WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009
Six Nations Revolution 50th Anniversary The Iroquois Revolution of 1959 By Jim Windle SIX NATIONS NOTE: We apologize for the grainy pictures from the 1959 events but thank the Expositor for their cooperation in preparing this article. These old and faded proofs are all that could be provided, the originals have been lost.
pendence of the ns calling for inde sig ld ho rls gi ns io at Three young Six N t. from the Indian Ac le op pe ns io Six Nat
his week marks the 50th anniversary of the Iroquois Revolution, when a group of approximately 1,000 Six Nations people took to the streets of Ohsweken and a band of Warriors and women temporarily overthrew the Elected Chief and Council. After reading a proclamation and nailing it to the Council House door, they took over the Old Council House while a session of the Elected Band Council was in progress. Traditional chiefs and their supporters occupied the building twenty-four hours a day for the next eight days and nights until the rebellion was put down by force at 3 am, by the RCMP, the
morning of March 12, 1959. That’s the short story. The longer one will try to explain the what's, whys and who's of the “Iroquois Revolution” as it was referred to in the day. In this article we go back over the media reports surrounding the eight days in March that almost restored the Confederacy Chiefs as the recognized government of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Tensions had been building steadily between those of the community who still jealously held onto the hereditary traditional form of government that had served the Haudenosaunee people well for, some would say, 2000 years, until December of 1924 when deposed by the hand of force, under the prodding of a few. Representing the Elected Council was Elected Chief Councillor E. P. Garlow. Speaking on behalf of the Confederacy was Chief Joseph Logan and a well known Native rights activist from the Tuscarora Nation in Lewiston, New York, Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson. The revolt was no real surprise that morning. Elected Chief Garlow reported to the OPP, RCMP and the federal government that he was warned on March 3, that there would be 100 men or more at that coming Thursday’s council meeting, demanding the resignations of
Continued on page 10
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009
Josie Logan Jr. and Irvin Logan talk with RCMP ofﬁcers at the Old Council House on March 5, 1959. After a brief but violent clash with Warriors and Six Nations women, the revolt was put down and the elected council was restored. Six Nations men play cards and sing songs only moments before the RCMP burst in and broke up the occupation which (Expositor) lasted eight days. (Expositor) Continued from page 9
the entire elected council. Garlow also reported that he received a personal visit from three men who threatened him. The word got out of the potential confrontation on March 5th, and a few extra RCMP ofﬁcers were quietly dispatched to Six Nations, presumably to protect the councillors from any possible violence. However, RCMP Staff Sgt. Pritchett played the threat down in the media. “We would be very reluctant to move extra men in because that may be the signal for battle,” he told the Expositor. By Sunday, Mar. 4, the word was out. Six Nations’ Warriors were planning what they called a “Bloodless Revolution.” The unrest within traditional circles was exacerbated by several “acts of treason” in the eyes of the Confederacy adherents, the last straw being the sale to Brantford of land for the new addition to the Cockshutt foundry and other lands without a second thought towards the traditional Treaty signatories, the Confederacy Chiefs. It would be unfair and inaccurate to say that all of the people of Six Nations had had it with the sitting Elected Council of the day. In fact, it is quite safe to conclude that a good number of those at the Old Council House that day and assumed to
be a part of the coup, were only curious observers. Others stayed at home, oblivious to the goings on in the Village. At this time there was no local media to cover the estimated 7,000 on reserve residents in the Grand River Territory alone and another 20,000 spread throughout smaller Iroquois reserves throughout Ontario, Quebec and the New England states. Although police knew that not everyone at Six Nations supported the traditional government order, they certainly recognized great potential for a full scale Indian war of which the federal and provincial ofﬁcials were well aware. Locally, there was certainly enough support for the rebellion to shut down the Indian Act imposed government over Six Nations for more than a week and to bring the federal government to the table. By this time “Mad Bear” Anderson had become somewhat of a nationalist hero, not only to Iroquois people, but to all Native American people across both Canada and the U.S.A. When he added his support to Six Nations’ revolution, it added legitimacy and strong leadership to the movement, empowering hundreds of others to stand up and reject the elected system. Chief Sylvanus General along with Chief Joseph Logan welcomed his ar-
rival to the situation. Diplomatic attempts were made through the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, who at that time controlled Indian Affairs. It was 35 years after the 1924 take over and there was a new generation of young people with a new-found sense of pride and purpose, and many of them swung their support behind the traditional Chiefs. Among them were Ross Powless, William Johnson, Arnold General, Ross Hill, Lawrence Nanticoke, Frank Doxtator, Coleman Powless, and several others who volunteered to act as I.P’s (Iroquois Police), wearing the white armbands that distinguish themselves as such. Other young warriors like Rudy Longboat and Maynard General occupied the Old Council House for days and faced the baton waving RCMP force when they retook the building. The Warrior’s takeover became inevitable when between 600 and 700 men attended that Sunday’s Longhouse meeting willing and ready to do whatever it took to restore the Nation. Normally only about 50 people attended Longhouse. The three hour meeting featured sev-
