Saturday, 21 December 2013

Six Nations Land Claim Number 9: Burtch Tract, Brantford Township

Please see a general introduction to this subject here, if you have not already done so.

This Land Claim submitted to the Federal Government but the Six Nations Land and Resources Department, includes 5,223 acres situated between Tuscarora Township (present Reserve) and the Township of Brantford.  The specifics of the claim can be seen here, and the associated map here.  The Six Nations researchers assert very little in the way of specifics, only that there was never any surrender of the lands by Six Nations to the Crown. 

This particular property has been contentious for some time, perhaps because of its direct proximity to the modern Reserve and Brantford.  If successful, this claim would result in a very significant addition to the Six Nations land base.  However the location here of a large number of farms owned by non-Natives, as  well as the towns of Burtch and Newport, are but two impediments standing in the way of a resolution in favour of Six Nations.

Apparently, after the 2006 crisis in Caledonia, the Provincial Government, as negotiated by David Peterson, promised to return lands in the Burtch Tract if the barriers came down in Caledonia.  This questionable "deal" is noted here, but the details of the supposed agreement have remained obscure (or died a natural death).  Actually, to be fair, the Provincial Government of Ontario have kept the matter front and centre, at least on their website - see here.  Basically, in terms of status of the "facility transfer", The environmental assessment of the Burtch property is complete and remediation is ongoing. The province is discussing the transfer of ownership of the Burtch land to the Six Nations people.  Updated 31 July 2013.  I wonder to whom the land will be transferred.

This Tract has been of particular interest to the Mohawk Workers (about whom I have spoken in a previous blog posting).  They appear to anticipate that once the site has been cleared of any toxic substances left over from the days when the Burtch Correctional facility was located there, the lands at least at this site will be transferred to the possession of the Mohawk Workers.  It goes without saying that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, Men's Fire, Haudenosaunee Development Institute, as well as the Six Nations Elected Council might have other ideas about the matter.  A bit of a sticky wicket or what.

Well, if we allow the evidence to speak for us it will be much ado about nothing.  There is no unceeded Burtch Tract land to bargain over.  None the less, the belief that the lands have never been ceeded appears to be as strong as ever, so we need to explore the evidence and determine whether the Land and Resources people have made a mistake or not.

In examining the documents from the first surrender in 1841, to the middle of the decade, it is clear that the Chiefs did intend on keeping some lands here - at least at that point in time.  Hence if one looks at some of the minutes of Council meetings, the Chiefs held firm on this particular property for longer than any of the other parcels.  In a sense it was "last to go".  Here is the data, showing how the Chiefs were wishing to retain some lots in the Burtch Tract, but sometime between 1846 and 1848 they realised that there were simply too many White people to make a viable block of land for use by the Six Nations, and they authorised the surrender of all the Burtch Tract.

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 and such Lots or portions in the Burtch tract in the Township of Brantford as the White settlers thereon could not on an Examination (before the Chiefs in council at this place) shew that they had an equitable claim to a pre Emption by Leases or otherwise the submission of the Re Examination to be laid before His Lordship the Governor General for his decision on each case, And that in the said Township of Brantford at the Mohawk Mission School Two hundred acres and further in the Township of Onondaga a tier of River Lots from forty five to Sixty one inclusive. The council adjourned at dusk. 

(David Thorburn, Minutes of Council, Council House Onondaga, September 17, 1845. LAC, RG 10, Vol. 152, pp. 87852-87854) - bold print mine.

It seems that the matter dragged on a bit, but was finally settled once and for all by March of 1848 when the Chiefs in Council met on March 25th.
Finally, on March 25 they agreed to the sale of all of the land in the Burtch Tract,
Having thus surrendered to Her Majesty for sale the Burtch tract of land in the manner set forth the council desire that no further surrender of any portion of their Land take place within the declared general Reservation in Oneida Tuscarora and Onondaga tract that the same be confirmed by Deed to them and their posterity for ever.

(Council Minutes dated March 25, 1848. LAC, RG 10, Vol. 170, p. 98627).

Further confirmation of the surrender is found when,
A few months after these council meetings a public notice, dated June 16, 1848 was issued announcing the sale of lands in the Burtch Tract, with the.exception of lots "whereon Indian families reside, who do not for the present desire to remove".
("Notice", June 16, 1848. LAC, RG 10, Vol. 458, p. 91).

So a done deal, one would assume.  So why do various Six Nations groups continue to press for the return of lands on the Burtch Tract, or for monetary compensation (the latter it would appear would constitute "double dipping" as the monies from the sales were presumably added to the annuity fund).



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