The story you are about to read concerns an incident at the Six Nations Fall Fair in the latter part of the 1960s when a “riot” broke out as a result of an incident between many patrons of the annual Fall Fair and the Ohsweken Detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP/Mounties).
At the time of the incident, the author of this article was 19 years old and considered a minor as the age of majority at that stage of Canadian history was 21. The author is unsure of exactly when Mounties arrived in Ohsweken, but we do know that they had been here for several decades prior to the 1960s. The old RCMP barracks, which stood just in front of the Grand River Employment and Training building (GREAT) offices directly across from the Iroquois Plaza, has since been removed leaving everyone with just our memories of all the incidents which occurred between the Six Nations people and the Mounties.
The old barracks building was home to at least some of Mounties which Canada had placed in Ohsweken to “Maintain the Right” as was the official motto of the Mounties in those days. The author believes that the RCMP had arrived as far back as 1924 when the people of the reservation switched over to an elected form of democracy under an Elected Council as opposed to the Iroquois Confederacy Chiefs Council which had governed at Ohsweken from some point well after our ancestors arrived here from the Mohawk Valley in the late 1700s. Today; however, it does not really matter when the Mounties arrived on the reservation. What matters is that the RCMP were here for some time and the Mounties did play a leading role in the riot at the Fall Fair.
Life on or near the Six Nations of the Grand River more than 50 years ago was much different than they are today as many people did not have access to a phone nor did most people have Hydro or Television. The roads were gravel and dirt and when some criminal event happened, or if a car accident occurred, people had to rely on someone else in the neighbourhood who had a phone to call the police. The young people of the day [author included] had limited access to alcohol and drugs were mostly non-existent other than wild weed if one knew where to get it. Likewise, run-ins with the law were few and far between and the Mounties were just an irritant that we had learned to ignore for the most part. Prior to the riot at the fair, the author and his friends had met the local Mounties through interactions related to problems at school or for minor driving infractions or drinking under age or any other actions that involved the police.
In those days, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were based in a converted house on East Colborne Street in Brantford and were almost never present on the reservation. Getting back to the topic at hand; everyone looked forward to the annual Ohsweken Fair as it gave everyone a chance to see people they had not seen for a while and get caught up on all the local gossip which was going around.
This year; however, (I believe it was 1967) was different. From the time my friends and I had arrived at the fair on Saturday, the mood of the crowd felt different. There was a kind of an “electric feeling” in the air and you could tell that the Mounties on patrol could feel it as well. As my friends and I walked around the midway and adjoining racetrack and parking lot, every time we met one or two of the Mounties we would “bump into them” or one of the Mounties would “bump into” one of us and exchange a few unpleasantries (racial slurs) for the most part, as we all knew what the police thought of Indians and most of the Indians felt the same toward the police.
This feeling that something was going to happen just kept getting stronger and stronger as the day progressed and finally as evening approached; the electric bubble burst. Three friends of mine and I were sitting in a car in the parking area on the north end of the Community Hall when Corporal Peter S. And Constable Bob M., walked over to the car and told my friend Jackie G. To “move this car”.
Now, the car we were in was blocked in by a car in front, a car behind and cars on both the left and right sides. We could not move. Jackie G. said to the Corporal, “(Expletive) you. I can’t move.”
The Mountie said again, “I am giving you a direct order to move this damn car.”
Jackie G. again told Peter S. that he could not move. Constable Bob M. then looked into the car where I was sitting in the right rear seat and said; “Douglas, you are under arrest” I replied, “for what?” and Bob M. said, “You’re under arrest for drinking under age, get out of the car”. I was not drinking and told Bob M. what he could do with himself after which the Constable reached into the car and tried to drag me over my friend John H. who was sitting on my left in the back seat.
As we sat arguing with the two Mounties, a crowd began to gather around the car and as the Mounties and I moved out of the car things began to escalate. Somehow I had gotten out of the car and Corporal Peter and Constable Bob began to drag me toward their cruiser, I tripped and was clubbed over the head with a long five cell flashlight by one of the Mounties who told me I was also charged with escaping custody. Somehow I was put into the police cruiser and as the Mounties were attempting to drive away, Larry H. told the Mounties he was coming with me to the barracks as Larry and the others knew the Mounties would “kick the shit out of me” once we were alone.
We later heard that once the Mounties got Larry and I into the small jail cell at the barracks, all hell broke loose at the fairgrounds as the crowd became incensed by my arrest. We later heard from many people that the entire RCMP Detachment had been beaten up in the riot and some cruisers were overturned and destroyed. As Larry and I sat in the cell at the barracks, four more men were arrested and brought in charged with various offences relating to the riot. If my memory is intact, the four were; Tom W.; Albert D.; Cliff M.; and Donald G. Larry H. was let out of the cell as the others came in and in the early hours of Sunday morning, the five of us were transported by the Mounties to the Brant County Jail in Brantford. Cliff and Donald were put in one cruiser and Thomas, Albert (POOT) and I were chained together and squeezed into the backseat of a two door Ford sedan.
I had been drinking prior to my arrest and we drove toward Brantford, I inadvertently let out a couple of good old beer farts, which caused Corporal Peter S.; to roll down his window and let in the cold night air. When I let out another fart, Constable Bob M.; pulled out his .38 cal. service revolver and placed the barrel on my forehead and said; “Douglas, if you fart one more time I will blow your (expletive) head off”; and I immediately called his bluff. We also later heard that the OPP had come onto the reserve and rescued the Mounties.
From early Sunday morning, the five of us lounged around the County Jail until the Mounties arrived on Monday morning to escort us over to the Court House to answer for our supposed misdeeds before Provincial Court Judge MacDonald. Corporal Peter S.; read off all of our charges for the court and the judge was thoroughly amazed that all five of us were charged with Physically Assaulting the Corporal. The Judge told the Corporal that he (Peter) must be “one hell of a man” to have survived all those beatings and emerged completely unscathed. The judge went to verbally reprimand the good Corporal and his peers by saying that from what he (the Judge) had heard and knew from other unnamed sources that it seemed to the Judge that the RCMP appeared to be responsible for more trouble that they prevented from occurring on the Reservation. The five of us Indians were convicted of our misdeeds and released. As for the RCMP and their part in this incident, within a short time frame; the Ohsweken Detachment was removed from the Six Nations Territory and replaced by the OPP.