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Olympic Torch Relay Stopped at Six Nations

Relay re-routed off Six Nations' Territory

by Alex Hundert

Ohsweken, Grand River Territory--Yesterday, as reported in many mainstream media outlets, organisers from Six Nations of an action against the Olympic Torch Relay declared the day a success. Their goal of keeping the torch and the relay caravan out of the "heart" of their territory was set in order to prevent the Torch Relay from being used to paint a benevolent image of Canada's relations with First Nations, and to prevent a violation of their territorial sovereignty as well as of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) "Great Law of Peace".

While the entire territory spans beyond the full length of the Grand River, the declaration made by the Hoskanigetha and Agongweh (Men's and Women's Councils) as well as youth and other "concerned people" referred, rather, to boundaries of the Six Nations reserve. The Torch Relay caravan as has proceeded through most other scheduled stops did not even enter the reserve. Rather, a few vehicles drove the torch around the reservation and entered "through the back door" for a torch celebration on the edge of the reserve.

Spokespeople for the action made it clear that the intention of blocking the torch from crossing the territory was not about sports or about confronting their "own people" or preventing them from celebrating. Accordingly, there was no disruptive demonstration at the Torch Celebration site. Instead, a group of 30-40 people gathered at a point on Hwy. 54 which they had declared the torch would have to go around, even after the celebration had been moved. The Torch Celebration's original location had been scheduled for a location right in the centre of Ohswken, the town sitting at the centre of the reserve. That plan had been called off before noon and announced officially at a press conference shortly after 1pm.

At that press conference, local event organizers tried to claim that the re-routing had nothing to do with planned protests, and that they felt that the Olympics should not be made political. When pressed by reporters however, organizers admitted that the scheduled actions against the relay contributed to the decision.

Spokespeople for the action, like activists across the country, however, were quite clear in their statements that the international context of the Olympics inherently makes the torch relay political, especially with respect to Indigenous sovereignty and land rights (Canada is one of only three developed countries that have not signed the International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Olympic organizers and sponsors were accused of using the Torch Relay and the Games as a propaganda campaign to change their image and Canada's image on a global stage.

Spokespeople for the action also talked about solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in so-called British Columbia who have spurred a national anti-Olympic movement. In both Toronto and Montreal, the main message of and the primary chants of the rallies have been "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land." They cited the issues of unceded territories, land destruction, and the displacement and criminalization of the urban poor in Vancouver, and Canada's ongoing colonialial and assimilationist policies and proactices, as just some of the reasons why activists across the country and in Six Nations have  mobilized against the Olympics, and why the 2010 games are being viewed as in principle, a violation of the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace.


Interview w Six Nations spokespersons Lyndsey Bomberry [ (pt1) and (pt2)] and Melissa Elliott [ ] --courtesy AW@L Radio

primary documents:

Declaration of the Onkwehonwe of Grand River Territory on the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay [pdf].

Top 7 Reasons why Haudenosaunee Nations have a responsibility to take a stand against 2010 Olympics & Torch Relay [pdf].


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