Haudenosaunee retake Six Nations Council House, may dismiss Reserve officials

Observers of indigenous politics are calling it the next ‘Standing Rock‘ — and protest camps are expected to grow all summer long — during a Parliamentary election year, to boot.

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Following Chief Deskaheh’s petitioning of the Leauge of Nations for entrance as a member state, the RCMP implemented a military occupation of the Grand River Territory from 1924 through the late 1950s, with strict curfew laws and a slew of draconian restrictions.  Deskaheh’s appeal was motivated by decades of genocidal policies propagated against Six Nations under the legal architecture of the Indian Act of 1878.

On May 28th, citizens of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy barricaded the Six Nations Reserve’s Central Administration Building, a ‘federal works’ office of the Canadian government, located on the Confederacy’s sovereign Grand River Territory at Ohsweken, ON.

They’ve enforced the shut down for the past two weeks, effectively expelling the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) from their chambers and senior administrators from their offices.  The shutdown is being enforced until SNEC acknowledges it’s limited role as an administrator of federal programs — not as the legitimate constitutional government of the Territory.

To understand the magnitude of the moment, one must understand Haudenosaunee history and Six Nations’ politics.

The two Councils have been engaged in an adversarial posture since 1924, when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police sent officers into the Old Council House to beat the Haudenosaunee Chiefs with billy clubs before installing their own elected Councillors to administer Crown programs on the Reserve under the federal Indian Act.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the oldest still-existant constitutional democracy in the world, founded in 1142, with its capital situated at Onondaga Lake for more than 600 years — until 1779, when General George Washington ordered Generals John Sullivan and James Clinton to execute a genocidal military campaign against the Haudenosaunee.

Deskaheh-article1Hundreds of villages were burned to the ground, and the survivors fled across the Niagara River as war refugees to the Grand River Territory, which they secured as a term of their alliance during the American Revolution, in negotiations with Governor General Fredrick Haldimand.

The Haudenosaunee Chiefs continue to conduct Council on the first Saturday of every month — as allies, not subjects, of the Queen.  There they operate as a government in exile, their diplomatic relations having limited recognition by the American or Canadian government, though the sovereigns are signatories to the most substantial treaty history in North America.

In recent years, SNEC and its economic development attache have asserted jurisdictional capacities over the Haldimand Tract — the federal government’s largest off-balance sheet debt and the largest set of indigenous land claims cases in Candian history.

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That series of Court of Claims filings by Six Nations have been valued by economists at many hundreds of billions of dollars.  The Canadian government has been trying to reach settlement agreements for various fractional parcels of the Tract that were stolen or otherwise diminished, much of it by illegal squatters and unhonored lease agreements over many years. 

But it was the sovereign Haudenosaunee government — not SNEC — who was a party to that treaty and other treaties with the Crown.  SNEC has made material misrepresentations to counterparties, including presenting itself as a government with fictitious jurisdictional capacities, as they did during a 2015 effort to legalize alcohol on the Territory.  That has angered many traditionalists in the community, who argue that those misrepresentations constitute criminal fraud.  

Lonny Bomberry is SNEC’s outgoing Director of Lands & Resources, which ‘manages’ the community’s ongoing land claims.  That Department maintains an impressive research library and an extraordinarily deep body of documentation of the deeding of the Tract and its subsequent history of uncompensated transactions that defrauded the Haudenosaunee people of more than 90% of their Grand River Territory.

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Lonny Bomberry reports to Chief Ava Hill, SNEC Councillors, and Senior Administrator Dayle Bomberry.

It’s widely known in the community that much of that body of documentation was stolen from the Haudenosaunee during high-profile 2006 hostiles that came to be known as the Caledonia Reclamation, in which a major housing development was halted by Haudenosaunee activists who were unwilling to ‘give one more inch.’

A consultant working for the Haudenosaunee at the time was offered and accepted a reportedly lucrative consulting role with SNEC that he has held since. He took that body of documentation with him.

The Lands & Resources Department has been funded to the tune of millions of dollars a year, for more than a decade, using Ontario-First Nations ‘limited partnership’ funds, which are discretionary monies that could have been otherwise spent by the community, which still lacks a reliable supply of clean drinking water. 

