Deseronto quarry blocked by Mohawk protest

Posted by admin on Jan 10th, 2007

CBC News, 10 January 2007

Aboriginal protesters blocked access to a quarry in Deseronto, Ont., on Wednesday and handed out pamphlets to passing motorists during a peaceful protest over disputed land. Shawn Brant, a spokesman for the approximately 20 Mohawk protesters, said the group erected the barricades after hearing a Kingston, Ont., developer would begin construction of a house on land claimed by the Mohawks of the nearby Tyendinaga Territory on Wednesday.

Brant said the protest would likely continue into the afternoon and would remain peaceful unless the developer tried to begin work at the site, in which case protesters would physically remove him.

The protest was not sanctioned by Tyendinaga Territory Chief Don Maracle, who said it was premature considering that a federal negotiator has been appointed to settle the land dispute.

The barricades blocked country road off Highway 2, but protesters allowed residents to pass through and only barred access to the Thurlow Aggregates quarry, which was closed Wednesday on recommendation of police supervising the protest.

The quarry, which is also on disputed land, normally opens two days each week, and has been operating since 1990.

The Tyendinaga Mohawks have expressed opposition to the quarry in the past, but have never before taken action against it.

Brant said his group now wants to shut down the quarry permanently, as its stone would be used in housing construction on the disputed land.

The land in question is called the Culbertson Land Tract, and consists of about 400 hectares that the Tyendinaga Mohawks say they never properly surrendered.

During the fall, the same Kingston, Ont., developer said he would begin construction on a housing subdivision on the land, sparking protests from the same aboriginal group.

That raised fears that the situation could escalate into a long, bitter dispute similar to the one that continues in Caledonia, Ont.

The Deseronto, Ont., protests ended in November after the Mohawks took control of the land and construction was suspended indefinitely when negotiations began with the federal government in November.

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