BRANTFORD – Bill Monture and Lester Green of Six Nations are in court this week and next facing charges of assault for the physical removal of the Haudenosaunee Development Institutes’ lawyer Aaron Detlor from HDI offices in April 2016.
The Crown heard Detlor’s testimony Thursday June 15 and Defence Attorney Andrew Furgiuele cross-examined him in regards to the removal, which took place on April 26, 2016, at the Grand River and Employment Training Building (GREAT) in Ohsweken at 16 Sunrise Court Suite 600.
On Monday the testimonies of five HDI staff members were heard; Hazel E. Hill, director of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), Misty Hill, HDI office administrator, Janice Bomberry, staff at HDI, Tracey General, HDI secretary, and Brian Doolittle, president of HDI.
The court heard on the day of the removal, Monture and Green, known participants of a group known as the Men’s Fire, were accompanied by a collective of Haudenosaunee citizens and other Men’s Fire participants who said they were acting on instruction from an undisclosed number of traditional clan mothers belonging to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC).
Individuals of the group confronted Detlor at his offices around 10 a.m. and informed him he had to leave the territory.
“I heard Wilfred Davey say, ‘Aaron Detlor did not fulfill his duty to the Haudenosaunee’,” said HDI Director Hazel Hill in court.
According to Monture and the five witnesses who testified in court on Monday, Detlor refused and the men then physically lifted and removed him from the office.
Hill said in her testimony the incident was a blur, but stated she believed at least eight men were involved in the removal.
When asked which Men’s Fire participants she remembers seeing in the building at any time, Hill listed five: Bill Monture, Lester Green, George Garlow, Gun, and Eddie Green.
Hill has been Director of HDI since 2013. Before she was made director, Hill was the organization’s acting director when HDI was first setup in 2007.
When asked to describe what she remembers of Detlor’s removal, Hill said she was preparing for a meeting between HDI and KPMG, an organization hired through HDI by the HCCC to help set up financial management processes. “It was a meeting with HDI — Brian Doolittle, Aaron Detlor, and myself,” said Hill.
Hill said Detlor and Doolittle were in the boardroom while she was in her office getting materials ready for the meeting. Hill said she saw Monture and a few others walk into the boardroom and thought to herself it was normal because they come in often to talk to HDI.
“I closed my door to continue and then I heard their voices getting louder and louder. I went into boardroom and asked what was going on. Bill told me Aaron Detlor was being taken out — he said Aaron was being vacated from the office,” said Hill. “I laughed and jokingly said ‘shut up no you’re not’, because I honestly thought they were kidding. They said they were very serious.”
Hill remembers asking one of the men under who’s direction the Men’s Fire was carrying out the removal. Hill said she was told that the clanmothers requested it.
Hill said Laurie Froman, a clanmother, confronted Monture and told him that not all of the clanmothers requested the removal because nobody had asked her.
Hill said when she learned that the men were serious about removing Detlor, she told HDI Secretary Tracey General to call the Six Nations Police and she then called HDI/HCCC Communications Director and Turtle Island News Publisher Lynda Powless.
When asked by the defence why Powless was called, Hill responded: “Because of what was going on — we’ve had a lot of incidents with HDI and another paper on the territory that speaks very negatively against the confederacy and HDI. And so, I wanted to make sure Communications was there to cover whatever was going on.”
Furgiuele asked Hill if negative publicity was a concern of hers and she responded: “It’s always about negative publicity. Our community has two local papers and one is very directly negative towards the confederacy and HDI, and the other one, which is owned by the Communications person that was hired to work for HDI and the Confederacy — is supposed to get the Confederacy’s voice out.”
Furgiuele continued his cross examination of Hill. “So do I have it right that there are two newspapers on the Six Nations reserve? First one, I’m going to suggest, is the Two Row Times. And Two Row Times speaks very negatively about some of the things that HDI does and the decisions the confederacy makes.”
Hill responded, “Pretty much, yes.”
“And then there’s Turtle Island News, which is the other newspaper, and Turtle Island News has actually been hired, as I take it, by the Confederacy, to get your word out,” said Furgiuele.
“Yes,” said Hill.
Furgiuele asked if the Turtle Island News is a mouthpiece for HDI and the Chiefs Council, and Hill responded by saying “no”.
“I wouldn’t say so, no, she [Powless] has a responsibility to report the truth from the Confederacy’s perspective.”
Furgiuele asked if the communications officer is paid for that work by the HCCC.
“Sure. Yes, she is,’ said Hill. “She was hired by HDI for their Communications.”
Furgiuele spent some time asking Hill about the general ownership of land and buildings that reside on Six Nation’s land. He also asked Hill if the removal was something that traditionally would have been carried out by the Men’s Fire.
Hill responded by saying no, it would not have. “No. The Men’s Fire doesn’t exist in the Haudenosaunee language. The Rotiskennra:kete is what we talk about and they’re called the young men. The young men have a certain responsibility and that is to uphold the law and to protect the circle. So, the circle of chiefs generally is how we describe the circle wampum and the people and the men in particular have a responsibility so if something falls on the arms of the chiefs — cause they’re all intertwined in that circle — then the men have a responsibility to lift that harm off or take that harm away. These new words and everything that’s been changed in the last 10 years, I would say doesn’t exist.”
Hill then gave an example as to why she feels this way.
“When the Men’s Fire came and asked to register their land under the Haudenosaunee Land Registry, when I first took it to the Chiefs they said ‘there is no word for the Men’s Fire, it’s not the Men’s fire’. So, I had to go back and explain to Bill [Monture] and them [the Men’s Fire] that it had to go in their individual names as holders of that for their men.”
Furgiuele asked if Hill thought the Men’s Fire and Rotisken’rakéhte were equal in her eyes and she responded with “the Rotisken’rakéhte is how I believe”.
Furgiuele then asked Hill if there have been times in the past when the Men’s Fire had been acknowledged and commended by herself or the HCCC.
Hill acknowledged, “We’ve worked with them. I’ve gone myself as an individual and supported them — so yes.
“I won’t go so far as to say the Chiefs, because I can’t speak for the Chiefs,” Hill said. “I know that they’ve been before the [HCCC] before and they’ve sought direction from the Council before.”
Before moving on to the next witness, Furgiuele asked Hill again how she saw Detlor being handled during the removal.
“I didn’t see anybody punching or anything like that. I mean, there was a struggle, he was obviously trying to stop them from taking him and it took quite a few of them to take him out of his office. It wasn’t ‘C’mon Aaron let’s go’ and a nice little stroll out the door — they were physically dragging his body out the door.”
After a morning break the remaining HDI employees Misty Hill, Janice Bomberry, Tracey General, and Brian Doolittle were questioned by both parties.
Court resumes Wednesday morning, 10 a.m. in Brantford where Monture and Lester Green are scheduled to give their testimony.