WHEN, in 1895, Glenamoy National School was built, chances are that the local north Mayo men who laid the bricks would never have imagined that, over 100 years into the future, that national school - now a community centre - would be playing host to a talk by native American Indians.
But it is the quirks of circumstance - the ongoing dispute about the Corrib gas project in particular - which, last week, brought an all-woman delegation from the Six Nations Reserve, Ontario, Canada to the isolated bogland of north Mayo, connecting once isolated areas to a global network of protest.
The Six Nations are part of an indigenous American group called the Haudenosaunee. In February last year they reclaimed forty acres of land which had been granted to them by the British in 1784 but sold, in 2005, by the Canadian government to a housing company.
Members of the Haudenosaunee set up camp on the land and stopped the bulldozers’ work. A representative from the site of the ongoing land reclamation, Kathy Garlow, said that every day there were confrontations. “Some of us gave up everything we had to stay on the site but that was not a problem because it was our land,” she said.
In April 2006, an armed raid by the Ontario Provincial Police failed to dislodge the people from the land. Although the 150 police used taser guns and arrested people they found sleeping in tents, hundreds of residents of the nearby indigenous reserve turned up and walked the police off the land. Following the raid, barricades were set up around the area on roads and rail lines that prevented any further police action, and severely disrupted the local area and a main national railway line. By June, the Canadian government announced it was buying the land back from the developers.
“Your countryside is very beautiful,” she said to those assembled in Glenamoy, “but if Shell comes through, it’s not going to be that way.”
She added that any protest must remain peaceful. “Being peaceful is also defending yourself. Maintaining a presence is probably the biggest thing,” she said.
One local Glenamoy woman said that it was like hearing “our own story”.
The Haudenosaunee women visited members of the Ross-port 5 and attended the morning protest at the gates of the proposed refinery at Bellanaboy on Thursday. Their tour also involved a meeting at the House of Commons in London with the All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group, as well as local communities, universities and schools.
© Western People