BRANTFORD – In the beginning some people thought the Mohawk Workers’ plan to return stolen Mohawk Village land under the Haldimand Proclamation, rather than through the Ontario Realty Corp., was a crazy idea.
But slowly and methodically, the idea has been gaining traction and is being looked at with a more serious eye.
Guswenta Holdings Ltd., a company that is two-thirds Six Nations owned, has purchased land in the Birkett Lane and Erie Ave area of Brantford. Their plan is to sever 12 acres of it and gift it to the Mohawk Nation, similar to the situation with a piece of property on Gilkinson Street that was willed to the Mohawk Nation several years ago.
By doing so, the Mohawks believe the land is no longer under the white man’s jurisdiction, and therefor independent from Brantford, Ontario or Canada.
It is an interesting and little traveled road Guswenta and the Mohawk Workers are on and a lot of people are now watching the situation very closely as it unfolds.
Recently, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, David Zimmer, met with members of the Mohawk Workers and Guswenta representatives to talk about the matter and explain the rationale behind it.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is also very close to the situation and is being kept abreast of how this plan may unfold. Wynne occupied Zimmers portfolio before becoming Premier.
Zimmer was fulfilling a promise he made to land protector Floyd Montour a year ago when he visited the Elected Band Council. Montour spoke with Zimmer and asked that the Minister meet with the Mohawks.
Even the Elected Band Council is watching the Guswenta/Mohawk deal with designs on incorporating its principles into future talks with developers.
Elected Council’s lands expert Phil Monture also attended the meeting with Zimmer on the Mohawks’ request to offer the Minister a historical background on the land in question. Also at the meeting, along with Floyd Montour, Ellis Hill, and Guswenta partner Steve Charest, were, Frank Miller, Jagwadeth, Claudine VanEvery, Carry Adams, Ruby Montour, Fawn Hill, and Arlene Johnson.
“We are here to inform you on what we are doing,” Ellis Hill told the Minister and a government lawyer. “We are not bound by the Indian Act and we are not asking for your permission.”
According to Hill, it was somewhat surprising for Zimmer to see the Mohawks, Band Council, and the developer all standing together on the same side of a land dispute.
Brant Liberal MPP and Speaker of the House Dave Levac, has offered that if they want to speak with Premier Wynne or the Ontario Minister of Finance, that could be arranged as well. As of today, they have not taken him up on the offer, but say that they will when the time is right.
Even Caledonia developer Michael Corrado is looking for a new way to co-operate with Six Nations regarding the McKenzie Meadows housing development, which the Elected Band Council chose not to support after public meetings indicated the people did not want to accept the proposal put forth by Corrado.
The HDI was also part of that process and had accepted the terms of the agreement with Corrado before the Elected Council nixed it.
Corrado was seeking to obtain through the courts a pre-emptive injunction to prevent protests on his McKenzie Meadows project. The Judge did not grant his request, instead ordering negotiations be held between the Elected Band Council, the Confederacy’s HDI, and the developer.
But Corrado is looking for a negotiated mutually beneficial agreement too and thinks the Mohawks might be onto some way of doing so through an acre for acre trade off deal made with the Mohawks and outside of the Indian Act.
Newly Elected Chief Ava Hill is also watching the Mohawk/Guswenta deal closely.
“I have already met with Bill Squire and Ellis Hill and we talked about the land issue,” says Chief Hill. “Bill Squire has agreed to make a presentation to Full Council and I will be scheduling this for some time in February. I also proposed that, at some point, we have a brain storming session to discuss this issue further.”
Band Council is trying to find a way to deal with developers and maybe even resurrect the McKenzie Meadows project under different terms that would include the return of land, acre for acre, under the Haldimand, as the Mohawks propose.
It is their strong belief that any deal like this can only happen through the Mohawk Nation, being the principle nation mentioned in both the Haldimand Proclamation and the Haldimand Promise, which was made to Joseph Brant some years earlier.[Mohawk Workers’ Ellis Hill and others met with Ontario Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer recently to discuss the Mohawk’s view of the Haldimand Tract and more specifically, the Birkett Land/Erie Ave land deal between the Mohawks and Guswenta Holdings. (Photo by Jim Windle)]