It's our survival we're fighting for' says chief
Posted By SUSAN GAMBLE, EXPOSITOR STAFF
Posted 10 hours ago
The ownership of Eagle Place is tortuously complex but residents there don't have to worry about being evicted from their homes by natives.
While Chief Coun. Bill Montour assured people at Wednesday night's TRUE meeting they don't have to worry about a native coming to their house to kick them off the property, he was careful to note it was his opinion. But Montour noted that the chances for development to continue in Eagle Place are pretty slim.
TRUE -- Two Row Understanding through Education -- has been holding regular meetings to try and help educate people on native land claims issues.
"Do people in the Eagle's Nest Tract own their own property?" asked resident Elizabeth Martin at the meeting.
Montour said while the land was only leased, it's accepted that third parties came in and put money into the land, improving it over the years and building houses.
"Our argument now is with the government of Canada and Ontario," Montour said, suggesting that, rather than reclaiming residential land, natives would like to see a portion of Ontario's land transfer tax paid to Six Nations.
But Montour indicated that there should be no more development.
"The Eagle's Nest is a flood plain and we should leave as much as we can for farm land."
Montour went into the background of the land claims and various injustices perpetrated upon the natives over the years.
With almost 11,500 status natives on the reserve plus 6,000 people without status there isn't enough infrastructure to cover the needs of the residents.
"We're in very bad straights. We can't build another house. Our economy is in the dumper. We have an awful drug problem in the community. If we have a major fire in Ohsweken, we're done.
"We're not creating havoc for Brantford on purpose. It's our very survival we're fighting for."
Montour offered a lesson in native arithmetic.
The band spent $84 million last year: $21 million from Ottawa and $27 million from the province. The rest came from other sources like Casino Rama, user fees and hydro agreements.
Meanwhile, Grand River Enterprises, just down the road from the council house, paid up to $130-million in excise taxes for the year. Montour adds in an estimated $20 million in taxes paid by native professionals in various jobs.
HAVE TO GO BEGGING
"So Six Nations alone put $140 million into the coffers of Ontario and Canada last year and we have to go begging. I've been accused of destroying the economy of Brantford. Well, what about our economy?"
Montour and his co-speaker, land historian Phil Monture, thanked the protesters who have stood against development. Montour also credited Monture with the years of land research he did in Six Nations' land office where an inventory of every land claim in the tract was assembled, tracing the transfers and payments made for the last 200 to 475 years.
Monture explained how Six Nations originally worked to set up lease agreements for Eagle's Nest lands, including a 1843 agreement that laid out the native intention to lease the land.
"These are government documents all filed with Indian Affairs," Monture said. "The government confirmed the leases. They're all registered documents."
Monture said the government raised the issue of selling the land in 1844, but no surrender was made. Then the native trust fund was raided, lease payments weren't made and some land was sold without native agreement.
"Canada says even if it wasn't a surrendered, they believe we intended it to happen. When we say 'No, we didn't' they say well, we'll have to agree to disagree."
Monture also spoke to the relationship between Six Nations and its neighbour, Brantford.
"Our neighbours have our people in court and claim they knew nothing about our land claims in the city. Well, who have I been talking to for the last 33 years?"
Monture showed an agreement made between Six Nations and Brantford in 1997 that negotiated the building of a sewer crossing of the Grand River -- an unresolved land claim.
"The mayor today was on that council when that agreement was signed," said Monture.
"The city of Brantford has boomed on our land and we got nothing."
That boom, said Monture, has overstretched development onto the flood plain of the Eagle's Nest, which is inappropriate.
He suggested that development in the downtown area was more appropriate and wouldn't be stopped.
Councillors James Calnan, Marguerite Ceschi-Smith and Greg Martin were in the audience but declined to answer challenges from the audience.