The Red Hill Stories of Struggle Project is a community-based initiative to preserve and learn from the struggle to defend the Red Hill Valley in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. We are using oral history interviews and a range of other methods to ensure that the stories from this pivotal moment of activism and organizing in our community are not forgotten, with the aim of informing the many struggles that are ongoing in our community (and elsewhere) today.
The project is being led by Jane Mulkewich and Scott Neigh, and it is supported by the Centre for Community Engaged Narrative Arts at McMaster University.
Jane Mulkewich first learned about the Red Hill Creek valley as a geography student at McMaster University. When the NDP government cancelled provincial funding for the Red Hill Expressway in the 1990s, she was on the front line of communicating with the public as a constituency assistant for a local Member of Provincial Parliament.
Later she worked for the Hamilton Police Service for eight years in an anti-racism and community relations role, and when Haudenosaunee representatives laid claim to the valley, Jane educated herself about indigenous history and treaty rights to write briefing memos for the police.
Jane was working in the equity office at McMaster University at the height of the struggle in the valley; she took on a key organizing role with the Showstoppers and civil disobedience strategies, and kept the email list and compiled and distributed daily updates.
She became one of the trustees for the legal defense fund (based on Haudenosaunee treaty rights). Her experiences in the struggle were a catalyst for Jane to attend law school, to better understand how Indigenous people had become alienated from their land.
She studied law at the University of Western Ontario and was called to the bar in 2009, and has worked in family law, criminal law, human rights law and labour law.
Jane is also a writer, and co-authored a chapter about the struggle to stop the Red Hill expressway in a book called Environmental Conflicts and Democracy in Canada published in 2009. Jane has been Chair of the Board of the Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre for almost ten years and is currently a labour lawyer for UFCW Local 175.
Scott Neigh is a writer, activist, and media producer currently living in Hamilton, Ontario. Though he subsequently moved away for over a decade, he also lived in Hamilton during the peak years of the struggle to defend the valley. He was not centrally involved, but he participated in events and occasionally covered the struggle in the locally-focused grassroots media work that he was doing over a portion of that period.
Scott is the author of two books of Canadian history told through the stories of activists. He is also the producer and host of Talking Radical Radio, a weekly show organized around in-depth interviews with people involved in a wide range of social change work from across the country – it broadcasts on 8 or 10 stations in different communities and is podcast via Rabble.ca. Along with this project and the radio show, he is also working on another book project, is currently involved in grassroots efforts connected to climate change, tar sands, and pipelines, and occasionally writes things for the blog that he has maintained since 2004.