'Justice will prevail' :Mohawk chief offers prayers, condemns 'violent actions of a few'

Mohawk chief offers prayers, condemns 'violent actions of a few'

Paul Legall
The Hamilton Spectator
Sept 15, 2007

Caledonia - Six Nations leaders have condemned the beating of a Caledonia home builder during a confrontation at a residential building site Thursday, calling it "an atrocity."

Sam Gualtieri, 52, suffered serious facial injuries and possible brain damage when he was assaulted with boards or other clubs inside a house he's building for his daughter at Stirling Woods in Caledonia.

Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton expressed anger and disgust when he was shown a picture of the beaten man yesterday.

"I believe it's an atrocity, sir," MacNaughton told Joe Gualtieri, 46, who had taken the pictures of his injured brother at West Haldimand General Hospital earlier in the day.

MacNaughton and Cayuga subchief Leroy Hill had expressed their regrets to the Gualtieri family at a press conference minutes before the younger brother walked up to them and showed the pictures.

"I believe he was a blow away from dying," Gualtieri said as he laid the pictures on the table in front of them.

MacNaughton also distanced himself from the native protesters who were allegedly involved in the attack.

"We cannot condone the violent actions of a few that resulted in Sam Gualtieri being hospitalized. We wish to extend our regrets to Mr. Gualtieri's family and pray for a full recovery," he said.

MacNaughton said a group of natives who have been occupying the Stirling Woods building site, which involves 49 units under construction, are acting on their own and do not have the sanction of the Six Nations Confederacy.

MacNaughton and Hill said the incident is being investigated by the Six Nations Confederacy and "justice will prevail."

They didn't provide any specific details about whether they had any suspects, how many people were involved or how the incident had developed.

The chiefs said native leaders had met with the OPP officers investigating the incident. But they didn't say whether they'd be willing to turn over any suspects to the non-native police. The Six Nations Confederacy considers the reserve to be sovereign land.

Joe Gualtieri and native protesters have provided the media with contradictory versions of the incident.

Donna Powless and a protester who identified herself only by the Mohawk name Kaiiatese both claimed that the natives involved in the confrontation were teenagers defending themselves.

Powless, who had spent the night at the site, told reporters yesterday one of the boys involved was only 14 years old and the other was "a little bit older." She said they went inside the house to make sure nobody was vandalizing the building and were confronted by five armed men.

She suggested non-natives had provoked the incident to make native protesters look bad.

"If things go smooth," she told reporters, "they create an incident to make our people look bad. It happens over and over again."

In a scrum at the site, Kaiiatese gave a similar version of the incident. She said two teenagers were attacked by five armed men when they went inside the house to make sure nobody was damaging the property.

She scoffed at Joe Gualtieri's suggestion that his brother had been clubbed unconscious with pieces of lumber or a piece of oak railing.

She told reporters she had seen Sam's Gualtieri's picture on television and he didn't look as if he had been hit over the head with an "oak railing." She said his injuries were more consistent with "fisticuffs."

Joe Gualtieri said Kaiiatese's remarks felt as if she'd spat in his face, in view of the fact the chiefs had apologized and offered their prayers. (Neither protester had claimed to represent the Six Nations Confederacy.)

Gualtieri said his brother was confronted by at least three adult males when he went into the house at about 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Gualtieri said three workmen, including two nephews of his brother, had to get into the house through the back because there was a group of protesters blocking the front door.

After the altercation, they arrived on the main floor to find his brother lying unconscious with man standing with a club over him. "You've killed him; you've killed him; leave him alone," he said a nephew shouted at the attacker.

During the media scrum, he said he wants the attackers charged with attempted murder because his brother was "one blow away from being murdered."

At about 2:20 p.m. yesterday, after the press conference, most of the protesters left the site.

But later in the evening, others began massing on the Stirling Street Highway 6 overpass west of the site. They then began to trickle back to the site.

Townspeople also gathered near the development at the intersection of Stirling Street and Peebles Street. Some of the crowd of about 70 waved Canadian flags and signs reading "No more lies," "Ipperwash Cover up" and "One Law for all."

Tensions momentarily rose at about 7:30 p.m. when a car full of natives tried to enter the development. It was met with cries of "Terrorists" and "Get out of here." Police turned the car back. Townsfolk shook their signs at the car.

Carol, who has lived in the area for 19 years, said the province has to resolve this situation and negotiations have to stop until natives get off the property.

"We want our law and order back," she said.

"I am afraid every day in my own home."

Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas, two non-Caledonia residents, showed up at the housing site. McHale, who runs a contentious website critical of the way the now 19-month Caledonia standoff has been handled by the OPP and politicians, has organized a few marches in town to highlight residents' displeasure.

Vandermaas is from London, Ont. and also runs a website critical of the OPP.

OPP Constable Paula Wright said police plan to maintain their presence at the site through today.