Editorial: Counting the cost of unsettling land claims

If we discount the Doctrine of Discovery and the fraudulent surrender of 1841, most of Ontario (and Canada for that matter) still belongs to the original land holders who we might call the Onkwehon:we – the real people. When non-native people recognize this truth then there is room for an authentic friendship based upon understanding.

When non-native people do not recognize this truth it can become the most unsettling situation.

Based upon the oral tradition from Cayuga Wolf Chief Cleveland General, the Six Nations leased lands to the Queen’s People and gave them permission to dig to the depth of the plow along plank road which is now known as Highway #6. When a Chief speaks this way with the backing of his clan, it is as good as law and has more authority than the European history books.

So if we have leased huge tracts of land to the Queen’s People then why are we filing land claims in the Queen’s Courts to find justice? What’s the difference between claiming and reclaiming land? And what of the huge tracts of lands that were neither leased, nor sold but outright stolen?

The Queen’s lawyers have said that possession is 9 tenths of the law so it would seem as though indigenous people feel that getting something is better than getting nothing. We therefore file legal papers in hopes of seeing some form of restitution for the millions of square miles lost from colonization.

“Winning” a land claim court case is possibly the saddest post-colonial catastrophe for any indigenous nation. Exchanging an everlasting slice of Mother Earth’s covering for a one-time payment is an act of pure desperation. If nothing else it latches a previously autonomous and sovereign nation securely to the breast of capitalism.

Usually these tragedies are caused by interference of the imposed Band Councils but even worse than that is when our legitimate traditional council sells the land rights on behalf of everyone.

Settling a land claim case in a provincial court is the nail in the coffin for indigenous self-governance and autonomy. When we recognize that land title belongs to the Queen in paper and not within the blood of our Clan Mothers this ancient legacy has ended and there is nothing left to discuss.

One day our people will rise again with the intrinsic authority that they have had all along. The fraudulent deals will be exposed and the darkness will fade away. Our visitors will recognize indigenous title and the old relationship will be rekindled.

We will find a way for both of our economies to co-exist side by side the way it was meant to be. No one will have to leave and there will be peace. Our way of life has been disrupted for too long. Canadians will someday teach their children the truth about the past when they have changed their ways.

As it stands today there is no reconciliation because there is no justice. Wab Kinew has written that indigenous people need to become successful to find reconciliation. Shouldn’t the onus be upon the perpetrator to fix their abusive behaviour?

For non-native people in Canada today the issue of unsettled land claims is worrying. If indigenous people do own the land their country is built upon then what right do Canadians have to exist? This allegation penetrates to the very heart of white settler guilt and is the root cause for rampant racism in USA and Canada alike.

The courts refuse to recognize the trillion dollar land claims for the millions of acres that were leased and flat out deny that any was stolen. The hidden cost for ignoring the truth of indigenous title will be an unbearable burden of guilt that must be carried for the long haul. And we as title holders have every right to remind our guests that the bill hasn’t been paid.

We will write about stolen land in newspapers. Our musicians will sing songs about it and indigenous rappers will rap about it. Our politicians will give speeches about it. Our Ph.D.’s will write dissertations about it. As shown at Douglas Creek which is now known as Kanonstahton, our men and women are willing to die over it.

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