Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Six Nations are NOT Aboriginal to the Haldimand Tract

One of the largest misconceptions, and one that is almost universally believed, is that Six Nations people are Natives or aboriginal to the land granted by Governor Haldimand in 1784.  The facts, however, do not support this belief. 

It comes to mind that if it were Six Nations land, why did they not just move on to their property and assume all the rights of owners in fee simple (exclusive ownership).  The reason is that they were dispossessed Loyalist refugees looking for a suitable place to settle.  When Captain Joseph Brant chose the Grand River lands, it was necessary for the Crown to purchase the lands from the rightful owners - the Missisauga.  It was widely known that the only claimants to these lands at that time were the Missisauga.  When Lt. John Young of the Six Nations Indian Department and his Mohawk wife wished to establish a farm on the Grand River (before the choice of lands had been made by Brant and others), he negotiated a deal with the Missisaugas and purchased a plot of land one mile by one mile along the Grand River near Cayuga.  Young was well aware that for the deed to be recognized as valid by all parties, only the rightful owners could negotiate the transaction.  He did not hesitate to approach the head chief of the Missisauga.

When Governor Haldimand was faced with the task of accommodating the thousands of Six Nations and other Native peoples who had fought for the Crown, and whose aboriginal properties in NY had been utterly destroyed by the depredations of American General Sullivan, he obtained a deed of sale from the Missisauga who owned the entire region by right of conquest dating to the closing years of the 1600s.  True aboriginal peoples of the region, including the Missisauga and Ojibway, sold outright all of their interest in their former lands with the exception of parcels that they wished to be reserved for their own use.  Thus there was no wiggle room for contesting over this or that parcel of land, what was sold became Crown land and it was the right of the Crown to sell or otherwise dispose of these acquired lands in any way it saw fit.

We constantly hear of Six Nations claiming to be Natives (all others are non-Natives, or placed under other categories such as "settlers").  In fact the Six Nations are aboriginal to the area between the mouth of the Mohawk River to the Finger Lakes and beyond towards Lake Erie.  However these lands do not belong to the Crown any longer, and so the Six Nations are no more aboriginal to the Haldimand Tract than their fellow Loyalists and military comrades, the Young, Nelles, Huff and Dochstader families who are of German descent.  Often one hears that aboriginal rights evolve from the early treaties signed when New York was a possession of the Crown, or by conquest after destroying and dispersing the Huron and others in what is today Southern Ontario.  In fact this belief is wrong.  Historians do not debate the point - the Six Nations had no valid claim to any lands that belonged to the Missisauga, and purchased by the Crown.  So who are the true Natives, aboriginal people, of the Grand River Tract?  The Missisauga, and only the Missisauga.

Knowing that in fact, the Grand River Tract is not Aboriginal, Native land to anyone at Six Nations, makes the above sign, posted by the Six Nations at Caledonia, something of an enigma.  If the Mississauga had erected it - there is an element of historical truth.

The matter has been misunderstood largely because of the Nanfan Treaty of 1701, which will be the subject of the next blog posting.


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