars, with many cars honking in support of the protestors. However, the importance of the day was to help the public understand the issue.
“We’re not here to cause any trouble, or to piss people off. We’re here to make sure that information’s put out there. There’s a whole history here. There’s a whole thing that needs to be understood. Those agreements that have been made years and years ago have to be upheld,” said Lester.
The issue is no longer simply found in courtrooms or governmental meetings, but rather on the local level, where the issue cannot be ignored.
“It’s to the point now where we can’t have our voices heard in any other forum but here on the streets,” said Joseph.