All my life I have grown up knowing of the unresolved land disputes involving the Six Nations of the Grand River (Haudenosaunee, the Confederacy, etc.) and the Canadian Federal Government (as successors to the British Crown). I have not really been on one side or the other, but rather have tended to focus on what the evidence would clearly show to be true. As far as I know, people on the Reserve and in town (e.g., Brantford) did not see me as anything but part of the local tapestry. I might show up at the Bread and Cheese Day festivities on the Reserve, or at the County Fair in Caledonia to watch the demolition derby. I have always been able to walk comfortably in both "worlds" within what is known geographically and historically as the Haldimand Tract, situated largely in what is today Brant and Haldimand Counties, Province of Ontario.
Indeed, throughout the years of my youth and beyond, there have been occasional flare ups, but by in large living hereabouts was pretty much the same as growing up and raising a family anywhere in rural Southern Ontario. One exception was a landscape more and more dominated by illegal smoke shacks, but at one time they were on private Native land, and so merely an annoyance to neighbours such as myself. Then, 2006, the year of the infamous "Caledonia crisis", arrived. This year was to see my world and that of those around me change forever (although not residing in the area directly impacted by the protest). While I will blog about the specifics in later postings, suffice it to say here that among other things, I realised that there was a huge psychological gap between many of the Six Nations residents and the "townsfolk" in for example nearby Hagersville, Caledonia and Brantford.
The conflagration was ignited by a belief, in this case that land at the south end of Caledonia (in Oneida Township), on which a housing development was arising, belonged to the Six Nations - that it had never been surrendered. Beliefs are one thing, but in fact this was land on title at the local Land Registry Office, and I happened to have a copy of the relevant land inspection and surrender papers from the 1840s in my possession. All documents were signed by chiefs of the Six Nations in Council. I was told in confidence by some elders that the real issue was that the Six Nations felt hemmed in by increasing development along the Haldimand Tract, a concern that I shared. Furthermore, that if things continued at this pace, there would be no place for the coming generations to live.
Unfortunately since the Ipperwash "incident", it was now the policy of those whose duty it is to "serve and protect", and apply the law evenly and consistently, the Ontario Provincial Police, became "peacekeepers" in any matter involving Native disputes. The "force" went from elite to effete, and their leadership became enablers. There was no law enforcement (as I understood the term), and the rule of law vanished as the area degenerated into anarchy. Not a peep was heard from the Provincial Government. The unimaginable suffering of the locals, caught most directly in the midst of it all, can best be appreciated via the first hand reports issued at the time by the media, and summarised by the journalist Christie Blatchford in her book, Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us, Toronto, Doubleday Canada, 2010. Could this extended lawless anarchy be a function of nothing more than an unsupported belief? The truth appeared to be entirely irrelevant. "Caledonia is ours" was a slogan I heard time and again from Native activists. For most of us, what was most "in your face" apparent was that the road into Caledonia, and at times the Highway 6 bypass, were blocked. Also noteworthy was the blockade of the railway, and the torching of the Stirling Street bridge. It should be noted that some White Canadians, those who did not live through the Caledonia nightmare or anything remotely similar, have written articles and books in support of the Native "uprising", or at least justifying it. One such book is by a Law Student at UBC, Laura DeVries, Conflict in Caledonia: Aboriginal Land Rights and the Rule of Law, Vancouver, UBC Press, 2011.
Since 2006 there have been numerous protests on both sides, and on the Native side the continuing agitation was largely stirred up by outside radical union members and the far left wing groups only too happy to play a role as sponsors of violence and acrimony. There were also shady backroom deals, for example to install wind generators on contested land, and a series of other irritants, however, there was an odd balance in the tension, this all became the status quo. Feelings of anger and reconciliation would ebb and flow like some sort of continuous sine wave. However it took two seemingly minor incidents in the last two weeks to act as stimuli resulting in the creation of this blog.
First there was the "spontaneous" blockade of Highway 6, this time on the 17th of October 2013, to support the anti fracking Native groups in New Brunswick. Shades of 2006 all over again. Not being aware of the problem, I set out for Caledonia to have supper. The traffic (rerouted from the blockade) was bumper to bumper in both directions. Huge 18 wheelers were rumbling through town, although technically too heavy for the 9 span bridge. Some kind souls slowed down to let me drive my vehicle out of the restaurant parking lot, and from there I literally crawled back home. What if there was an emergency, such as a fire, or an ambulance was needed ...................... At that moment I came to the obvious conclusion that the protesters didn't really care about neighbours, school chums, and even kin - after all there was the "cause", in New Brunswick. I was not amused. It is well known that due to a "quirk" that goes all the way back to childhood, and the unremitting bullying I received at school in my younger years, I get extremely anxious when someone purposely blocks my path. This initiates an irrational welling up of anger, and a desire to obtain retribution from those responsible for my extreme discomfort. So who is responsible here - Six Nations radicals. So now the need for an action plan. Out of respect for my neighbours and kin, I have held back all of the information I possess that could be potentially damaging to the aspirations of Six Nations to obtain damages for this or that perceived wrong. That all changed when caught in the traffic jam.
