HDI asks Ontario Court to name them rightful government, remove elected council from land claim

By Donna Duric and Nahnda Garlow

Chiefs say their “citizens” are the rightful claimants, only those with matrilineal Haudenosaunee ancestry

SIX NATIONS — HDI is taking Six Nations governance struggles straight where hereditary leaders and grassroots Ongwehonwe said they would never go — beneath the jurisdiction of an Ontario judge — granting the provincial court a voice and final say over who is the true government of Six Nations.

The HDI, represented by the firm Gilbert’s Law, filed a draft statement of defence, counterclaim and crossclaim last month, on Sept. 9, 2022 — seeking to intervene in the Six Nations land claim. SNGR filed the Haldimand Tract litigation on March 7, 1995.

Now, in their Draft Statement of Defence, Counterclaim and Crossclaim — HDI, who are noted in the court filings as Aaron Detlor and Brian Doolittle, say they are the only entity able to speak for the rights of the Haudenosaunee citizens of the Confederacy — and that those individuals along with the HCCC and not the Six Nations band membership, are the ones entitled to compensation in the land claim.

HDI is asking an Ontario judge to issue “a declaration” that the Elected Council is not the “collective rightsholder”, that the HCCC is the holder of Six Nations collective rights and “the only entity entitled to the relief sought in the Statement of Claim on behalf of and for the benefit of all Haudenosaunee.”

The HDI is also submitting to the court their official perspective on who and how a person is considered Haudenosaunee — bringing Haudenosaunee identity away from the people and before a provincial court and external governments for deliberation.

The HDIs claim continually references “Haudenosaunee citizens” as the rightful heirs to any compensation granted for the Haldimand Tract, and not the Six Nations band membership.

HDI relied on clarification of what makes a “Haudenosaunee citizen” from Colin Martin, who identifies himself as an apprentice of the culture and faithkeeper.

Martin submitted an affidavit, claiming that the HCCC is representing Haudenosaunee citizens from across the United States and Canada — about 108,000 band or tribal registered Haudenosaunee people — but says that Haudenosaunee Citizenship is limited to only those with matrilineal Haudenosaunee ancestry.

The current land claim as filed by SNGR represents the Six Nations band membership list of 28,000 and currently does not rely on matrilineal descent.

Historically, Indian status and band membership in Canada was only traced through the lines of the father. However, Indian Affairs, as it was called at the time, changed its protocols in the 1990s to allow women to pass status down to their children.

The claim does not explain how the HDI will represent the interests of Haudenosaunee band/tribal registrants without matrilineal Haudenosaunee ancestry, if at all.

Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council says it will fight to ensure only the band can represent the community.

SNGR said in a press release: “The HDI wants to ask the court to hold that the proper party to the Haldimand Proclamation is the whole Haudenosaunee Confederacy and not the Six Nations of the Grand River. They are also asking the court to hold that the Six Nations of the Grand River cannot bring this claim and that only the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, on behalf of the whole Haudenosaunee Confederacy, can bring or negotiate this claim.”

SNGR argued that the Haldimand Deed was “explicitly granted to the said Mohawk Nation and such others of the Five Nation Indians as wish to settle in that quarter [along the Grand River] … which them and their posterity are to enjoy for ever.”

“This self-governing community of Mohawks and such others of our nations is today legally recognized as Six Nations of the Grand River and has brought litigation as an integral First Nation against Canada and Ontario for compensation from the Crown relating to the Haldimand Tract,” SNGR said.

According to SNGR, officials with the federal Justice Department have warned the Attorney General that the case is “high risk” to the government and “will result in a significant damage award that would dramatically benefit our community at Six Nations. But the HDI motion seeks to jeopardize our community’s ability to benefit from our collective rights.”

SNGR says it is preparing a response to HDl’s claim.

“We will vigorously defend the entitlement of the Six Nations of the Grand River to bring and benefit from this claim and any judgement or settlement.”

According to an affidavit, submitted by Haudenosaunee Development Institute’s President Brian Doolittle, a Zoom meeting was held on April 2, 2022 where ten of the hereditary leaders at the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council directed Doolittle to file an application for intervener status in the Six Nations land claim — inviting an Ontario judge within the Superior Court of Justice voice to have the final say on Six Nations governance struggles.

Doolittle’s affadavit says, “At this meeting, the HCCC resolved to authorize HDI to intervene in this litigation to represent the interests of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.”

Doolittle says just ten hereditary chiefs were present to make that decision: Mohawk Chief Alan MacNaughton; Oneida Chiefs Al Day and Arnold Hill; Cayuga titleholders Steve Jacobs, Steve Maracle and Roger Silversmith; and Onondaga title holders Cleve Thomas, Kervin Williams and Toby Williams.

Doolittle’s affidavit also references Tom Jonathan as chief sitting with the Younger Brothers and possibly an Oneida or Cayuga chief but the HCCCs roster of hereditary title holders does not show that individual named.

The claim, motion records and other court documents were posted publicly online in September by order of the courts and notices sent to various media outlets and communities in Canada and the USA.

HDI rep Aaron Detlor did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

It is expected that the court will hear the HDI request to become involved in the case from Jan. 30 to 31, 2023. The case is expected to go to trial sometime in early 2024.

SNGR says that community members who have concerns or opposition to the claim being brought by HDI, members can email those concerns to Tim@gilbertslaw.ca, tdumigan@gilbertslaw.ca and Dylan@gilbertslaw.ca. The concerns can also be shared internally to Six Nations ombudsman Joe Martin at snyeri@sixnations.ca and those concerns will be brought to the attention of the Court.

Full details on the HDI claim can be found here.

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