Chief Sylvanus General reads the Confederacy Proclamation on the steps of the Council house. (Expositor)
eral speakers who talked of the righteousness of their objective and warnings against violence. They were encouraged to be determined but to restrain themselves from any acts of aggression or violence. The plan was to march from the Onondaga Longhouse to the Council House for 10 a.m. and insist the entire Band Council resign on the spot. Chief Joseph Logan was selected to speak on behalf of the hereditary council and Chief Irvine Logan was chosen to speak on behalf of the young Warriors. Many of the sitting councillors had already been visited and had offered to resign to prevent any possible violence. Three, however, in-
cluding Elected Chief Ed Garlow, refused. That set up the inevitable confrontation. In anticipation, the front door to the council house was locked while council conducted business inside. The councillors slipped out the back door and locked it behind them 10
minutes before the men and women arrived and banged on the door demanding to be heard. At 10:30 a few young men knocked the pins from the hinges and removed the doors. Hundreds of people poured into the building that was originally built in 1863 for the Confederacy Council to meet and conduct the affairs of the reserve. Area media were alerted and the heavy print headline on the Thursday evening Continued on page 11
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009
Chief Josie Logan Sr., who was deposed in 1924 by RCMP action on the orders of Indian Affairs, was given the honour of nailing the proclamation on the Council House door before the people entered to retake the seat of government. Continued from page 10
March 5, Brantford Expositor screamed, “Hereditary Chiefs Proclaim New Government For Six Nations.” A large picture of dozens of sign carrying Six Nations citizens standing on the steps of the Council House emblazoned the front page. “Revolution broke out on the Six Nations reserve today,” the story, written by reporters Adrian
Jackson and Jack Wolfenden began. “More than 1,000 Indians marched on Ohsweken council house, proclaimed the elected council defunct as of 10:30 a.m. today, and acclaimed the hereditary chiefs as the new government.” An eight point proclamation was read by Sylvanus General on the council steps and was nailed to the door of the Council House outlining
what the new order would be. It read: The Overthrow of Elected Councillors and reinstatement of Six Nations Confederacy Chiefs. Article #1: To All to Whom These Presents Come: We, the undersigned member nations, to wit; Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Oneidas and Tuscarora, in council assembled, with representative chiefs, clan
mothers and warriors of the above mentioned nations, constituting the Indian confederacy known as the Six Nations Confederacy of Indians, and residing upon lands known as the Grand River Country, do hereby declare that by the power and authority vested within us as provided in the constitution of the Hodenoshonnee (sic) (People of the longhouse) and of our treaty making powers, have after deep
consideration and deliberation of all phases of the ever-mounting love of our rights, our lands, our liberties and our voice, which has been (as against our consent) enforced upon us through the illegal underhanded methods employed by the puppet government of the Indian Act of the Dominion of Canada and known as the so-called elected system of councillors, who have without a shred of legal authority caused such confusion, dissension, hardship and inconvenience against us through such underhanded methods of fraud, deceit and violence and endorsed (against our protest) by the Indian Act of Canada, we do hereby declare and proclaim that from this date, March 5, 1959, at 10:30 a.m. EST and forever after that the above elected system of councillors shall no longer be recognized as the governing body of this Grand River Country, and shall be hereafter relinquished of all power responsibilities and authority upon land belonging to the Six Nations of Indians, and known as the Grand River Country. Article #2: Be it further proclaimed that from this date forward all authority, powers responsibilities, duty and offices of the governmental power of the Six Nations Grand River Country shall be vested within the absolute control of the council of chiefs, clan mothers and warriors of the Six Nations Indians. Article #3: Be it further proclaimed that from this date forward we, the Six Nations, shall consider the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who have been illegally established through the Indian Act upon lands belonging to to the Six Nations as trespassers after 10:30 a.m. EST on the date of March 5, 1959. We demand the immediate expulsion of said Mounted Police from our Six Nations land. Article #4: Be it further proclaimed that also from this date forward we shall recognize the Indian Police as deputized by authority from the Six Nations chiefs of the Confederacy as the only legal law enforcement agency of the Grand River lands. Article #5: Be it further proclaimed that from this date forward any person, white or Indian, found guilty by impartial trial before the Confederate Council of Chiefs of violating any laws which have been sanctioned by the council of chiefs be liable
