Six Nations elected chief stresses unity, reiterates call for moratorium on development

Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill has indicated support for a call to halt development in the Haldimand Tract.

Chief Mark Hill says it's not 'responsible' to allow development while land issues remain unresolved

Mark Hill wears a pink t-shirt under a black blazer and looks in the distance.
Mark Hill, Elected Chief of Six Nations of the Grand River, indicated support for a moratorium on development announced by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The Elected Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River has indicated support for a call to halt development in the Haldimand Tract.

The moratorium on building was announced last week by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC), which is the traditional government of the Six Nations.

"We reiterate and acknowledge their call for the moratorium," said elected chief Mark Hill during a media conference Monday morning.

"It would not be responsible to allow continued development in an uncertain legal environment."

The Haldimand Tract was granted to Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British during the American Revolution. It covers roughly 384,451 hectares along Ontario's Grand River and includes municipalities such as Waterloo, Brantford and Caledonia.

The HCCC said developers must stop any ongoing or planned projects and work with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), which it set up to deal with land issues.

Hill noted Six Nations has a "major land claims case" coming before the courts in 2022, adding "the government of Canada owes Six Nations potentially in the trillions of dollars in relation to our lands."

WATCH: HCCC announces moratorium on development

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.

The federal government said it believes the best way forward on the land claims issues is through negotiation and dialogue.

"Any lasting approach to address the historical claims and advance reconciliation will require a collaborative effort from the Six Nations Elected Council, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, Canada and Ontario," said a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada in an email.

The government is "ready and willing" to work with all three parties "to build a negotiation process that addresses the interests of all," the email added.

Hill stressed the importance of unity and said the elected council is committed to continuing to meet and update the confederacy chiefs and clan mothers who make up the HCCC "to work through tough discussions and overcome issues here at home."

'Keeping Ontario and Canada accountable'

The elected chief outlined a number of needs in the community, including a new palliative care facility, a long-term care site for the elderly, a waterline extension and a permanent building for the Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Public School.

The school teaches Haudenosaunee culture and language, but throughout its more than 30-year history, has not had a building of its own.

Hill said the confederacy council has played an important role in protecting and nurturing languages, and invited them to support students in the effort to set up a facility.

He characterized conversations with the HCCC as "optimistic" and said cooperation between the traditional and elected councils is something Six Nations members want to see.

"What that looks like is the big question," he said.

"We have to make sure that we're keeping Ontario and Canada accountable. This is very much, part of their issue as well."