As Six Nations grapples with two ongoing land reclamations in Caledonia and Brantford, the significance of the 1784 Haldimand Proclamation has become more apparent.
The proclamation, signed on Oct. 25, 1784, granted Six Nations Mohawks almost a million acres on either side of the Grand River from its mouth to its source after fleeing their homelands in what is today upper New York state after the American Revolutionary War. Six Nations Mohawks, under the leadership of Chief Joseph Brant, fought as allies with the British Crown during the American Revolution.
The proclamation, sometimes referred to as a deed or grant, is often cited when arguing Six Nations’ land rights within the Haldimand Tract. The Haldimand Tract refers to the million acres on either side of the Grand River from its mouth to its source.
Today, the Six Nations of the Grand River “reserve” only comprises about five per cent of the original million acres in the Haldimand Tract.
The dispossession of those lands are the subject of a massive court case Six Nations of the Grand River filed against the Crown that will finally be heard before a judge in September 2022 – almost 30 years after the case was first filed.
Grassroots community members celebrated the signing of the proclamation over the weekend with a dinner at Kanata Village in Brantford and a march through Caledonia on Monday.
But what they celebrated the most was their sovereignty – and refusal to view any of their land as Crown land.
“In 1784, there was no such thing as Crown land,” said Anthony Hill, who identifies as one of the “Mohawk Workers” – a group of Six Nations Mohawks who maintain they are the true signatories to the Haldimand Proclamation.
The proclamation, signed by then-governor of Quebec, Frederick Haldimand, reads in part: “I do hereby in His Majesty’s name authorize and permit the said Mohawk Nation and such others of the First Nation Indians as wish to settle in that quarter to take possession of and settle upon the banks of the river, commonly called Ours (Ouse) or Grand River.”
Hill and about 30 years enjoyed a roast beef dinner at Kanata Village in Brantford, a former tourist destination and interpretive centre that features a replica longhouse on its property that the Mohawk Workers reclaimed in 2007.
Regardless of the wording in the Haldimand Proclamation, Courtney Martin says the Mohawk people have always occupied land along the Grand River, even before the Haldimand Proclamation.
“There was Onkwehonwe villages all throughout the Grand River prior to the (American) Revolution.
Left mohawk valley How did we lose all this in the first place? I think we’re doing it to ourselves. The Grand River Mohawks have been in this location since time immemorial. You’ll find now that they’re digging up flint going back to the Stone Age. As Onkwehonwe people, as Kanienkehaka, as Mohawks, they come from the land of the flint. So that’s how long our people have been (here). I’m talking all our relations, all over Turtle Island, from north, central and South America. Our people have been here through wars, through inquisitions, through genocide, which is still taking place. They’re still trying to take our identity through policies but we’re still here as Onkwehonwe people, standing strong.”
Martin said they’re not really celebrating the Haldimand Proclamation but celebrating that, “We’re still here. The Onkwehonwe are still here.”