BURTCH – On Sunday, another log was put on the fire that burns between the Elected Council, Provincial government and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council over who can and cannot plant crops this year on the Burtch lands.
Six Nations farmer Ed Green began planting Sunday despite the province’s declaration that they wanted no one to plant on the Burtch lands until an agreement can be reached between the Six Nations people, Longhouse and Band Council over who will receive the land when transferred. A deadline of June 16th was arbitrarily imposed by the province, by which time the parties were to have a Trust Corporation set up.
“I guess they are trying to dictate who can and can’t plant here,” said farmer Ed Green Sunday morning. “All I am going by is that the Confederacy gave me the lease to plant here and gave me the go ahead, so I’m planting and here we are.”
As complex as some have tried to make it, Green sees it as simple as that.
“If the Chiefs didn’t want me here I wouldn’t be,” said Green. “They came to me and asked me to plant here. I didn’t go to them.”
Tobacco is the primary crop now in the soil on about 220 acres, which will be sold primarily to local Six Nations cigarette manufacturers when harvested, along with five acres of Blue Corn previously planted.
Offering encouragement and support to Green Sunday morning were about a dozen men just in case someone attempted to stop the planting. No one did and the day ended peacefully.
Among those in support of Ed Green was Lester Green, a member of the Men’s Fire.
“I know this (arrangement) is going to be good,” he said. “I know he is going to be donating a lot back into the community. He always has.”
Bill Monture, also of the Men’s Fire agrees.
“It’s good to see our people up here,” said Monture. “He gives a lot back to the community. He is one of many who do while [also] exerting our rights.”
The former training airfield used during WWII was converted into a correctional facility when the war ended. Since it closed, title to the land has been under scrutiny – with Six Nations Band Council, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council and the Mohawks of the Grand River all claiming interest. But one thing they do agree on is that the 360-acre plot of land was never sold or given up by the people of Six Nations. It is part of the land that was originally leased to David Burtch for 999 years by Joseph Brant himself.
During his life, Burtch was approached by several people intent on purchasing parts of the plot but he always refused, stating that he could not sell it since it was under lease, but he did sublease portions of it in the very early 1800’s.
In 2006, amidst the struggle over a housing development in Caledonia, former Premier David Peterson negotiated an end to the road blockades by promising to transfer title to the Burtch land and other similar plots of contested land in exchange.
Now that the land has been remediated and the Province is ready to make good on the promise, a snag has prevented the transaction from be consummated. The Province wants to place the land in Trust with a corporation created by the Elected Council designed expressly to receive the land on behalf of the people. The traditional Council refuses to receive the land in that manner, fearing taxation and other restrictions put on it by the province.
Since 2006, Jesse Porter and other Six Nations Agricultural Association members planted and harvested soya beans with a good part of the profits going to the Confederacy Council, which gave its blessing. Last year there was a moratorium put in place preventing planting.
This year, Ed Green insists he was given exclusive right to plant by the Chiefs Council, leaving Jesse Porter and the SNAA, whose 5-year lease arrangement with HCCC ran out and was not renewed, out of it.
Although the land has already been placed under the HCCC land registry system, the province does not recognize that entity and believes it still maintains authority over the land until it is officially transferred.
Elected Chief Ava Hill and her Council are still working towards finding a resolution before the provincially imposed June 16th deadline. From Hill’s perspective, the people need to be engaged before they or the HCCC make arbitrary decisions regarding the Burtch land and who can and cannot plant, that is if the people want it planted at all.
Hill is not taking that point for granted and suggests that maybe the people would rather it be developed for housing or some other use.
But in the meantime, the soil has been tilled, the tobacco planted and if all goes well with rainfall and the weather, Green will be harvesting tobacco by the end of August, if not before.