Secondly, on the 30th of October 2013, less than two weeks after the latest blockade, the local Native paper carried a special feature on, "Six Nations Future", and the proposed "McKenzie Meadows Project" - a development of a minimum of 700 residential units slated for the "urban area of Caledonia" immediately east of the Douglas Creek Estates property (now known as Kanonhstaton). Wait, wasn't the rationale for creating the absolute chaos in 2006 something about the Six Nations feeling choked by new development? Is this a grotesque example of hypocrisy? Now it became crystal clear that this whole problem (questionable Indian land claims and the fallout) will never go away. Frustration turned to outright anger.
As a result, I will enter the fray in a more direct manner - using this blog as a forum to compare and contrast beliefs and the facts, informing all interested parties as to exactly what I know - and let the truth prevail. Hopefully we can separate fact from fiction.
Some of the topics and questions that will be discussed, based on my personal observations melded with what others have written, include:
- Why the land claims process seems doomed to failure
- The stolen records
- The impossible factionalism - Elected Council versus Hereditary Council, who should be negotiating with the Government?
- The Men's Fire, the Mohawk Warriors, the Mohawk Workers - what role does each play in land issues?
- Some little known radical Six Nations groups - who are the HDI, and where does the money shaken from developers go?
- Where are the Clan Mothers and other respected elders - are they speaking out? Do they agree with the radicals?
- The inability to accept what is clearly spelled out in treaties. The meaning of "surrendered" lands
- The attempt to right perceived wrongs from 150 years ago - the investment in the Grand River Navigation Company
- The disruption of the rural life in South Cayuga Township, the "deal" over wind generators, claims that lands were never given up or sold
- Claimed rights to be consulted in any dealings that occur in the Haldimand Tract - even where the land was sold 200 years ago
- Is there a "statute of limitations" on anything as it relates to the Haldimand Tract?
- The documentary evidence relative to the Douglas Creek Estates (Kanonhstaton) - which triggered the uprising and unleashed the forces of destruction in Caledonia and vicinity
- The claim that "Caledonia is ours", versus the facts
- Is there another side to the "Mushole" (residential schooling) situation?
- Was the Indian Department "paternalistic", and in a misguided attempt to encourage assimilation, did it dupe the Six Nations into giving up their lands?
- Is land that was surrendered, and is registered on title in the County Land Registry Offices, still up for grabs?
- The illegal smoke shops and other establishments on Native land, and on Provincial land
- The unwillingness to settle land matters due to the "Native Industry" in Ottawa
- The hurling about of the term "racism" and "racist" to cow ones adversaries
- The role of unions (CUPE), Communists, Anarchists and other solidarity / support groups
- Caledonia as a place on which one can wipe ones boots at any time without repercussions
- The locals who have stood up against tyranny, and the majority with their heads in the sand
- Local County and Provincial politicians
- The positive efforts of some Six Nations members to foster healing and reconciliation
- The work of Gary McHale and other local activists
- Are local activists being deliberately provocative?
- The new role of the Ontario Provincial Police
- The press, in most instances, wears blinders and are as intimidated as the police (who won't protect them)
- Understanding the acts of overt violence versus psychological warfare (e.g., requiring locals to carry "passes")
- The scars upon the land that still remain
- Hypocrisy runs rampant
- Tax exempt status - misconceptions and fairness?
- The validity of the Nanfan Treaty (with claims to fishing and hunting rights) - the documentary evidence
- The Six Nations are descendants of Loyalist Refugees, not aboriginal to the Haldimand Tract any more than their colleagues the Youngs, Nelles, Huffs and Dochstaders
- The true "aboriginal" owners of the Haldimand Tract (and all of Southern Ontario) were the Anishinabi - Mississauga, by right of conquest
These are just a few of the topics with which I am familiar, and which immediately come to mind. I will welcome rebuttal of anything I state by anyone with knowledge of the matter. However I will adhere strongly to guidelines and policies as to what is commonly considered to be an unacceptable reply. Generally a contemporary document is going to trump opinions and beliefs, so I request that any responses include references or links, which can be included here - although a calm reasoned argument is perfectly fine.
I expect that any fact - based understanding of issues will create considerable discomfort resulting in hostile feelings in those who live in a world where beliefs supersede all else. If I can get just a few of these individuals to acknowledge, "well this person has a point", this will have been a worthwhile exercise. But it is so much easier and comforting to accept only the dogma that has been "hammered in" from childhood, so I am a total realist in terms of any expectations that my words can change hearts and minds.
Before addressing the many faceted "beliefs versus the facts" aspect of this blog, it will be necessary to provide some background relating to both the Six Nations, and the Haldimand Tract - which will thus be the subjects of the next two posts.
It is important to note that each post has been generally "hammered out" in one try. Thus it will often be necessary to review and amend and basically "buff up" each of them from time to time. Thus if a subject is of particular interest, it is recommended that the reader return to the post occasionally to see what has changed.
The present author’s kinship connections include, among others, the people of Haldimand County, the Delaware of Smoothtown, and the Lower Mohawk of the old Mohawk Village and Tyendinaga.
For those who take the time to read and consider what I am saying, and who do not let their minds become clouded with previous beliefs in assessing whether my words are supported by the facts or not, nya : weh gowa.