Indigenous

Appeals hope to highlight opposition to Dundee settlement agreement in Akwesasne

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne will have to wait to accept a $240 million offer from Canada to settle a 130-year-old land grievance until a number of appeals are processed through its court system.

5 appeals waiting to be processed before Akwesasne can accept a $240 million offer from Canada

Four hundred and forty eight people voted against the settlement agreement. (Brittany Ohskien Bonaparte/Facebook)

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne will have to wait to accept a $240 million offer from Canada to settle a 130-year-old land grievance until a number of appeals are processed through its court system.

Five Ahkwesahsró:non submitted appeals to the Akwesasne Mohawk Court regarding a December referendum that saw nearly 80 per cent of 2,197 voters approve the terms and conditions of the Dundee Claim Settlement Agreement.

Steven Thompson, one of the appellants, posted a statement on Facebook about his application to appeal his vote because he, and others, felt misled, misguided, and misinformed toward voting Yes.

"I had previously been led to believe by my fellow community members and council elected leaders that I was doing the right thing because of all the misleading and biased information I was being handed," wrote Thompson.

"Information packages came with flyers and also social media posts with photos of people who I looked up to as role models and fellow peers in the community who were encouraging people to vote "Yes." This causes an unfair bias because here was no inclusion of flyers with people encouraging why we should vote "No" and what it is to be lost when we have our land purchased from us."

Mohawk Council of Akwesasne grand chief Abram Benedict (Submitted by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne)

Scott Peters, Ronald M. Sunday, Virginia M. Johnson and Karla Ransom also submitted appeals during a five-day waiting period for appeals following the referendum.

Cheryl Jacobs, Akwesasne Court administrator, said each appeal included a large volume of documentation and they are being reviewed individually. At this time, the court only announced that Peter's appeal will proceed to a full hearing.

"We expect decisions on the other four appeals within the coming days as well, [on] whether or not there will be hearings," said Mohawk Council of Akwesasne grand chief Abram Benedict.

"I'm confident that the process will unfold and the Akwesasne Mohawk Court will make the determination necessary, and we will respond accordingly, as needed."

History of the claim

In 1981, the Mohawk Council filed for the return of approximately 8,000 hectares of land along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in the most western portion of Quebec.

Today the land is known as the Township of Dundee but historically it has been referred to Tsi:karí​stisere, Kanien'kéha for "the place where they drag the iron chains."

The settlement offer is for approximately 20,000 acres of land now in the Township of Dundee, located in the most western portion of Quebec. (Submitted by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne)

In April 2015, Canada offered Akwesasne $239,808,436 for the full and final compensation of the claim, with the ability to purchase up to 7,400 hectares of land from willing sellers.

"I've always been a No vote," said Marlon Johnson.

"Gathering information on my own, there was something about it that wasn't settling in my heart. Regardless of the amount of money that they were offering it just didn't feel right to me."

Support for appeals

Johnson did not submit an appeal, but has been a part of a group of community members supporting the appellants and hoping to quash the results.

"Elders feel that they were duped because a lot of these kids [who] came to the houses were their grandchildren and they had a unified message that said you need to vote for this because it's a good thing," said Johnson.

While some felt misled to voting Yes, Johnson said others took issue with electronic voting, or wanted their No vote revoked.

"We don't want to sell out our people. That's what basically we look at this as. A lot of people were misinformed. If we have to do a referendum again, we do it again with the right information."

About the Author

Jessica Deer

Journalist

Jessica Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. A former staff reporter for the Eastern Door, she works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at jessica.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.