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SNEC’s Senior Administrator Dayle Bomberry controls a considerable number of federally funded jobs in the community.  His family is well-entrenched in the administration’s bureaucracy and he wields considerable influence in the community.

Under federal law, the Canadian government has a duty to consult indigenous communities when a government decision can cause adverse impacts.  In practice, development projects that take place within the Haldimand Tract (a twelve-mile wide parcel along the Grand River from its source to Lake Erie) offer cash payments to mitigate development impacts to both SNEC and HCCC, made separately to each body.

One such consultation agreement, relating to a project known as the Niagara Reinforcement Line, has been the source of much anger in the community.  The NRL transports hydroelectric energy produced at Niagara Falls to the Greater Toronto Area.  In 2011, the Ontario government spent $1.6 billion CDN to expand its generating capacity at Niagara Falls but has been unable to increase production for a lack of transmission capacity.

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The Niagara Reinforcement Line is designed to import and export electricity between New York and Ontario.  HydroOne has been unable to monetize infrastructure investments in new generating capacity because of the Provincial and Federal governments’ failure to reach an agreement with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council.  Work on the project has been shut down by the Confederacy indefinitely. 

In order to monetize that infrastructure investment, the transmission line must be rebuilt and modernized.  Because it runs through the Haldimand Tract, and so close to the Caledonia Reclamation site, the project has become a symbol of the continued erosion of Haudenosaunee sovereignty and an unrelenting encroachment on its sovereign territories and scope of jurisdiction.

Matt Jamieson leads SNEC’s economic development corporation, and he is the son of Ron Jamieson, a former Bank of Montreal executive who is widely credited with inventing ‘aboriginal banking’ in the late 1990s, in order to offer access to mortgage loans in Reserve communities.

The younger Jamieson has engaged in deal-making on projects in which his father has financial interests or has been advising counterparties, a blatant conflict of interest that observers have argued ‘corrupt’ his development dealings and consultation agreements.

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Some civic leaders have been advocating for a ‘house cleaning’ of administrators at SNEC’s economic development corporation, including the removal of CEO Matt Jamieson, pictured above.  He is the son of the influential BMO banker Ron Jamieson.

Jamieson accepted the terms of an agreement proposed to him by Hydro One and the government of Ontario, in which Six Nations would have to pay $13 million in exchange for a 25% stake in the transmission line.  But neither Jamieson nor his economic development corporation, have the authority or jurisdiction to negotiate such authorizations on behalf of the Haudenosaunee.

Some members of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), an instrumentality of HCCC, believe that SNEC’s economic development corporation has been actively defrauding major Canadian firms with false claims, including to Hydro One, the utility that wants badly to begin monetizing its expensive and unused generating tunnels at Niagara Falls. 

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It’s been widely rumored that the Haudenosaunee are debating whether or not to disband the SNEC Council permanently or to simply dismiss the current Councillors and install new ones in their place (presumably with individuals who understand SNEC’s limited role as a service delivery agency, rather than that of a government).

Either would be an unprecedented move that would reassert the Haudenosaunee Chiefs and Clan Mothers as the sovereigns of the Grand River Territory.

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For decades, Canada didn’t have the infrastructure to fully divert its allotment of water under the terms of the Niagara River Water Diversion Treaty of 1950. Canada had allowed the New York Power Project to divert that surplus water, until 2011 amendments to that agreement expected Canada to use its new capacity.

Members of the barricade have called for the resignation of SNEC’s elected Chief Ava Hill, Bomberry, Jamieson, and several Councillors, but the Haudenosaunee have not yet removed those officials in their collective governing capacity.

SNEC elections will be held in October.

A working group of eight — four from each Council — is being assembled to negotiate a memorandum of understanding, a process that is likely to take place over the course of many months, and through the October elections.

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Protesters have called on Ava Hill to cease use of the title ‘Chief’, which Haudenosaunee folks find offensive. Chiefs are condoled according to the Great Law of Peace. Critics argue that the title should not be associated with an official of a federally constructed entity governed by the Indian Act.

