By Heidi Grzesina - The Regional
March 4, 2009
A bridge to understanding was offered to a full house at Wilfrid Laurier University's Odeon Theatre in Brantford, Friday evening.
Two Row Understanding through Education (TRUE), a grassroots citizens' group with a mandate to inform and educate non-native citizens across Canada in "an attempt to defuse the growing tensions within the South Western Ontario area", invited The Six Nations Men's Fire (Hoskanigetah of the Grand River) and Caledonia businessman, Ken Hewitt, to a public meeting. The Hoskanigetah of the Grand River were invited to discuss who they are and what they want. Ken Hewitt was invited to discuss his petition for an inquiry into the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and their handling of the Caledonia land dispute.
The Hoskanigetah of the Grand River described their first duty as: "to uphold the Kianerekowa, the Great Peace of the Haudenosaunee."
"We are born to the duty of protecting the lands and the Haudenosaunee. We must also stand behind our Godianisoh (Clan Mothers), the women title holders of the land and the heads of the Haudenosaunee, to assist them in all endeavors and enact all they require of the Hoskanigetah."
The Six Nations Men's Fire (Hoskanigetah) was at the Hagersville construction site all this week where John Voortman is building 46 townhouses.
Representatives of The Six Nations Men's Fire, Stan Farmer, Gene Johns, Kelly Curley and Wes Elliot introduced themselves with both their Christian and Indian names and gave an in-depth explanation of the Two Row Wampum Treaty saying: "We the Hoskanigetah must inform you, the crown corporation called "Canada", provinces, counties, municipalities, cities, towns and any agency who represents the above titles, including law enforcement, judges, lawyers, etc. the Haudenosaunee of the Grand River are stake holders over this territory as affirmed by the Guswantah (Two Row Wampum). Our Constitution is the Kianerekowa, the Great Law of Peace, over 2000 years old and the oldest know Constitution. Your development on our territory is illegal by order of your Canadian Constitution and by treaty. Treaty law supercedes Canadian law."
"The Two Row Wampum treaty was an agreement for our two cultures, native and non-native, to travel together in a parallel fashion, side by side, never interfering with each other and it was to be a binding contract between the Europeans and the Haudenosaunee, passed on from generation to generation, never ending.
"We have the burden of carrying peace on our back" said Farmer, whose young son began and ended the evening with prayer. "We must promote peace at all cost".
The environmental impact of new development, the petitions of both MPP Toby Barrett and Ken Hewitt, the OPP handling of the situation in Caledonia and the developments in both Brantfrod and Hagersville were all commented on by the panel of representatives from The Six Nations Men's Fire. There was significant referral to a document called "Amacus Report" as well, which reportedly is an independent judicial report arising out of the Empire Homes situation in Brantford now before the courts. A copy of that report was not immediately available but was promised to those who provided an email address.
Ken Hewitt spoke about Haldimand County being a "great place to work, live and raise a family." Hewitt acknowledged that The Haudenosaunee" have had to fight harder than us" and have been engaged in a fight with the government far longer that the three years of this Caledonia situation regarding the former Douglas Creek Estates. Hewitt spoke about the significance of "the disconnect of understanding between our two cultures due to government lack of action," and described racism as having "no place in our grocery stores, at work ....or in our communities" adding that racism has contributed to the erosion of the social economic fabric of our communities.
Hewitt encouraged the audience to direct energy at the government and not each other with a demonstration, thereby, of unity within both communities and each other. "We do not have to agree 100 percent with each other but to influence government we need to appear united and more responsible as adults, for our children's sakes. Hewitt added that he hoped "we will be a beacon for all others" in any future land claim situations such as Caledonia's.
A question and answer period followed in which both sides agreed that truth was the goal and the only way towards resolution. Audience members posed questions about the constant focus on the economy which they identified as greed, about how membership in the Men's Fire was determined, about two tier justice, about the OPP and the Ipperwash situation and about the fight for justice on both sides.
"We are at different altitudes" said Hewitt when responding to questions about the understanding of the two Row Wampum Treaty and the current issues at hand. He acknowledged that when affected adversely, people tend to look at their wallets but also pointed out that everything he is doing is as a volunteer.
Hewitt was asked if the goal of his petition was to get to the political roots of things or to examine the actions of the OPP to which he responded: "Both," and went on to say that his objective was to "open as many eyeballs as we can."
One of the audience members, Cheyenne Williams said: "Why Caledonia? It is on our doorstep. Today I have a daughter. Tomorrow she has no place to live....If development continues at the rate it was going....where does that leave the children?'