Six Nations members set up a new barrier across a road in Caledonia, Ont., on Monday afternoon, shortly after aboriginal protesters and non-native residents of the area traded punches and insults.
- INDEPTH: Caledonia dispute blockade
Tempers reached the boiling point just a few hours after what had seemed to be a breakthrough in a five-week standoff over the construction of a subdivision on land the aboriginal protesters claim is theirs.
Barricades that the Six Nations protesters had erected on April 20 on Highway 6, a main road running through the southern Ontario town, came down as planned early Monday.
- FROM MARCH 22, 2006: Native occupiers stay at Ontario site as deadline passes
However, traffic was still being impeded because several dozen non-aboriginal protesters had set up a human barricade of their own.
They were standing in the middle of the road a short distance away from the site where the Six Nations barricade had stood, blocking any aboriginal person who tried to pass through.
Sides trade punches, accusations
"That's colonialism at its finest," Janie Jamieson, a spokeswoman for the Six Nations protesters, told CBC News in a midday interview as more aboriginal people returned to the site and Ontario Provincial Police officers tried to keep the peace.
"The OPP is witnessing it but nobody's doing anything about it," Jamieson said.
At one point, shouting, pushing and shoving broke out as a vehicle tried to get through the new barricade. Some people from the opposing sides traded punches, and each side accused the other of using racial slurs.
"Most people in Caledonia have a great degree of sympathy for land claims and want it settled," said resident Pat Woolley, interviewed at the site of the non-aboriginal protest.
However, he said, "people behind the barricade feel they weren't consulted" before the blockade went up.
For weeks, vehicles have been let through only irregularly.
Shortly before the new Six Nations barrier went up on Monday, Woolley pointed out that people are still off work because the aboriginal protesters were continuing to block a nearby rail line. As well, he said, the Six Nations group does not intend to leave the subdivision at the heart of the dispute.
Land claimed by aboriginal people in area
The Six Nations community claims the land on which the subdivision was being built was never signed away by their ancestors, but was illegally taken from them 200 years ago.
"Our own populations are growing, and if we allow the loss of land, we will be remiss in our duties in our children and our ancestors," Six Nations Confederacy Chief Allen McNaughton said Monday.
The new protest that sprang up on the weekend briefly delayed a plan to take down the aboriginal barricade on Monday as a sign of goodwill as negotiations continued over the ownership of the land.
On Monday morning, they faced off with native protesters arriving at the site, moving their bodies to prevent them from walking through the small crowd as OPP officers tried to keep the tension in check.
"If anything happens at that table, the barricades are going right back up as quickly as they came down," Jamieson warned in the CBC interview shortly before a new metal barrier was pushed across the road.
'We're going to work it out,' minister says
"We thought everything was going to happen today, but we've got a delay and we're going to work it out," David Ramsay, Ontario's minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, said early Monday during an interview with CBC News.
"You get incidents out there that upset people and minds get changed," he said.
The second blockade began Friday night, as part of a weekly demonstration by members of the community frustrated about the barricade that has been in place for almost five weeks.
Negotiator predicts quick end to latest tension
Former Ontario premier David Peterson was appointed at the end of April to help resolve the standoff.
"I think the fact that there's a lot of tension in the air is not a big news story," he told CBC News in an interview Monday morning after the non-aboriginal blockade went up. "In an hour or two, they'll get in their cars and go home."
Peterson said it was crucial that the Caledonia dispute be ended responsibly because it is being watched by native groups across North America.
"Don't underestimate the significance," he warned. "All of us were praying and working hard to ensure that something ugly didn't develop out of this, like an Oka or a Wounded Knee or something like that.
"Hopefully we can get through this in a peaceful way."
Saskatchewan blockade being planned
In a development that seems to underline his concerns, members of First Nations in the North Battleford area of Saskatchewan said they are planning to set up a blockade on two bridges crossing the North Saskatchewan River.
"We're doing that in solidarity with Caledonia, and all lands that have been taken over by people that are non-Indian," said Marcia Neault of the Poundmaker reserve.