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Saturday, July 20, 2024
Bluesy concert raises awareness for Land Back protesters
Phil Davis rocks lead vocals and guitar for the Landback Unity Band Jam. EVAN LOREE
Layla Staats calls on her audience to 'Rise Up.' EVAN LOREE
Jason Godard takes the day off work to see Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers with son Gabriel Godard. EVAN LOREE
Thompson Wilson and Rob Lamothe square off with their guitars in a fast-paced jam session. EVAN LOREE
Gary Farmer stops in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a free concert while on tour with his band the Troublemakers. EVAN LOREE
Derek Miller on guitar and vocals with the Troublemakers. EVAN LOREE

A crowd of about 30 people came out to enjoy a free concert at Queenston Heights in Niagara-on-the-Lake Friday afternoon, bringing attention to the cause of Indigenous land rights.

St. Catharines resident Jason Godard was out in front of the park’s amphitheatre goofing around with his son Gabriel while taking in the sound of some blues rock.

Godard took the day off to enjoy a performance of his favourite music and catch a few sun rays.

“Everybody needs to get a little more nature,” he told The Lake Report before kicking back with his son.

The concert was hosted by the Niagara Regional Native Centre and featured performances by the Land Back Unity Band Jam and Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers.

Philip Davis, the Native Centre’s justice overflow coordinator, well known in the Indigenous community for his musical acumen, was there to play with the Land Bank Unity Band Jam.

The band’s name references the Indigenous-led movement active in North America which aims to reestablish Indigenous political authority over ancestral lands.

The band, featuring Davis on guitar and lead vocals, took root about two years ago, Davis said.

The idea grew out of a land dispute between Indigenous land defenders and Foxgate Developments Inc., which in 2020 attempted to build a new housing development on Six Nations territory in Caledonia.

The land dispute is old, tracing its routes back to a 1784 proclamation by Sir Frederick Haldimand.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Haldimand guaranteed that the people of Six Nations would “take possession of and settle upon” the banks of the Grand River so they and their descendants could “enjoy forever.”

The land defenders and activists who occupied the site in Caledonia named it 1492 Land Back Lane. 

In December 2022, Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Sweeny granted an injunction to Foxgate, which would effectively ban land defenders from the property.

This was the second injunction by an Ontario judge. The first was dismissed on appeal in December 2021.

In a post to Twitter, the activist group said “This is exactly how land theft is made legal.”

For Davis, the small concert was an act of solidarity with the land defenders.

He told the crowd before his first set that he didn’t like calling the protests in Caledonia an “occupation.”

“We were there standing up for our sovereign rights protecting our lands,” he said.

He described the formation of the Land Back Unity Band Jam as a “movement within a movement” where musicians could come together and “feel good even just for a few minutes.”

The show also featured performances from Layla Staats, a Mohawk filmmaker and musician from Six Nations of the Grand River.

“Rise Up,” one of the songs Staats’ sang Friday, first began as a “calling” to her ancestors but feels like it grows with every performance.

“Don’t be quiet, just keep talking, keep sharing, keep telling our stories and singing our songs.” 

That, she said, is the message of the song. 

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