to a fine, imprisonment, or both, according to their crime. And, in the event of a fine, the money paid will be received by the treasury of the Confederate Council of Chiefs. Article #6: Be it further proclaimed that from this date forward, all buildings, property, land titles and leases which have been illegally confiscated or let by virtue of the Indian Act shall be reclaimed by the Confederate Council of Chiefs. Article #7: Be it further proclaimed that from this date forward all Six Nations Indians who have been illegally deprived of their membership status shall have complete control of the membership roll at all times. Article #8: Be it further proclaimed that any person or persons found defacing, marring or destroying in any manner whatsoever this proclamation shall be liable to a fine, imprisonment, or punishment as decided by the Confederate Council of Chiefs. In testimony whereof, we have caused the seal of the Six Nations Confederacy and the signatures of the chiefs to be affixed to these presents. When those elected councillors whom they thought were still inside refused to open the door, the Chiefs asked their newly appointed Iroquois Police and its appointed Chief of Police, Ross Powless, to force the doors open. They waited until 10:30 to give more time to the elected council to comply, and then proceeded to remove the doors. Others of the I.P. went to the Community Hall at the fairgrounds and removed that door as well. People filed into that building too and sat in groups and talked. A couple of carloads of OPP arrived on the scene at around 2 p.m. but “Mad Bear” calmed and reassured the crowd not to get excited. “Don’t panic,” he told those with him at the Council House, “They have no jurisdiction on the reserve.” He was right, and the OPP officers did not get out of their vehicles but only sat and observed. Things remained tense for the next several days and meeting upon meeting took place between representatives of the Chiefs Council and different levels of government, seeking a resolution to the revolution. It all ended in the wee hours of March 12 with an RCMP show of force reminiscent of the April 20 raid on Kanonhstaton.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009
York Times wrote: Wallace P. (Mad Bear) Anderson, a longtime champion of Indian rights, died Friday after a long illness. He was 58 years old and lived on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Lewiston in Niagara County. In 1958 Mr. Anderson led protests against the New York State Power Authority's takeover of 550 acres of Tuscarora land during construction of the Robert Moses Power Project. He also traveled extensively to advocate Indian rights. He served with the Navy during World War II and was later in the merchant marine, retiring in 1977.
Six Nations of the Grand River Child & Family Services
He is survived by three brothers and four sisters. Anderson’s connection with those of the Grand River Territory was powerful and those who met him always remember him. “He had a scar on his cheek that he would always point to when the media was around,” recalled George Beaver. “He said he got it at the hands of police during one of his protests in the States.” Whether he did or didn’t, it always served him well in establishing himself as a legitimate Warrior for the cause of Aboriginal Continued on page 13
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Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson, the Tuscarora prophet, and Indian rights activist from Lewiston New York, was instrumental in the 1959 revolution at Six Nations. He is seen here speaking with the media when he told Minister of Citizenship Ellen Fairclough to “jump in the lake” after the Confederacy Chiefs received a telegram from her office saying, “Steps would be taken without delay to restore and maintain peace and order on the Six Nations.”(Expositor)
The influence of “Mad Bear” was strong in 1959 By Jim Windle SIX NATIONS
ooking back at the genesis of the 1959 revolt it’s hard to miss the very popular Tuscarora Warrior of the day, Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson, from Lewiston, New York. He became the lightning rod for the discontented when he conducted a series of community meetings at the “Christian Aid” building on First Line Road and other locations around Six Nations in early 1959. He was leading a battle against the American government over the expropriation of a large segment of the traditional Tuscarora lands in New York for a hydroelectric project but took time out to come to Six Nations. After listening to “Mad Bear”, many people from Six Nations were awakened to the similarities between what was happening on his reserve and what was going on within the Haldimand
Tract. Young people especially, were challenged to stand up and put an end to this “illegal activity against all Onkwehon:weh people,”as Anderson put it. He had the ability to galvanize people when he spoke and soon a youth movement began to align itself behind the traditional chiefs with a new sense of Iroquois pride and a sense of urgency. Mad Bear spoke many times with Confederacy Chiefs but won the ear of the Logan family in particular, Chief Josie Logan Sr., one of the Chiefs removed by the RCMP in 1924, his sons, Josie Jr. and Irvin Logan. He convinced the chiefs and the people at large that it was time to make a stand and the people listened. "Mad Bear did not at all match my image of him,” wrote author Doug Boyd after meeting him for the first time. “I had never seen anyone quite like him before, yet it seemed very reason-
able to me that there should be such a person. His name suited him, or perhaps it was the other way around. Big and round, with short black hair, he was wearing a Hawaiian-print shirt and a wide grin which clamped a tipped cigar between big teeth," In 1974, Boyd made Anderson the subject of a book called Rolling Thunder and his name was mentioned in a Bob Dylan song about the American Indian Movement. Mad Bear was the found-
er of the Indian Unity Movement and was a Tuscarora Lord or "Sachem" of the 6 Nations (Iroquois) Confederacy. He said, "Someday someone will collect all the Native People’s prophecies, myths and legends, and would publish them in one place, so they could be compared with those of all Native Peoples worldwide." “... and then we really will have something!” Upon his death in December of 1985, the New
