Camp Ipperwash has finally been returned to Native hands after being expropriated by the federal government 53 years ago.

Several dozen members of the Kettle and Stony Point band had set up camps on the land, which was being used by the army for small-arms practice.

In late July, a band member crashed a school bus through the large door of the base’s drill hall, then rammed a military jeep that had pulled up from behind.

Other Native people then occupied surrounding army buildings and set up a barricade. The action forced the last of about 50 military police to pull out of Camp Ipperwash, located on Lake Huron about 45 km northeast of Sarnia.

Ottawa expropriated 1, 100 hectares of land from the band during World War II for military use. In 1980, the federal government agreed to pay $2.5 million in compensation and promised to give the land back when it was no longer needed.

The military finally agreed to vacate the base on Aug. 16, but that apparently was not soon enough for band members.

“The action to chase the military off the land was intended to be exactly like what the military did to our ancestors— throw them off the land,” said Tom Bressette, Chief of the band, in a news article.

A feast was held to celebrate the return of the land to the band.