What a Christmas present for the people of the Kettle and Stony Point reserve: their own provincial park.
I bet you Santa just about had a coronary when he saw that on his list.
But, as the yuletide story goes, he knew who’d been naughty and who’d been nice.
Like Justice Sidney Linden, commissioner of the inquiry into the 1995 police shooting death of native protester Dudley George at Ipperwash, he knew that the federal government and that of former Ontario premier Mike Harris had been on the naughty side.
So, after 65 years, a week before Christmas the provincial Liberals announced plans to return the lands.
The Stony people will have their home again.
Sixty-five years. That’s a long time, even by government standards.
It was in 1942 when the federal government expropriated the land belonging to the Stony Point Band, which contained a burial ground, to build a military camp. White people wanted native land to train white people to fight other white people on far away white people’s land. Somewhere, I'm sure, that makes sense.
At one point, the Department of National Defence did say it was willing to return most of the land (at some point), but like many other promises to native people, something was lost in the translation.
For as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow, governments in Canada have been making promises to native people – and breaking them.
Sixty-five years. You know, if the Liberals were smart, they would take a page from the book of how native people operate to explain the delay. It’s worked before.
They should just pay attention to the Iroquois people, who have proudly claimed for 200 years that the American Constitution was based on their Great Law, the basis of their government and spiritual beliefs.
Well, the Stony Point people don't have a Great Law per se that the Canadian and Ontario government can appropriate, but to me it seems they have appropriated something else from Canada’s native people: the concept of Indian Time.
It’s an enigmatic idea based on a uniquely cultural relationship with time. Simply put, things happen when they happen. There are not 24 hours in a day. Time is unlimited, impossible to cut up into chunks.
If something is to happen at 11 am, it might happen at 11:01 am or 12:26 or 1:11 pm. It will happen when it will happen. The universe has its own heartbeat, and who are we to speed it up or slow it down? To some, it’s an excuse to be late. To others, it’s a way to avoid ulcers.
It’s been 35 years since then minister of Indian affairs Jean Chretien noted that the Stony Point Band was beginning to get annoyed at yet another broken promise, and perhaps the minister of defence should return the land or offer up another piece of land as compensation; 17 years since Oka – more accurately Kahnasatake – which proved what dangerous things can happen when native people, burial grounds, provincial police and indifferent levels of government are all poured into the same mixing bowl.
And 14 years since the pissed-off (even for people who practice Indian time) Stony Point Band members began moving back into barracks still on the site – “occupying it,” white people would say.
Evidently, after 53 years, World War II is finally over and the government’s need for the land had ended.
It brings to mind the old adage. If you bury a bunch of native people in the woods and no white people are there to see it, are there in fact native people buried there? What is it with white people wanting native burial grounds?! Have they never seen Poltergeist?
The Ipperwash land is soaked in blood and death. It was a burial ground. People were trained there to kill other people. And then Dudley George, an unarmed man just trying to return home with his family, was shot there. That doesn’t exactly make for good karma. I’m sure that left some sort of psychic imprint. Land remembers what has happened on it.
Still, all is not calm in this province about the decision to return Ipperwash lands. Seems many white people see it as just another giveaway to natives.
A sampling of reactions from one news website: “We are all going to pay for this lack of thought on the governments behalf.” “Let’s just hand over the whole province.” “Welcome to the Province of Ontario Indian Reserve.” “They lost the land…. that’s too bad…” “I say that the reserves should be removed completely… and that they should become normal Canadians like the rest of us and pay taxes!”
You get the picture.