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On Thursday morning, March 5, 2009, Stephen “Boots” Powless and a few supporters staged a 50th anniversary protest at the “new” Band Council House commemorating the takeover of the “old” Council House on the same date in 1959, in which his father, Coleman Powless, was a major participant. (Photo by Jim Windle)
A CBC cameraman caught on film the beating of a Six Nations woman. When the officer noticed he had been filmed, he took his nightstick to the camera, breaking the floodlight only a second after this picture was taken. Notice the stick coming down on the camera. (Expositor) Continued from page 12
rights. Ray Anderson who owns and operates iC Computers on Highway #54 is a direct relative of Mad Bear and tells the story of when Mad Bear recruited Jane Fonda as an advocate for Native rights. “People around here thought he was full of it,” says Ray. “But when I was living in California, I got a call from a woman who wanted me to set her computer up. It turned out to be Jane Fonda. When she asked me my name she asked if I knew Mad Bear Anderson. She went on to tell me quite a few stories about him. From then on, I believe everything I’ve ever heard about him.” Onondaga Chief Arnold General was a young member of the Iroquois Police during the revolt and re-
members Anderson well. “He didn’t fool around,”General recalls. “He was afraid of nothing and no one. He was very knowledgeable about treaties and helped a lot of Native people stop a lot of projects that intruded on Treaty rights or Native lands. He did a lot of what the Men’s Fire is doing here today, which I appreciate very much.” During the revolt, Anderson used his connections to get to Six Nations actor Harry Smith in Hollywood, better known as Jay Silverheels, and tried to recruit him to come home and use his star power to help. Silverheels declined. Anderson was known as a prophet of the Iroquois and many of his visions and prophecies are still revered today. With his usual bravado, Mad Bear was extensively
quoted in the media during the occupation telling Minister of Citizenship Ellen Fairclough to “go jump in the lake” after the Confederacy Chiefs received a telegram from her office warning that, “Steps would be taken without delay to restore and maintain peace and order on the Six Nations.” Whether police took the opportunity to strike without his powerful presence at the scene is not known, but he had returned to Lewiston the day before the RCMP raided, it was thought, to organize and bring back as any as 400 Tuscarora Warriors from his home reserve to help. After the RCMP raid, the men did not come when it became clear that the battle for the restoration of the Confederacy Chiefs was over ... at least for now.
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Coleman Powless’ son keeps the revolution alive By Jim Windle OHSWEKEN
eorge Beaver was not the only one charged by the Iroquois Police during those tumultuous eight days in March of 1959. Two white men were fined on minor charges by the I.P. as well, including a Toronto Star reporter for failing to obey a stop sign, along with four Six Nations residents for the same offence. Each was given a $5. fine The I.P consisted of 30 men plus more than 100 deputies, but Arnold General, Ross Powless, William Johnson and Ross Hill were recognized as the top four. Others were also named in the aftermath of the revolt as active members of the I.P., including Ira Bruce Hill, Peter Jacobs, Carl Johnson, John Kick, Irvin Logan, Wilfred Logan, Glen Maracle, William Martin, Robert Porter, Arthur Powless, Howard Skye, the Longboat brothers and Coleman Powless, father of “Boots” Powless who staged a symbolic demonstration outside the elected Band Council building last week in memory of his father and those who stood with him in 1959. “Fifty years ago today my father helped shut down the Band Council,” he said as he stood beside a large sign he and a few others placed in front of the Band Council office the morning of March 5th. “Those people have to know that it’s still the same. We still don’t
Stephen “Boots” Powless (Photo by Jim Windle) want it (the elective system) and we are still not accepting the Indian Act, and that we still consider ourselves as the best protectors of our rights. What are we going to do, trust Canada to protect our rights? They can define who we are, what our rights are, and even make us less than human, and we’ve given them the right to do that,” says Powless. “I say, my grandchildren deserve better than that.” The purpose of his symbolic gesture was to make people remember and make them think. “Has anything really changed in 50 years?” he asks. “Ottawa still dictates to Band Council and Band Council still dictates to the people, and that will never fly.” Powless’ father, Coleman Powless, was an I.P. in the ‘59 revolt and on the
front lines throughout the eight day occupation of the Council House. His son “Boots” speaks proudly of the fact that it was his dad who removed the doors from the Council House that day. Boots Powless made a little history himself this past summer when he pitched a teepee outside a number of construction sites in Brantford, protesting development on Six Nations’ land under claim and under litigation. He remained there for 86 days before being arrested. Charges were later dropped. Powless was disappointed that more people didn’t join him in last week’s protest at the New Council House, but still sees the gesture as a success in other ways. “People have asked me what I am hoping to achieve with this,” he told Tekawennake. “When I was in Grade 7, there was no language programs to speak of in the schools,” he recalls. “Once a week some guy would come and give us an hour of instruction. My parents pulled us out of school for a year and taught us our language and our culture. That helped put a push on the language programs we have today. The result was not immediate, but it came about. All we can do is plant seeds in people’s minds and make ‘em think.” He hopes his presence at the Council Building did that for some people.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009
