Activists at Six Nations say that Crown-Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is risking the credibility of the Trudeau government’s wide-ranging rhetoric relating to Canada’s historic alliance with Six Nations if she continues to delay the direct talks that she has repeatedly promised to lead.
A months-long standoff has halted a deeply controversial housing project and has shut down Highway 6 — which runs through the Haldimand Tract, a 950,000-acre swath of land to which the Haudenosaunee continue to assert sovereign title.
Bennett first agreed to federal talks with the Chiefs and Clan Mothers back in August. Despite repeated assertions of her commitment to talks, a process has not even been established on a tentative or proposed basis. Bennett’s continued delay is becoming increasingly offensive to members of Six Nations and to residents of Caledonia alike. That the delay comes without explanation has been doubly offensive to those who follow Canadian politics.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the oldest still existent constitutional democracy in the world, founded with the codification of the Great Law of Peace in 1142, long predating the Magna Carta. It continues to meet in Council monthly at Ohsweken, sitting as a government in exile from its ancestral heartland in what is present-day New York State.
Modern-day Canada exists today — for no other reason — because of the alliance that was personally negotiated between Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant and King George III in London in November of 1775, before being amended and ratified by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council of Cheifs following months of fierce debate between factions of Cheifs who preferred an alliance with the Americans and factions who preferred neutrality.
Despite promises that Governor-General Fredrick Haldimand would send military reinforcements to assist the Mohawk war chiefs led by Brant, they remained in an otherwise defenseless Montreal and never showed up. When General George Washington ordered Generals Sullivan and Clinton to advance north, they led a genocidal campaign up the Susquehanna River that burned nearly 180 Haudenosaunee villages to the ground, across the Finger Lakes and Northern Pennsylvania.
The Haudenosaunee people fled first to Buffalo Creek in Western New York and then to Grand River, where the City of Brantford currently sits.
If Brant’s forces didn’t stop the American military advancement in the Finger Lakes, or had the Haudenosaunee instead allied with Washington, they would have easily overrun Montreal and the few military fortifications that were located in Quebec at the time. Modern-day Canada exists today because the Haudenosaunee Confederacy bestowed its favor on the Crown.
As a term of their alliance, King George agreed to accommodate a sovereign homeland for the Haudenosaunee west of the Niagara River “into posterity”. King George had promised the banks of the Grand River, six miles deep on each side.
But when Governor-General Haldimand formalized the Haldimand Treaty of 1784, he established boundaries along the Grand River that were in contravention of the terms negotiated between Brant and King George III.
The terms of the alliance that were ratified by the Grand Council in 1776 were to include the entirety of the Grand River watershed, inclusive of streams and tributaries, congruent with how indigenous people identify and territorialize geography — but Haldimand established linear borders along only the main tributary of the Grand River.
Haldimand also neglected to make explicit, as per the terms of the alliance, that the Haudenosaunee would continue to retain and exercise sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Grand River Territory into perpetuity, regardless of who might retain a lesser property or occupancy interest in the territory subject to the Haudenosaunee sovereigns.
Haldimand’s egregious neglect in drafting the Haldimand Treaty — omitting those fundamental terms of the Crown-Haudenosaunee alliance — constitutes one of the many extraordinary frauds that have been propagated against the Haudenosaunee people.
And today history repeats itself.
Just like Haldimand’s failure to send Crown forces to the Finger Lakes in 1776 to protect the King’s Haudenosaunee allies from the threat of local militias, hostile local populations, and the continued encroachment encouraged by the colonial governments; today Governor General Julie Payette has failed to send Crown forces to the Grand River Territory to protect the Queen’s Haudenosaunee allies from local hostilities, and continued encroachment that is being encouraged by a maneuvering Provincial government.
“Despite repeated promises to meet with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council of Cheifs months ago, Bennett has been entirely absent. That silence is as stunning as it is revealing of the Trudeau government’s insincere rhetoric and its long trail of broken promises,” one activist tells The Chronicle. “These people are liars. They laughed us out of the room when we asked about clean drinking water in Grassy Narrows.”