September 21, 2011
In returning to Caledonia a few days ago I read a somewhat disturbing letter to the Editor of 31 August 2011 by Tom Kennedy entitled, "Land claims won't be settled until all agree on facts".
Clearly Mr. Kennedy has made a very convincing argument here, largely about the importance of reading all of the relevant sources before either side in the land claims issue either renders an opinion, or acts (e.g. by occupying land perceived as their won). I have read all of these sources and have gone one step further in reading all of the original source materials cited by Johnston and others relevant collections in the National Archives and the Archives of Ontario.
Although agreeing in principal with what is stated by Mr. Kennedy, I take strong exception to some of the "facts" or comments he cites. First, his relative does not reside on the "Warren Nelles Tract", it is the "Warner Nelles Tract" - let's get our facts straight. I have done a complete genealogy of this family and there is no Warren Nelles. Warner Nellas (1776-1846) married Elizabeth Young the daughter of Lt. John Young of the Six Nations Indian Department and his wife Catharine Hill (whose mother Mary Hill Kateriunigh was clan matron of the Astawenserontha Bear Clan family of Mohawks).
Secondly, the quote, 'the women quieted them down' in relation to the Six Nations males who accepted the land sales is followed by a question: "Who were the 'women' - their wives, hookers, girl friends or what?" The comment could be seen as very offensive by some, including myself. My ancestor Mary Hill Hateriunigh was a clan matron/mother of a Mohawk Bear Clan Owachira. As such she had the right to "dehorn" a hereditary chief, and to basically keep brothers, nephews and sons "in line". Hence these are women who deserve profound respect - and did get it in the Six Nations society at the time.
While I am displeased with some of the content of the letter of Mr. Kennedy, his main point must be accepted as true. So what are the facts. These are available only to those who have studied all the source material. After sifting through the entire unindexed RG10 collection in relation to the Six Nations, I can say with some authority that had the Government authorities not acted as they did to consolidate the Reserve in the late 1840s, the process already in motion would have continued until the Six Nations were so dispersed as to be no longer a community. Here most Six Nations members were selling off "improvements" to any buyer (usually non-Native), then either moving to another part of the Grand River region, or emigrating to locations such as Sandusky in what is today Ohio. This scattering would doubtless have continued unabated if the authorities had not stepped in to attempt to keep the Six Nations together. A great deal of paper work was generated as the white squatters had to be evicted, compensation given, and land surveyed and the descriptions kept in a central registry. As to the lands outside the consolidated Reserve of Tuscarora Township and parts of Brantford Onondaga and Onedia Townships, every parcel was surveyed, inquires made as to the history of sales, and the land registered on title in the relevant county Land Registry offices such as that in Cayuga.
In my opinion, after a very careful review of these documents, if the land can be found on title, it was transferred with the approval of the Six Nations Chiefs in Council, and there should be no post facto decision by those who have not studied the sources that, "this land is ours" - as happened with the Douglas Creek Estates. The primary source documentation is available for all to see - with one exception (and the Band Council must accept full blame for this). In a subsequent letter I will expand on the specifics of this statement.
Dr. David K. Faux