OMB hearings over the development of Davisville conclude

A delegation from the Six Nations’ Men’s Fire offered its final submission before the Ontario Municipal Board Chairman Mr. Chris Conti, on Wednesday Aug, 7th.

The proceedings were undertaken to find a solution to the deadlock between developers, the city of Brantford, and people of Six Nations over plans to build a residential development on a geologically, cultural, historically and hydrologically sensitive area of Brantford known in the 1800’s as Davisville.

Ken “Strawhat” Hill attended most – if not all – of the hearings over the past 10 or 11 months and spoke on behalf of the Men’s Fire, but moments before the final Six Nations submission was to begin, it was decided by members of the Fire, that researcher Sue Draper and Lester Green would address the hearing instead, leaving Hill scratching his head.

Draper reviewed all of the issues Hill had presented along the course of the hearing plus added a few more reasons why not to develop the site known by Six Nations and the Mississaugas of the New Credit as Davisville.

They were also calling into question the city’s Waterfront Master Plan, which plays a significant role in the city’s objection to the development. Although most of the articles contained within the Waterfront Master Plan are agreed to by the Men’s Fire, they contend that in that process too, Six Nations was not consulted.

[tweetable]To understand the issue, it is important to review what led this point.[/tweetable]

Developers Sifton Properties Ltd. and Grandview Ravines Inc. appealed to the OMB after city council resisted development in what Brantford’s waterfront master plan identifies as an ecologically sensitive area.

Sifton and Grandview took the city to the Ontario Municipal Board last October, saying their planning applications were delayed while city planners fine-tuned the waterfront master plan, which would disallow the subdivisions.

But when Six Nations land protectors and members of the Mississaugas of the New Credit were made aware that the Davisville site was endangered by what they believe is unnecessary development, a new wrinkle appeared in the already complex matter.

Bill Monture and members of the Men’s Fire showed up at the October hearing and insisted on being heard. Chairman Conti agreed to listen to their arguments and eventually allowed them to become a party in the proceedings.

Brantford citizens and neighbourhood residents organized a group by the name of THRAC – The Hardy Road Area Citizens Committee (THRACC) saying development of Hardy Road south of Oak Park Road will harm rare plant and animal species and threaten the city’s drinking water supply.

The hearing continued with lawyers for the developers and the City of Brantford offering their perspectives on the issues brought before chairman Conti. The Six Nations delegation represented themselves.

The hearing concluded with closing arguments on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, after hundreds of hours of expert testimony on a myriad of land use, planning and environmental issues.

During the hearings, veteran City of Brantford Councillor Marguerite Ceschi-Smith put the blame for the change in direction on the shoulders of the former city council, of which she was a part. She
blamed “old planning decisions and old science” for allowing the rare and sensitive area to become open to development, saying that the area should never have been zoned residential. She has since become an avid protector of this area.

To date, the City of Brantford has spent nearly $2 million defending its waterfront master plan and the Hardy Road area. Sifton Properties Ltd. and Grandview Ravines Inc. hope to build about 1,200 homes bordering Hardy Road west of the Brantford Golf and Country Club.


Professor Gary Warrick of Laurier University, Brantford Campus, was one of the defence witnesses called by the City of Brantford over the proposed development of lands which were once the location of the joint Mohawk/Mississauga village of Davisville, in Northwest Brantford.

Warrick has been studying and digging in the Hardy Road area since Davisville’s exact location was discovered in the late 1990’s by retired archaeologist Ilsa Kraemer. Warrick also authored a
book and produced a DVD on his Davisville research entitled, “Written in the Earth.”

According to a report prepared by Professor Warrick, Davisville was a thriving Indian village along the banks of the Grand River, established by a Methodist Mohawk Chief, Thomas Davis, around 1800. He and a group of fellow Mohawks disapproved of the Anglican teachings of the Joseph Brant Mohawks at the original Mohawk Village and, what they considered to be the negative moral conditions the village had fallen into since being established in 1785. Davis led a group of discontented Mohawks to establish a new village upstream in what is now the Hardy Road region of Brantford’s Northwest. Peter Jones, son of pioneer surveyor Augustus Jones, like his father before him, married a Mississauga woman. He converted to the Methodist faith in 1823, and became good friends with Chief Davis, visiting Davis’ Hamlet, as it was also referred to, often.

Jones eventually invited several Mississaugas of the Credit River near present day Toronto, to join Davis‘ community, which many did, and lived separate from, yet jointly with, the Mohawks at Davisville.

After several years, the Mississaugas pulled out and moved back to their traditional home on the Credit River, until resettling on a corner of the Six Nations reservation, which was given to them by the Six Nations Confederacy.

