Saturday, 21 December 2013

Six Nations Land Claim Number 16: Oneida Township

The map that accompanies Claim 16, Oneida Township based on the assertions of the Six Nations Land and Resources Department is found on their website here.  It is a shame that I cannot put this document directly on my blog, but the webdesigners have found every possible way to exclude that option.  This violates my view on "open access".  If one has nothing to hide, and it is a government or related public document, it should be readily available for display.  But I digress.  Basically Six Nations are claiming not only the part of Oneida Township which is presently part of the Six Nations Reserve, but the Township in its entirety.

There is a basic observation to be made here, and which applies to other claims in equal measure.  If one takes matters out of context, it is possible to "prove" just about anything.  In fact during the period between 1841 with the General Surrender, and 1853 when the move of most of the Six Nations members to the consolidated Reserve had taken place and the squatters had by in large removed and were compensated, there were many occasions when the Chiefs in Council changed their mind.  If one wishes to only focus on their first perspective, then it would be easy to make a case of there still be vast tracts of unceeded land.  However, all of the documents between 1841 and at least 1848 must be read in order to determine why the Ontario land Registry system includes the lands being claimed over 150 years after the fact by the Six Nations. 

In this specific instance, it is true that as late as 28 March 1844, there are documents stating that the lands between Burtch's Landing and "Cayuga" (which would thus include the Township of Oneida) were to be included in lands reserved for the Six Nations.  This turned out to be an error, perpetuated by Samuel P. Jarvis, which was rather obvious since there were huge blocks of land (e.g., Cook Block, Nelles Block, Dennis Block, McKenzie Block, Anderson Block, etc.) already in the hands of White men, and approved by the Chiefs in Council in a general review of lands along the Grand River as early as 1809.  So Jarvis tripped up, but the error was caught and the correct description approved by the Chiefs in Council was registered.

In 1845 the matter was cleared up to everyones satisfaction.  The Indian Superintendent here was David Thorburn.  Here follows excepts from the relevant Council Minutes:

The Council met again on September 17 and 18, 1845.
Sixty-six chiefs were in attendance on September 17. The following is recorded,

... After much time spent in discussion, [illegible word] the submission it was finally resolved [illegible word or words] reserves should consist of the lands adjoining, the tier of Lots on the west side of the Plank road in the township of Oneida and the whole of. the Township of Tuscarora ..........
(David Thorburn, Minutes of Council, Council House Onondaga, September 17, 1845. LAC, RG 10 Vol. 152, pp. 87852-87854) - bold print mine.
To ensure that the somewhat imprecise language (at least from a surveyor's point of view) was put on record, the following description of the lands were recorded such that a notice could be posted to alert squatters as to what lands were affected.  Here follows the notification:
The Council minutes of the 'following day, 18 September 1845, have not been located, however a public notice describing the lands reserved for the Six.Nations is consistent with the intention indicated at the September 17 meeting. The public notice described the reserved lands:
Lying on the South side of the Grand River, West from the tier of Lots adjoining the Plank Road, in the Township of Oneida, including the Township of Tuscarora ........
("Notice" [prior to January 1, 1846] LAC, RG 10, Vol. 458, p. 78. The document is damaged.and the date is not discernible) - bold print mine.
At a Council meeting of 8 March 1848, David Thorburn reported that,
His Lordship in saying they might have 55,000 acres; evidently meant if such could be had in confonmity with the request of the Council, that their settlements should be entirely Indian and compact.  This has been done as far as existing circumstances at the tome would permit & a compact settlement could only be given from the west side of the tier of Lots on the Plank road in Oneida stretching westward to the Line separating the townships of Tuscarora from the Burtch tract in Brantford.  At that time the Burtch Tract was still an outstanding matter - as will be discussed in a later posting.
(Council Minutes dated March [9], 1848. LAC, RG 10 ,Vol. 170 , pp. 98607-98610) - bold print mine.

Finally in 1850, Lord Elgin's Proclamation seals the deal for all of the reserved Indian lands in the Haldimand Tract:

including the following lands in the Haldimand Tract: ... certain tract or parcel of land, situate in the Township of ONEIDA in the County of Haldimand ... comprising lots numbers one, two, three, four, five and six in the first, second, third, fourth,' fifth and sixth concessions respectively of Oneida .. and also, Riveir lots numbers one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve in the same Township.
... the whole of the Township of TUSCARORA ..
("Proclamation extending the provisions of 13 and 14 Vict. Ch. 74 to certain lands in several townships in U.C. in the occupation or enjoyment of various tribes of Indians, November 8, 1850". INAC Indian Lands Registry Registration No. 8740-292).
The above lands described as being in the Township of Oneida are those included in the present consolidated Reserve.
So again the Chiefs in Council heard the boundaries discussed and there was no dissent noted.  No where are any lots along the Plank Road in Seneca mentioned, the chiefs laid no further claim to them or any lands in the Township of Seneca at any time after 1844.

The key here is understanding where "the tier of Lots adjoining the Plank Road" is situated.  It can be seen on maps of Oneida Township.  Although there is a survey map dating to 1845 when the Land Inspection Returns of Oneida Township were submitted, the present author did not copy this document, only the land descriptions.  One example from a later date will however suffice.  It is from the H.R. Page Atlas of Haldimand County of 1879:
Map of Oneida Township
Above is the 1879 map of Oneida Township, which, in addition to the part seen as "Indian Reserve", is claimed by Six Nations as "Claim 19".  The only lands to which a legitimate claim can be made are those already included in the Reserve, west of the tier of lots behind the Plank Road seen as running in a slight diagonal from the middle of Caledonia at the top of the map, to the town of Hagersville is shown at the very bottom where two rail lines cross near the Plank Road.
Conclusion:  There is no basis in fact for the claim that Six Nations never surrendered what is today the Township of Oneida.  The Chiefs in Council surrendered all of the Township of Oneida, including the lots along the Plank Road, in 1845.  The only section that was reserved was the part that is presently included in the consolidated Reserve.

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