Federal ministers agree to discuss Six Nations' historical land claims as occupation continues
Demonstrators have been at McKenzie Meadows for more than a month
The federal government has committed to engage in negotiations around unresolved land issues related to Six Nations of the Grand River amid a month-long occupation of a housing development outside Caledonia, Ont.
Skyler Williams, a spokesperson for demonstrators at the McKenzie Meadows site, said the Six Nations Elected Council and Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council have received a letter from Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett agreeing to sit down and discuss the situation.
"Understand that we are a nation unto ourselves, we're not Canadian citizens. We're Haudenosaunee people and need to be treated as such," Williams explained Thursday.
"The peaceful occupation of our lands is what we're about and being able to move that conversation forward is paramount for us."
A spokesperson for Bennett confirmed the letter was sent, adding Canada "deeply values" its relationship with Six Nations and is "committed to continuing to work collaboratively to address Six Nations' historical claims and land right issues."
The statement stressed the importance of peaceful dialogue for building a stronger relationship.
"With regard to the McKenzie Meadows Caledonia housing development, we encourage the parties involved to continue to work together through open dialogue to find a constructive, respectful, and positive way forward," it added.
Dialogue is something Ontario Premier Doug Ford also pointed to when asked about the land occupation Thursday, revealing he'd met with Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill.
Demonstrators set up camp at the McKenzie Meadows on July 19, saying it's unceded Haudenosaunee territory and renaming it 1492 Land Back Lane.
On Thursday they began dismantling barricades across area roads set up after an OPP raid on August 5 where police fired a rubber bullet and arrested several people at the site.
Demonstrators also previously returned two bulldozers that ended up behind the blockades.
Williams said both actions were aimed at de-escalating the situation and ensuring the focus of discussions stays on "the real issue here and that's the land."