George Beaver charged for treason By Jim Windle SIX NATIONS
eorge Beaver was a young teacher at Six Nations in 1959. By his own admission, he knew very little about the history of his people and the political landscape of those days. He was a teacher. He just wanted to go to work and help educate Six Nations children in the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic to help them interface with the outside world to earn a decent living as adults. Steeped in white man’s education, which excluded any reference to Six Nations aside from a novel side note, and proud of his teaching degree, all of this upheaval was too much for him to understand and seemed an embarrassment to him, so In 1959, twenty-six year old George Beaver faces the cross-examination of Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson and Iroquois he spoke out against it all Police Chief, Ross Powless at the Council House where he was defending himself on charges of treason. Beaver had writin the Brantford Expositor ten a letter to the editor which was published in the Brantford Expositor which was critical of the hereditary chiefs system by way of a letter to the edi- and the revolt itself. He was found guilty and ordered not to write to the Expositor again, and released. Ironically, Beaver tor. He wanted to set a few later became a regular columnist in the Expositor and has been for many years, but now is a full supporter of the Conthings straight. federacy Chiefs. (Expositor Photo used by permission) The letter, entitled, “How Many Supsent a runner to ask Bealished letters to the editor, son was punishable by two afraid of anything happenport The Hereditary ver to come to the Council however, he was the only warnings and then by exile ing to me,” said Beaver Chiefs?”(published below) one who was actually arrest- from the reserve. He was looking back. “I knew most House one evening during ran March 6, 1959, and imthe occupation to sign a paed, detained, faced charges ordered not to repeat this of- of the guys involved and mediately made him per promising he would not played basketball an “enemy of the with many of them. write another letter to the state” as it were, editor, which was a condiI just stated my to the newly proGeorge Beaver’s letter to the editor - March 5, 1959 opinion as it was at tion of his release. Ironic claimed restored when you consider he has that time. I really government of Six been a contributing coldidn’t know very Nations. umnist to the Expositor for much about what In his letter, Beamany years since then. was going on. Our ver brought forth his Beaver knew it was only history was never perspective on the taught in school and a media photo-op, but he question of support Sir: In regard to the much publicised seizing of power on the Six a lot of people, like complied with Anderson’s for the Confederacy Nations Reservation by the hereditary chiefs, I would like to bring request and freely signed the me, had become take-over. He wrote, to public attention some less publicised facts. used to the elect“Contrary to impresContrary to impressions given by newsmen, the support for ed system. I have sions given by newsthe hereditary chiefs is far from 100 per cent and perhaps far from come 180 degrees men, the support for even 50 per cent. The estimated 1,000 people present at Ohsweken on that opinion the heredity council on Thursday were mostly children (as news pictures shows). Even since then I can tell is far from 100 per so, this is a small percentage of the seven thousand who live here. you.” cent and perhaps far Many of the grown-ups present had just gone to see the exLooking back, from from even 50 citement and in no way took part in or supported the hereditary Beaver now underper cent. The 1000 councils. The rest were largely malcontents who saw a chance to stands a lot more people present at of what was going humiliate the RCMP. Ohsweken on Thurson then, and can To show their lack of support by the thinking people of the Six day were mostly see the significance Nations, their main leader and spokesman comes from another children (as news of taking back the reservation. Wallace Anderson, “Chief Mad Bear” comes from the pictures show). Even Council House United States. so, this is a small which was the Thursday was proclaimed a school holiday by the chief’s counpercentage of the recognized seat of cil. In my room at Six Nations School #8, three pupils out of 30 seven thousand who government at Six stayed home in the morning and two pupils in the afternoon. Anlive here.” Nations. other teacher told me she had two absent. Does this sound like 100 He also deEven during per cent support? scribed many othBeaver’s trial he Since most of the excitement is at Ohsweken, that’s where the ers counted in that began to understand Iroquois Police and the chiefs supporters are concentrated. There1,000 number as cumore than he did rious onlookers who fore to a newsman visiting Ohsweken it would seem that everyone when he wrote the did not participate in is for the hereditary system. They need only go to the ones who are letter that caused any way. He referred staying at home and taking no part to get the real truth. him so much conto those who did as cern. He had opporGeorge Beaver “malcontents”. This tunity to speak with R 6 Hagersville. brought immediate Mad Bear during pressure on Beaver that time and soon from the new Irogained an underquois Police and its under the new Iroquois judi- fence, released and returned standing of what was going chief, Ross Powless. cial system, put on trial, and to his classroom, none the on, and more importantly, Beaver wasn’t the only found guilty of treason. Un- worse for wear. why. one to write similar pubder Confederacy law, trea“I was never really Mad Bear Anderson
How Many Support the Hereditary Chiefs?
