Danny Beaton speaks out about arrest at Dump Site 41

Interview by Dr. John Bacher,
Special to News From Indian Country 9-09

How did you get involved in the issue of Dump Site 41?

My friends and I started camping in Georgian Bay about 10 years ago, on a regular basis. It is probably one of the most beautiful places that I have been to in my entire life. The waters are everywhere. The forests are everywhere. We pick the berries.

We eat the fish and we gather cedar on a regular basis. I call it the Healing Place. In the past few years we started seeing signs “Stop Dump Site 41 Protect Our Water.” I said to my friend, “See that sign, I am going to get involved in that, it’s very serious I can tell.”

Around that time I started phoning the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Tiny Township and Penetanguishene and the surrounding area of Simcoe County. One of the questions I was asking them is what is going on with this Stop Dump Site 41sign?  I was telling them that I am a Mohawk environmentalist and I want to get involved. I learned from an employee of the local recycling store that it was Steve Odgen who made the sign.They gave me his phone number and said that he was a good guy.

When I phoned Steve Ogden around October last year I mentioned to Steve that I just returned from Atlanta Georgia with my best friend and we had just been involved with the Walk For Water for ten days, and I felt it was a very effective way to bring attention to a water issue. We had walked from the headwaters of the Chatahoochee River to the legislative buildings in Atlanta, Georgia.

I suggested to Steve that we walk from Georgian Bay to Toronto for eight days and call it Walk For the Water. It would   bring attention to the Sacred Waters of the Alliston Aquifer and the tributaries that run into the Georgian Bay as Steve had explained to me Simcoe County’s plan along with Miller Waste was to build Dump Site 41.  After we did the walk which lasted eight days from the end of November 2008 to the first week of December 2008 we were very pleased with what we had accomplished stopping in local towns along the way and generating media attention to the struggle that Steve Odgen had been involved with for 23 years.

Steve Odgen had been a local farmer for many years until Dump Site 41 came along. In January 2009 I organized a press conference with Maude Barlow of the United Nations, The Council of Canadians ,  Elizabeth May of the Green Party, Andrea Horvath  of the NDP, Dan McDermitt of the Sierra Club, and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. This press conference was for the launching of an on line petition directed at Honourable Dalton McGuinty and Honourable John Gerretsen to Stop Dump Site 41. At the present the petition can be reached on my web site www.dannybeaton.ca and has over 7,000 signatures and comments denouncing Dump Site 41 and the rape of the Alliston Aquifer. On March 8, 2009, we organized the press conference at Queen’s Park in the press gallery with native spiritual leaders from Utah- Arnold Thomas Shoshone, and from California, Robertjohn Knapp, Seneca- Tobattaloma. This press conference was to ask Dalton McGuinty and John Gerretsen to Stop Dump Site 41 and the rape of the Alliston Aquifer and for natives to unite in this struggle.

At the same time on May 8 five Anishinabe Kweag (Ojibway women) organized a protest camp to hold a peaceful vigil across the road from Dump Site 41. Since the peaceful protest camp began arrests and charges began to be laid by the Ontario OPP and authorities starting August 5, 2009.  Retired eighty two year old farmer Keith Wood and his wife Ina seventy six were forced to turn themselves in to OPP on mischief charges at the Midland detachment. Mr Wood said “Since my family has farmed in the area for six generations, protesting is a simple matter of doing the right thing! I would rather march in the front lines than have my children or grandchildren die of poisoned water”. Keith said “I owe it to them.” Since the OPP began making arrests nine people have been charged including Vicki Monague the spokesperson for the five Ojibway women.

Arrested Mohawk - The First Native to Be Arrested At Dump Site 41

On August 6th 2009 Mohawk environmentalist Danny Beaton was arrested at Gate 3 at Dump Site 41 by an OPP squad of police. Beaton was held at OPP detachment in Midland and appeared before Barrie Court. Danny had been at the peaceful protest camp since it began May 8 in Tiny Township at the Sacred Surface Springs of the Alliston Aquifer.

Is it true that you were working on an article, at the time your arrest?

Yes, John that’s exactly what I was doing as I had already sent my negatives to the lab and I was submitting five photographs to First Nations Drum and News From Indian Country to my U.S. publication for their August issues. I haven’t got a title for the article yet, but lets see, how does “Ontario Farmers in Unity With Native Water Struggle” sound?

Yeah, I was surprised to see them driving up to the gate to get me but at the same time I wasn’t surprised. I had been just telling my best friend that I probably would be going away for a month or two because somebody had to bring attention to the Sacred Waters of Georgian Bay, everyone knows the Mohawk people are not afraid of jail or the police when it comes to protecting Mother Earth because we understand we have a responsibility to our Sacred Mother.

Could you describe how the police arrested you?

Three black and whites pulled up in front of me at Gate 3 while I was sitting in a lawn chair and I was using an upright log as my desk. As the first OPP car stopped and two officers began to advance towards me and I was watching them pulling on rubber gloves over their hands and moving very quickly towards me. I said to them very quietly,” I am not resisting; you don’t have to get excited.  At that point I stood up and they said to me would you please come towards the car with us and put your hands behind your back, at that point I asked one of the protesters who was across the road to come and please take my Bear Claw necklaces and my Eagle hat as I do not want to bring them to jail with me. The police did not read me my rights until we drove around the corner of Concession Two and I told them the handcuffs were on too tight and to please loosen the handcuffs, so they pulled over, read my rights, took me out of the car and loosened my handcuffs. We then proceeded to the OPP Midland Detachment Center where I spent my first night in jail for protesting Dump Site 41.

Could you tell us what happened then in court the next morning? 

Yes, when I appeared in front of the Justice of the Peace, he explained to me that if I signed documents saying that I wouldn’t protest that I could get out. I refused because I felt that by getting out that there would be no one for the media who could say that a native has taken a stand in jail or could be forced not to protest in front of the gate. I felt some one had to show the world this was all crazy and that there was no lawyer for me to communicate all of this with.

I told the JP that this was all confusing and that somebody had to stop the rape of Mother Earth. The JP looked me in the eye and said I respect you for being so honest. At that point I felt like crying because of all the chaos that was happening but no justice for Mother Earth.

Do you consider your arrest to have been illegal?

The JP remanded my case to Monday August 10th. When I appeared before him again I had no lawyer, although my best friend had found an assistant lawyer who was working with Mohawks from Six Nations. She said people wanted me to sign and get out. I said to her I had time to think now and that my arrest is illegal and that my detention here in this super jail is illegal. I explained under the Nanfan Treaty the Mohawk nation has the Right to water and food from Six Nations to Georgian Bay as long the grass grows and the sun shines that this is also known as the Albany Deed, therefore as a Mohawk man I have a right to protect our sacred waters, sacred farmland, and our sacred animals. Therefore I would like to address this treaty to the JP.

This assistant lawyer said we could do all of this at a later date because she needed to get me out so I could find a lawyer and represent myself adequately.