Due to upriver clear-cutting by settlers in the establishment of Kitchener and Guelph, the river began flooding its banks downstream by 1833, and washing out the cabins of Davisville residents. The site was abandoned and the Davis Mohawks resettled in Sour Springs and elsewhere, but not many returned to the Mohawk Village.

In around the early 2000’s, further excavations revealed the size and extent of the village as being bigger and wider ranging than originally thought. Most of this area has been the subject of Warrick’s digs and Timmins-Martel’s surveys with eight identified sites strung out along the banks of the river. But there could also be more sites yet to be discovered, because along with the Davisville remains of the 19th century, there were also artifacts proving habitation in this gentle bend in the river may go back as much as 12,000 or 13,000 years as well as evidence of other habitations over the centuries since.

Warrick recommends in his written “Summary of Evidence” that certain areas within the Sifton plan could disturb the historical and archaeological significance of this very special and important site.

“A combination of archaeological and natural features form a significant cultural heritage landscape would preclude development of the properties in question,” he writes. The area is so rich in archaeology that Warrick and Timmins-Martel together have catalogued 80,000 artifacts in an area of
only 1200 square meters. Where people lived, they also died, creating highly sensitive ancient burial grounds throughout the region from all inhabitants over the past 12,000 years.

“The accumulation of archaeological evidence indicates 10,000 radiocarbon years (12,000 calendar years) of Aboriginal use and occupation of this portion of Brantford, and holds tremendous
value for the Mississaugas of the New Credit and Six Nations of the Grand River,” writes Warrick. “In the Davisville area, the density of archaeological sites rivals that found in the Mississippi River valley of the central United States, one of the richest archaeological areas in North America.”

Aside from the historical and archaeological arguments there is much evidence of unique and rare geological elements such as Tufa mounds in the region. Tufa is a rare rock formed by highly mineralized water, rich in calcium carbonate, bubbling to the surface and congealing into a porous, light grey stone which early settlers of this region used as foundation stones for barns and outbuildings, some of which are still evident today.

There are water geysers, nearly extinct plant life in the area, as well as endangered species, which call the Davisville area home.

It will be several months before the OMB releases its findings. In the meantime, development is stalled.

Ken Hill and researcher Sue Draper address the OMB chairman Chris Conti at Brantford’s City Hall on the second last day of testimony regarding opposition to the development of a sensitive area in Branftord known to history as Davisville. (Photo by Jim Windle)

The delegation of members of the Men’s Fire gather outside the Brantford council chambers, to strategize over their last chance to stop development of Davisville. (Photo by Jim Windle)

Wearing traditional Gustowehs and ribbon shirts, members of the Men’s Fire listen to Ontario Municipal Board hearings which closed in early August. (Photo by Jim Windle)

Lester Green explains the Dish with One Spoon Wampum to lawyers representing developers intent on building on highly sensitive and historic Mohawk land, and OMB chairman Chris Conti. (Photo by Jim Windle)

By Jim Windle

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  1. Buddy Martin is dead right with his comment, “…so how bought [sic] we stand together on this matter….”

    I couldn’t agree with him more. I have stood on this land many times and when I do, “something” comes over me, a presence and the only way I can explain it is, it is the old ones who went before calling us together, to be as we once were, one but separate people. To be as one mind. This very special place needs to be protected by us, the descendants of the old ones. If it is not protected by the OMB, then it is our undisputed responsibility, as one people, with one mind, to stand as one and defend it. To understand what it is I really mean, I say this; I am no radical nor am I militant or aggressive in any way. Do not mistake my words as being confrontational for I believe I am of the “good mind,” and peaceful. My words reflect my feelings about the Davisville area to the core of my very being. No, do not make out my words to be anything but determined. Determined to stop these European invaders from stripping us of every last element of our mutual history and our sacred places. Davisville is just such a place. Let the old ones lay in peace in the sacred place Creator prepared for them.

    Can we please, as we did at Caledonia, put aside (under the pillow) our petty grievances, old grudges, feuds and divisions and come together to meet our responsibility as Onkwehone:we? Those who have gone before and sacrificed so much for us, deserve all we have to give.

  2. when it comes to Land development archeology is one of the so-called rule of law in which indigenous involvement is consulted allowing a say in land development although limited. I have yet to see under those Ontario laws or federal to insure indigenous village sites viewed as historically significant and as such be a protected site from development. Unfortunately most land matters are dealt with by the processes of mitigation. Should our National Historic Sites be protected and Become Indigenous National Historical Sites, I believe so how bought we stand together on this matter…….

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