A small group of Six Nations people reclaimed a parcel of land over the weekend in Brantford and plan to stay throughout the winter.
On Saturday, Six Nations man Trevor Bomberry removed a lock on the gate of the former 42-acre Arrowdale Golf Course on Stanley Street, saying the City of Brantford had no right to sell the contested land, which is part of an ongoing Six Nations land claim.
“I’m home,” said Bomberry in a Facebook video. “These are Onkwehonwe lands. Our lands are not for sale.”
A contingent of city residents have also been vocally opposed to the sale and planned construction of the park. The City of Brantford sold the property for $14 million and said they plan to use the proceeds to build affordable housing elsewhere in the city.
“I don’t know how they can sell something that doesn’t belong to them,” said Bomberry.
The people have not received any legal notice to leave and Brantford Police have maintained their distance from the site, with a private security company keeping watch at the front gate instead.
Bomberry was alone when he took the action on Saturday and was later joined by others from Six Nations. City residents have offered support, as well.
“We’re hunkering down for the winter time,” said Bomberry.
In preparation for construction, the city has conducted a number of archaeological digs on the property.
The digs came to a halt this past summer to allow Six Nations monitors to be on site. Bomberry said a number of items have been discovered during digs, including bones, arrowheads and pottery.
Indigenous monitors have become common in Ontario where projects sit on unceded or contested Indigenous land.
In the meantime, the City of Brantford is calling the occupation “unlawful” and said “alleged criminal acts” took place at the site over the weekend, “including trespassing, breaking and entering, and vandalism.”
“The City condemns any actions or behaviours that cause irreparable harm to the health, safety, and economic vitality of the City, including the behaviours of those illegally occupying these lands, those who have encouraged this behaviour, and those who may be actively aiding and abetting criminal activity,” the city said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “The lands at 282 Stanley Street in Brantford have been lawfully and peacefully owned and operated by the City of Brantford for approximately 100 years and remain in the sole and exclusive ownership of the City. The decision to sell these lands to support the City’s plan to develop affordable housing was upheld by the Courts in Ontario.”
The property sits on land that is the subject of an ongoing court case Six Nations filed in 1994 for what it deems an, “illegal dispossession of Indian lands.” The case is expected to be heard for the first time in September 2022.
“The broader matter of indigenous land claims is a complex issue and one that is not within the City of Brantford’s jurisdiction to resolve,” the city said in the statement. “These matters require significant input from the Federal and Provincial Governments and the Indigenous community and often involve an accounting for profits but not the return of land. Furthermore, to be clear, the City of Brantford has and continues to engage with Six Nations of the Grand River regarding these lands. Six Nations representatives have been and continue to be very involved in the archaeological plan for this site.”
A tent and fire have been set up and visitors have been dropping off supplies and food since Saturday.
Bomberry said he thought about operating a business on the property.
“Six Nations (is) taking back what is inherently ours,” he said.