A local woman spoke with Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council last week as they pondered how to bring unity to the community, especially in light of the Six Nations land claims litigation finally going before the courts in 2024.
The case, known as the Six Nations of the Grand River Litigation (SNGR Litigation) seeks an accounting from the Crown on the loss of almost one million acres of land in the Haldimand Tract, a parcel of land six miles on either side of the Grand River deeded to Six Nations in 1784.
Six Nations elected council filed the case in 1995 but in 2022, two different motions to intervene in the case were also filed, with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) and Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) both seeking to participate in the litigation.
A third group, the Six Nations Men’s Fire, sought to argue against the HDI’s intervention.
The motions played out in court in May with a Toronto judge denying the HDI participation but granting MCFN to be a party to the case.
Six Nations woman Jacquelyn House told elected council last week she believed the HDI should have had a role in the trial, as she brought up concerns about another housing subdivision being constructed in the nearby town of Caledonia on contested Six Nations land on McClung Road.
She said Haudenosaunee people have a special relationship with the land.
“We are a unique people and what makes us unique is the way the Creator brought us into the world, which makes us special with that responsibility and instructions to the land.”
The Haudenosaunee are stewards of the land, she said.
“We are Haudenosaunee first and foremost. I don’t know what that means to you but to me that comes with a lot of responsibility to each other, to the outside and most importantly, the Creator.”
With 2024 looming, when the SNGR litigation trial is scheduled to begin, it also falls during the 100th anniversary of the installation of the elected band council here at Six Nations.
House said “there are many tales” as to how that transpired.
“I’m not trying to be rude or ignorant. The fear of extinction is real. Our treaties are not historical; they remain in effect, so my big question is, where did the treaty relationships lie? With band council or the Confederacy? That is a very big question of today especially with this court case coming up. When I look in the papers I am very very hurt; very saddened about what I’m reading and it’s made public. To me, it doesn’t look very good on all of us. And this is exactly what Canada wants: is division.”
Elected Council is leading the charge on the SNGR litigation.
“When I look at this court case I’m very disturbed about it,” said House. “You can go in and talk about what you want,” she told council, “but the treaty relationship is most significant.”
The HDI, in its submissions in May, had argued the treaties were made with the HCCC before elected council was installed and therefore, should have a say in the court case seeking an accounting of the loss of Six Nations lands and revenues from the Haldimand Tract.
“I want to know more about this court case. I want my voice heard,” said House. “If I decide that HDI is the one that’s going to get my voice heard why is that wrong?”
Elected Chief Mark Hill said the court case has been in the works for the past 28 years.
“This was something that was based on the community at that time wanting to do something. That is when we received the direction to do that, to have Canada and Ontario be accountable. The whole purpose of the court case is the accounting of the lands.”
The elected Chief told House there is a Website that has every single bit of documentation relating to the court case for community consumption and knowledge.
But he admitted the community is divided.
“We are divided,” elected Chief Hill said. “It’s the same tactics the government uses; it’s that divide and conquer. We let it happen at times but we could also be that bridge to fix it. It’s time to get on this healing path and it’s time we do it together.”
Hill said that neither he nor elected councillors were sitting in their elected positions to give up Six Nations’ rights.
“We’re not sitting in these chairs to eliminate our rights. We’re further fighting for them. It’s like a game of chess. Every move is strategic, whether we’re working from the inside or out. Legislation is being pushed down our throats and we don’t have time to keep up or catch up.”
He told House Six Nations council never intends to turn the community into a municipality.
“We’re not agreeing to that. We never have. We are not a municipality. We will never be a municipality.”
The elected Chief said he wanted to hear practical ideas to move the community’s rights forward, as well as become more united.
“We need to have practical steps to actionize what we’re saying.”
Coun. Greg Frazer said elected council challenges the government every chance it gets.
“They are such a huge, huge organization that’s dedicated to minimizing us. The barrage of the tactics they use to separate us, to keep us in poverty; we’re constantly battling (for) funding and treaty rights. Unity is going to be crucial moving forward. Why are we fighting? We’re stronger together.”
Coun. Hazel Johnson said elected council has tried to hold meetings to come together with the HCCC.
“Love can build a bridge right?” Johnson said. “Maybe that’s what we need.”