15 Comments

  1. In a two row wampum way there is room for both Hereditary leadership/governance and elected administration. It requires ceremony to heal past hurts and grief, facilitated processes for relationship building and diligent attention to ensuring the spiritual principles of peace, respect and friendship are maintained as the foundation of every thought, motive and action. This is do-able. Anything less than this is an adoption of the principles espoused in colonization.

  2. give it up six nations, you signed the land away a long time ago. Abolish reserves and join the rest of canadians and pay taxes. Follow the rule of law. Political violence is terrorism. Your caledonia blockade, destruction of a hydro tower, and various beatings of peaceful residents amount to terrorism, the army should have been brought in to restore order, and you should have faced trial for terrorism. Lots of room in Guantanamo bay. The canadian government should not give an inch. Take back the town of caledonia for canadians, abolish six nations, shut down the illegal contraband cigarette shops, make you pay taxes, allow you to attend public schools and access public services without issue, pay for water, gas and sewer services to your residences, and have canada move on as one nation, not two separate nations where one only cares about what the government pays them. The housing development blockade was a money grab. Nobody cared until they found out how much the land was worth, then you wanted your piece of the pie. When you didnt get it, you blockaded the town and made it so nobody will ever want to move to haldimand norfolk ever again, tanking property values and making people feel unsafe in their own homes. If the land was worthless swamp, you would not have blockaded the town over it.

    • Wow, chad jackson, virtually everything you wrote is ignorance and misinformation. You don’t know much about canada nor its constitution despite living here all your life…

      • If it wasn’t for the First Indigenous Nations, EuroAmericans and EuroCanadians WOULD BE HOMELESS. Every single European leader/prime minister/president has blood on their hands ever since Christopher Syphilis Columbus arrived. The modern man dizzies himself rushing to find the value of antiquities, the second they find out it’s a Treaty made before the Industrial Revolution, they are quick to tell you to
        GET OVER IT
        ASSIMILATE
        PAY YOUR TAXES…etc. Our response, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE before you speak.

      • Exactly, if you don’t know our history or want to learn about it then just keep Ur mouths shut! In other words Nevermind Ur own business!!

    • We never signed it all.away you idiot, we leased most land for 99 years one was for 999 but it was corbondated and one of the nines was out their later on, we never gave up shit we are allys to the crown if it wasn’t for us this would all.be America we fought until everyone was sick of war. Your ancestors and my ancestors made the deal already just honour it. And we would still protest caledonia if they tried to use the land enough is enough and we had to take a stance. Please educate yourself or go back to your homelands you immigrant

    • Chad Jackson you need to educate yourself before you comment on things you know nothing about. We Natives have our own money. We are not free loaders looking for a hand out. We have money held in trust by your government from land and resources that your government stole from us! An your government signed a treaty. An even with those treaties signed!!! Your government and citizens of Canada!! Continued to steal and misappropriate our land by fraudulent means. So we have proof of all the wrong doing your government has done to us. Residential Schools, Starving women and children, Beating our language and culture out of us!! You know not what you talk about!!! Like I said educate yourself cause you make yourself look real foolish talking about things you know nothing about. All your are doing is making yourself look ignorant and foolish. End of rant!!! Have a good day!! An read a book please!!!!!! Lol

    • It seems that ignorance is like white on rice it’s prevalent in an ignorant society and ignorance simply means a lack of knowledge. Do your homework asshole…

    • Lol…you wanna give us property rights but have no clue that “your” natural resources are actually “ours”…we have own source funding that the corporation of Canada has been hiding from you your whole ignorant life my friend…your property rights will never be upheld because of the position it would put us in…perhaps rightfully so?

  3. Wow Chad Jackson to bad you don’t have a clue what your talking about..
    1. It hasn’t stopped people from moving into Caledonia and surrounding areas..
    2. The only people that jumped on the bandwagon of getting money from the government, were those in Caledonia that claimed too have lost so much money.
    3. Most of the violence was caused by outsiders…
    4. We are not a part of the Canadian government and we work like everyone else and pay our Bill’s like everyone else, nothing is given too us….

