Indians get Ipperwash park – News – Indians get Ipperwash park
December 20, 2007

Ontario is returning Ipperwash Provincial Park to an aboriginal community and vowing to forge a new relationship with First Nations more than a decade after Dudley George was shot dead there by a police sniper.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant said today that the return of the park to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation brings that chapter to a close and marks the beginning of a new effort to settle long-standing land claims.

The provincial park will be co-managed by the government and First Nations until they figure out what to do with the land — a model Bryant said could be used in other land disputes such as the current occupation in Caledonia.

The province is also forming a committee that includes representatives from aboriginal and Metis communities to decide how to act on the recommendations set out in the Ipperwash inquiry into George’s death, Bryant said.

Although George’s brother said he thought Dudley’s death “sped up” the return of the disputed land, Bryant said that’s not how the province will resolve future land claims.

“Where there is conflict and violence and death, it does not provide for a more expeditious result,” he said.

“It leads to complete entrenchment and tragedy, bitterness on both sides that you have to see to believe. It’s going to take a long time for these communities to heal.”

Ipperwash Provincial Park was a “particularly special” case, Bryant said. The land may have “significant nostalgic value” to the surrounding community but returning it to the First Nation is the “right thing to do,” he said.

“The historic and spiritual importance of that land to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation cannot be understated,” Bryant said.

“We recognize in the Ontario government how important this land is to First Nations. It is time to act now on this recognition.”

The brother of slain Indian protester Dudley George has long asked the province to hand over the land as a tribute to his brother. George was shot to death at Ipperwash in a provincial police raid to break up an aboriginal occupation on Sept. 6, 1995.

Sam George said the return of the land is an honour to his brother’s memory.

“Unfortunately, he paid an awful price,” George said. “He paid the ultimate price there that night. He gave his life for the burial grounds, for the people of our communities. With that, I think his death did speed up things quite rapidly.”

An inquiry into his death made dozens of recommendations which the Liberals say they will use as a “roadmap” to forge a better relationship with Ontario’s aboriginals.

Chief Tom Bressette of Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation said he looks forward to talking with his “neighbours” about how to use the land.

The federal government promised to return the land after it was expropriated during the Second World War but that didn’t happen. The park has been effectively occupied for the last 12 years.

“I’m glad the war is finally over,” Bressette said.

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