HDI Legal Consultant Aaron Detlor and HDI Director Hazel Hill held a meeting for the public in the auditorium at the G.R.E.A.T building on Thursday, August 27.
At the door to the auditorium, a woman affiliated with the “women representing Six Nations of the Grand River,” handed out a sheet of notice to members of the meeting. The notice detailed that the women “believe HDI has committed treason.”
The notice also read, “After unsuccessful attempts to engage HDI in an open and community led process of transparency and accountability, it has become evident that our questions are not being answered. This is a cease and desist notice that the Haudenosaunee Development Institute has broken the peace and no longer represents the people of Six Nations in good faith.”
“Any further negotiations by the Haudenosaunee Development Institute claiming to represent the people of Six Nations of the Grand River are immediately null and void. Any negotiations engaged in with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute after August 27, 2015 will be considered in contempt of the people of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy at the Six Nations of the Grand River,” reads the notice.
Attendees from Oneida, the Men’s Fire, confederacy Clanmothers and members of Six Nations were able to voice questions as Detlor and Hill explained a PowerPoint involving the projects of HDI. One of the projects in particular helped in the development of the Everlasting Tree School.
“We’ve negotiated a number of agreements that resulted in a little over 7.5 million dollars a year for 20 years, with a twenty year life. Keeping in mind that the community has said with us, with respect to benefits to the community and this goes directly to your point ‘how do the people benefit?’ A portion of the money, you’ll see there, comes into a Land Acquisition Fund which is set up to acquire land for the people,” said Detlor.
He further explained that the land that may be reacquired can be within Haldimand Tract, but is not limited to it.
“Difficulty is that we have third parties on the land. People that came to us don’t know the history of the land, they don’t know how they acquired the land, and they don’t know that the Haudenosaunee still have underlying title to the land. That it’s actually Haudenosaunee land. We call them, technically the term is the ‘innocent third party,’” said Detlor.
He explained that the people that would be moving from the land that was reacquired, would be given fair compensation. He said that those individuals will be “compensated for their improvements to the land,” as to not technically “buy” it from them as a way to have those individuals willingly move off of the land.
This caused questions, as members of the public mentioned the number of people on Six Nations that don’t vote or attend open meetings to give their consensus. Another asked who held the authority to buy the land in the first place.
“It was actually the Chiefs and the Clanmothers that told us to do this, the Confederacy Council,” said Detlor.
A barrage of questions pelted Detlor, as he tried to explain that HDI puts all of this information in their reports, but the Confederacy Council “keeps their minutes” and disagreed with the idea of publicizing them on a website.
“We are accountable because we report to Council every month,” said Detlor, further explaining that the Pauline Johnson land was bought under the Confederacy Council’s agreement. The question as to “who council is, which Chiefs,” was thrown and Detlor could not offer an answer, but Hill explained.
“Nobody takes attendance at Council,” said Hill, “I don’t remember them all off-hand, but I can go back and check my minutes,” she said.
The questions were pelted again and the tension in the room grew thick. Detlor then explained food sustainability and housing on the land that has been and will be acquired, and the plan behind reacquiring the land along with a method of “decolonization.”
A member of the Men’s Fire stood to remind members of the meeting that Detlor and Hill are “two people trying to do the best they can,” and that the meeting was called to inform, not to give an opportunity to fight. Later into the meeting, Elvera Garlow stood to speak in defense HDI.
“These people are working, really hard. And it’s not for themselves, it’s not for themselves. They have to make a living, they have to put bread on the table for their children and grandchildren,” said Clanmother Elvera Garlow.
“Anyway, I just think that a lot of things go on that have been helping the confederacy. You may not know about it, but it’s been a long time since we stood up our Chiefs and that’s what we have to do is support those Chiefs and support those Clanmothers. Not put them down, put them up, hold them up,” she finished.
After another series of questions that were already answered, a pair from Oneida left the meeting after not being given the chance to ask their questions, and several other departed.