Land defender John Gawahowene Garlow dies

He always showed up.

Wherever he was needed, wherever his people were fighting for a cause, John “Gawahowene” Garlow was there.

His heart always called him to every cause and protest he could attend.

He lived his life for the love for his people, the language, the culture, and Indigenous rights.

Gawahowene, 57, is on his way home after a peaceful transition in his sleep at Land Back Lane in Caledonia on Sunday morning.

Gawahowene’s passion for land rights goes back a long time.

He was one of the original land defenders during the land reclamation by Six Nations people at a former housing development site in Caledonia, on Argyle Street near Sixth Line Road, that was shut down in early 2006.

Gawahowene was there when the OPP attempted to remove a small handful of peaceful land defenders from the site, now called Kanonhstaton, in a pre-dawn raid on April 20, 2006 that later in the morning saw thousands of community members pushing armed police off the site.

In Jonathan Garlow’s film “Day Zero”, which documented that day, Gawahowene can be seen fearlessly advancing toward OPP at the reclamation site, using a coat as a shield to protect women from tasers and other arms being launched at demonstrators by police.

He held down the fort there for years, even losing his home as he dedicated all his time to keeping watch over Kanonhstaton and protecting it from another raid.

He kept the sacred fire going there for months at a time, stoking it day and night, through freezing temperatures.

He stood alone in the last remaining home at Kanonhstaton, dubbed HQ, for a number of years, caring for the home and alerting fellow land defenders on Six Nations if there were any threats to the property.

That wasn’t the only place you could find him.

Any time there was a protest or action involving his people, Kawahowene was there, whether it be on Six Nations, in Hamilton, Toronto, or Brantford.

He spent his final months at LandBack Lane in one of the tiny homes there, where he passed in his sleep.

Kawahowene is survived by his children Johnny, Maura and Allen. Predeceased by his parents Robert K. Garlow and Wilma L. Garlow (nee VanEvery). Brother of Donna LaForme (deceased), Kelly, Wayne, Paul (Evibe), John, Larry (deceased), Karen (Rob) and Greg (Kelli). Survived and missed by many nieces, nephews and friends.

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