paper for the television and newspaper cameras. “Mad Bear really knew how to use the media,” Beaver recalls. Although Beaver himself saw it all as no big deal, his arrest was used as a lightning rod by politicians, the RCMP and the media for police action against the revolt. “I had no animosity at all for any of the men involved in my arrest, then or now,” says Beaver. Beaver began listening closer and paying more attention to what was going on around him with so many land sales taking place without the people’s input or the involvement of the Confederacy. It was around that time the Band Council had sold off a good sized piece of the Glebe Land to Brantford for the construction of Pauline Johnson High School and what became Gambles Department store, most recently the old Canadian Tire plaza. There was also a deal struck with Cockshutt's for more land for expansion of the foundry. Once Beaver had his eyes opened, he could no longer ignore what he saw and soon became a supporter of the Confederacy. “Now here we are 50 years later and it’s coming around again,” says Beaver. “The same issues, the same government stance. They could all save a lot of grief by simply treating our people fairly.”
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009
Pre-dawn raid of 1959 reminiscent of April 20 By Jim Windle OHSWEKEN
t 3 a.m., March 12, 1959, on federal instructions, several RCMP officers armed with nightsticks but carrying no guns, entered the front door of the Council House to face an estimated 100 Six Nations men and women still inside. The media of the day said there were 50 officers who arrived in 15 car loads, others insist there were a lot more. Moments before, everything was peaceful and even jovial. As men played cards another man played guitar and sang to pass the time away. Others played rock and roll records on a portable record player in the main room. Then the peace was suddenly broken. Inspector W.G. Fraser led the police incursion and de-
clared on a megaphone that the eight day occupation was over and that they should all go home. No one moved, according to the Expositor reporter’s account of the incident. The report goes on to say: “The officers walked down the aisle and Inspector Fraser began calling for cooperation from the front of the chamber where the chiefs have sat every day since the revolt. ‘We are taking over possession of this hall,’ said
weapons. The incident seemed to have passed when there was a sudden yell from someone near the door of the back room. There was a scuffle in a small group. A stick rose above the heads of the group and came down. A second yell went up, and with it, the roar of the crowd, now angry and ready for a fight. Warriors sprang down from the pews and pushed towards the front of the room. RCMP officers
joined shoulder to shoulder to stop their progress, pushing them back. Women started shouting, men started showing their fists. ‘This is our home,’ they cried. ‘It’s our place.’” According to the report, women then began climbing over the pews to get at the Mounties but were repelled which infuriated the men even more and several other skirmishes broke out as Inspector Fraser hollered “take it easy now” through the megaphone. “You bunch of savages,” yelled one young Six Nations woman at police. She then ran down the aisle and when terfere. It was none of their Kanonhstaton. confronted by a police officer business. After the meeting “When the cops came struck out towards his face. my Grandfather and my dad into the reclamation site I In an attempt to protect and a Mohawk chief, I forget saw about 3 hours of total the people, Chief Joseph Lowho it was, refused to shake unity. It didn’t matter which gan then stood on a pew and his hand when the people corner you lived in, who called for attention. After sevlined up to do that. There your parents were, or who eral attempts to get it, he told were about 250 people there. you belonged to. But then the crowd, “Ladies and GenThey were looked down at it all went back to where it tlemen. These fellows here toas being rude or antisocial. was before,”he says. “It was night, what they are trying to ‘What’s wrong with you like that in 1959 too.” do is run us out. We will have guys,’ they said.” Ronnie Hill was also to let that go for now. So let it Squire’s Grandfather an- at the Council House in go. Let’s go home.” swered, “One day that will 1959 and remembers what Irvin Logan then turned come back to haunt you. seemed to him at the time to Staff Sgt. Pritchard and And a few days later it did. like 900 RCMP surroundconfronted him on a promise I wasn’t there for the raid, ing the building, shoulder to that was made between the but my parents were, but I shoulder, right to the corner two men. saw on the news film on TV, of Chiefswood and Fourth “You gave your word of Forbes clubbing some guy.” Line. honour the other night there Squire’s brothers Earl “Nothing would have would be no violence,” he and Jim, became Iroquois started but they started said. “What are you doing Police and he remembers jerking pregnant women now?” marching with them from around,” he recalls. “That’s He then spoke to the crowd the Council House to the what set the whole thing off. saying, “We will go home for Community Hall when peo‘There was only about now. But we are not through ple removed the door and 20 of us who actually started yet.” went inside carrying it with fighting.” Then he turned to pothem. He remembers the next lice and declared. “We’ll see “We were united back day after the raid some peowhere you fellows are tomorthen,” says Squire. “We ple came back to fight again row.” had one enemy and that but by then it was all over. It When an RCMP officer was Indian Affairs and the was too late. tried to interrupt him, the ofBand Council.” He was re“Not much has changed ficer was told in no uncertain minded of that on April 20, over the past 50 years,” he terms to shut up and let the 2006 when the OPP raided says. man speak. “We might as well go A REAL BARGAIN AT out,” he said. “We can’t do much anyway. Look what we have here. We will have to get help from outside.” Chief Logan then encouraged the people to leave peacefully which they did, but left with what police took as a threat of escalation the next day. Although there was some (CLOSE OUTS) jostling outside, nothing eruptMen’s, Ladie’s, Children’s Wear ed and the crowd eventually 150 Oakland Rd., Oakland • 446-2313 dispersed. Hours: Mon. - Thurs. 10-5:30, Fri. 10-8, Sat. 10-5:30, Sun. 11-4:30 Jackson reported, “An el-
