February 10, 2010
re: Differences between claims, says chief.
Chief Montour tells us that from his and many other members of Six Nations perspective "if it were not for the Six Nations there could well be no Canada". While the Mohawk contribution to the defence of Upper Canada during the war of 1812 should not be discounted, neither should American incompetence in a war that was rife with incompetence on both sides. Chief Montour wants to ensure non natives remember this nearly 200 year old "debt" to Six Nations but the debt goes both ways and there are two sides to this story. Without the British it's very likely there would be no "Six Nations" as we know it today.
By offering access to the land along the Grand to Joseph Brant and his followers the British ensured that Six Nations escaped the fate of so many other Native tribes who came into direct conflict with American Manifest Destiny. The historical record is filled with examples of peoples all over the world who allied themselves to the losing side in wars and who vanished into history in much the same way the tribe we remember as the Neutrals was "absorbed" by what was then Five Nations in the mid 17th century. If Chief Montour wants to dredge up centuries old history that's fine but he should expect the same in return. Rather than a debt owed to Six Nations this should be viewed as a debt repaid by Six Nations to the British Crown but I don't expect that view to be very popular in Ohsweken.
Chief Montour says the "Haldimand Proclamation was a specific designation of lands within our Beaver Hunting Grounds that were to be recognized as a deed to Six Nations of these lands." Those "Beaver Hunting Grounds" were set out in the Nanfan treaty. The same treaty that, what was then Five Nations, to quote The Nanfan treaty directly... "doe for us our heires and successors absolutely surrender, deliver up and for ever quit claime unto out great Lord and Master the King of England". It's quite clear what this means. these lands, these "Beaver Hunting Grounds" were turned over to the English Crown so it is the Crown's decisions that take precedence and not Six Nations.
Joseph Brant, from the beginning "interpreted the Haldimand Proclamation as recognition of the Six Nations as an independent national community" and "a grant of the Grand River lands to the Six Nations in fee simple". The British Government firmly resisted both propositions, and the Crown's position has never changed." That is a direct quote from ISAAC v. DAVEY - Ontario Court of Appeal, Schroeder, Jessup and Amup JJ.A., 4 October 1974 and that is just a reminder that none of this is new and all of this has been gone over again and again. To further quote that Ontario Court of Appeal decision "some members of the Six Nations have perpetuated Brant's position", among them can be counted Chief Montour and the Six Nations Elected Council who claim that "Six Nations still maintain land rights to the entire original Haldimand Tract." Yet the Crown has said NO to this from the very start and here we are in 2010, over two centuries after the Haldimand Proclamation, going over this same ground again.
To most outside of the "Six Nations of the Grand River Territory" this is boring old history best left in the past to better move into the future but it would appear that to many on the reserve this belief of Brant's is as fresh and real as yesterday. However, that doesn't make them right any more than Brant was right and there are high level legal decisions made in the past to back that up.
The next issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of the alleged "nefarious sharp dealings" by the Crown Trustees. I noticed none of Brant's own "sharp dealings" were mentioned where he negotiated numerous land sales which brought him into conflict with government officials at the time, who believed land sales should be limited and the Crown should approve all transactions. And why not? Nanfan signed over to the Crown the right to make those decisions but that muddled mess has lead directly to the muddled mess we have now. In the 1830's and 1840's land was surrendered and the monies acquired from the sale of the land were to be invested for Six Nations. It is these monies that were to be paid, invested or held in trust that need to be investigated and discussed and NOT "land claims". If they were invested did the investments fail? There are no guarantees investments won't fail and recent events with the current stock market suggest that nobody is safe when they invest no matter who they are. A large amount of six Nations money was invested in the Grand River Navigation company which was a great idea at the time but was eventually made redundant by the Railroads and many investors lost large sums. If funds were indeed misused then that fact should be proven in court and compensation be made but to suggest that all the land surrenders finalized in the 1840's were the result of "nefarious sharp dealings by these Crown Trustees" is nonsense and belittles both the Crown and the leaders of Six Nations of the time, and to further suggest now that "any lands that become available must revert back to Six Nations title" is beyond outrageous. Chief Montour needs to explain exactly what he means because the only way any land in Haldimand county is going to "become available" is if the current owner puts it up for sale. Are we to assume then that Chief Montour and the Elected Council are demanding that all future sales of land in Haldimand be forced sales to Six Nations?
Next is the issue of "perpetual care and maintenance". I'm not alone in wondering how anyone can reconcile the idea that on one hand they are an independent and sovereign nation answerable only to themselves and on the other demand "perpetual care and maintenance" from Canada. this "Have my cake and eat it too" attitude is perhaps the most perplexing to the rest of us who will end up having to pay for this "perpetual care and maintenance".
Finally we come to the issue of "negotiation" and Chief Montour sets out quite a list of demands the Six Nations Elected Council will not settle for unless they are fully met. There is .... "perpetual care and maintenance" ..... "lands that must revert back to Six Nations title" .... the return of the alleged "monies taken from our trust accounts" and as well the Chief and the Elected Council "will not settle any land right for money and then sign a paper that absolves Canada of any future obligation to negotiate further grievances". In other words... They want everything they demand and won't settle for anything less, yet Chief Montour seems to suggest that they WILL settle for land rights for money but only if they can ask for more at a later date.
Astoundingly, Chief Montour then goes on to claim in all seriousness that "Canada only comes to the negotiating table with a predetermined solution"!! The irony in that statement should be clear to anyone on both sides of this issue.
Donald R. Goodbrand