Six Nations Land Claim Dispute Reaches Climax After 156 Years

A sign on the site reads, “Oh Canada – your home on native land” (CBC News, April 20, 2006). Hundreds of protesters in support of a Six Nations land dispute have gathered on the site in question, currently scheduled for the construction of new homes courtesy of Henco Industries. The Haldimand lands near Hamilton, Ontario, were set aside as a Native reserve in 1784 as a reward for the Native peoples’ loyalty to the British Crown during the American Revolution. Since then, part of the land has been gradually sold off to the Canadian government and subsequently to private investors, namely for the creation of Plank Road (now Highway 6). The point in this dispute arose on January 18, 1841 when the Six Nations chiefs agreed to the surrender of all lands outside a mutually determined reserve, something that many Six National Natives believed was the product of coercion. It is also widely believed that a land sale was never agreed to, but instead it was a lease agreement between parties. These claims form the basis of recent Native protests in the Haldimand area.

Protestors have blocked the railway that runs across the disputed area, causing CN Rail to halt transport and Via Rail to employ a shuttle service. The disruption has resulted in a court order for protesters to disperse from the area or be found guilty of contempt. They have not left the site, where earlier about 45 protesters were forcibly driven away by the Ontario Provincial Police bearing Taser guns during a pre-dawn raid. Several of the protesters present at the police raid were arrested and released soon afterwards.

In response to the court order, the Clan Mothers of the Six Nations have issued a statement demanding that they be treated as a separate nation from Canada. The following text is quoted from the American Indian Movement of Colorado web page publishing an email received from Angela Sterritt, Gitxsan Nation, Justice for Girls, International Indigenous Youth Conference Secretariat.

The Women, being Title Holders to all lands of Turtle Island, assert our constitutional jurisdiction over the Haldimand Tract. We have never and cannot ever give up our land or our sovereignty.

1. The Six Nations are distinct original nations. We are to be dealt with on a nation-to-nation basis by the Crown and all other nations.

2. The Crown must respect our original relationship as set out in the Two Row Wampum, our jurisdiction as provided in our constitution, the Kaiannereh’ko:wa, and as respected by Sections 109 and 132 of the BNA [British North America] Act, 1867 and according to international covenants that Canada has signed.

3. We are to be dealt with on a nation-to-nation basis, as was the custom before Canada separated from the British Empire. Respect for the independent international status of the Six Nations by Canada was established before Canada achieved recognition as a state or gained the ability to sign treaties on its own. The independent international identity of the Six Nations identity has never been legally extinguished.

4. The band councils were established with procedures that violated international law. They continue to function as colonising institutions. We have never consented to their establishment nor their representing us.

5. Canada and all its politicians, bureaucrats, agents, assignees and appointees should cease and desist immediately their attempt to criminalize and apprehend our people for defending what is rightfully ours, the land to which we hold title. Any further action by Canada, Ontario and their agents shall be viewed as being a direct violation of the Two Row Wampum, the constitutional accord between the Ratino’shon:ni and Canada and international law.

6. The claims of Canada and the province of Ontario to have a right to legislate for the Rotino’shon:ni Six Nations and to grant private title to our land has no foundation in law.

The protesters are being supported by other Native groups throughout Canada, namely the Mohawk group in Montreal and Native groups in the United States. Discussion between protesters and Ontario government officials are ongoing.

References

CBC News staff (2006, April 20). Tensions grow as native protesters return to Ontario site. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2006/04/20/caledonia-protest060420.html

CBC News staff (2006, April 21). Caledonia land claim: Historical timeline. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/caledonia-landclaim/historical-timeline.html

CBC News staff (2006, April 22). Natives, governments to continue talks over Caledonia occupation. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2006/04/22/caledonia-deal060422.html

Sterritt, A. (2006, April 7). April 12: Day of action in support of six nations. American Indian Movement of Colorado [web page]. Retrieved from http://www.coloradoaim.org/blog/2006/04/april-12-day-of-action-in-support-of.html

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