SIX NATIONS – It’s been a long time coming, but by the end of March the 381 acres along the Cockshutt Road known as the Burtch Land is back in the hands of Six Nations.
The transfer came by way of a federal corporation created and directed by the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) in trust for the people of Six Nations.
The Mohawk Workers also have laid claim to that piece of property as well, seeking the land be returned under the Haldimand Proclamation, which they believe is a Mohawk document that includes “such others” as worded.
They say the Haldimand Proclamation was no “gift” but was made specifically as compensation for Mohawk lands lost following the American Revolution. As such, they believe it was a document directed towards Mohawks and others of the Six Nations who wished to give up their traditional territories to join Brant in 1784.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council has been trying to bring the Burtch land back to Six Nations directly, without the use of the SNEC or the Mohawk Workers.
The long recorded history of the Burtch Tract, of which this is only a part, goes back to the earliest times of non-native settlement in this region and comes up time and time again in government documents since. The entire Burtch Tract is 5,223 acres.
It was pledged back to Six Nations by then Premier David Peterson at the Caledonia standoff in exchange for the removal of barricades on Highway 6.
Because the land in question was used as an airfield during the Second World War, there were significant amounts of toxins found in the soil, which had to be cleaned up before it could be transferred.
After the war, it was converted into a correctional institute and inmates canning factory. The buildings on the property were insulated with asbestos and therefore had to be torn down as well, at government expense.
A few sparks of intercommunity battles have also occurred between 2006 and March of 2017 over who will control this land and what it will eventually be used for.
The release from SNEC goes on to explains how this trust will work.
“The corporation will hold the land, which formerly housed the Burtch Correctional Institute, for the people of Six Nations as represented by the Elected Council,” the document states. “All acreage will remain in trust until it can officially be added to Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in accordance with the Federal Government’s Additions to Reserve Policy.”
This could take a long while yet, if the land along Highway 6 where the Oneida Business Park is located, is any gauge.
“The costs associated with the transfer of land have been incurred by the Province of Ontario,” the media release explains. “The Province has also agreed to incur all taxes on the property until it has been deemed “reserve land” at which time the land will become tax-exempt. For the immediate future, the land will be used for agricultural purposes.”
There still may be some issues concerning who will administrate the agricultural use of the land and who will have the right to farm it in the short term. But for now, Reserve No. 40 is 381 acres bigger than it was before, and that could be seen as a good thing.