    So be sure of your facts… before you run off ranting….

  4. Betzie it has. I know multiple people that are looking for a home and refuse to look in Caledonia for the very reason they feel things could escalate at any moment. Anytime a new development goes up first nations groups want to get paid. I used to play in that field as a kid, now kids are afraid of getting beaten with a baseball bat if they come close to it.
    2. “The only people that jumped on the bandwagon of getting money from the government, were those in Caledonia that claimed too have lost so much money.”
    Wrong. They did lose money. The town was sealed off from the outside world for days. Car owners would have their cars bashed trying to get home from work through the checkpoints that were set up. It was madness. Terrorism.
    3. “Most of the violence was caused by outsiders… ”
    Tell that to the homeowner that got beat within an inch of his life and will never recover, simply because he was white. Why didnt the first nations disavow the attacker? The violent individuals run to the reserve where the OPP would not enter to arrest them. Thats two tiers of justice.
    4. “We are not a part of the Canadian government and we work like everyone else and pay our Bill’s like everyone else, nothing is given too us”
    Wrong. The fact you pay 0% tax unlike the rest of Ontario means you are given thousands in subsidies the rest of us do not get. Any maybe you should be part of the government. Abolish reserves, property divided amongst those who live there, and instead of the party in charge plus the official opposition, first nations should be a third branch of government and have a say in their affairs. No more special treatment. Pay income tax like everyone else. Property tax like everyone else. HST like everyone else. Time to move canada to the 21st century and not hold our government hostage for property payouts because of what your ancestors and my ancestors did 300 years ago. I dont care if you are white, black, asian, brown, purple from mars, if you cut down a hydro tower, leaving a town for days without power, blockade a road with it, and hold a town hostage, that would be terrorism. The army should have been brought in and used lethal force if necessary. Try and blockade a road in the USA, it would never happen. Because you are first nations, you got away with it. There were 2 tiers of justice in Caledonia. If i broke the law id go to jail. First nations got off scott free without consequence. They should have been billed for all the overtime police had to work too. Instead, caledonia residents paid that overtime with increases in property tax, something you dont pay.
    There are what, 600,000 people collecting annuity payments from the government despite the fact we separated from Britain with the Statute of Westminster in 1931. How many billions are in the first nations trust fund? In 1931, at that point all treaties were null and void. If i buy land off a homeowner and he has a contract with someone to cut his properties grass for $5 a month, I dont then inherit that lawnmower and start paying the guy $5 to cut the grass I now own. The previous owner made that deal, not me. I tell that guy to pound sand. Britain made those treaties, its not our current governments problem. Get off the reserves and join the rest of canadians. Be our neighbours, not sequestered away in your own land, having corrupt officlals steal all the money the government gives you, instead of spending it on infrastructure to help their own people.

    • “The town was sealed off from the outside world for days”. Was Hwy. 54 blocked or McKenzie rd, River rd Argyle st N. no they were not. The only business they were losing was from the reserve, so give your head a shake and go back down in the basement.

  5. Brad, i find your comments not only reckless and condescending but uneducated. You forget who’s land you stand on. How about i just walk on your land and “claim” it. How would you react? If you don’t like how things are, you have an option… go back from where you came.. Simple! First Nations can’t go anywhere else because this is their home. What part don’t you understand? Signing a treaty was the alternative to genocide. Since when is signing anything under duress legal? Basically it was “do or die”
    Paying taxes? Why? You pay taxes because you’re squatting on First Nation Land! Does a landlord pay rent to himself?.No! You are a transient, you will always be a transient and you claim stolen lands. Don’t like the truth, then go back to Europe!

  6. To Chad its not our fault that ur stupid u go vote your idiot government every 4 yrs. And the thanks they give u is raise your taxes we the natives didn’t implement taxes thats all the whitees doing and isn’t that what your really angry about

  7. I hope one day the united nation steps in and shows ppl why the united nations was developed.so far the united nations is what keeps canada from assimilating other nations.dont be like germany and think ppl can just take over other nations.

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