On April 20, 2006, Ontario Provincial Police moved in to evict a handful of sleeping Six Nations demonstrators at a former housing development site in Caledonia in a pre-dawn raid that resulted in massive resistance from Six Nations people.
The call went out through text messages and phone calls from newly emerging cellphone technology and thousands of Six Nations people attended the site, formerly known as Douglas Creek Estates, to push hundreds of OPP officers off the site.
The former subdivision, which sits on Six Nations lands, is still in the possession of Six Nations people to this day. The land was given the moniker “Kanonhstaton”, meaning “The Protected Place”.
In a similar action, demonstrators have stopped construction of the McKenzie Meadows, a 200-home subdivision in Caledonia — one that sits across the street from the site of the 2006 land reclamation.
Skyler Williams has become the face of that new demonstration called Land Back Lane. Williams helped organize a unity concert last weekend to commemorate the 2006 raids at Kanonstaton with a focus on unity among all political factions on Six Nations.
Williams says this is something he’s emphasized since he stopped construction of the McKenzie Meadows last August.
Williams said the events of April 20, 2006 still reverberate on Six Nations to this day, saying it was a “moment in time where it was about unity. It was for everybody. It was about the land.”
He said the action at Land Back Lane, which Six Nations land defenders still occupy to this day, is also meant to unify the people.
“This wasn’t for any one family or faction or group or Confederacy or this or that,” said Williams, who was also heavily involved in the action at Kanonhstaton 15 years ago as a young man. “It’s for everybody.”
And unity is necessary to say no to development, he said.
“We’ve seen in the last nine months here (at Land Back Lane) those families and those friends that have been apart for so long have come together in a huge way to keep pushing forward and keep saying ‘absolutely no’ to these massive developments happening (on Six Nations unceded land).”
A host of Six Nations talent came together for the concert, with most recording from home for a virtual concert, while some performed in person at Kanonhstaton.
A small, physically-distanced crowd gathered at Kanonhstaton Saturday to hear award-winning musician Logan Staats croon about the loss of land in a number of his own original recordings.
Williams acknowledges there are families and factions who hold on to “old grudges” – a theme that played out in 2006 and continues today.
“Those are hard things to let go of,” he said. “I got no blame for anybody that wants to be angry because it is hard to let go of those old hurts but when it comes to the land, the only thing that keeps going on is these massive developments and resource extraction if we don’t come together.”