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History of Land Treaties between Canada and First Nations People
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History of Land Treaties between Canada and First Nations People


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For SW & First Nations People Class: …

For SW & First Nations People Class:
Seminar by: Sandra, Hannah, and Cynthia

Published in: Education

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  • 1. History of Land Treaties By: Hannah, Sandra and Cynthia
  • 2. It’s been over three centuries since the Land Treaties have been signed between the Government of Canada and Aboriginal groups, the conditions and sanctions of which are still fiercely a matter of dispute to this day. Differing cultural contexts and language barriers meant that misinterpretations had taken place in the signing of the treaty agreements, resulting in forceful seizing of the land, and eventually leading to bitter dissidence between the First Nations people and the Government of Canada. Prior to 2003, it was illegal for First Nations people to bring forth any land claim against the Crown without approval from the Federal Government. It wasn’t until 1973 that specific claims were finally being considered by the Federal Government from different First Nation Peoples.
  • 3. Bill C -6 Bill C-6 was passed by Parliament on November 4, 2003, called The Specific Claims Resolution Act (Pamela Williamson, 1959 & John Roberts, 1944). Even though the goal of the Act was “to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other Acts” disputes still followed as the Act failed to give First Nations the right to jurisdiction, since only the Crown would have control over appointments to the negotiating process. The Act also suffers from frequent conflict of interest and a lack of funding to address claims. (Pamela Williamson, 1959 & John Roberts,1944). As a result, overcoming the difficulties in settling land claims still persist and the struggles can be seen in concurrent conflicts such as those in Oka, Quebec; Caledonia, Ontario; and Ipperwash Ontario Provincial Park.
  • 4. A little over a decade ago in Oka, a village located off the northern bank of the Ottawa River (Rivière des Outaouais in French), northwest of Montreal, Quebec made headline news in 1990, because their privately held land was sold to develop “plans to expand a golf course and residential development onto land which had traditionally been used by the Mohawk.” ( This dispute began July 11, 1990 and ended September 26, 1990. The media publicized it as a violent conflict between First Nations and the Canadian government in the late 20th century. This land dispute was between a group of Mohawk people from the community of Kanesatake and the town of Oka, Quebec. The Mohawks viewed this land as a common land: it was used to access their Cemetery, recreational purposes and for other First Nations Community purposes. In 1987, Le Club de Golf ’d’ Oka Inc. requested to renew their lease for their 9-hole golf course: wanting to expand it from a 9 hole to a 18 hole course. This request was granted by the Government; as long as the sold land of $70 000 was only used for the golf course expansion .
  • 5. The Kanesatake Band Council blocked this request (proposal) and claimed the land as their own, which caused tension within the town of Oka. The town of Oka obtained an injunction ordering the Mohawks to “abstain from interfering, disturbing, intimidating, or threatening municipal employee” (Frideres, 1997.) It clearly was seen that the government did not have any cross-cultural knowledge as to the understanding about the actual native history of the land, the traditions the land was used for, and the family systems when it came to dealing with that situation.
  • 6. Before all that occurred, in 1989 Mohawks’ had a peaceful protest in the town of Oka stating the ownership of the land as theirs. This caused other problems such as, the band council tension and the unsatisfactory negotiations process for land unification for the community. The land agreement was then rejected, resulting in a small group of Mohawks putting up barricade and taking arms. More and more tension grew and gunfire was added in between the Mohawks and the Quebec Police. There was a police officer casualty. Thus 2500 armed forces were brought into get the situation under control. Eventually the barricades were taken down and the instigators were apprehended by the armed forces. To this day, there has been no completed development between the two parties to resolve this situation. Resulting from the Oka crisis was the formation of the Royal Commission of Aboriginal People (RCAP). The RCAP was responsible for reporting all and any aboriginal situations throughout Canada. This five-volume RCAP report was expensive, in fact the most expensive Royal Commission Report in Canadian history, of a fascinating amount of 58 million dollars. There also have been many other land disputes beside Oka, such as the standoff in Caledonia, Ontario.
  • 7. In 1748, Sir Frederick Haldimand issued a proclamation authorizing the Six Nations, a group of First Nations people, to take possession of and settle upon the banks of the Grand River including – six miles on each side of the Grand River from Lake Erie to the rivers source which is approximately 950,000 acres. The Six Nations Territory is known as the Haldimand Tract. In 1924, Canada sent in the RCMP to remove the legitimate Confederacy council of Six Nations, the armed invasion of Six Nations territory was a military operation. Using the RCMP - it was seen clearly as a declaration of war. The government claimed, with documentary support, that Six Nations surrendered the land (now called Douglas Creek Estates) in 1841. The Six Nations Confederacy stated Canada absolutely refuses to address the land issue with Confederacy chiefs. It is a 200-year-old outstanding land claim of the Six Nations. It is important to understand all the factors behind the rising tensions related to the land rights protest.
