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Heavy history to standoff

Was the land taken by trickery, intimidation, exploitation or legal transactions?

Meredith Macleod
Hamilton Spectator
April 13, 2006

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

There are 165 years of outrage, division, infighting and mistrust behind a six-week-long occupation of a newly begun Caledonia subdivision.

The core of the issue is disagreement over ownership of land given to Six Nations and then, piece by piece, taken back by the British Crown.

How that land was taken -- whether by trickery, intimidation, exploitation or entirely legal land transactions -- is the subject of both the current blockade and discussions between lawyers for Six Nations and the federal government about tens of thousands of acres of land surrounding the reserve.

Protesters blockading the Douglas Creek Estates back the view of the traditional hereditary chiefs, the Haudenosaunee, that 384,451 hectares running 9.6 kilometres deep on either side of the Grand River from Lake Erie 210 kilometres northwest near Dundalk was stolen by the Crown in 1841.

Local native protesters, bolstered by warrior factions and other activists from Ontario and the U.S., say they are "reclaiming" their land.

Negotiating the claim is complicated because many within Six Nations do not share the view the land was stolen. The elected band council acknowledges the hereditary chiefs signed over the land in question in Caledonia but believe there has never been fair compensation for other large land parcels.

The sharp split between the political role of the elected band council and the traditional chiefs has led to a complete breakdown in communication between the two, said Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, an aboriginal studies and history professor at the University of Toronto and Laurentian University.

"There is a power struggle. Traditional chiefs won't speak to (elected Chief Dave General) or shake his hand. It goes against our values of honour and respect, but it shows there is a very deep rift."

The federal and provincial governments recognize only the elected band council and that feeds the belief that no one is listening to what some argue are the authoritative First Nations voice.

There are 14 outstanding Six Nations land claims affecting about half of Haldimand and more than 4,000 hectares between Brantford and Onondaga, a nearby Brant County community. The Plank Road Tract in question was registered as a land claim in 1987. But that land claim did not affect third party interests.

A lawsuit launched in 1995 dragged on until the two parties agreed to sit down and explore a resolution, beginning with two of the claims. As of last month, they had agreed on the basic facts of each claim. This is not one of them.

"That's a huge step towards working out an agreement," said Jo-Anne Greene, director of Six Nations Lands and Resources.

This claim had been put aside while the sides worked on the other two.

The issue across the Haldimand tract is that in some cases, land was taken against the wishes of Six Nations. In others, land was never paid for. Six Nations also alleges there was fraud, misappropriation of funds and poor investments and that natural resources were extracted without any native compensation.

A current trust account held by the federal government holds less than $3 million.

Meanwhile, the federal and provincial governments point fingers at each other over who is responsible. Legal arguments have been made that the Canadian government can't be held accountable for actions of the British Crown before Canada was formed in 1867.

Hagersville real estate lawyer Ed McCarthy says the lands upon which the Douglas Creek subdivision is being built was clearly and legally sold by Six Nations in 1841. If the money was not properly cared for by the federal government, that is an accounting issue with the federal government, not a land claim against a private landowner, said McCarthy.

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