Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Chief Mark Hill is calling on the community to unify — saying hereditary and elected leaders need to listen to the voices in the community seeking the two bodies to work together.
Hill pointed to the recent federal budget announcement, promising $18 billion for Indigenous initiatives across the country. Hill says community leadership need to collaboratively hold Canada and Ontario accountable and pursue funding to care for elders, language programming and waterline hookups — specifically pointing to funding for a new building for the language-immersion school Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo.
He said the school is a key language institution that aims to strengthen community traditional knowledge.
The school began operating over 30 years ago and is a full immersion school where students partake in studies in one of the Haudenosaunee languages. But the school is without its own space and has been actively fundraising the roughly $12 million needed to construct a new building for years. Land for the school has already been designated behind Six Nations Polytechnic on Fourth Line Road.
“Kawenni:io is in need of a real school building,” said Chief Hill. “Six Nations has a chance to come together and work towards providing for this community need.”
He said Six Nations leaders will be engaging with the federal government to pursue funding for the new school building.
“There are a whole host of additional opportunities for us to come together to support,” said Chief Hill.
This is the first council in over a decade to hold regular meetings with hereditary chiefs.
Virtual meetings began late last year to develop a framework for approaching the federal government regarding Six Nations’ land rights.
The pandemic has hampered the ability to meet more frequently, said elected Chief Hill, but, “our elected council remains committed to meeting with the Confederacy Chiefs and Clanmothers,” he said. “We have much to cover during these important discussions so Six Nations can remain a stronger nation. Our people are counting on us to work together.”
The elected Chief said he’s “optimistic” about the conversations between the two councils thus far.
He acknowledged last week’s announcement from the HCCC calling for a moratorium on development on contested Six Nations lands unless developers agree to work with the HCCC.
“We acknowledge their call for the moratorium,” said Chief Hill stopping short of supporting that call. When asked by reporters if he supported the hereditary chiefs call requiring developers work through the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, Hill pivoted to focus on listening to what the people are saying.
“Our people have said they would like to see our two bodies work together. What that looks like, that’s the big question. We have to hold Ontario and Canada accountable. We need to figure this out once and for all because Six Nations can be a very strong nation. It’s a matter of getting Ontario and Canada on the same page (as us).”
Chief Hill also addressed the long millions of dollars in tobacco excise tax leaving Six Nations, saying that $200 million leaves the community in excise taxes each year from just one producer. Hill said his hope is for the community to see those excise taxes returned to Six Nations, saying it is something he has his eye on in light of the upcoming breech of trust claim — headed to courts in 2022. Hill says the federal government owes Six Nations “trillions” in that case.
When asked what he saw as the immediate issues facing the hereditary and elected leaders from working collaboratively together Hill said people need to better understand each other, come from a good place and prioritize the voices of people in the community.