On Friday, October 20, a small and largely unnoticed group of Six Nations community members took part in a traffic snarling foot march from Caledonia to Ohsweken. The march continued again the next day from Ohsweken to Burtch.
A spokesperson for the marchers claimed that the group were attempting to raise an alarm as to exactly how disunited the residents of the reserve are in relation to local governance issues, especially when it comes to which body should be controlling land leasing and other farming issues within the Grand River Territory.
The spokesperson for the marchers said the group hoped to unite the people of this Six Nations community as to the fact that the Iroquois Confederacy Chiefs Council are the rightful governors of the land and it is that body which should control who gets to grant farming rights at the newly returned Burtch property.
Everyone who has been watching the highly publicized Burtch Land Transfer Process throughout the past 11 plus years is aware of the many ongoing political and local social problems this simple land transfer has caused here on the reserve and in the nearby off-reserve communities. One of the most outstanding issues related not only to the Burtch situation, but to almost every other social problem here is: which group of Iroquois people was the Haldimand Tract, granted to in 1784? This one simple question, has been, over the course of the past 230 years, and is today; the one item of contention that has everyone involved completely confused as to the rightful heirs to the tract. The inter-social difficulties that the Iroquois people of the Six Nations of the Grand River continue to experience will never be solved until we the people get together and solve the Haldimand Riddle. It really is that simple and could be accomplished very easily if people could just learn to get along.
However; as many people in the past have not learned and many people and groups of people living today have learned; just saying something is easy; actually doing something to solve the dilemma is the hard part because everybody wants to be the boss. Just by looking backward in time to 2006 and the onset of the Douglas Creek Estates (DCE) Incident is an good indicator of just how much confusion can arise among the local people just by looking at the number of groups and organizations which have risen and been dissolved since the talks to settle the DCE question began in 2006. On the Six Nations side of the conference table we had, the Elected Council; the Iroquois Confederacy Chiefs Council; supporters of the Elected Council; supporters of the Confederacy Chiefs Council; representatives of the local press and some people who didn’t really care whose side they were on.
On the opposite side of the conference table; initially there was the Canadian Federal Government; Indian Affairs; Federal Ministry of the Environment; Federal Ministry of Natural Resources; the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other federal organizations that showed up from time to time. On the provincial level, there was at first the Ontario Secretariate of Aboriginal Affairs which later morphed into the Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs; the Ontario Ministry of the Environment; Ontario Ministry of Labour and the Ontario Realty Corporation which later became, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Renewal. In addition to all of these groups the entire meeting structure was held in place by a duly elected Chair Person. If all of this was enough to confuse the attendees garnered from all the many Ministries and organizations and other groups of interested parties; the meetings themselves were constantly altered to adapt to an influx of professional archaeologists, geologists, morphologists and horticulturists and other experts who showed up to apprise every one of their individual expertise on a given subject. Now we should all remember that this show and its cast of thousands were gathered together (much like we are all gathered together today); to answer one simple question: who owns the land of the Douglas Creek Estates? After all those meetings and all the dollars spent and all the food eaten and all the bickering and infighting and finger pointing, the question of who owns the land of DCE was Never Answered.
Getting back to this question of unity and how can it be attained by the community members who are searching for it; this writer doesn’t have an answer either just as all those thousands of other people have never been able to answer the eternal question of; who owns the Haldimand Tract and the lesser question of who DCE. However; once we arrive at the true owners/ownership of the Haldimand Tract; that will answer the other two questions of who owns DCE and the Burtch Lands.
The subject of unity; however, is a completely separate question and the one question that is and will be the most difficult of all to answer due to the complex nature of the society in which we live. If we could all just forget our petty differences and minor personal problems and admit to ourselves that the status quo is here for the duration; then perhaps we will find Unity was always here and it is just each of we individuals who are lost and ill-tempered and uniformed as to our place in the larger scheme of things.