Fraser. ‘Out you go ... there will be no trouble. Out you go.’ Several Warriors by this time were standing on the pews, urging the others to stay where they are. A scuffle started near the back of the chamber which has been the headquarters of the Iroquois Police. It prompted uneasy movement in the crowd and some started to move forward. Police immediately hurried to block their way, raising their
More memories from Bill Squire and Ron Hill By Jim Windle SIX NATIONS
ill Squire was only about 13 or 14 at the time but he remembers those days in 1959 vividly. “Probably what failed that time was they never had a plan. What happened then is what is happening now,” he says. “But in ‘59 we were united fairly well at that time. Every tribe was fairly well represented and I thought the Chiefs in 1959 were very respectable and honourable men. Quite a few times they had meetings at my dad’s place (James Melvin Squire) so I got to know a lot of them. We had guys like Jack General, Old Josie Logan, and others and they were leaders. I think that’s the big difference today. Back then every side of the fire had good leadership. They spoke out and were not afraid of their duties.” Looking back at the revolution, Squire believes there was a few fundamental mistakes made that resulted in the revolution being put down.
“Probably what failed was that they never had a plan,” he says. “Now, I know how everything kind of evolved at that time. I believe the initial idea was not to occupy, but just to go and demand the resignation of the Band Council. But still there should have been a plan.” “They were unprepared to handle the situation and made it up as they went,” he says. “All those on social assistance got worried that they would be cut off when the government shut it all off. So they complained to the RCMP and the government and invited the elected council back in. If we ever do have the same scenario, we had better have some kind of plan in place to look after our people.” Squire recalls a meeting at the Onondaga Longhouse shortly before the take over. “There was an RCMP officer there,” Squire recalls. “His name was Forbes. I still remember his name and what he looked like. He told us that changing the government was an internal affair and that he would not in-
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derly woman walked slowly out of the building at the end of the incident, sobbing quietly, ‘So that’s what my sons get for going overseas and fighting for their country,’ she murmured.” Jackson was not the only reporter on hand to capture the 3 a.m. raid. There was also a freelance CBC television cameraman who captured on film the beating of a Six Nations woman during the height of the confrontation. When a policeman noticed the incident was recorded on film, he swung his nightstick at the camera, smashing the cameraman’s floodlight. Those men and women involved in the take over welcomed outside journalists and cameramen throughout the eight day revolution, realizing that any misconduct on the part of the police would be revealed to the outside world. It is assumed this was a strategy suggested by Mad Bear Anderson who was well versed in how to utilize the media in such situations. Arrested and taken back to the Brantford jail were John Skye Jr. age 18, Frank Doxtator, 31, Lawrence Nanticoke, 29, and Edward Green, 30. The following morning the elected council returned to the building and resumed their business under heavy RCMP presence. Regional supervisor for Indian Affairs, J.E. Morris, had arrived by this time and asked a few Six Nations citizens to help put the chairs back in order in anticipation of the resumed Band Council meetings. When they refused, elected Chief Garlow, superintendent of Six Nations R.J. Stillwood, and RCMP Inspector Fraser did it themselves. With TV cameras rolling and and news cameras flashing, three young Six Nations women came to display the injuries they had sustained at the hands of the RCMP the night before. Ruth Powless, 17, Hazel Powless and 18 year old Alice Hill told their stories to the media. While this was going on in Ohsweken, another meeting took place at the same time at the Onondaga Longhouse where strategies were discussed without the media in attendance. When they emerged, Josie Logan Jr. told the throng that the “outside help” he referred to earlier was the Creator and not warriors from other reserves. Things remained tense for the next few weeks but eventually settled down, at least on the surface.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009
50 years ago - Expositor reporter understood BRANTFORD
rantford Expositor’s Adrian Jackson was the on-the-ground reporter throughout the “Iroquois Rebellion” of 1959, as it was known in the media. Along with very detailed first hand accounts throughout the eight days of the rebellion and the aftermath, which ran in the Expositor and was syndicated throughout Canada through a national wire news service, Jackson published a column after his coverage of the Council House takeover of March 5, 1959, which explained what he felt about the event and how it impacted him personally. We find his words very interesting in light of the issues of today as well, and so, with the permission of the Expositor, we now republish his thoughts from a half century ago:
