The steady beat of the drum is the soundtrack this sunny June 29 as 200 high-spirited Mississaugas of the New Credit and supporters share pizza and resolve here in Little Norway Park at the foot of Bathurst.
No, they're not trying to evict Toronto Island residents, shut down Centreville or blockade the ferry, but they do want the fair settlement of a grievance over two centuries old.
In 1787 their ancestors signed over more than 250,000 acres of prime Toronto real estate to the British. This "Toronto Purchase," an area from Ashbridges Bay to Etobicoke Creek that included all land 45 kilometres north of the lake, was "re-signed" in 1805, but instead of reaffirming the old deal, the Brits grabbed even more land in the second agreement.
"It was thievery at best. They stole it, and all we want is fair compensation," explains Mississauga Chief Bryan LaForme.
Sure, the feds are aware of the complaint, but things aren't exactly zipping along. It took 16 years for the government to recognize the claim, and nothing's budged since last year.
Even if everything were fair and square with the old deals, the British buyout didn't include the Toronto Islands.
"If you look at the maps, you can see how they bypass them," says LaForme, who adds that the Islands are of great importance to First Nations.
"People would gather there for spiritual and council meetings with other Mississauga nations and other Ojibway people," he says.
The Mississaugas want to recreate the area as a meeting spot by building a Native Canadian Centre of Toronto on the Island. This educational and cultural tourist anchor was originally pitched as a replacement for the Island Airport, but you can tell from Porter Turboprops overhead that that didn't exactly happen.
But it appears Porter isn't holding a grudge. The firm actually supplied Porter-brand bottled water to the protestors.
And the Toronto Port Authority, too, did its bit, offering parking for the buses that transported native activists and halting ferry services from noon to 1 pm. "We did this as a sign of support," says Ken Lundy of the TPA.
Kindly acts of solidarity? Or a little soft soap for the new landlords?