Faith Action Toolkit: 1492 Land Back Lane
Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) Land Defenders are mobilizing at 1492 Land Back Lane to stop a new subdivision from being built on their lands. The proposed housing development is within the Haldimand Tract, land stretching back six miles on either side of the Grand River in southwestern Ontario. In 1784, the British signed the Haldimand Proclamation, which set this tract of land aside for the Six Nations as compensation for four million acres lost in the American Revolution. Since that time, the governments of Ontario and Canada have unlawfully sold or seized the vast majority of the Haldimand Tract. On July 19, 2020, Haudenosaunee Land Defenders reclaimed the Mackenzie Meadows construction site and renamed it “1492 Land Back Lane.” Despite ongoing harassment from the police and criminalization by the courts, the Land Defenders and their allies continue to peacefully occupy 1492 Land Back Lane.
Settler and Christian communities have benefited from the Doctrine of Discovery and other legal documents that continue to undermine the rights and sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee and other Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. Whether you live near or far from the Haldimand Tract, there are ways you can stand in solidarity with the Haudenosaunee. This toolkit has been created to help churches and faith communities grapple with the Land Defense movement at 1492 Land Back Lane. It equips individuals and congregations with resources, worship materials, and tangible calls to action.
Faith action toolkit: 1492 Land Back Lane
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:1-2).
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has called upon churches and faith groups to adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (TRC Call to Action #48). The Declaration outlines the minimum basic rights for Indigenous peoples and ways society can ensure that they come to fruition.
In the Christian tradition, we hold fast to the vision of a reconciled world. In the book of Revelation, we read about the tree of life with leaves that heal the nations. As people committed to peace, justice, and reconciliation, we choose to be guided by angels who “speak the truth of love,” and who show us “the river of the water of life.” We are committed to living peaceably and respectfully with our neighbours.
The Haudenosaunee peoples have a long tradition and deep understanding of respectful relationship. Their Two Row Wampum Treaty with the Dutch in 1613 is one example of this. The two parallel rows of the belt symbolize two nations traveling side by side as equals. They are traveling together along the river of life.
A similar wampum covenant was established between the British Crown and the Haudenosaunee at the Treaty of Niagara in 1764. The British and the Haudenosaunee agreed to an equal partnership as sovereign entities. Since 1764, a lot has changed in this relationship. Settler peoples have failed to uphold their Treaty commitments. Indigenous sovereignty has not been recognized. Indigenous land has been stolen. The river of life has not been shared.
Indigenous Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane are drawing our attention to a fractured relationship that is in need of healing. The people of Six Nations were promised six miles on either side of the Grand River – land that they are now forced to reoccupy and defend because it was taken from them. As settler communities, we have benefited from the Doctrine of Discovery and other legal documents and court injunctions that continue to undermine Indigenous rights and sovereignty. There is no healing or life “on either side of the river.”
This toolkit has been created to help churches and faith communities grapple with the Land Defence movement at 1492 Land Back Lane. It is intended to provide tools and resources for engagement and solidarity. May it help us live into the commitments that our churches have made. May it spur us to live into our declarations of faith and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) Land Defenders are mobilizing at 1492 Land Back Lane to stop a subdivision development, “McKenzie Meadows,” right on Six Nations’ doorstep (located in southwestern Ontario, Canada). McKenzie Meadows is within the Haldimand Tract, the land stretching back six miles on either side of the Grand River. In 1784, the British signed the Haldimand Proclamation, which set this tract of land aside for the Six Nations as compensation for four million acres lost in the American Revolution. Since that time, the governments of Ontario and Canada have unlawfully sold or seized the vast majority of the Haldimand Tract. Six Nations has consistently resisted land theft and development. Their Land Claims Research Office has made 29 separate land claims since 1974, but only one has been resolved. To make matters worse, the federal government closed the remaining 28 unresolved claims in 1995.
In 1853 an Indian Agent sold the Oneida Township plot (now McKenzie Meadows/1492 Land Back Lane) to a third party, a sale which was deemed by settler society to have extinguished the Crown’s duty to consult for the land. The Six Nations hereditary government resisted these illegitimate sales; however, in 1924, the federal government forced Six Nations, at gunpoint, to implement an Elected Band Council system arresting the hereditary leadership. Other colonial interference has taken place over time, including prohibiting Indigenous people from seeking legal representation and punishing and disbarring lawyers representing them.
