Tyendinaga: The Struggle for Drinking Water and the Health of the Land Continues

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I spoke with Dan Doreen, a Mohawk from the community of Tyendinaga, which is located in Southeastern Ontario near Belleville. Dan has been on Healing the Earth several times before; he is one of many people from Tyendinaga who are fighting a new police station that the band council and the provincial and federal governments are trying to bring in to their community.

The total cost of the police station is roughly $1.9 million, with $980,000 of that coming from the band council and the rest from the provincial and federal governments. Tyendinaga is plagued with very poor quality drinking water, with more than half the residents unable to drink the water. An elementary school situated next door to the proposed police station site also has no drinking water. It would take an estimated $20,000 to fix the drinking water in the school, yet the three levels of government are prioritizing a $1.9 million police station. It's easy to see why people are upset about this.

Tyendinaga is one of 37 First Nations communities within the borders of Ontario that is on a boil water advisory. Approximately 50% of people on the reserve have to deal with a boil water advisory, mainly due to provincial authorities failing to properly line and cap a landfill, which led to toxic waste leaking into the watershed. This has led many people to have to rely on bottled water trucked in from elsewhere, or filling up buckets at a public tap to use for drinking water. Much of the water is so toxic that children get sores and boils on their body from being washed in it.

Late October was the most recent of three times residents of Tyendinaga stood at the site and blocked the trucks from delivering the police station. The band council has called off the police station until at least next spring. From those successful protests, as well as protests about a quarry (which is a whole other story; see Ont. Mohawks sue band member over quarry, asphalt plant on reserve for more information) 11 adults and 2 teenagers have been charged, and 3 others have been charged from protests back in September. See Tyendinaga police arrest more than a dozen in protests for more information.

In recent weeks residents of Tyendinaga have launched a $74 million lawsuit and a $3.3 million civil suit, the former being about a quarry and asphalt plant, and the latter being about the police station. The suits allege the band council made decisions about the police station in secret meetings, and has abused their power and engaged in corrupt practices in others ways. You can read a mainstream news article about it here - Second lawsuit launched.

The new police station is thought by many to be a distraction, a diversion, to get people who have been fighting for their land back to divert their attention to this, instead of the land claim. That is also a whole other story - see Mohawk Community Demands Return of Stolen Culbertson Tract for starters.

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