Calling it a “repossession” rather than an occupation, an aboriginal family brought a trailer into Pinery Provincial Park on Monday and began camping out. Maynard T. George said their arrival was part of an attempt to “repossess” 50,000 acres of land in the area, stretching from Bayfield to near Sarnia. He presented documents just as he has done in the past.
George said the land rightfully belongs to about 100 of his great-grandfather’s descendants, and he wants to see it used for economic development for aboriginals. “We were looking at revenue. We needed to create jobs for our people and our family, he said. Although only one trailer was at the site last week, George said more might follow in the coming days, George said. Park officials said they were aware of the occupation. Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber said he spoke with the OPP and both MP Bev Shipley and MPP Monte McNaughton regarding the situation.
This was not the first time George occupied the Pinery. On April 18, 1996 a group of First Nation people, under the direction of Maynard T. George quietly laid claim to over 2,500 acres of Pinery Provincial Park. By that Saturday the group claimed ownership of the entire park. The group called themselves Chippewas of River Aux Sables walked along Highway 21 to the park to claim 2,650 acres of land they say is contained in the will of Harry R. George, the father of Maynard T. George, a member of the Stoney Point group residing in the former Ipperwash Army camp. This group is not nationally recognized. The band also asked for employment inside the park for their young people. Close to 800 people from the community toting signs decorated with the slogans “No more special privileges” and “Keep our Parks” confronted George in front of the provincial park to prevent the occupation, a rally that was organized in 24-hours when the locals learned of the possible occupation. In an interview with the Lakeshore Advance in 1996, George said the ” talks with Canada had been ineffective for the voice of our people going forward in Canada.” Therefore, he continued, “We had to take it upon ourselves to reclaim additional lands, which we own, not to speed up the process, but gain a process whereby we can obtain, I guess, a position of employment and equitable responsibility to our people here on the management and direction of the former Pinery Provincial Park. This claim divided his family, with some supporting and other not. He gave the province 48-hours to respond which they did saying the park belonged to the Province and had since the initial package of land for the park was purchased from the Canada Company in 1957.
In June 2009 the former Ipperwash Provincial Park control, once part of the Stoney Point reserve, was formally transferred during a celebrated ceremony at the park, near the sight where protester Dudley George was killed Labour Day weekend 1995. The Pinery Park was not part of that deal.
In 1929, 337 acres of land from the reserve were sold to private stakeholders. In the 1930s there was a public outcry for a park and the province bought 109 of these acres that became Ipperwash Park in 1936. September 5, 1995, after the vacationers left for the season, native protesters, including Dudley George began an occupation claiming a burial ground. During the skirmish George was killed and the park has remained closed since. There has never been an official land claim on this piece of property.