Monday, 23 December 2013

Six Nations Land Claim Number 8: Johnson Settlement, Brantford Township - 7000 acres

Details of this claim can be found on the Six Nations Land and Resources website here.  The associated map of the lands involved in this claim, between Colborne Street and Power Line Road can be seen here.  According to the Land and Resources research:

By Order-in-Council of October 4, 1843, the Crown acknowledged that the lands which comprised the Johnson’s Settlement tract, some 7,000 acres and other lands were reserved out of the lands purportedly to be surrendered for disposition to the Crown under the January 18, 1841 document. Six Nations had indicated their consent that these lands would be let on short leases. Nevertheless, the Crown subsequently sold these lands and all of the proceeds from the sales were not paid to Six Nations. Six Nations have never consented to an absolute surrender of these lands.

As has been observed in the previous claims discussed in this blog, the surrender of 1841 was little more than a work in progress, a draft plan which was altered later as the Chiefs changed their mind and so the early document was supplanted by later ones.  It has been the experience of the present author that for reasons that one can only speculate about, the Land and Resources personnel ignored the documents to 1848 which spoke to these changes requested by the Chiefs. 

On 18 December 1844, after much discussion during the ensuing years, the Chiefs in Council reported their wish to sell all of the lands in the Johnson Settlement.  The Holmes Report submitted to the Corporation of the City of Brantford (see here) presented all of the relevant evidence pertaining to the matter.  Holmes quoted from the various Council Minutes, listed the numbers, names, and tribal composition of the chiefs present, provided all the correspondence including petitions between the Six Nations Chiefs in Council and the Government, between Government officials, in short all of the pertinent data is included.  Holmes and Associates provide an assessment of the data of record between the surrender of 1841 and the Council meeting on 18 December 1844.  The work is comprehensive such that if there is a document that lies hidden somewhere (documents can and are misfiled and missing - which is typical), this case seems to prove the exception with a complete or virtually complete set of records, with what survives allowing an unequivocal conclusion as to what transpired between 1841 and 1844, and what was at various points in time the wishes of the Chiefs in Council.  The bottom lines is that by the end of 1844 all of the I's had been dotted, and the T's crossed such that there is not a shadow of a doubt that the Chiefs in Council saw it in the best interest of their people to move to a compact Reserve, and not lease lands but instead sell those that were not required for the Reserve such that the monies could be put in Trust for the benefit of Six Nations.  I have done similar research in the same set of records (RG 10 Indian Affairs collection) and can attest that Holmes has done an excellent job, and that it will be difficult if not impossible to challenge the substance of this report using contemporary data.

Conclusion:  The Chiefs in Council did not reserve any lands in the Johnson Settlement, they requested that lands within this parcel be sold for their benefit.  There is no factual basis upon which this claim by Six Nations Land and Resources can be challenged.

Present Situation:  Despite the "air tight" work of Holmes, and the fact that it has been presented to Justice Harrison Arrell of the Ontario Supreme Court who has used the data therein to make rulings pertaining to injunctions within the City of Brantford, it is surprising (in a sense) that people continue to ignore the facts, and revert back to their unsustainable beliefs.  It is unclear to the present author whether Six Nations parties have read the "Holmes Report".  If they have, their behaviour might be seen as major denial.  If not, then it behoves all to ensure that all at Six Nations become aware of the work of Joan Holmes so that futile endeavours based on false assumptions are not perpetuated.

The present author must also question whether the municipal officials of Brantford and Brant County have read the report - their actions make me wonder if they are even vaguely aware of its existence.  It seems that the County is annoyed at the City for annexing good farmland.  They appear prepared to use the old Johnson Settlement claim as a bargaining chip to gain leverage against their more urban neighbours.  They are even insisting that the Six Nations be included in the negotiations (this petulance would be amazingly short sighted, and doubtless backfire), and asserting that Six Nations holds title to the Johnson Settlement, and would see 5,000 acres of the 7,000-acre Johnson Settlement Tract signed over to the city from the country for $16.3 million in compensation according to an article in Two Row Times, 18 December 2013 - see here.  Talk about opening up a can of worms - now the Six Nations Elected Council (Chief Ava Hill) wants in on the deal.  In the Comments section to the article, local activist, Garry Horsnell astutely says, I still don't get it. Why is Brant County consulting with the Six Nations of the Grand River?  He then provides a detailed analysis using the Holmes Report and other evidence to show, conclusively, that Six Nations as of 1844, has no claim whatsoever on the lands of the Johnson Settlement.  Big mystery.  Stay tuned.


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