  • 8. A small peaceful protest began in February 2006 at the Douglas Creek Estates development owned by Henco Industries in Caledonia, Ontario. The protesters were demanding that there be no further development on their land and that the federal government settle outstanding Six Nations land claims. The protestors ignored a ruling ordered by a judge demanding they cease the protest. Police have not enforced the court ordered eviction; however the Sheriff of Haldimand County showed up at the site to read a revised court order which stated that if they do not leave they could be arrested for criminal contempt of a court order. Provincial police now have the authority to arrest the protesters but have not said when they will do it. In April it will be fifty days since the start of the standoff.
  • 9. It will be another black chapter of history built in Canada if people are arrested and construction is allowed to continue. It was announced that the Governments of Canada and Ontario have pulled out of talks concerning the recent land repossession at Caledonia, ON. When the Ontario Provincial Police stormed the Six Nations protest site near Caledonia there were witnessed reports of police brutality. Several people reported being injured and sixteen people were arrested. Mohawk Nation News reported, "At 5:55 am this morning over 150 heavily armed Ontario Provincial Police invaded Six Nations land. Some carrying M16s, in riot gear. “Tear gas has been thrown at them. Some were pepper sprayed." Provincial police officials stated “We used the least amount of force possible,” and claimed they used restraint, but had to use force during the arrests because of the "behaviour" of some of the protestors. Later, they said several police officers were injured by protestors. “One officer suffered injuries after being struck by a bag of rocks."
  • 10. Hours after the police raid, protesters re-established their presence when hundreds of people gathered at the site. Tire fires were set as part of road blockades; the police have established a "perimeter" around the protest site to contain the situation. Police officials claim their "focus is on public safety." At the protest site near Caledonia, Six Nations members and supporters reported calm, with the police keeping their distance and promising not to act. However, the RCMP confirmed Friday that they are now involved and providing assistance to the Ontario Provincial Police. The protestors are unarmed but they are protecting themselves in a traditional way, "The Six Nations people have been burning tobacco during this entire occupation for their protection. This is the only weapon that we have. We are calling upon the natural forces to give us wisdom and guidance through this whole siege.” The Minister of Indian Affairs Jim Prentice in the House of Commons has stated that "the difficult situation in Caledonia is one that requires a certain amount of wisdom and forbearance."
  • 11. At the end of April, a mass rally took place by non-natives and Caledonia Local residents. They demanded an end to the Six Nations protest, which was peaceful compared to one earlier that saw residents confronting the police and ended in an arrest. Protester Hazel Hill said, "First, everyone, know that we are still here. We are not going anywhere. There have been many media releases suggesting that the barricades are coming down and leading the outside world into the false belief that we are somehow going away. Not so. There have been many discussions about the barricades. The discussions are very long and deep regarding our position. We have no intention of leaving our reclaimed lands.” Negotiations continue between Six Nations, Ontario and Federal Governments, and part of the discussions is the opening of certain roads and lifting of particular barricades.
  • 12. The month of May brought Non-Native protestors who set up their own blockade which triggered tension, followed by violence - pushing shoving, fistfights, dozens of police officers were forced to come between the groups. The protest at the Site of the Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia, Ontario will end, but tensions remain with violence breaking out between the First Nation’s protesters and the Non-Natives. Haldimand County declared a state of emergency when power was cut off to Caledonia as a result of a car being driven into a hydro tower on purpose. An OPP cruiser was found on 6th Lane near Cayuga Road. The cruiser had apparently been following a car down 6th Lane when Six Nations people surrounded the cruiser and called Six Nations police. The OPP officers explained that they were “lost.” The Six Nations Police charged the officers with trespassing. Six Nations Police and OPP have a mutual aid agreement, however the OPP are required to seek permission to enter Six Nations territory, which did not happen in this incident. Premier Dalton McGuinty issued the following statement: "I want to join with people across Ontario in calling for calm and goodwill in Caledonia. The confrontation we saw today has no place in our society - and it does nothing to help resolve this difficult situation. I want to commend the Ontario Provincial Police for their outstanding professionalism in restoring order to a very tough situation. Over the past several weeks, all parties made progress in building trust and mutual respect. Today's events were an unhelpful setback. However, we must continue working to find common ground and move forward in a peaceful environment. Our government is committed to working alongside the federal government, local officials and First Nation representatives to ensure that we find a lasting solution that allows all parties to renew their shared commitment to building a strong community." A class action lawsuit against the Ontario government for inaction in the face of the First Nations “reclaiming” land will cost taxpayers $20-million to compensate Caledonia residents and business for losses suffered. Standoffs continue to be a struggle for First Nations people, such as the one involving the Stoney Point Band.
