Monday, March 26, 2007

Mohawks block off disputed quarry

Group wants gravel pit’s operations stopped, land claim settled
Friday, March 23, 2007
By Jeremy Ashley
DESERONTO/Osprey News Network

Clad in camouflaged apparel and hauling camping gear, more than 125 members of the mohawks of the Bay of Quinte community seized control of a gravel quarry on a disputed tract of land located along the northeastern outskirts of Deseronto last night. Shortly before 5 p.m., the winding access road leading to the Thurlow Aggregates gravel pit off of Deseronto Road was blocked off by mohawk protesters in several vehicles, including two school buses and an number of all-terrain vehicles. Protesters and members of the mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) band council say the move is to reinforce an earlier request to have the quarry’s operation stopped. Flanked by members of his council, MBQ Chief R. Donald Maracle said the event was to “basically send a message to Canada that it is unacceptable to continue to develop land that is unsettled.” The demonstrators say they are reclaiming a small part of 925 acres known as the Culbertson Land Tract, a parcel of land that they claim was illegally taken from the MBQ in 1832. Maracle said the occupation wasn’t formally supported by the MBQ band council. “The intervention that is occurring today is not officially sanctioned by the mohawk council, but the mohawk council certainly understands the frustration that young people have in achieving a resolution that’s in the best interest of future generations.

I’m here basically to point out that the government is not dealing fairly with our people and helping us settle these claims amicably.” Shawn Brant, a well-known mohawk activist, said the occupation of the quarry is expected to go on for quite some time. “Let me put it to you this way – once we’re dug in, it will take an air strike to get us out,” the 42-year-old said. “The quarry is something that strikes at the heart of the issue – it’s very difficult to have negotiations at a time when they’re taking out 10,000 truckloads of our land [per year]. It’s an affront to our process.” Establishing camps inside the quarry earlier in the evening, as many as 150 people acted as a “set-up crew,” Brant said. Native communities throughout the province have “been put on notice” about the group’s actions, and “all are waiting and it is our intention to draw up support as it’s needed.” Brant said it was his group’s intention “to close the quarry” but admitted the group “was a little reluctant about a long-term campaign … what we want to do is suspend his [quarry] licence until the land claim is resolved.” After a federal negotiator was appointed earlier this year, protesters turned their attention to the quarry, claiming the operation would be contributing material to the development of a new $30-million housing development in Deseronto and pledged to shut down the site.

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