Six Nations traditional government wants moratorium on development of Haldimand Tract

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council has announced a moratorium on development in the Haldimand Tract — an area covering roughly 384,451 hectares along Ontario's Grand River.

Without land to grow, 'Haudenosaunee children will suffer the harms of colonialism,' says hereditary chief

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council has called for a moratorium on development in the Haldimand Tract in Ontario. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) has announced a moratorium on development in the Haldimand Tract — a heavily populated area covering roughly 384,451 hectares along Ontario's Grand River.

The council, which is the traditional government of the Six Nations of the Grand River, on Tuesday morning called for the ban on building, saying that no development can proceed without the consent of the Haudenosaunee.

"It is time to end the injustice. We want the land that is ours. We are not interested in approving fraudulent dispossessions of the past," said Deyohowe:to (Roger Silversmith), Cayuga Snipe chief.

"We are not interested in selling land."

Deyohowe:to called for anyone currently developing, or in the process of rolling out a development, to stop.

He provided few specifics for how the moratorium would be enforced or how companies wishing to construct within the tract could negotiate to do so.

The Haldimand Tract was granted to Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British during the American Revolution. The land ran along roughly 10 kilometres on each side of the Grand River from its source in the region around Waterhen, Ont., to Lake Erie.

Six Nations, which has the largest population of any reserve in Canada, now has less than five per cent, or 18,615 hectares, of its original land base.

A map shows the Grand River and a red line around it signifying the Haldimand Tract.
The Haldimand Tract was granted to Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British during the American Revolution. The land ran roughly 10 km on each side of the Grand River. Six Nations, which has the largest population of any reserve in the country, now has less than five per cent of its original land base. (CBC News Graphics)

"It is time to lift away the cloud of denial and wipe away the politics that darken the vision of our future," said Deyohowe:to.

"Developers, they need to stop digging in our land and to come forward now and do the process that's right. There's no more taking our lands. This stuff has to stop." 

There was "a little discussion" with the Six Nations of the Grand River elected council about plans for the moratorium, he added.

Selling some land 'always a possibility': chief 

The elected council did not immediately respond to a request for comment following the announcement. Representatives of Brantford and the Region of Waterloo, which fall within the tract, also did not respond right away.

Haldimand County, which borders on the Six Nations reserve, said it is reviewing the HCCC's statement and "its associated implications."

When asked how the moratorium would function, Deyohowe:to pointed to the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), set up by the council to represent it when it comes to development.

Watch: 'Anybody developing ... they need to stop'

Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council calls for moratorium on development

3 years ago
Duration 1:17
Featured VideoDeyohowe:to (Roger Silversmith), Cayuga Snipe chief, and Skyler Williams, a spokesperson for 1492 Land Back Lane, announced a moratorium on development in the Haldimand Tract on April 20, 2021.

Developers would have to meet with the HDI and go through its process, he said.

The announcement does not mean that no land will be sold, according to the hereditary chief, who said some portions have been leased out and can be negotiated, so "there's always a possibility there."

There's currently no consultation with the chief's council when it comes to development in the area, so the HCCC said it's not clear how many projects are going forward without its knowledge or consent, reporters were told during a technical briefing Monday morning.

In a statement released before the announcement, Deyohowe:to said no one, including Canada, Ontario or a municipality has any right to interfere with the Haudenosaunee's rights to protect the land and water.

"Without land to grow as a community, more generations of Haudenosaunee children will suffer the harms of colonialism," he said.

The release adds that while the land is shared "with our allies and we all agree to uphold the agreements between our people to live in peace, friendship and trust," the council's vision for the future is based on protecting the land for generations to come.

'Whatever it takes' to make sure rights are upheld

Tuesday marks 15 years since Ontario Provincial Police conducted a raid on protesters occupying a subdivision project, called Douglas Creek Estates, which was eventually purchased by the Ontario government.

It also marks 275 days since demonstrators took over another parcel of land slated for a subdivision in Caledonia, renaming it 1492 Land Back Lane.

Skyler Willaims, a spokesperson for the group, was also on hand for the announcement Tuesday.

The occupation of the McKenzie Meadows development has stretched on for months, and included blockades across area roads, court orders to remove people staying there and dozens of arrests.

Haudenosaunee demonstrators have been at the site, which they call 1492 Land Back Lane, for months. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Foxgate Developments, a partnership between Losani and Ballantry Homes, maintains the site was legally purchased.

The company recently filed a statement of claim in Ontario Superior Court seeking $200 million in damages. It names the province, the Attorney General of Canada, Ontario Provincial Police and individual Indigenous demonstrators, as well as supporters.

The lawsuit claims officials were negligent and failed to take all reasonable steps that could have "prevented the illegal or continued occupation" of the land, noting it has 176 sales agreements with different purchasers.

It alleges the company suffered "catastrophic" damage to its reputation, and has been "branded by the general public as having stolen the land from Indigenous persons."

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

The Land Back Lane demonstrators say the site is unceded Haudenosaunee territory.

Roads around Caledonia were blocked off for months following clashes between demonstrators and the OPP. The barricades have since been removed. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Asked about enforcement of the moratorium, Deyohowe:to said the HCCC is committed to peacefully resolving the longstanding issues.

He also referenced a new generation that's taking land rights issues "in their own hands."

Williams said he believes there should be a "trigger mechanism" within Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada so that whenever someone makes a claim for disputed lands, officials are dispatched to work out an agreement.

The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In response to a reporter's question about whether or not developers who don't abide by the moratorium should expect an occupation similar to 1492 Land Back Lane, Williams said there are thousands of people living at Six Nations and "many more that are anxious and willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that our land rights are upheld."

With files from Jorge Barrera