  • 13. Another historical land claim dispute involves the Ipperwash Provincial Park located in Southern Ontario. After years of negotiations, the Chippewas First Nation signed the Huron Tract Treaty in 1827. In exchange for the land, the British were to agree to partition specific reserve locations which could be expanded to accommodate the band if found too small, allot appropriate compensation, and to arrange training in blacksmithing and agriculture by instructors. The Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry (2007) states that initially the Chippewas were told that they were to secede roughly 712,000 acres; however they inadvertently ceded 2.1 million acres of land to the Crown. In return they ended up retaining less than 1 percent of land, the initial payment amount was reduced, and the blacksmith and agriculture instructors were never made available (p. 26). The infraction of the treaty caused great concern for the Chippewas and as a result they lost confidence in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which states “that First Nations were to be treated with honour and justice”. In 1912, the Chippewas were pressured again by the Crown to relinquish more land which was later sold to the Provincial Government for three times the amount paid to the First Nations. A part of the land sold was turned into a Ipperwash Provincial Park and a year after the Provincial Government created the park, the band of First Nations asked that a Native burial ground located within the park be protected and the ensuing request was ignored by the Government, leading to further tensions.
  • 14. In 1942, during the height of the Second World War, the Canadian Department of National Defense sought out to seize the Reserve Land in Stoney Point to be used as a military training camp. The Government petitioned to the Native people to voluntarily relinquish the land in exchange for money and the promise to return the land after the war to which the Native band refused, being wary and guarded over the iniquity of past Governmental transactions. The Government arranged to seize the land without the compliance of the Native band citing section 3 of The War Measures Act which states the Governor in Council Authority may do what is deemed necessary for “the security, defense, peace, order, and welfare of Canada [including the] disposition of property and the use thereof” (Tarnopolsky, 1975). The Government handled the situation hastily as George Brown, the Indian Agent at the time, states that the military intended “to proceed with this scheme as soon as possible” (Linden, 2007). Consequently the appraisal was handled hastily and compensation to the families living on the land was menial. Under section 7 of The War Measures Act, the Government was responsible for covering the costs of relocating the Native people living on the land; they were then integrated into another reserve. The Government also made assurances that the land would be returned to the Natives.
  • 15. Believing they have a usufructuary right to the land, the Chippewas of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation have challenged the surrendering of portions of the land during the 20th and 21st centuries, however the Courts found that all of the transactions were legally valid. Tensions grew stronger over time and in 1995 a group of Natives planned a peaceful protest in order to gain exposure of their plight and to return to and restore the land. The Chief of the Band wrote a letter on behalf of the Band which stipulated seven principals to be discussed and negotiated with the Public and Federal Government; one of the principals in particular states that they are “committed to making all reasonable efforts to heal the divisiveness caused to this First Nation by the wrongs inflicted by Canada in their taking of the Stony Point Lands.” (Linden, 2007). Records show that the Acting Superintendent of the Canadian government, John Carson, noted that “there will be no ‘negotiations’ with the Stoney Pointers regarding their claim to ownership of the land, and that the goal of any discussions would be removal of the occupiers from the park.” (Edwards, 2001). During the night the protestors attempted to occupy a small portion of the park, the O.P.P. were called in to maintain the peace however the Government had decided that it was necessary to use force to remove the protestors as quickly as possible citing public safety concerns. A Swat team was called in an attempt to control the group of protestors and a small riot broke out after police officials assaulted a protestor during their attempt to arrest him. As more protestors arrived to assist the others, the police opened fire using snipers with submachine guns resulting in the injuring of two protestors and the death of an Objibwa man named Dudley George. The family of the man had called for an inquiry into the events that lead to the Ipperwash crisis to be launched in order to prevent such a crisis from reoccurring. The inquiry found that many of the Government officials involved in the crisis were unconcerned with the facts surrounding the protest, unsympathetic to the plight of the protestors, and ignorant and racist towards the interests of the Native people. Police officers were recorded saying offensive and racist remarks and even the premier Mike Harris was heard making offensive comments and demanding that they get “the –expletive- Indians out of the park” (Linden, 2007). It wasn’t until 2009, almost 15 years after the Ipperwash crisis and over a century after surrendering the land that the Chippewas of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation were finally permitted to have full control over the land of Ipperwash Provincial Park
  • 16. References Alanis Obomsawin (1993). Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. National Film Board of Canada. Alanis Obomsawin (2000). Rocks at Whiskey Trench. National Film Board of Canada. Alec G. MacLeod (1992). Acts of Defiance. National Film Board of Canada. Craig MacLaine, Michael S. Boxendale (1991). This Land Is Our Land: The Mohawk Revolt at Oka. Optimum Publishing International Inc. Edwards, Peter. (2001). One Dead Indian. Toronto, ON: Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited. Geoffrey York & Loreen Pindera (1991). People of the pines: The warriors and the legacy of Oka. Little, Brown Gerald R. Alfred (1995). Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors: Kahnawake Mohawk Politics and the Rise of Native Nationalism. Oxford University Press. Hornung, Rick (1992). One Nation Under the Gun: Inside the Mohawk Civil War. Pantheon. Kenny, Amy (2012) Caledonia land claims still contentious: Retrieved from: Lindon, Sidney. (2007). Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry: Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada. Pamela Williamson, 1959 - & John Roberts, 1944, First Nation Peoples rev. 2nd ed. Quesnel, Jospeh: The True Costs of Caledonia: Retrieved from: Turtle Island Native Network News (2011): Retrieved from: Tarnopolsky, Walter (1975). The Canadian Bill of Rights. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart Limited.