Traditional government of Six Nations calls for moratorium on development of Haldimand Tract

Cayuga Snipe chief Deyohowe:to and 1492 Land Back Lane spokesperson Skyler Williams address reporters during an announcement of a moratorium on development within the Haldimand Tract. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

The hereditary chiefs of Six Nations of the Grand River have announced a moratorium on any further development within the Haldimand Tract.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) made the announcement in a media conference in Ohsweken on Tuesday, saying no development can proceed within 10 kilometres of either side of the Grand River without the consent of the Haudenosaunee.

This moratorium is consistent with the previous statements and proclamations on our land rights,” said Deyohowe:to (Roger Silversmith), Cayuga Snipe chief. “The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council endorses and supports and recognizes that development should not [be] proceeding on our lands.”

The Haldimand Tract is an area of more than 384,000 hectares that runs through multiple municipalities along the Grand River, which runs into Lake Erie in Southern Ontario.

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Deyohowe:to said the council is seeking “good faith negotiations” with different levels of government to secure the land for future generations of Six Nations.

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“That’s the goal, for everybody to live in peace amongst each other. One body taking the majority of our lands and developing it, that’s not fair to our people. … It’s our children who we are standing here for, the young ones who don’t have a place.”

Read more: Barricades removed on two Caledonia roads tied to land dispute

It was not immediately clear how the moratorium could be enforced, but Deyohowe:to said the HCCC would work through a body called the Haudenosaunee Development Institute to negotiate land development issues.

“So if a developer feels he needs to develop, then he can go through that process of meeting with our people that we put in place.”

Their announcement falls on the 15-year anniversary of the OPP raid on the occupation of the Douglas Creek Estates development in Caledonia.

It also comes nine months into the occupation of a construction site on McKenzie Road in Caledonia, which has been dubbed ‘1492 Land Back Lane’ by the group of Six Nations land defenders that have been situated at the site since July 19, 2020.

Despite a permanent injunction granted to Foxgate Developments — which purchased the 25-acre portion of land in 2015 for the purpose of building 218 homes — the group remains at the site.

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Read more: Indigenous land occupants in Caledonia appeal injunction

Foxgate has now filed a $200-million lawsuit against Canada’s attorney general, the province of Ontario, the OPP and its commissioner, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), and multiple land defenders.

The statement of claim, which was filed in Superior Court last week, alleges that the province, the OPP and the attorney general demonstrated “negligence and failure to act in a reasonable manner or take all reasonable steps required … that could have prevented the illegal or continued occupation.”

The OFL was named in the claim for allegedly providing monetary assistance to the land defenders.

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One of the land defenders named in the claim is Skyler Williams, who has been a spokesperson for the group since the occupation began last summer.

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He said many people in the community feel the same way about the ongoing land disputes.

“There’s 27,000 people at Six Nations. And there’s many more that are anxious and willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that our land rights are upheld.”

Read more: Returning land defenders, new faces take up familiar fight in Caledonia, Ont.

Williams said the federal government is responsible for resolving the ongoing dispute, but he said no progress has been made in the past nine months.

“I would think, to deal with Indigenous issues like this one … there should be a trigger mechanism, as soon as somebody makes a claim to these lands, that there is somebody that is going to be coming to the table,” said Williams during Tuesday’s media conference. “Coming to deal with this in a process that sees all sides’ needs met in this.”

Global News has reached out to Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller for a response to the moratorium announcement but has yet to hear back.

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Foxgate has said they entered into an agreement with the Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council in 2019, which saw the company “accommodating” the elected council with 42.3 acres of land and $352,000 for future land purchases.

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While the elected council has not yet responded to Global News’ request for comment, Deyohowe:to said there has been “a little” discussion with the elected council, but said their position as a creation of the Indian Act does not give them the same “collective rights” as the hereditary Haudenosaunee.

The HCCC is not currently consulted on any developments within the Haldimand Tract, so it’s not clear exactly how many developments are underway, but the chief said the point of the moratorium is to alert any developers that the council is calling on them to stop building immediately.

“This stuff has to stop — what they’re doing,” said Deyohowe:to. “They cannot proceed [with] digging on our lands anymore without the consent of our people.”

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