Six Nations Elected Councillor Mark Hill plans to run for Chairman of the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) later this year. Early this year, when news of Councillor Hill’s candidacy for Chairman broke, it ignited a community conversation about privilege and influence on the Reserve, where most folks don’t have access to clean drinking water.
The report prompted an open letter from the Councilman to The Chronicle, in which he pledged to reject his uncle’s monied support.
His uncle, Ken Hill is a co-founder of Grand River Enterprises, the prolifically successful manufacturer of Seneca brand cigarettes. The firm has profited wildly on the treaty rights held by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy — but has willing remitted more than $240 million annually in tobacco excise taxes to Canada’s federal government, rather than remitting those funds to the sovereign Haudenosaunee government. (All of Canada’s federal and provincial spending on the Reserve amounts to $76 million annually).
The situation profoundly undermines the sovereignty and political rights of the Haudenosaunee, which is the oldest still-existent constitutional democracy in the world and holds sovereign title to the land upon which Grand River Enterprises operates.
Keeping that pledge might be part of the reason that he is now so hesitant to run.
“[M]y campaign financials will be based solely on my own personal contributions, not my uncle’s backing. I find it beyond annoying that I can’t even be Mark Hill without Ken Hill being mentioned. I am my own person, too,” he wrote in an open letter that was circulated widely to supporters and critics in January and was republished in The Chronicle.
But in the months that followed, political tensions on the Reserve have heightened as SNEC actively defrauded the sovereign Haudenosaunee government of the Grand River Territory of 300 megawatts of renewable energy and more than $100 million in deals with Hydro One and the Ontario Ministry of Energy.
To win the SNEC Chairmanship — an election typically won with fewer than 700 votes — it may take Mark Hill considerably more resources than he was expecting.
In recent years, Ken Hill has encouraged SNEC, a federal works agency constructed and governed by the Indian Act, to lobby Ottawa for amendments in federal law that would allow Grand River Enterprises to remit those excise taxes to SNEC rather than to Ottawa.
That prospect has angered many Haudenosaunee people, who maintain the sovereign government operating under the Great Law of Peace, a constitution codified in 1142 and holding sovereign title to lands secured under the Haldimand Treaty of 1784.
That Ken Hill would so willingly and flagrantly undermine the laws of the Confederacy — seemingly to ensure an uninterrupted flow of profits to GRE — has been a source of much resentment among traditionalists.
“If the most powerful person in the community is willing to pay taxes to Canada, and to recognize their dominion as being over us, and then he installs his nephew as Chief of the illegitimate government that they imposed on this Territory through Crown law — in an effort to municipalize us — then shame on us for not stopping it,” he adds.
“He is the guy who has the most money to fight back. He has an obligation to fight back. He should have teams of lawyers and scholars, and lobbyists and political operatives, and media strategists,” he argues.
“He should be one of our strongest generals and instead he doesn’t even try,” he adds.
Many Haudenosaunee activists have been calling on the sovereign Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council of Chiefs to evict Grand River Enterprises from the Reserve and to, exercising the powers of eminent domain, expropriate the firm’s manufacturing facility under a Tribally-chartered corporation wholly owned by the Confederacy Council.
In the event that the Confederacy expropriates the firm’s assets and installs new management, it would be capable of reallocating those $240 million in annual tax payments to fund public service delivery on the Reserve.
That would allow the community to cut funding ties with the federal and provincial government, creating a post-dependency relationship with the Crown, and the ability to restore indigenous self-determination and self-governance.
Grand River Enterprises has never been authorized to operate on the Six Nations Reserve by the Haudenosaunee.