These People Are Serious
Rudy Longboat at the January 1st, 2007, return of the Old Council House to the Confederacy.(Photo by Jim Windle) By Adrian Jackson
Rudy remembers 1959
By Jim Windle SIX NATIONS
udy Longboat, his sister, Irene Johnson, and brother Ernie, were among those who took over and occupied the Council House in the 1959 revolution. The return of the old Council House on January 1, 2007 was especially gratifying to them and to all who participated in the actions of 50 years ago. We caught up with Rudy and asked him about what it was like to be a young Warrior intent on ousting the elected system of government in those days. The following are his own memories of that week in March, a half century ago. I remember the roads around here were really bad. There was ruts two feet deep and Band Council just wouldn’t press the government to do anything about it. They were also selling off a lot of land to Brantford without anyone’s input and without the Confederacy knowing about it. Mad Bear Anderson was here then and he got involved with the Logans and organized a revolt. A lot of young people got involved, almost everybody I knew at the time. We had a big meeting at the Onondaga Longhouse before we marched to the Council House in Ohsweken. I remember when we were marching to the village, people were lining up along the road jeering
us, calling us names, saying go home. Some of our own people were doing that. They were afraid and probably worried about their their jobs or social assistance or whatever else. I don’t know, but they were diehards for the elective system. Here we were trying to correct things for everyone because we knew in our hearts that the elected system is what was dividing us apart and still is today. I can’t help but blame them, the band council and its supporters for the situation we are in now. I like the idea of having our own government. Unless you’re pretty stupid, its obvious that international laws say we are a Nation of people. We are being led down the path to destruction. Just people who walk the streets and have no identity. It’s a good feeling to know who you are and who your ancestors are. Anyhow, that night, I think it was around 2 a.m. We were sitting in the Council House. There were benches up both sides and an aisle down the centre. There were young people, old people, and women in there. Then the RCMP burst in and marched down the aisle two by two. They were all carrying these long clubs. Then they turned and started flailing away. One of them started to club my brother Ernie over the back. He was only a young guy about 16. I grabbed that club from that Mountie and was trying to get it away from him. But
they had that tether around their wrists. Like I’ve always said, if I had have gotten that club from that guy he’d have gone home with a sore head. I was really upset. Anyway, we finally got forced out of the place and we walked around to the front and there were young Mounties standing out on the front stairs and their knees were just knocking they were so scared. That’s about all I can remember of that night. I know there were others there that are still with us like my sister and Ernie. Frank Doxtator would remember too I’m sure. He’s been at these meetings recently because he still has feelings for our people ya know. I remember my brother and I drove over to Ed Garlow’s house. He was the elected chief at the time. I got out and knocked on his door. I started accusing him of selling off our land and trying to destroy our people and make us a municipality. Well he go so scared his pants dropped right to the floor. We had a good laugh over that. He told the Mounties about it and they took him and I think they rounded up the rest of the councillors and hid them some place for their own safety, I suppose. Rudy Longboat remains a believer in the traditional government today and even now, 50 years later, he is still calling for the overthrow of the elective system.
Fired by the apparent fulfillment of Indian prophesies, the feeling of overwhelming supremacy is sweeping through the Indian people on the Six Nations Reservation today. “Sovereignty” and “independence” are words no longer murmured in the hushed groups of leaders. They are blaring from loudspeakers and being echoed by ordinary people with a ferocity never heard before. Yet amid all the excited jubilation and a
sea of laughter, the odd face is showing bewilderment and perhaps a little concern. “What happens now?” they ask. “Can it last? Will there be repercussions?” The leaders of the revolution — for it is nothing less — are making speech after speech denouncing the white-man’s treatment of Indians. Their voices are vibrant with a nationalistic pride which is hard to ignore. They emphasize the rights and liberties of the Indians, speak of uprisings and eventual break down of white man’s law. One even went so far as to predict the downfall of the white man of this continent within 100 years. And the voices of the leaders are being heard, believed and hailed. Considering the deep traditional roots of the Six Nations this is perhaps not so surprising. It is an Indian prophecy that, the race will rise up, that “a red serpent” will come from the North and lead the people to victory. The desire for peace has been a feature of today’s fast-moving events. No one has spoken or even hinted of violence. But in case some white men interpret that as a type of apathy, any such thought should be dispelled immediately. Seldom has this spectator seen such an enthusiasm or such a determination among so many people. The Indians honestly feel that they are fighting for what is just. How it will all end no one can predict, but outsiders should not dismiss this revolt lightly. The people of the Six Nations believe they have a cause and are determined to be heard. Today’s revolt is just the beginning.
Published on Mar 11, 2009