Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Enough, already

I promised myself that I would never blog about the current activities that are happening on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. I have, however, become sick and tired of turning on my radio every morning and hearing the latest "event" staged by those involved. While I do recognize that Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte are in the midst of a PR crisis, up to this point, I have refused to give Shawn Brant (no relation...thank God!) any more exposure than what he has already been given.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory is a beautiful little community, about 15 kms east of Belleville. I have many fond memories of visiting my grandparents, swimming in the Bay of Quinte (back when you could still swim in it...) with friends that I had made from the territory, and yes, I even remember Shawn Brant - he and my uncle have been friends for a long time (and yes, my uncle is STILL friends with him and is still being arrested for Shawn's many causes).

I don't even know where to start in talking about Shawn's many "causes" - it goes back many years and I'm not even sure where or when it started, but I do know that our community seldom agrees with his antics. He has become the face of Tyendinaga - he is always in the news, always criticizing, always challenging, always threatening horrible outcomes such as those at Ipperwash.

Recently, there have been a few situations that have been facing the residents of Tyendinaga.

A quarry on Deseronto Road that has seen protesters camped out at the entrance since March, 2007, protesting its establishment on tract land. The Culbertson Land Tract is a land claim that Tyendinaga has filed with the government. As discussions have slowed down, protesters have caused a number of negative impressions of the people of Tyendinaga, including a blockade being set up in April, 2008, preventing people from getting in and out of the entire town of Deseronto. The residents of Deseronto were both frightened and angry - many were forced to call in "hostage" to work that day. Protesters even went so far as to set up a blockade on the CN lines in 2006, halting all VIA and freight trains (and making thousands of people very angry) in an attempt to call attention to their perceived injustices.

And now, there is the issue of the new Police station. Money from the Federal and Provincial government was allotted, along with dollars from Casino Rama to buy a new police station for Tyendinaga. The prefabricated building was originally brought in from Grimsby, ON on September 23, but Shawn and his cronies wouldn't allow the trucks to enter the site - they said it was because the community was not consulted about how the Casino Rama dollars should have been spent and it should have been used to ensure clean drinking water for the community. Again, on October 29 they attempted to bring it in but to no avail. So now, the band has to spend MORE money to store the building - it has been bought and paid for. It's not like they can pull the receipt out of their back pocket and say, "Uh, I'd like to return these nine truckloads of prefab building please."

That being said, I do know that things are in motion for treating the water and that the issue is not the water itself but the treatment system - but it does take a whole lot less time to move in a prefab building than to figure out a way to bring in clean water. A water treatment strategy isn't always as easy as that, and the fact that the police station made it here first had more to do with that it was done faster than that it was higher on the priority list.

And so Shawn Brant has become the face of our community, regardless of whether or not we want him there.

Someone I know (I don't want to name names, just in case) pointed out that Shawn only gets involved in a situation when the grunt work is done. After all the research has been done, after all the necessary leg work has been done, then he steps in and takes the ropes and when there is a victory, he says "Look what I can do".

Recently (which is what prompted me to write this), I was reading a letter to the editor and realized that it's not just me who is annoyed at this, that the greater community (Belleville, Napanee, Kingston) are getting exceedingly tired of Shawn's antics

I don't always disagree with his causes, I just seldom agree with the way he approaches things. Our community, as a whole, is not like Shawn Brant. Not at all.


Rachel said...

I completely agree! Shawn Brant has been on his soapbox for so long that he no longer remembers what is important. He has lost sight of the big picture and his actions have damaged the hard work of others to improve native rights.

His protests and blockades have become so frequent that no one can take him seriously anymore. The negative press attention he draws has cast the hard working people of Tyendinaga in negative light. He needs to learn how to shut up and to start working with his band council instead of against them.

The Hawk said...

I agree with you entirely. I remember the second time he blockaded the CN main line. I was waiting at the via station for my train when I overheard some people explaining what was going on, and why the train had not shown up yet.
Eventually VIA announced what had happened and people started loosing their cool.

Later that evening I purchased a copy of the Globe and started reading up. The 6 o'clock news just reiterated what I had already come to expect: the CN blockade had cost the country billions of dollars.

It's really hard to take a man's cause seriously when he deliberately makes an attack on the economy. Even moreso when he does it without the support of the community he is attempting to represent.

It reminded me of something a professor of mine once told me about immigrant or struggling populations. She said that the most successful communities learn to work THROUGH the system and not AGAINST it.

This was a wonderful case in point. I believe the majority of the native communities in Canada have learned to do just that: work THROUGH the Canadian system. It's upsetting when someone takes a step backwards by attacking the system.

Unfortunately the one fringe-extremist who is going against the system always seems to become the focus, whether or not it adequately represents the rest of the community.

Another example of this is the Khalid Bin Al-Walid mosque in Etobicoke and the Somali Islamic Society of Canada which owns it. There blatant instances of discrimination, and their propogation of non-Muslim ideas that contradict the laws of Canada, have upset the entire Somali and Muslim community. Now their own practitioners are demanding the Canadian government strip them of their charitable status.

Again we see a few fringe ideas or people become the face of an entire community of people, whether or not it accurately defines them or not.

Do not worry Shannon. I know it seems pretty bleak at the moment, but there are some people who understand this is not representative of the Tyendinaga community. Perhaps it will take a very vocal disclaimer by the community to make others realize it too.