A protest has shut down part of Highway 38 in Wahta Mohawk Territory west of Bala.

The group, calling itself The Grassroots People Of Wahta, has claimed to have taken over the Cultural Centre. In a statement released today The Grassroots People Of Wahta say its actions are a demonstration against local band council decisions as well as the band council system in general.

“Our action today is occurring at a facility which has undergone over a million dollars in renovations, complete with contracts given to cronies, backroom deals, and cash under the table. It is called a “Cultural Healing Centre” but the name masks the injustice which has been perpetrated here,” the statement reads.

It goes on to say “Band councils cloak themselves as “First Nations governments” to give themselves a legitimacy which is denied by the people they claim to serve. When injustice occurs, the federal government simply claims that they recognize the right of self-government and look away.”

The group’s statement also says “it is time to return to our traditional forms of government based in the inclusion of our families, our clans, and all our people,” and that “We issue this wake-up call that we will not allow our rights to be signed away or otherwise diminished without resistance.”

The Grassroots People Of Wahta says band councils were imposed by the Government of Canada to “undermine our traditional governing systems. While Band Councils, under the Indian Act, have been empowered by the federal government to deal with matters such as the regulation of bee-keeping and noxious weeds, they have also been given the authority to dispense with our lands and our inherent and Treaty rights. This is not acceptable.”

The statement criticizes a system it says creates majorities and minorities, haves and have-nots, in small communities like Wahta Mohawk Territory through domination of the band council by alliances comprised of large families.

“They control all the community funding, hiring, issuing of contracts, and dispensing of punishments. When wielded improperly, these authorities create divisions in our communities.”

The statement goes on to criticize band councils saying they’re dependent on federal program funding to maintain this system, and the government “offers more authority and more program funding through self-government agreements, enticing band councils to give up our lands and rights to perpetuate their own existence.”

The OPP has put the road closures in place. We’ll have more details as they become available.