Wednesday, October 08, 2008
(Six Nations) Confederacy questions band council dangerous legal action By Lynda Powless Turtle Island News (Oct 8 08) Six Nations Confederacy Council is challenging a decision by band council to launch a court action that could effectively stop development along the Grand River Tract…if they win. But, if they lose, it could also cede any interest Six Nations has in Brantford disputed lands. Confederacy council was told Saturday Six Nations Elected Band Council had launched the court action in response to the city of Brantford jailing Six Nations people and suing among others the Confederacy and Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI). Confederacy legal adviser Aaron Detlor told council the elected band council court action in effect nullifies the existence of the Confederacy council. “They have said they (band council) are the government here. They claim to be the signatories to your treaties and to represent the Haudenosaunee,” he said. Detlor said the band council did not respond to any attempt by the HDI to get clarification on their approach. “We contacted them several times, by phone, email, asking what their plan was. They did not contact us.” Confederacy chiefs were told the city of Brantford is claiming the Confederacy has no rights in the city so there is no reason for them to consult with Six Nations. Detlor said lawyers have been retained to fight the decision, but, he said, “we are not taking the treaties into court. What we are doing is forcing the City of Brantford to follow Canadian law.” Detlor said in contract the band council is taking Six Nations treaties to court. He said the HDI went to band council, out of courtesy, to provide them with information on what their legal strategy was. “The band council said they would support the Haudenosaunee and individuals who have been arrested or charged, and they said so publically,” he said. Detlor claimed band council changed its decision privately and is not helping individuals but took a different approach, “Their lawyers would not provide us with that information. They just kept saying, we’ll get back to you.” He said instead Band council eventually provided a statement of claim that says the band council is the only government at Six Nations. “Their statement of claim says the band council entered into a treaty, into agreements in 1784, they claim they entered into an agreement referred to as the Haldimand Deed.” Detlor said while band council may have issued the statement of claim in court “with all the good intentions or a reasonable approach they did not consult with the Confederacy, or HDI or as us, your legal advisers, for input. WE didn’t see this document until we read about it.” Detlor said the band council’s move effectively says the Confederacy does not exist. “They are effectively telling the court, telling Canada, that you as a Confederacy have no rights in Brantford. That you don’t exist. The only people Brantford or the crown have to talk to is the band council.” Detlor said he was surprised at band council’s move. “We had thought, at HDI that there was on some level at Band Council, a respect for the eight points of jurisdiction and that includes treaties which are not suppose to be subject to a Canadian court.” Detlor told Confederacy the end result of the move is, “when you sit down and talk to the Crown during negotiations, they could say (Confederacy council) don’t exist. That, they should be talking to band council.” Detlor said he was also concerned the legal action could give the Crown an excuse to pull away from the negotiating table. “They (federal government) could say you are now litigating so we aren’t negotiating.” Detlor told Confederacy they had to address the issue in a formal response to the band council. “You need to address this.” He said they could meet with band council or write to them on the eight points of jurisdiction. He said the band council court action will have an impact on the HDI. He said if Confederacy did not response, “the results are Brantford and the band council could sit down and come to a negotiated settlement that does not include the Confederacy. That’s the worse case scenario.” Lawyer Paul Williams told Confederacy, “the worst case scenario is, they could lose.” Detlor said he did not want to discuss a “doomsday approach but it is dangerous. If they don’t have your support and if they lost at court, well, in the Canadian system, that’s it. It’s over.” Seneca benchwarmer Butch Thomas told council, “I see this as the band council attempting to get total control of the negotiations.” He said, “there’s no time frame for the negotiations to be settled and people are saying Confederacy is taking too long so they want to step in and take over.” Williams said Confederacy needs to either sit down with band council and discuss their tactic or “sever your relationship.” Mohawk benchwarmer Vernon Vyse said “the community knows nothing about this.” Detlor said “we wanted to bring this to your attention first. I think there would be a very real concern from people in the community who would express themselves in a different way if the knew of this.” Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton told Detlor the band council didn’t exist in 1701. He said he is concerned when the band council refers to itself as the Six Nations council. Detlor said the reference implies they are the only council here. “It also determines who you are. It ells you, you are an aboriginal person as described by the Canadian constitution, not Haudenosaunee.” He said it also degrades Six Nations from a nation to a band. He said the elected band council could have entered a court action describing themselves as the elected council that represents a number of people at Six Nations and addresses their concerns without endangering the Six Nations treaties. “This could be fixed, but it will be difficult.” Cayuga sub-chief Leroy Hill reminded Confederacy council that this court action was on the agenda for the last joint meeting between band council and Confederacy. The meeting was cancelled when band councilors left before chiefs arrived. The meeting had been called at 9am. About seven Royanni arrived by 9:45am but councilors had left by 9:30am within 30 minutes of arrival. No other meetings between the two have been held. Detlor said he has tried several times to communicate with band lawyers and received no response. Leroy Hill told Confederacy “band council may not be aware of the repercussions of this.” Onondaga benchwarmer Ron Thomas told council, “We, on this bench, are very upset with this document. Band council claiming to be signatories when they didn’t exist until 1924 so how could they be signatories to the Nanfan or 1701.” He said Confederacy needs to draw in expertise to go over the document and prepare a position paper outlining why “this is not a good thing.” Mohawk chief Allen MacNaughton told Confederacy, “there are more than a few of us upset about this. We need to draft a response and have a meeting promptly to address this.” They Cayuga bench agreed with the two sides. Lawyer Paul Williams will head a team of advisers to draft a position by Tuesday (yesterday) and be presented to Confederacy chiefs. **** This may help some understand the struggle between Canada's imposed 'Band Councils' and the Traditional Indigtenous Councils like the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. It is a struggle that is playing out in several communities across the country, esp Six Nations and Barriere Lake, PQ. Canada outlawed Traditional Indigenous Councils to get control of the land. From INAC's 'Kids' Stop' website: 1763 - October: A Royal Proclamation issued by King George III recognizes that the consent of First Nations (sic) is required in any negotiations for their lands. Note: They were not Canada's "First Nations" at the time, but independent, sovereign, traditional Indigenous Nations whose consent was required in any dealings about their land. Note also that in this time period, the 'residential schools' were run by the churches from first contact until 1872 when they were taken over by the federal government. Attendance was mandatory, and half of the children died in the schools that were the governments' primary strategy for destroying Indigenous culture, communities and land rights. 1897 - February: Mohawk clan mothers in Kahnawake near Montreal tell the federal government that they want to keep their traditional system of chiefs. 1924 - September: The Canadian government refuses to allow the Six Nations Confederacy to remain as the traditional government of the Iroquois people on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. 1959 - March: The government sends the RCMP to evict traditional Iroquois chiefs and clan mothers from their meeting place on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. Many people are hurt in this attempt to force the people from their traditional ways. 1979 - July: Chiefs travel to Britain to argue against giving Canada its own constitution and call for Canada first to honour commitments made to Aboriginal people. 1980 - March: Mohawk people from the Bay of Quinte in Ontario apply to the Canadian government to keep their traditional government. 1982 - April: Canada repatriates its own constitution from Britain. The Canadian Constitution recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights. 1990 - July: Quebec provincial police try to dismantle a roadblock set up by a group of Mohawks from the community of Kanesahtake near Montreal. The Mohawks had set up the roadblock to prevent the nearby town of Oka from expanding a golf course onto land the Mohawks considered their own. This resulted in a 78-day armed stand-off involving Mohawks, the Quebec provincial police and later the Canadian Forces.