OHSWEKEN — A group of about 25 people rallied out front of Six Nations Elected Council’s Central Administration building on Monday morning, preventing anyone from accessing the building.
The group says the action was done in solidarity with nationwide protests against the federal governments Indigenous Rights, Recognition and Implementation Framework.
Demonstrators put up posters on the Elected Council building’s sign calling Six Nations Elected Council Chief Ava Hill and Senior Administrative Officer Dayle Bomberry “traitors”.
TRT was on the scene to speak with those in attendance, however they declined an interview.
Several videos were posted to social media Monday showing Bomberry and SNEC member Melba Thomas at the Central Admin building being ridiculed and refused entry by a group of about 15 people blocking the doorway.
In one video, Thomas was taunted by protesters. One man, who identified himself as an Annishnabe person not from Six Nations could be seen challenging Thomas, who has served as an elected councillor since 2004, questioning her indigenous identity.
“Are you Canadian or Haudenosaunee,” asked the unidentified male. Thomas began to answer but was interrupted by the man shouting, “You know what the sad part about that is? That’s an Annishnabe man asking you this!”
The crowd surrounding them then burst into laughter. He is then shown shouting further accusations to Thomas, suggesting that he was on Six Nations as an ally to the protesters to support his friends because “it could be my land you’re coming after next.”
Thomas turned to the group and said, “Encourage the Confederacy to meet, then we can have one government.”
The group then is shown shouting back at Thomas, one man exclaiming “you work for us motherf**ker”. The group surrounding that man responds in laugher as Thomas is shown walking away.
“They think they can walk right through the people.” said protester Rhonda Martin. “They’re already stepping on us now they think they can walk through us.”
SNEC member Mark Hill attended the protest to speak with Martin and other community members who were blocking access to the building.
“People are trying to push us to vote,” said another protester, Jacqueline House. “Traditional people are saying ‘get out there and vote’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t wanna vote.’ Why are you forcing my hands. It feels like I’m being accosted to say if you don’t vote for this yea or nay it doesn’t matter what you think. But that’s not true.”
Hill said, “We’re diverse now. We have a very diverse community today. It’s personal choice really when it comes down to it. We all have a personal choice to make a decision for ourselves.”
“But we also have a responsibility,” said House.
“My point is to being respectful of the inclusion of the diverse people who are still Ongwehonwe,” said Hill.
The group of protesters told Hill that they believe Six Nations band members who support the Elected system are no longer included as Haudenosaunee people.
By Monday evening protesters had distributed letters saying they were seeking the Elected Council to formally recognize the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council as the legitimate government of Six Nations of the Grand River. The protesters remained on site through the night and all day Tuesday with no word on when the blockade would conclude or what they wanted to see happen.
No clear objective was asserted as to why the group was preventing access to the building. One of the people supporting the action said that there were several concerns from community members that they wanted to have addressed — including SAO Bomberry’s employment, an ongoing soil dumping issue and requesting a meeting with the entire Elected Council along with Chief Hill and Bomberry.
SNEC released a statement Wednesday morning, publicly asking for a meeting with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council to find a way to end the protest and allow Central Administration employees a chance to return to work.
SNEC also said in the statement “The safety and mental wellbeing of our staff and community members is our highest priority. To those residents that live near the administrative building, we have heard you and understand that you have concerns for safety. The grievances are not with the public at large, but with the Elected Council specifically. If the action is causing you stress and concern, please reach out to one of our community agencies for support. We have been assured by the Six Nations Police that public safety is also their highest priority. If at any time, you have concerns for your personal safety, please call 911.”