Things used to be very simple, at least in the years between 1848 when the last parcel of land (the Burtch Tract) was ceded to the Crown such that the proceeds from the sale(s) would be placed in the Six Nations Trust Fund, and the closing years of the 1980s. Basically land was included in one of two registration systems:
1) Ontario Land Registry: Here all lands for which a Crown Patent has been issued (largely from the 1830s and 1840s) are registered in the relevant County land registries. Here someone can for example visit Cayuga and see the entire ownership record from today dating back to the first Crown Deed. Lawyers are constantly to be seen in this office since with any land transaction the records must be consulted and shown to be lien free and without irregularities back about 75 years. Almost all property will be in fee simple, allowing the "bargain and sale" of the property and transfer from the old to new owner in the record. No one has challenged this system since it was done via legal purchases or surrenders by the Indian occupants. For example the Chiefs in Council of Six Nations would sign a deed between the original Indian owner and the purchaser so that a Crown Patent could be issued, and the land registered in the name of the first purchaser, and each subsequent change to the present day.
2) Indian Land Registry: For Six Nations, a land registry system relating to Indian Reserve 40, Six Nations Reserve, has been in place since 1847 when "location tickets" were issued to each head of family when the Reserve was consolidated in that year. Deeds of sale here are not in fee simple (otherwise a non-Native could purchase the land) but via a system of "location tickets" allowing the holder to occupy the land which is still owned by the Crown. Location tickets allowed Status Members to hold land and have it registered in the Indian Land Registry maintained by the Federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In 1951 a more formal centralized system was put in place, but the basic process has not changed. The Six Nations Elected Council is in control of the day to day operation of this system. See Bill Russell, Records of the Department of Indian Affairs at Library and Archives Canada: A Source for Genealogical Research, Toronto, Ontario Genealogical Society, 2004.
3) Bogus Registries: Recently "official" (the above two systems) and "non official" registries (e.g., that claimed by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council HCCC via the Haudenosaunee Development Institute HDI) are in play.
Recently I blogged about the claim by the HDI that they possess "the" Indian land registry system, the "Confederacy Land Registry" such that new (although illegal) acquisitions "must" be registered through their process (see here for further information). Hence, the invalid claim that the Douglas Creek Estates, obtained by anarchistic riot by Six Nations members, and purchased by the Province of Ontario from the legitimate land owners (Henco Industries, Ltd.) to "keep the peace" is still within the Ontario Land Registry system. The land has been in limbo for 8 years. However the HDI claim (without a shred of evidence) that the land has been placed within their registry system and no longer belongs to the Province of Ontario. If this had ever taken place with the collusion of the Province and the land given over to HDI for say a token $1, when the Province paid something in the order of $26 million dollars, the taxpayers of both Ontario and Canada would have every right to take the HDI or other Six Nations representatives to Court to recover these monies or to obtain the return of such lands. To the best of my knowledge the Province still holds the land "in trust" - until a decision is made as to what to do with it. With a Provincial election looming, nothing is likely to happen in the near future to settle anything related to DCE.
Recent events have called into question the acceptance on that part of a significant element within the Six Nations Community of the legitimacy of any Confederacy or HDI registry relating to land in disputed land claims (there really isn't any other type that HDI can immerse themselves in). Other than the rather outlandish claims being made by HDI over "ownership" of DCE, they have also been embroiled in another controversial land - related matter where there are multiple parties and competing claims. Specifically, this is the Guswhenta Development in what is known as the Eagle's Nest Tract. In previous blog postings I have detailed the groups with an "interest" in this property, such as Men's Fire (an affiliate of HCCC), the Kanata Mohawks (now known as the Mohawks of the Grand River), and the developer, with two of the three owners being Six Nations members.
Guswhenta Native - Owned Development to be Entered into the General Ontario Land Registry System: So, rather than selecting the "registry" run by HDI or any other "Rez - related" version, the Guswhenta group will act in accordance with a plan that will ensure the economic viability of their efforts - anything else would be financial suicide. In other words, the two Six Nations Members who are owners have chosen to opt for the only system that will allow land tenure in fee simple. The bottom line is that the potential purchasers of the homes will in all probability not be Native, and so they will never purchase property with insecure land tenure, and hence all with right mind will realize that there is in fact only one option, only one land registry system that will be acceptable to any but the "idealists" and "traditionalists" who for some reason cannot or will not see the harsh realities involved in living in the 21st Century.
In "Turtle Island News", April 30, 2014, p.14 is an article entitled, "Housing subdivision will be registered with Ontario" we learn that Guswhenta Developments have hired a Brantford contractor to begin the construction of 12 lots on 39 acres of land.
The "Mohawk group" has decided to throw their lot in with the developers and will as a consequence obtain a 12 acre parcel "returned to them" - and have notified the Ontario Government of their desire to return the title to the Mohawks under the Haldimand Deed. How, in reality, they could put this plan into some reality framework is unclear. This group are presently in conflict with both HCCC and SNEC over the matter, so the "usual chaos" will continue to rein supreme and more conflict is on the horizon. The addition here is a bid to enshrine Mohawk supremacy at Six Nations. Considering that the head of this "Mohawk group" (formerly "Kanata Mohawks") consider the HCCC "dysfunctional" and have no intention to have any dealings with them. As expected, the HDI (the "muscle") of the HCCC, have something to say about the matter. The Director stated that neither Guswhenta nor the Kanata Mohawks have met with the HDI to "consult", and, perhaps most importantly, they did not, fill out an HDI development application after last fall's protests. Some might see this "application" scheme, which has no legal foundation, as a form of extortion (since in the past vans of goons have appeared if there is a failure to comply on the part of the developer), which is the perspective of developers in Caledonia, Cayuga, Hagersville, and Brantford who have fallen under the "requirements" of the HDI. HDI officials state that Guswhenta is thus, putting Six Nations' land treaties in jeopardy by trying to put the land in the Ontario Land Registry. Furthermore, as soon as it enters the Ontario Land Registry, it puts it under fee simple and that puts it under the authority of Ontario, of the Crown, and Canada in right of the Crown and therefore it's subject to taxation. Indeed, precisely what the developers want, otherwise they would never be able to sell their homes as there would simply be no buyers. No responsible business person is going to shoot themselves in the foot and lose multi millions of dollars to satisfy the world view of the HDI and those who govern their actions. However, HDI seem fully independent / autonomous, with no transparency, no accountability - no way to know where the application fee monies ever go - they become invisible - with no apparent paper trail - according to multiple accusations leveled at them, particularly during the 2008-9 Court Injunction in Brantford where a large fine was levied against this group and others.
If this all seems repetitive, and that you have heard this or something like it before, welcome to Six Nations.