Native protesters camp out to protect claimed burial site
Published Tuesday, May 17, 2011 6:33PM EDT
Native protesters are camping out in a section of High Park in an effort to stop BMX bikers from riding on what they say is a sacred Iroquois burial ground.
The protestors say the site, which lies in the south end of High Park and just north of The Queensway, is a 3,000-year-old burial ground.
And by riding bikes across the site, they say, people are showing disrespect to the "sacred ground."
The group, made up from members of Cree, Mohawk, Ojibwa and Seneca Tribe members, say they are currently working to remove the mounds and jumps shaped by bikers over the past number of years.
"We come from different backgrounds, different tribes with one cause," said Cree member, Harrison Friesen. "As a sacred place they show no respect for what was here. We've had dozens come out here and work to remove all the jumps throughout."
Friesen said the destruction from the carved paths is a disgrace to the hill's history.
So far the protestors haven't faced much resistance.
The City of Toronto does not believe the area is a burial site. An archeological dig in 2009 turned up no signs that that anyone had been buried there.
However, they said they were taking the situation seriously, agreeing to quickly build a fence around the site and remove the BMX bike trails.
Richard Ubbens, a spokesman for Toronto Parks and Recreation, says even if the site isn't a burial ground, it is still historically valuable.
"Some of these trees are decades, hundreds, maybe even 200 years old. Very old trees, we don't want to lose them," Ubbens said.
With reports from CTV Toronto's Tom Hayes