BRANTFORD, ON: Nothing but the truth

21 March 2009
BRANTFORD, ON: Nothing but the truth

by Murray Lumley and Christine Downing

On Friday, 27 February 2009 in Brantford, Ontario, T.R.U.E. (Two Row Understanding through Education) hosted Stan Farmer, Wes Elliott, Gene Johns and Kelley Curley as representatives from the ‘Hoskanigetah’ of the Grand River (Haudenosaunee Men’s Fire) as well as Ken Hewitt, a non-native resident of Caledonia.  (T.R.U.E.) was formed by non-natives who describe themselves as being “dedicated to the building of bridges of understanding with our Six Nations' Brothers and Sisters.”

Farmer, from the Turtle Clan and Mohawk Nation, explained the Two Row Wampum treaty saying “the two rows describe two vessels, one the Haudenosaunee, the other the settlers’, moving down a river in parallel, each containing the customs, ways and laws of each people. The two vessels would sail side by side but not interfere with each other.”

When T.R.U.E. organizer Jim Windle asked the purpose of the Haudenosaunee Men's Fire, Farmer said, “We are charged with protecting our people, our culture and our land.”   He explained the conflict metaphorically, “We are like the coyotes that have been returning to cities, to our original territory. You (settlers) have invaded our woods. We don’t want to take away the settler's ways and we cannot allow you to take away what is ours.”

Cheyenne Williams, who at seventeen was an initiator of the reclamation movement said, “We started in Caledonia because its next door.” Because she had a two year old daughter at the time, she asked, “Where does development leave our children?” As a woman, she explained, she is a “keeper of the land.”

Hewitt said, “We [settlers] know so little about our country, our laws, our neighbours. We’ve grown too comfortable. People say, ‘no one can change the government so why try?’ First Nations people know the [Canadian] government better than the rest of us. What happens here [Caledonia and Brantford] is only one small part of First Nations issues [in Canada]...The fight is not between the municipalities and the Six Nations. Both of our agendas need to come together to push the government. If we are both in agreement, the government will move quicker.”

Hewitt was referring to a petition he had initiated, calling for an inquiry into the actions of the Ontario Provincial Police, charging them with delivering two-tier justice—treating Six Nations land reclaimers better than settlers.  Johns of the Haudenosaunee Men's Fire responded to the allegation by noting, “150 Haudenosaunee men have been arrested and charged with intimidation and mischief by police for trying to block development on disputed land in Brantford."

The first objective of the petition—one that representatives from the Haudenosaunee Men's Fire said they would support—was to “determine the facts with respect to ownership of land.” By the end of the meeting everyone, including Hewitt, agreed to amend the objective to determining “the truth with respect to ownership of land.”

(Photos of the speakers at the TRUE gathering are available at  For more information on Six Nations’ land claims, see