Saturday, 19 March 2016

Six Nations Land Rights Under Threat - What is All the Fuss Concerning Algonquins in Eastern Ontario?

Of late there have been a few articles on the above captioned subject which concerns conflict between the Iroquois Caucus (IC) and the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO).  The most recent article is found in "Two Row Times", March 16th 2016, page 18.  The present author has not blogged about the matter since it seems relatively trivial.  Now new information has surfaced which puts a whole new spin on the matter.

In essence, the AOO are seeking to establish a land base for nine of the 10 nations they represent.  The petition relates to 117,000 acres of supposed "treaty land".  The problem (or at least one of them) is that, a large portion of these lands are also part of the traditional land base of Iroquois Nations.  Unfortunately it is unclear which Iroquois groups are potentially impacted here - Akwesasne, Tyendinaga, Six Nations or other.  Since a Six Nations representative has stated that there are overlapping claims in Hogsbury (near Ottawa) and Innisville (near Barrie), it begs the question as to "by what right do Six Nations have a claim so far removed from the Grand River" - although this author is aware of a rather unique claim for lands near Hawkesbury that was addressed many years ago.  The "Six Nations Land Rights Worker" has weighed in, stating that, "if the treaty is approved it will have far reaching affect for indigenous land rights across the board".

Other than apparent overlapping claims, there is another very interesting twist to this matter which bears some consideration since it could entirely alter the dynamics at Six Nations:

The controversy centers around the question, "among the AOO Algonquin group, who is eligible to vote, and what are the criteria for being considered eligible?"  This may be of some concern to Six Nations since there was a lot of controversy in the Community over statements made by representatives of the Hereditary Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) that only those who were 100% Six Nations could expect legal protection in the event of a confrontation with authorities over the attempt by the Federal Government to clamp down on the contraband cigarette trade.  Some people became very nervous because, as is well known locally, everyone is admixed with European, the only difference being to what degree.  So worries such as, "what if my mother's mother was European / local White, will that exclude me from protection?  As I blogged about earlier, things got so tense that the HCCC legal counsel made a statement that they did not have the right to determine who was Haudenosaunee (Six Nations), so as long as a person could show that they were a descendant of a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Band, they would come under the umbrella of protection.

A Land Claims officer as well as at least one Elected Counsel member have gone on record as being opposed to the AOO agreement, one of their main issues being that the Agreement in Principle includes 7,714 individuals eligible to vote, but only 663 (less than 10%) are Status Indians.  Thus the majority are perceived as simply locals by some Six Nations officials, and should not be eligible to vote.  Apparently, according to a memo from the Algonquin Nation Secretariat (ANS) who oppose the agreement, the majority here seeking the land base claim rights by virtue of Indian heritage but, their indigenous identity is linked to a "root ancestor" of Algonquin identity.  In many cases, the claim of indigenous ancestry goes back to one person in the voter's genealogy in the 17th century.  Thus, Algonquins who are relying on these root ancestors have had no intermarriage with anyone of Algonquin or Nipissing ancestry for at least 200, and in some cases, more than 300 years.

Perhaps some at Six Nations sense the possible ripple effect that could dramatically affect the definition of Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse - Six Nations of the Grand River).  The HCCC has already indicated that they are willing to bring into the fold anyone who can point to a Six Nations of the Grand River ancestor (as far back potentially as 1785 when the people came to the Haldimand Tract).  If the situation among the Algonquins is accepted and they get land and / or a monetary settlement, then it opens the door wide to who could have a say in matters concerning Six Nations land.  Those of us without a status card, but who do meet the HCCC criteria vastly outnumber those 23,000 or so status Six Nations members and could potentially take over control of the process leaving Band Members in the minority and out voted in land claim disputes with the Federal Government - or at least being able to ratify or not ratify an agreement.  That would be a frightening prospect to most at Six Nations since their agenda and that of the wider Haudenosaunee Community may be at odds, and the former would lack the authority to over rule the "root ancestor" group.

Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but surely the Six Nations land negotiators and Council members recognize the dangers if the AOO agreement is ratified.  It sets a precedent for what could happen here.  So in other words, the worry about overlapping land claims (between Iroquoian and Algonquin groups) may have much much wider implications.  I will be watching this matter very closely.


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