In 2016, the Elected Band Council signed an accommodation agreement with Foxgate Developments for $352,000 for 42 acres. Yet the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council—the traditional governance structure of the Six Nations—did not sign the agreement and publicly stated that they had not granted consent to the development. For this reason alone, Foxgate should not have seen its agreement with the Elected Band Council as adequate “consultation.” But further still, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Haida Nation v British Columbia (2004) that the duty to consult Indigenous peoples is the duty of the Crown, and not the duty of a third party land owner. In other words, the Crown remains responsible for consulting with the Haudenosaunee at 1492 Land Back Lane.
For decades, Six Nations has sought to settle their land concerns with the Government of Canada, but the Crown has refused to engage their claims. This leaves communities who do not want development in their territories left with only one option: ‘illegal’ land defense action.
Since July 19, 2020, Haudenosaunee Land Defenders have reclaimed the Mackenzie Meadows construction site, which they have renamed “1492 Land Back Lane.” Land Defenders and their allies have been repeatedly harassed and criminalized by the Ontario Provincial Police. In August 2020, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) fired rubber bullets and used tasers on peaceful Land Defenders, arresting nine. Community members responded by placing blockades on roads surrounding 1492 Land Back Lane to protect their community from police violence. The blockades were in place until February 16, 2021, when Land Defenders removed them out of respect for Six Nations’ community members who needed the roads to access food and healthcare services. Even though the removal of the blockades brought additional vulnerability to the Land Defenders, they chose to open the roads in anticipation and hope of peaceful progress and true reconciliation.
Despite ongoing demands for justice from Haudenosaunee chiefs, the Canadian government has failed to address and resolve the Six Nations’ claim to the land. On April 20, 2021, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs established a moratorium on development in the Haldimand Tract. The moratorium states that “no development can proceed along the Haldimand Tract without the consent of the Haudenosaunee.” It calls for an end to the exploitation of lands and resources within Haudenosaunee traditional territory and demands that the Crown honour its obligations to the treaties made with Six Nations.
Christian Peacemaker Teams stands in solidarity with 1492 Land Back Lane. We continue to condemn the criminalization of Land Defenders and their allies. We call on the federal government to stop the criminalization and meet with the Land Defenders. True reconciliation means taking steps towards decolonization. Celebrating and supporting 1492 Land Back Lane is a step in this process. We call on all allies to show support! It is time for us to stand together and demand:
- The provincial and federal governments respect and uphold Indigenous peoples’ rights over their own land and allow community members to develop solutions within their own community and in their own way.
- McKenzie Meadows be returned to the Haudenosaunee People and their sovereignty respected.
- An end to the criminalization of the Haudenosaunee Land Defenders and their allies.
1) Solidarity Visits & Supply Drop-off
As the camp continues, the Land Defenders need solidarity and supplies. Come on down to 1492 Land Back Lane and show your support. Please keep in mind that visiting the site is an act of civil disobedience. Wear a mask and remember to practice physical distancing. If you are coming and want to drop off supplies but have legal concerns, you can email LandBackLaneLegalSupport@protonmail.com.
1492 Land Back Lane is located at 6th Line and Argyle Street, just outside of Caledonia, Ont. Click here for a map of the precise location.
Find the latest supply wish list on the 1492 Land Back Lane facebook page.
2) Send letters to the Ontario Provincial Police, provincial government, and provincial court
Thomas Carrique, OPP Commissioner
Ontario Provincial Police General Headquarters
Lincoln M. Alexander Building
777 Memorial Avenue
Orillia, ON L3V 7V3
Greg Rickford, Provincial Minister of Indigenous Affairs
160 Bloor St. E
Toronto, ON M7A 2E6
Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Toronto ON M7A 1A1
Geoffrey Morawetz, Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
1) Release a Solidarity Statement
Haudenosaunee Land Defenders are making an urgent call for solidarity statements. Release a statement on your church’s website and/or social media and share it widely. Statements may include these key messages, which have been taken from a call to action issued by 1492 Land Back Lane Land Defenders:
- We stand in solidarity with Haudenosaunee Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane and fully support their continued peaceful occupation of their territory
- Police must not take advantage of roads opening to perpetuate further violence against Haudenosaunee Land Defenders
- The Crown must engage in a Nation-to-Nation dialogue. The police and courts cannot be the only avenue to resolve land disputes in the Haldimand Tract
- End the criminalization of Indigenous Land Defense
For an example of a solidarity statement, click here.
