Non-Haudenosaunee lawyers at front lines of Haudenosaunee treaty rights while real Haudenosaunee people being exiled

Two Row Times received a joint statement from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council and the Haudenosaunee Development Institute on Thursday. The statement was emailed to us directly from HDI lawyer Aaron Detlor and was forwarded along to five other local journalists from Six Nations, Hamilton and Mississauga — claiming articles that have been written about the situation surrounding the Chedoke Creek cleanup and the delays brought on by HDI and HCCC are “designed to defame HDI”.

Case in point that the HDI/HCCC do not tolerate criticism well, and expect unbridled support regardless of what the facts are in a given issue.

While to external communities HDI puts their best foot forward, here on Six Nations the treatment toward anyone not on board is more akin to an abusive step-parent who has disdain for an unwanted step-child.

The documented history of the council writing official letters claiming certain folks they don’t agree with are ‘outside the circle’ is evidence enough that when you upset the right people for your actions, or mistakes, the consequences are severe and unforgiving.

In the 1990s, the HCCC and Grand Council at Onondaga wrote a letter condemning violence at Akwesasne — disinheriting the Mohawk people from their treaty rights entirely who were involved in that dispute. It was a severe dispute to be sure — two people died — but even Canada doesn’t remove the rights of Canadians when they act outside the law.

In 2013, the HCCC said the Mohawks at Kanata were “outside the sanctity and protection of the Great Law” and again in 2018 — they named five men from the Men’s Fire as no longer a part of the national Haudenosaunee community. This practice of targeting certain people, isolating them and removing them entirely from the nation is happening at the same time that the HCCC and HDI are adding the voices of non-Indigenous people, and paying them generously for speaking on our behalf.

While HCCC/HDI demands nation-to-nation engagements with the Crown, and claims the Crown can’t legally delegate it’s authority to another representative in order to engage in consultation and accommodations — HDI is not giving the treaty rights of the Haudenosaunee the same respect.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council has completely off-loaded all of its nation-to-nation engagements to HDI — who in turn have nearly completely offloaded those same tasks to not one, not two, but three separate law firms.

Yep that’s right — three. Three whole law firms, each with teams of four or more non-Haudenosaunee Canadian lawyers leading discussions and writing the historical record of how Canada settles land and treaty rights with the Haudenosaunee.

Currently, while Aaron Detlor serves as “internal counsel”, the law firms of Cavaluzzo Law, Shillers LLP and Gilberts LLP are claiming that they represent the Haudenosaunee people on a number of issues including but not limited to the treaty rights of the Haudenosaunee and Haudenosaunee governance.

We have a hunch there is a lot of ‘whitesplaining’ going on in those rooms. And their talk isn’t cheap. The lawyers currently representing the chiefs and clan mothers are fiddling to the tune of around $330 an hour according to documentation obtained by TRT.

In the meantime, HDIs self described “internal counsel” is off doing his own thing — targeting the Assembly of First Nations as he takes on his new role as the personal lawyer of AFN National Chief RoseAnn Archibald in the on-going battle against her almost-removal last year. Representatives who attended AFN confirmed that Detlor was sitting alongside Archibald, at times speaking for her in the assembly.

And he was not alone. By his side was one of HDIs other lawyers, David Shiller, who also represented Detlor in his claim against the Men’s Fire after he was forcibly removed from the GREAT building in 2016.

Another non-Indigenous face is emerging among the Detlor clique — former AFN Communication and Policy adviser Bryan Hendry, who was credited recently as a “spokesperson” for HDI.

It’s dizzying.

So HDI is the delegate, who has delegated more than 14 non-Haudenosaunee other delegates to the very front lines of their “consultation and accommodations” work to speak in place of the actual Haudenosaunee people.

Where are the chiefs? Perhaps a better question is where are the women?

According to Haudenosaunee tradition — all the Mothers hold the lands, Chief and Warrior titles and bring forward the Coming Faces. It is with the women that the authority over our territory sits. Or is this another layer of delegation?

Traditionally — ours is a system of delegations in a way. The people deputize a clan mother, who deputizes a chief to speak on their behalf. But the matters have to come back to the people before there can be another layer of delegation here. Neither HDI, nor the hereditary chiefs have authority or free reign to create new layers of delegates to speak for the Haudenosaunee.

Who approved this message? And who speaks for the Haudenosaunee anyways?

Which brings us to our final question. The joint HCCC/HDI statement that came to local journalists recently does not appear to have been an item on the last HCCC agenda. Did the statement even get seen by the hereditary chiefs and clan mothers for discussion and consensus before it was sent? With one of Six Nations clan families engaged in bereavement last week, it would seem that could not have been possible.

The sole contact to speak to with questions about the statement, as directed in the statement, was Aaron Detlor. What happened to the new “spokesperson” Bryan Hendry?

It’s unfortunate but it appears that HDI is falling into the old cycle of having a ‘separate doors’ approach — making wild claims about their own people, disinheriting true Haudenosaunee people, saying multiple Haudenosaunee people are “outside the circle” while non-Indigenous business and legal types are getting the red carpet treatment, being armed with full information and being paid top dollar to speak for us instead.


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