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Natives plant Burtch lands

Susan Gamble
Brantford Expositor
Local News - Saturday, June 17, 2006 @ 01:00

[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.]

The first tangible fruits of the Caledonia protest were planted Thursday and Friday on the old Burtch lands.

Farmers and traditional chiefs from Six Nations were on the site of the former correctional centre this week, planting 260 acres of soybeans after signing an agreement with Ontario for the use of the farm land.

A standing-room-only crowd at Six Nations Polytech received the news Friday evening with applause and chuckled when Confederacy sub-chief Leroy Hill added, “We even made (the government) pay for the seed.”

The announcement was just part of an update to the Six Nations community on this week’s discussions.

Hill also said there’s no rush to move the title of the Burtch lands to the natives because of some concerns about serious environmental issues on the property.

“There are some storage containers buried there -- possibly asbestos in the buildings -- and we’re putting it back on the Ontario government to clean that up.”

Confederacy Chief Allen MacNaughton told the crowd that there’s now an agreement in principle for the province to pay Henco for the disputed Caledonia lands.

The property will be put in trust at this point.

“They won’t tell us the details of that agreement,” MacNaughton said. “It’s hard to build trust with them, but we’ll keep trying.”

Hill told the crowd the negotiators had forced the government to “get rid of” former premier David Peterson, who was negotiating the removal of the barricades.

“He came in waving the magic wand and put Allen and I in a bad spot by promising something and not following through. They’ve passed his issues over to Jane Stewart.”

MacNaughton said the Caledonia protest has awakened people across the country to the plight of natives who have had land rights taken from them by the government.

“We’ve come farther than anybody has in 200 years,” MacNaughton said. “They can’t back away from us now.”

The crowd was responsive, with many cheering on the few Confederacy chiefs at the meeting and muttering about the elected band councillors, who were fully represented.

“It’s not these councillors sitting here that everybody should hate,” said Hill. “It’s the Indian Act.”

The act, passed in 1924, marked a pivotal change for Six Nations when armed officers marched on the reserve, forcing an elected system on the people and refusing to recognize the Confederacy.

“These are historic times,” said both Hill and elected Chief Coun. David General.

Not only have both the elected and Confederacy councils been meeting together to explore how they can effect change in the future, but this is the first time since 1924 that the government has sat at the table with the traditional chiefs.

Not everyone is keen on turning government back to Confederacy hands, though.

In the crowd, one woman said she had many questions needing answers before she decided who to support. Another said she preferred the Confederacy system but expected some adjustments to the old ways would have to be made.

One listener said the answer could perhaps be found in a system that was half elected and half Confederacy.

“This is not representative fo the community,” said a woman as she left the hall. “And what about the thousands that live off the reserve? What do they think and how do we find out?”

Another part of the public meeting dealt with the two councils continuing debate on eight points of jurisdiction that have been discussed and probed over the past year and getting feedback on a presentation drawn up by elected council.

That council formatted educational resources they want to share with communities up and down the Grand River. Titled Six Miles Deep, the presentation helps explain Six Nations’ position regarding the Haldimand Treaty that promised the land on either side of the Grand to the natives and sets out some of the tracts that are in dispute with the government right now.

The elected council has been seeking approval for Six Miles Deep from the Confederacy chiefs for some time, but didn’t get it Friday night.

“It woefully misses the point,” said a statement read by moderator Ron Thomas.

“While there are many errors in this draft that are correctable, you have not captured our essence as a people and our unique status as a nation is inferred rather than expressly stated.”

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