Six Nations Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying who was involved in organizing a large unsanctioned lantern festival on Six Nations over the weekend that saw local roads snarled with traffic and community members outraged over the flood of non-community members coming to the surprise festival.
The event was sold online and billed as taking place in the “Toronto area” by an advertiser from the United States.
Hundreds of vehicles were attempting to find the farmland property on Six Nations causing a massive traffic jam on Hwy. 6 and Fourth Line Road Saturday night, resulting in the involvement of the OPP to clear the roads and order the public not to attend the event.
Six Nations Elected Council blasted the organizers of the festival, calling it dangerous and a fire hazard.
The event, which was a lights festival to launch fire-powered lanterns, generated concern among community members due to the amount of people attending the event and the potential fire hazard it created, council said in a statement.
Thousands of people were estimated to have descended on the community Saturday night for the unsanctioned festival. Organizers had not consulted with any community organizations or Six Nations Fire Services, according to the statement.
Council said in the statement that they knew ahead of time that the event was being planned and that organizers were sent a letter on Aug. 16 to inform them that the release of the lanterns was not authorized.
The event still moved forward, with the resulting crush of crowds resulting in substantial traffic congestion, road closures, trespassing, property damage and risk to pedestrians who had parked their cars on the side of the road (on Fourth Line near Hwy. 6).
Six Nations Police, along with OPP, had to attend to control traffic. Police had also asked that lanterns not be lit. They were still lit and released and could be seen from outside of Six Nations.
Photos of the lanterns floating up in the sky flooded local Facebook groups, even as far as Hamilton.
The statement said the lanterns were released “in violation of health and safety directives. Not only does this have an adverse effect on our environment, it presents a substantial fire risk as our territory is home to the largest strand of Carolinian forest in the country.”
Elected Chief Mark Hill billed the event as a callous disregard for safety of the people.
Chief Hill went to the event to speak with the organizers Saturday night.
“It’s unacceptable that outside organizations think they can exploit our sovereignty for their own benefit by hosting events on the territory that have little to no benefit to our community. Six Nations and its residents deserve respect from visitors to the territory, as well as from our own community members.”
The event sadly had an impact on family members who had difficulty attending the wake of the late Manual Johnson that was being held that night.
Police say about 30 to 50 lanterns were released into the sky and that charges are pending.