A duo ostensibly representing the “Six Nations Women Title Holders” has served notice on Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. asserting that it owns the Melancthon I wind plant, and intends to seize it.
In a notice also posted on the Internet and signed by Kahentinetha /s/ and Katenies /s/, the women maintain that title to all lands within six miles of the Grand River is vested in them, and any structures built on the land become part of the land, according to case law.
These women are not of “the lunatic fringe.” They cite treaties pre-dating the British North America Act along with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in support of their claim to the land. That ruling may have given impetus to the group’s coincident claims to the 407 toll road and property owned by Toronto District School Board on the Pine River. It might also have figured in the Caledonia occupation.
Nor have they suddenly emerged out of the woodwork. They have had e-mailed conversations with CHD representatives dating from last November.
(Kahentinetha is Kahentinetha Horn, described on the Internet thus: “Horn is of Kanien’ke:haka and Mohawk descent. She is an elder from the Kahnawake of Mohawk Territory. She has a Master of Arts (degree) from Carleton University. Horn teaches at Concordia University and runs the Mohawk Nation News.”
Locally, Doug Fisher (or Thahoketoteh) of Horning’s Mills, who describes himself as “the eyes and ears” of the Six Nations in this area, displays numerous documents he says support the claims of the women.
Historically, he says, the Iroquois captured all of Ontario (Huronia) from the Hurons, and then agreed with the British to allow European settlement – but did not surrender any land.
It gets complicated. In simple terms, the “Wampum” is represented as a banner with two parallel lines along with rows of pure white and others of beads. One of the parallel lines represents the route of a European ship on a river, and the other an Indian canoe on the same river. These are the co-existing races.
Neither vessel controls the other, he says, and they never collide. Thus, the “settlers” live by the rules of their Constitution while the natives abide by their “Great Law,” or the rules of Wampum. The “settlers” may live on the land, trade it among themselves, but in the final analysis never own the land.
With respect to the occupation of the acreage at Caledonia, the native position is that the OPP broke the law by “invading” native territory. “You’ll notice (the OPP) didn’t enforce the court order (evicting the natives). They couldn’t. Neither they nor the judge had jurisdiction.”
Caledonia and CHD might be the beginning of a concerted native uprising, although Mr. Fisher (or Thahoketoteh as he prefers to be called when speaking of native affairs) says everyone wants a peaceful understanding and solution.
The notice to CHD follows closely on the heels of one sent to Ron Dillman’s Shelburne septage company by George Montour, chairman of Six Nations resource committee, with respect to Mr. Dillman’s application for an amendment to a Certificate of Approval he holds on a farm about six miles from the Grand River.
That notice contains what might be an ominous warning: “Six Nations remains concerned about the overall pace and scope of development within the Grand River Tract and region. We are of the view that the cumulative effect of this development has and is increasingly infringing our Treaty rights and impacting our claims and interests.”
Mr. Montour makes reference to the “1701 Treaty of Fort Albany,” generally thought of by non-natives as granting only hunting and fishing rights in most of Ontario, although that might not be entirely accurate.
The Six Nations issue with CHD has to do specifically with its claims within six miles of the Grand.
That is known as The Haldimand Tract, named for Governor General Sir Frederick Haldimand (1778-1796) who granted it to the natives by Royal Proclamation in 1794. According to one historical account, “Haldimand built up Quebec’s defences and sent raiding parties (Carleton’s Raid (1778) and the Burning of the Valleys in 1780) into the rebellious American colonies. At the end of the American Revolution he helped settle American refugees who became known as United Empire Loyalists in what became Ontario and also settled the Six Nations in Canada.”
Mr. Fisher says there’s an issue with the historical accounts of Joseph Brant, who was a chief of the Six Nations but became a captain in the British army during the War of 1812. According to one document in Mr. Fisher’s possession, 50 tribal and 24 warrior chiefs stripped Chief Brant of his title. He says Capt. Brant, no longer a chief, had no authority to deal with native lands.
Nonetheless, it was Brant who sold Block 1 on the Grand River to Philip Stedman, who died shortly thereafter, according to the historical account. Ultimately, 1812 War veteran William Dickson purchased it for 15,000 Pounds Sterling.
If Mr. Fisher’s information is correct, that sale and all subsequent ones were “fraudulent.”
The Women, in their notice to CHD, rely on “Wampum 44 – the Kaianereh’ko:wa/Great Law,” as the authority to their claim, along with the treaty. “Title to our land is vested in the people through the women (as progenitors),” they say in part, and go on to say that no one has the authority to sell any of the land granted in perpetuity.
“Canada has allowed most of our land and resources to be stolen through illegal land transfers and fraud. Dozens of cities and towns have been established on our land without our consent. We have had enough! Now they’re stealing another of our resources, our wind. They never brought this over from Europe, did they,” the background to the CHD seizure notice reads in part.
The letter to Mr. Dillman is clear about the intent of the aboriginal claim to lands lying outside as well as inside the Haldimand Tract:
“The subject lands described in this application fall within the 1701 Treaty of Fort Albany. However, while the subject lands are not located within the Haldemand Tract, Six Nations remains concerned about the overall pace and scope of development within the Grand River tract and region.
“We are of the view that the cumulative effect of this development has (been) and is increasingly infringing our Treaty rights and impacting our claims and interests,” the letter reads in part.
It goes on to cite a Supreme Court of Canada ruling which places a duty on the Crown “to meaningfully consult and accommodate First Nations where development and planning decisions may affect its claims (and) rights and impact its interests.”
To that extent, Mr. Dillman might have felt it was up to the ministry to sort matters out, as he was simply asking for an amendment to an existing certificate he has held for more than 30 years, and not for a new one.
But, he said, the ministry and the Six Nations both insisted on treating his amendment as a new application. Said Mr. Montour: “As we have not inspected the site, we are currently unaware of any site-specific environmental issues associated with the proposed development. We request any information on sewer and stormwater management plans and monitoring programs that will be implemented to protect the natural environment.We also request any information regarding the potential effects of the project on archaeological or heritage values.”
The C of A is for summertime spreading of septage on a 100-acre farm only. It does not involve infrastructure of any kind, Mr. Dillman said.
Mr. Dillman, unaware of the seizure notice to CHD at the time, said he raised the issue of a Six Nations claim at Melancthon council last Thursday, but was cut short by Mayor Garry Matthews.
“I wasn’t on the agenda, so I wasn’t entitled to speak,” he said, “but I wondered how the claims would affect the wind turbines.
“This is devastating in my opinion,” he said when told about the seizure notice Friday. On Saturday, he wondered how widely spread the claims might be. The answer might lie in the aboriginal account.
It reads in part with reference to the turbines: “They can’t seize anything on Indian territory, which is all of Canada. They should have made a deal with us beforehand. This Johnny-come-lately dealmaking is not the proper way to do business with us.”
Indeed, the claims to control don’t stop anywhere in the vicinity of the Grand River.
Last month, a developer in Shelburne was denied provincial approval of a 32-house subdivision because of its apparent failure to do an archeological dig of the site near the arena to establish that the land did not contain a native burial ground.
How seriously must all of this be taken? Mr. Fisher describes enforcement of native rights as being of two parts.
The women, he says, are the guardians of the land, water and air by political means. The men, or “warriors,” have a different role.
He said there’s an international focus on how Canada and Ontario are handling the situation.
And, he said, it is a topic amongst the warriors of the Akiswasasne.
By WES KELLER Freelance Reporter