OHSWEKEN – Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill shared her thoughts towards this upcoming year. Its potential challenges and successes, from the Elected Council’s perspective.
While recognizing the seemingly widening canyon between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) and the Elective system, Hill insists that as long as their council continues to invite dialogue between the two bodies and receives no response, the community must move forward, with or without them.
“I don’t think we have a relationship with the Confederacy at this point,” said Hill. “Since I have been in this office I have written to them a number of times asking for a meeting together, and they have never replied. The last time we met with them was last May. Allan McNaughton said I never told him what I wanted talk about, but I did. I wanted talk about what we could work on for the mutual benefit of the entire community. That’s the last I have heard.”
Hill challenges the Confederacy to help with the financial commitment to complete water piping to all residences on the reserve.
“We know that they have been getting money and the need for water lines for the whole community, and the money they have been collecting is supposed to be for the community,” said Hill. “We wrote them in August to see if we could apply for some of that funding for the waterline.”
“We’re going to keep on seeking funding to at least get water to everybody in the community. We’ve got that big water treatment plant that can service the whole community.
“We are working hard with the federal government trying to get money because the schools are federal schools. They own them and we are trying to at least get piping to I.L. Thomas School and O.M. Smith School. Also, down Fourth Line to the Oneida Business Park.”
She also said that she would like to see something done in regards to wage parity to begin bridging that gap among Band Council employees.
Sometime early this year Hill will be meeting with the senior staff to address wage parity issues and to come up with a plan to bring the wages between men and women doing the same job up to par.
They will also be setting priorities for the future and the use of funds derived from the Brantford Casino agreement, using the input from those who have feet on the ground in various capacities, and will know better what those needs are.
More advocacy visits to Ottawa will be on the agenda this year now that Canada has a Prime Minister who at least will listen to the longstanding concerns of Six Nations.
“We took our senior staff to Ottawa a couple of years ago and I think it paid off,” said Hill. “Not only do we need their expertise, but it’s also a chance to teach some of our staff how to get up there and speak with parliamentarians.”
Hill refers to a lot of needs within the community that need to be addressed which the Casino money will certainly help towards.
What about the relationship between the Elected Band Council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council? Hill is not optimistic that the ice between the two will melt anytime soon.
“Our door is still open and we have not heard back from them,” said Hill. “But we have to keep moving forward.”
“I believe there is a role for everybody. It’s too bad that we can’t even get in the same room and talk about things.”
Looking back at 2017, Hill points to an issue which almost everyone in the community can feel personally affected by — the removal of delivery charges to on-reserve hydro bills.
“When I was told the delivery charges were being waved, it was kind of emotional for me because I had put a lot of work towards this,” she said. “And it wasn’t just for Six Nations, it was for every First Nation person living on a reserve in Ontario. We were the leader in this and it was Six Nations who did it. I have received a lot of thank you messages from other First Nations for it.”
Hill advises, if you find you are still being charged delivery fees, look at your bill and see if you are being taxed. If so, call and get that fixed right away.
“I know my bill has gone down 50 per cent,” said Hill.
The exemption does not apply to band owned businesses and schools at this time, but Hill will be working on this in 2018.