Watch a video compilation of statements from an ecumenical clergy and laity group here.
2) Send letters to the federal government
Let the federal government know that your faith community stands with the Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane. You might host a letter-writing party over Zoom following one of your worship services. Articulate your congregation’s commitment to peace and reconciliation. Use CPT’s letter template, or find an example of an ecumenical letter here.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
3) Donate to 1492 Land Back Lane
Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane are asking for donations for camp supplies and legal costs. As church communities, we are invited to include 1492 Land Back Lane in our giving practices. This is one tangible way that we can contribute to the work of reconciliation and land reparations. Host a fundraiser in your faith community, or dedicate a special offering during one of your worship services to 1492 Land Back Lane. Need ideas about how to encourage your congregation to donate, or an example of an offering prayer? Click here.
Camp donations are accepted via e-transfer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations to the 1492 Land Back Lane Legal Fund can be made here.
4) Organize a Solidarity Action
Organize a COVID-19-safe solidarity action, such as a letter-writing campaign, public prayer witness, or social media campaign.
Pray for the safety and protection of Land Defenders. Pray that the government would do right and honour its agreements. Pray that the Church would have the courage to stand with those who have been wronged.
CPT has compiled a wide range of liturgies, songs, sermon prompts, and videos for congregational engagement. Use these resources to plan a 1492 Land Back Lane worship service or Adult Sunday School series. Make sure to give credit to the writers, poets, and musicians.
Hymns & Music
Beauty for Brokenness – Graham Kendrick
For the Healing of the Nations – Fred Kaan
God of Freedom, God of Justice – Shirley Erena Murray
Many and Great, O God, Are Your Works – Joseph Renville
My Soul Cries Out – Rory Cooney
O God, We Read the Holy Law – Michael Schneider and Scott R. Troyer
**Bryan has granted individuals and congregations free one-time use of this music. Please contact Bryan at email@example.com for ongoing use.
**The lyrics of this song are provided in English, Spanish, and French. You are invited to explore how the line “I will remember the land” might be interpreted and expressed in other languages and cultures. Consider singing this phrase from Leviticus 26 in the languages that are representative of your own community or native to your geographical location.
Touch the Earth Lightly – Shirley Erena Murray
We Dream of a Turning – Adam Tice
Readings & Sermon Prompts
Anabaptist Witness Oct 2020 – “Displacement: Indigenous Peoples, Land, and Mission”
- p. 159 – A Community of Creation, A Calling to Friendship – Adrian Jacobs & Steve Heinrichs
Healing Haunted Histories: A Settler Discipleship of Decolonization – Ched Myers & Elaine Enns
- p. 132 – Christian Mission “Disrobed”: The Road Not Taken (Luke 9:1-6)
- p. 141 – Naboth’s nahala: A Tale of Two Queens (1 Kings 21)
Unsettling the Word, ed. Steve Heinrichs
- p. 37 – Scouting the Haldimand Tract by Sara Brubacher
- p. 230 – Voices Rise by Joy De Vito
Yours, Mine, Ours, eds. Cheryl Woelk & Steve Heinrichs
- p. 154 – Seeking a Spiritual Covenant: Possibilities in the Haldimand Tract – Adrian Jacobs & Karen Kuhnert
Doctrine of Discovery: Stolen Lands, Strong Hearts – Anglican Council of Indigenous People
Skyler’s Story – 1492 Land Back Lane – Mike Enns and Southridge Community Church
Treaty as Sacred Covenant – Webinar with Adrian Jacobs, Cayuga Nation of the Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy; organized by Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Working Group
Treaty as Sacred Covenant – Webinar with Janis Monture, Mohawk Nation of the Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy; organized by Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Working Group
Treaty as Sacred Covenant – Webinar with Skyler Williams and Erik Lankin, Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane; organized by Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Working Group
Treaty people know from history
The path of freedom teaches them this wisdom:
Ironically, we’re only free to be
When we’ve committed to another’s freedom
A curse, conversely, falls on those who wend
A selfish way, betray a trust forsaken
For covenant is holy and extends
Till all has been restored that once was taken
The narrow way, the strait of the Great Spirit
The way the ancients know the meaning of
Our better angels know we need not fear it
The best of angels speak the truth of love:
We’ll come to see the healing of the nations
If first we learn and live our declarations
– Steve Bell, Freedom Road, used with permission.