Haudenosaunee Territories – 119 Days ago Land Defenders occupied a prospective development site on unceded Six Nations territory. They asked for a meeting with the Federal government to stop allowing the destruction of their Indigenous lands to continue. No meeting date has been set yet but the traditional Chiefs, elected council, and Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office have all issued public comments and indicated that there is a dialogue happening on some level.
“Something we said at the beginning of all of this – 118 days ago – is that we want a peaceful resolution to this,” said 1492 Land Back Lane spokesperson Skyler Williams this week, “we want to see the federal and provincial government come to the table with our community in a real way to start this nation-to-nation dialogue.”
There was hope for a negotiated resolution in August when the two Federal Ministers with Indigenous portfolios sent a letter to the leadership in Six Nations seeking to resolve longstanding community grievances over the dispossession of Indigenous lands.
It has been over 50 days since this letter was sent by Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller and Crown and Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to the traditional Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council and the Six Nations Elected Council.
One Dish, One Mic has reached out to both Ministers offices asking for a specific meeting date and Minister Bennett’s office forwarded a reply Friday evening that said “Federal government officials have been in regular communication with representatives of Six Nations Elected Chief and Council, Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council and Ontario throughout this process with regard to our offer to meet.
“We look forward to meeting with the community at the earliest opportunity,” the reply from the Crown and Indigenous Relations Minister also said that, “in August, Minister Bennett and Minister Miller sent a letter to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council and the Six Nations Elected Chief and Council, seeking to work together to address these longstanding and unresolved land issues and to better understand the interests and priorities of the community and how Canada can support their vision and aspirations for self-determination.”
One Dish, One Mic had asked directly if it was an unwillingness by the elected Chiefs and the traditional Chiefs to sit at the same table that was the barrier to the meeting. This question wasn’t answered by the Ministers.
Land defenders contend that these councils not sitting together is a barrier to having the meeting. A press release from 1492 Land Back Lane issued on Friday morning stated that “having both the (elected council) and the (traditional Chiefs) coming to the same table has been a precondition set by the Federal government.”
The release quoted Colin Martin – a Confederacy Chiefs liaison – who said that “unresolved land claims have been a continuous issue in the country and the first step to true reconciliation is honouring the treaties made with our ancestors.”
Elected Chief Mark Hill said on his weekly press updates that he accepted an invite by Six Nations land defenders to their community meeting this week as an observer, and to listen to their concerns. A land defender press release quotes Chief Hill as saying “we are committed to unity and doing all the things we to do to bridge the gaps between the Confederacy and the elected Council.”
In August, Chief Hill’s council passed a motion to issue a letter of apology to the officials and residents in Caledonia, but council has seemingly shifted positions in the past months.
On October 23rd, the day after an OPP incident escalated matters on Argyle Street resulting in road closures the Elected Council issued a letter calling for unity, acknowledging the unpopularity in many circles of their decision to support the development on 1492 Land Back Lane, and even condemned the ruling of an Ontario court to issue a permanent injunction to have land defenders removed.
The October letter said Council was “disturbed with the judgement handed down yesterday by Justice Harper, as it proves that systemic racism is alive and well in this country, including in the judicial system.”
Something consistent between elected council, the traditional Chiefs, and land defenders is a desire to deal with the underlying land title challenges.
“It doesn’t matter what family you come from, or what governance structure you support, everybody understands that these are our lands,” Skyler Williams said.
The Haudenosaunee people who moved onto the lands picked a quiet Sunday night to attempt to make their point in a peaceful way, but the past four months have seen rubber bullets fly, a taser discharged into a young man, smashed police cruiser windows, blocked roads and a rail line torn up.
The longer this conflict has gone on without meaningful dialogue the more conflict has escalated.
“If the feds and the province don’t start getting here with some real negotiations and the OPP is left to enforce the injunctions on the road and the development it means a lot more of our people will be getting hurt,” Skyler Williams said, “and a lot more of our people will be going to jail.”