Former HDI archaeological manager alleges hostile work environment as reason for leaving

Wayne Hill spent 11 years building the archaeological department for the Haudenosaunee Development Institute before he was, without explanation, told to take a pay cut of almost half his original salary or be terminated — all during a record year of profit.

Hill provided the Two Row Times with a series of emails from 2021 and a grievance letter to the HCCC that details his negative experience with HDI after a disagreement with HDI Director/internal counsel Aaron Detlor over archaeological work with Metrolinx.

The letter lays out a pattern of systemic workplace bullying, financial abuse and psychological harm directed at Hill by HDIs internal counsel Aaron Detlor.

The abusive behaviour increased, Hill says, following a conflict over several issues including ethics surrounding archeological work at a Metrolinx site.

Hill says after a negotiations conflict with Metrolinx in October 2021, Detlor insisted that Hill stop doing archeological work around a Metrolinx site and that HDI and Metrolinx were headed to court.

“We are currently in litigation with them and don’t want to proceed with monitoring because they are going to use it as evidence of consent,” wrote Detlor.

Hill objected and said it was not ethical for the Indigenous archeological team to cease work while other teams carried on doing digs without HDIs monitors on site. He asked Detlor why it was best to have zero participation on the ground and also expressed concern to Detlor that the issues between HDI and Metrolinx were headed to Canadian courts that do not typically favour Haudenosaunee rights.

In response, Detlor sent an email to Hill, copying a crew of 9 other people involved with HDI and HCCC, pulled rank on Hill, saying he was speaking as an “HDI delegate appointed by the HCCC” and went on to invite Hill to a meeting to discuss “termination of your relationship with HDI.”

Archaeology was Hill’s life’s passion. Before he worked with HDI he tried to create a self-sustaining archaeological business that specifically focused on Indigenous artifacts within the province of Ontario.

He admits it was a challenge.

“During the early days, the involvement of Haudenosaunee people within Ontario archaeology was non-existent and opportunities were not afforded due to the colonial nature of archaeology,”

He said rejections from developers were routine and in 2010, he approached the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) about starting an archaeological program.

Hill says he built the entire HDI Archeology program from the ground up, bringing ten years of experience in the industry with him.

Hill said, “The initial five years of the HDI archaeological program was intense and exhausting.”

Police threats were constant, he said, but over the years, he built up a reputation and developed a program that employed community members as archaeological monitors and also brought in millions of dollars in revenue.

He built countless relationships with archaeologists, developers, politicians, and government officials over the years as the HDI began signing contract after contract on land under development within the province.

Those contracts provided millions in archaeological capacity funding, in order to ensure any Indigenous artifacts found were treated with the respect they deserved, and that all work was undertaken in accordance with provincial law when it came to archaeology.

Every year, the HDI would hire dozens of archaeological monitors to oversee digs at land sites under development in the province.

Funding for the HDI’s archaeological program provided the lion’s share of HDI revenue over the years.

Hill had found his calling.

Hill says he is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of his life’s work.

After the conflict with Detlor in October, Hill remained with HDI after a conflict resolution meeting he got some assurance that the bullying would stop.

It didn’t.

On November 2, Detlor emailed Hill sending him a new contract with a significant pay reduction, saying “…we undertook an independent review of salary for archaeologists, archeological managers and senior environmental project managers. The contract that you have been offered puts you at almost double the amount at would be earned in terms of a comparable assessment in terms of skills, education, experience and responsibilities.”

Hill said he was told the HDI had conducted an independent review of his position to come up with his new salary, but said he was puzzled because he had actually never been given a job description of his role and duties.

He said he was given eight days to sign the contract, which did not provide him enough time to review it.

On Nov. 15, 2021, Hill said he was told to accept the new contract at a reduced hourly rate or face termination from his position as archaeological supervisor.

Hill says he eventually parted ways in December 2021 after his pay was reduced almost in half without explanation.

In an email on December 14, Hill pressed Detlor and HDIs Finance Officer Rick Saul for answers, saying he did not consent to a change in his income. Detlor responded the next day in an email saying “We have simply implemented the agreed to terms set out in the contract that you entered into with HDI.”

Detlor also added that all questions Hill had should go directly to Detlor, and not to the Finance department.

Hill said his next hope was to involve the HCCC in terms of his contract and work he did with the HDI but was told the HCCC had no say in his employment.

Detlor again wrote to Hill on December 22 and said “…HCCC does not involve itself in employment or contractural matters involving HDI.”

There is no Human Resources department at the HDI, said Hill. There is no official director or official chain of command that he answered to, he said.

Hill has now drafted a grievance letter for the HCCC to review and says it will be brought to the HCCC council this coming Saturday in pursuit of some justice.

As part of the grievance, Hill is asking the HCCC to endorse him in an individual pursuit as a private archaeological business operating within Haudenosaunee territory.


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