Above Photo: MIKE PEELING/BRANT NEWS. Six Nations elder Jan Longboat and Lester Green of the Men’s Fire spoke out about the lack of consultation with First Nations traditional government regarding the Brantford-Brant boundary adjustment.
First Nations delegation speaks up at public meeting
Six Nations members let Brantford and Brant politicians know just how upset they are with a lack of consultation over boundary adjustment negotiations during a recent public meeting.
Lester Green, a member of the Men’s Fire whose traditional name is Lonukwisles of Oneida’s Bear Clan, told Brantford Mayor Chris Friel and Brant Mayor Ron Eddy in front of hundreds of residents last Thursday that they have a responsibility to keep more than the Six Nations elected council in the loop.
“I’m here to remind you that you have a responsibility to talk to the traditional government, the Clan Mothers,” Green said, dressed along with others in traditional Haudenosaunee garb. “We have always had to do what’s good for you. Then we had the Caledonia situation. We don’t want to repeat that. But we’re prepared to do what’s necessary.”
Elder Jan Longboat said her people have lived along the Grand River since 1780. She said their claim to lands included in Brantford and Brant’s memorandum of understanding is outlined in the Haldimand Proclamation, which predates the British North America Act of 1867, the legislation that made Canada a country.
“Canada didn’t even exist then,” Longboat said. “It doesn’t have the right to adjudicate the Haldimand deed…. The British North America Act didn’t give Canada the right to make laws for indigenous people.”
Longboat demanded to see the documents that give Brantford and Brant the right to undermine the Haldimand agreement, which she said was recognized by the federal government in 1984.
“If you can’t provide these documents as soon as possible, this is pure theft of our indigenous lands,” Longboat said. “If the (Six Nations) chiefs have surrendered our land, they did so illegally.”
Longboat said consulting with Six Nations elected council, created under the Indian Act, isn’t the same as consulting with the traditional government, which is matriarchal and part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Eddy promised to discuss Longboat and Green’s concerns with council as soon as possible.
Both mayors said repeatedly that native land claims are an issue to be resolved through the federal government and that municipalities have little or no say when it comes to resolving land claims.
“We’ve lobbied for years to have the federal government resolve native claims, but they will only be resolved with the federal government,” Friel said. “Land claims are a much bigger issue than us. As municipalities, we are creatures of the provincial government.”
Friel said the boundary adjustments are, in essence, matters of moving imaginary lines and a change in governance.
“This is not about who owns the land,” he said. “We won’t own any of the transfer lands.”
Rick Carter of Tutela Heights, which is included as transfer lands to Brantford, said he’s heard Six Nations can have more than 1,000 people on site within hours if they decide to protest.
“My question is are you willing to discuss this with Six Nations before an agreement is reached?” Carter said.
Eddy reiterated his promise to discuss the issue with council.
Many Tutela Heights residents, including Sharon Lazenby, have come forward to complain about the area’s inclusion in the MOU, saying they were not consulted before the documents were signed.
“Will you adjust the boundaries given the overwhelming opposition?” Lazenby said.
Eddy and Friel said they will take all of the comments and opposition under consideration and discuss the matters with their councillors.
“We have to go back to council,” Friel said. “We absolutely will consider all of your comments. That’s what consulting is all about. There are a lot of ideas we have to take very seriously.”
Resident Dan Novak wanted to know what would happen if the boundary adjustment were to be left up to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
“We were told by Minister Ted McMeekin that ‘you want a local solution,’” Friel said. “The provincial government would draw lines where we don’t want them and there would be no compensation for the county.”