SIX NATIONS — Last Wednesday, January 22, the Six Nations Fire and Emergency Services and Six Nations Police were brought to a residential trailer home fire at 958 First Line Road, also known as “the Mohawk Grounds.”
No injuries were reported, but for the Martin and White family, the loss was insurmountable.
The Six Nations family of seven, soon to be eight, lost what was due to be their home.
“On Monday the trailer was fine,” said Jodie Martin, who is expecting her sixth child in March. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Trucks that were delivering soil to be dumped at the same address on Monday were halted by Six Nations Police and community members. Two days later, the trailer was found ablaze in the early evening.
“I have a little one due in five weeks and I think that’s the worst part for me,” she said.
After months of saving for the trailer, the family was hoping to move in a gradual fashion, as Martin explained that her children were “excited.”
“They just laid straw underneath a week before this happened to insulate it for us so we could start moving in,” she said. “They were all exited to move there.”
Her children are also students of the Everlasting Tree School, but her family faces the shortage of affordable housing. Affordable housing was once a big city problem, but it has spread to small and medium-sized communities like Six Nations. With demand far outpacing supply, rent and the qualifications to rent have skyrocketed in towns and cities across the country.
“I explored other options, like renting places in town, down here, everywhere. I went to the shelter — they don’t have the room for us,” she said, and explained that she is a relative of the family that the Mohawk Grounds has been passed down to. “[The titleholder] wasn’t pushing money out of me, he was just trying to help me out because there aren’t many options.”
This meant that the trailer and the land it sat upon would have been a safe haven for Martin’s family. But the fire, as Martin believes, was intentionally set.
“There’s no way it could have been a malfunction because nothing was hooked up,” she said, as she explained that they had hoped to run a generator and use a propane tank. “Someone definitely did it.”
The history of the Mohawk Grounds trails a land dispute that began in the 1960’s due to a land seller that sold the same land twice.
This dispute allegedly included the construction, destruction and subsequent reconstruction and deconstruction of a Mohawk Longhouse in the 60’s, as the “titleholders” would prevent each other from building on the land.
According to documents provided by the Six Nations Lands and Membership in May of 2000, Kenneth Hess was the registered owner of the disputed land, which involves “parcel 2 and 3” at the First Line Address.
On November 14, 1968, William Smith provided a Quit Claim dated April 23, 1960 from Hess to Chiefs James S. Hill, Melvin J. Hill and Calvin Martin as trustees to the Mohawk Nation. The lands were described as “25 acres in the West half of the East half of the North half,” for “parcel 2,” with a witness present.
While on November 20, 1968, Smith brought another Quit Claim dated November 19, 1968 from Hess to Norman Hill, Lorne Hill and Ann McNaughton as Trustees of the Mohawk Longhouse. This land was described as “25 acres in the East half of the East half of the North Half,” for “parcel 3,” with a witness present.
However, Edwin S. Hill brought a third Quit Claim to the District Office on February 12, 1969 dated July 11, 1960. This alleged that the same “parcel 3” sold to the Trustees of the Mohawk Longhouse was sold to Edwin S. Hill’s family. It is also documented that Hill provided four paid receipts for the land.
It is apparent that Hess sold the same “parcel 3” twice, as according to the documents provided. However, on October 8, 1975, Hess signed a Statutory Declaration stating that he did not sign the Quit Claim deed July 11, 1960, but that he did sign the other two Quit Claims.
According to the document provided by Sherri Martin at the Lands and Trust Services at the Regional Office South in Brantford, “there was no agreement signed for the portion of ‘parcels 2 and 3,’” meaning that the land is likely still under Hess’s name regardless of his selling of “parcel 2 and 3.”
The file inspected by SN Lands and Membership reads that the matter is still not resolved.
Thus, the title-ship of the land is still in dispute. This would mean that although wanting to help, the land was not in possession of the “titleholder” to offer to Martin. This “titleholder” was also not in a position to negotiate or be paid for soil to be dumped there.
It is unknown as to whether or not the fire was set due to the land dispute or the soil dumping, but Martin said that she had no involvement in the dumping.
“I didn’t know anything about the dumping, I just saw it plastered all over the internet,” she said. She was later advised by a relative to make sure “things were alright.”
“My relative said we should get ahold of the titleholder, just to make sure everything was okay with the trailer. I did. And he told me the trailer was fine and that he had swamp fill coming in.”
Martin explained that although the stress of the situation is there, she has been trying to keep herself level, with the bright side being that she and her family didn’t lose all of their belongings.
“I’m just trying to focus on what’s next,” said Martin. “I can’t even be angry at the person because they probably dealt with trauma too, just like everybody.”
“But nobody knew who it belonged to, so why do it at all? We’re not supposed to be about retaliation.”
Martin and her family are now seeking community support as she and her family look to make back what they lost to the fire. Once a date and time has been set, the family hope to hold a fundraiser in the near future.
If you would like to help, Martin’s GoFundMe page can be located at: “Martin & White Family Fire Relief,” at gofundme.com online.