Relatives of Aazhoodena land defender Dudley George have begun to reoccupy their ancestral lands in Ontario

Published by Brent Patterson on

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There is not a lot of information at this point, but Blackburn News reports: “Relatives of the late Dudley George moved onto the former Ipperwash Provincial Park lands Friday [May 14], laying claim to their ancestral homestead. A group of less than 12, representing three generations of descendants of Komonee and Sarah George, began occupying the lands by moving four large shipping containers on-site.”

The article continues: “NaWalka Geeshy Meegwun, the great grandchild of Komonee and Sarah George, said historical court documents show the former park lands were illegally sold in 1929, long before residents of the Stoney Point Reserve were forced to surrender their lands to the federal government in 1942.”

Meegwun says: “Those containers are to let people know that there is a matter of an illegal sale that happened. That the Indian agent we believe had used tools of oppression on our great grandparents to obtain that land so that the provincial and federal levels of government could turn that into a provincial park.”

The article concludes: “Dudley George was also a great grandchild of Komonee and Sarah George.  He was shot and killed by Ontario Provincial Police in September of 1995 during an occupation of the same lands.”

George and other unarmed Aazhoodena land defenders were seeking a return of their ancestral lands when he was killed.

George’s family was one of 18 families displaced from the Stony Point First Nation in 1942 when the federal government expropriated the land to build the base. The government had promised to return the land after World War II, but at the time of George’s death, 53 years after that dispossession, the land was still occupied by the military.

George’s family moved back to Stony Point, then known as Camp Ipperwash, in 1993. Then, after decades of writing letters, meetings and signing petitions, 35 land defenders began a reoccupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park on September 4, 1995.

Notably, the park, also situated on Aazhoodena land, contained burial grounds that the defenders said were not being respected or protected.

On September 5, Ontario Premier Mike Harris met with several government officials. The provincial Attorney General later testified that Harris shouted: “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.” A recording also emerged of police officers discussing the premier’s view that the government had “tried to pacify and pander to these people far too long.”

The following day George was killed by an OPP sniper.

Camp Ipperwash is now closed, but the federal government still “owns” the land on Aazhoodena territory. The Department of National Defence says it will take 25 years to clear the unexploded grenades and artillery shells and to decontaminate the land.

While the lands continue to be in a long process of being returned to the community, the trauma of almost 80 years of displacement and violence remains.

The commemoration in the photo below marks the site where Dudley George was killed on September 6, 1995. A provincial inquiry later found former Ontario premier Mike Harris bears responsibility for the events that led to George’s death.

On September 7, 2020, the day after the 25th anniversary of Dudley’s death, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked about the OPP firing rubber bullets at 1492 Land Back Lane land defenders and what he saw as the path forward to resolving the situation on Six Nations territory in southern Ontario.

Ford did not respond to the issue of the rubber bullets, but rather appeared to focus on the Haudenosaunee land defenders, highlighting: “I’m going to be very blunt, I’m not going to tolerate violence, it’s very simple. I don’t know if a few folks are going rogue. It’s unfortunate we have a couple bad apples causing problems.”

The premier’s comments are cause for concern for both the ongoing 1492 Land Back Lane reoccupation and the Ipperwash reoccupation that began today.

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