EAGLES NEST/ BRANTFORD —The Haudenosaunee Development Institute fired a shot across the bow of Guswenta Holdings and the Mohawks of the Grand River who have begun to build on property at the corner of Birkett Lane and Erie Ave in the Eagle Place area of Brantford, formerly part of the Mohawk Village established by Joseph Brant in 1784.
In an attempt to shut off the financial base of the Birkett Lane project, a notice to investors and financial institutions, as well as to Kingwood Homes, Guswhenta Holdings Ltd., and Riverwalk West, South Brantford, was released by the HDI. The letter concerns the building site and the agreement made between Guswhenta Holdings and members of the Mohawk Nation. It advises that the HDI has not sanctioned the agreement that would see a 50-acre area of land along Sixth Line Road and another 12.5 acres on Birkett Lane be handed over to people of Six Nations under the Haldimand Deed and not under the Ontario Realty system, according to Guswhenta partner Steve Charest.
The agreement provided for a swap, acre for acre, of land at the Birkett Lane site in exchange for the Sixth Line acreage.
The HDI letter advises that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council or HCCC are the holders of any land treaties and that an investor’s money would be in jeopardy of an illegal action since the HCCC was not properly consulted on the deal.
The HDI letter goes on to declare that the Mohawk Workers or Mohawk Nation at the Grand River Territory have no authority to make any kind of deals regarding land. “The individuals claiming to represent the Mohawk Workers have no authority to represent, authorize, endorse or commit the Haudenosaunee, the Mohawk Nation, or the Iroquois Confederacy (also known as the HCCC) to any binding agreement without having the sanctioning of the Royane (Chiefs) and the Yakoyane (Clanmothers) of the Wisk niyonhwentaya:ke, through the Rotionisonh (Chiefs Council) process,” the letter declares.
It also warns investors in the project that without HDI sanction, “the HCCC cannot provide certainty that this Project will meet successful completion and is also advised that Kingwood Homes and Guswhenta Holdings Ltd. have failed to secure the necessary free, prior informed consent of the Haudenosaunee.”
Director of the HDI, Hazel Hill states in the letter that Brian Porter, Ellis Hill, Ruby Montour, Frank Smith, Bill Squire, Carolyn VanEvery-Albert and Trevor VanEvery have misrepresented themselves by purporting to represent the Iroquois Confederacy. Hill accuses those names of acting solely on their own, as individuals, for their own personal gain and benefit.
But Charest can’t accept that to be true.
“No individual in my ongoing community consultation dialogues with the Mohawks of the Grand River, the Men’s Fire, and frankly any community member at any time has ever asked for any compensation whatsoever,” he told the Two Row Times. “In fact, the only ones who have ever asked for financial compensation and who have ever received it from us is the HDI, and not community members.”
Charest says that he has attempted to work through the HDI in the past only to be frustrated and disappointed at their lack of vision.
“We spent a lot of time working with the community on this project and what the request from the community was, which we believed was fair, was a trade, acre for acre,” says Charest. “For every acre of land that is being developed, “there would be an acre of land within the Haldimand Tract given in return for all Six Nations people. Through this process we have successfully demonstrated that things can happen if you keep the politics out of it and engage with the people.”
He calls the issues brought forth in the HDI letter to be false.
“There is a very interesting cross section of the community on that list of people they name,” he says. “I would say that every one of them are very passionate about their community and getting land back. It’s just bizarre.”
“What I have learned since 2006, in my engagement with the people of Six Nations is that they want land back. I think what we have arrived at after engaging with the people that feel strongly about protecting the land is a partnership where, hopefully, we can set a precedent that we can encourage developers to follow and consider providing land back for every acre they develop on.
“Prior to what we have accomplished here, I have never seen anything like that happen,” he continues. “To the contrary, when you look at the McKenzie meadows project in Caledonia, which was endoresed by the HDI, there is no mention of getting back any land at all.”
As far as Charest is concerned the project will continue with or without the HDI’s sanction. Guswhenta has secured two pieces of land, one in Haldimand, just of the edge of the Six Nations reserve with 49 acres, and another 12.5 acres on Birkett Lane for the purpose of giving it back to Six Nations through the Mohawks, under the Haldimand proclamation.