Request to hand over turbines surprises landowners, company near Shelburne
A group of natives affiliated with the Six Nations reserve south of Hamilton has served the owners of an Ontario windmill project a warning that its turbines sit on disputed land and should be handed over to the aboriginals.
The announcement surprised local landowners and company officials.
It also threatens to ignite another hot point along the shores of the Grand River in a land dispute that culminated with the ongoing native occupation of a housing site in Caledonia.
In this latest chapter, two Mohawk women laid claim over 45 wind turbines built on farmland near the town of Shelburne, northwest of Toronto. Last month, the women sent Alberta-based Canadian Hydro Developments Inc. a letter entitled “notice of seizure.”
“That land is our land,” said Kahn Tineta Horn, who signed the document with another woman known only as Katenies.
In Six Nations tradition, women act as titleholders of the land.
“As the owners of the land, we are now the owners of the windmills,” the letter reads.
Canadian Hydro project manager Jeff Carnegie dismissed the claim.
He said the company will forge ahead with the second phase of the $400-million project and build 88 new turbines over the next two years.
The windmills are expected to produce enough electricity to power a city the size of Kingston, Mr. Carnegie said.
“It’s our position that the ownership of the wind turbines rests solely with Canadian Hydro,” he added.
The disagreement stems from a 200-year-old Crown proclamation that granted Six Nations members a 10-kilometre wide swath of land extending on both sides of the Grand River. The area has since been dubbed the Haldimand tract, so named after the 1784 Haldimand Proclamation.
The land now includes the town of Caledonia and Melancthon Township, the site of the windmills.
Natives say British settlers have swindled them out of their rights. Ottawa and Queen’s Park claim the natives surrendered the land in a series of agreements.
Patricia Valladau, a spokeswoman for the Department of Indian Affairs, said yesterday no legal land claim had been filed for the windmills site.
But George Montour, a Six Nations elected band councillor, said the council sent as many as 300 letters of warning in the past few months to developers planning to build on the Haldimand tract.
“There’s always housing developments that’s popping up here and there,” he said.
He refused to comment on the windmills site.
Ms. Horn has the support of at least one traditional chief on the Six Nations reserve. “Enough is enough,” Chief Arnold General said yesterday. “We’ll fight when we’re pushed into a corner.”
Ms. Horn, a resident of the Kahnawake reserve who teaches a history class at Concordia University in Montreal, is known to have penned letters for the protesters who are now occupying the site in Caledonia.
She refused to say whether another occupation is in the works. “It’s up to the people,” she said.
The area in and around Melancthon Township has a spiritual significance to Six Nations people, Ms. Horn said. It is both a healing place and the site of a prophesied cataclysmic event.
The land claim came as a surprise to the local mayor, Gary Matthews, who owns a 100-acre farm that holds two of the 45 turbines.
He said the windmills have generated about 20 jobs in the township and are bringing many tourists to the area.
“I don’t know what their claims are,” he said. “It’s my farm. I don’t care.”
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