Six Nations land defenders occupy stolen land used as Arrowdale golf course, now slated for housing development

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Turtle Island News.

On Saturday October 9, Six Nations land defenders began a re-occupation of the Arrowdale Golf Course in Brantford, Ontario.

Oneida land defender Trevor Bomberry says: “This is our land. Mostly all of Brantford belongs to our people. It’s been stolen.”

He notes: “Unfortunately, the city has been using our hunting grounds as a golf course and putting buildings on it without the consent of my people.”

Bomberry has also stated: “An archeological study was done here finding bones, arrowheads and pottery.”

He affirms: “My duty as an Onkwehonwe person is to go ahead and go forth in a peaceful way, and take back what is inherently ours.”

He adds: “I’m going to be here as long as the grass grows and the sky is blue. I’m not walking away from this land.”

And he has said: “We’re hunkering down for the winter-time.”

The land falls within the Haldimand Tract, which includes 10 kilometres on either side of the Grand River. The 950,000-acre parcel of land was granted to Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British in the American Revolution.

In April of this year, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, the traditional government of the Six Nations, called for a moratorium on development of the area.

In December 2019, the City of Brantford decided to close the golf course and put some of the land up for sale. Elite M.D Developments has made a $14 million offer for the nearly 13 hectares of the land. That sale has not been finalized.

Bomberry counters: “I don’t know how they can sell something that doesn’t belong to them in the first damn place.”

Veronica Martisius of the local activist group Know Your City Inc., also says: “[The City doesn’t] have the consent of the Six Nations people to sell these lands, to develop these lands, and the land should stay as it is and the city should reconsider its decision.”

The City says: “The broader matter of Indigenous land claims is a complex issue and one that is not within the city of Brantford’s jurisdiction to resolve.”

Nevertheless, the City further notes that the occupation is “unlawful” and that “this matter has been referred to the Brantford Police Service (BPS).”

Bomberry says that the interactions with the police have been respectful. But on October 13, security guards hired by the City of Brantford began searching his tent in the early morning hours. Bomberry says: “They informed us we had to leave, they were on behalf of the city. It’s straight up intimidation.”

Bomberry was also involved in the occupation of the 40-acre residential development site on McKenzie Road in Caledonia. Brantford is located about 30 kilometres north-west of Caledonia. That heavily-criminalized occupation began in July 2020 and by June 2021 developers had cancelled plans to build on the site.

The Six Nations of the Grand River launched a court case in 1995 on the title to these lands. It is scheduled to go to court in October 2022.

There have also been recent land defence struggles by Mohawks of Kahnawake against a 290-unit housing development near Chateauguay, Quebec, as well as by Mohawks of Kanesatake against a housing development near Oka, Quebec.

Earlier this month, the Mohawks of Kahnawake also blocked access to a site near the Mercier Bridge in Montreal where an electrical substation is to be constructed. Mohawk land defender Joe Deom says: “Not one more inch will be given up. This encroaches on our territory. It’s a small area, but we’re making a point here.”

On October 12, security guards blocked the entrance to the golf course. The fire department was then called in response to a small fire on the grounds. The police later responded. Photo by Yakowennahskats.

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