Sunday, 2 February 2014

A Review of Some Aspects of the Blog "Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) & The Haldimand Tract: Beliefs Versus Facts"

Disclaimer: My references to the writings of other people--both native and non-native--do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my family, friends or associates.

Background Information Regarding Deyo and His Blog

On October 31, 2013, a resident of Haldimand County in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, started a blog entitled "Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) & the Haldimand Tract: Beliefs Versus Facts" (deyoyonwatheh.blogspot.ca).

I recently became aware of his blog through some online searching, and have read all of his (as of this writing) 80 posts.  He signs each of his entries with "DeYo," so that is what I will call him.  When I quote from or reference his posts, I will put in a notation at the end that will include a key word or words from the post title, the date of the post and the post number in sequence from 1 to 80.  (The post numbers are not included on the blog itself; I have just added them in for my own reference.)

DeYo's "kinship connections include, among others, the people of Haldimand County, the Delaware of Smoothtown, and the Lower Mohawk of the old Mohawk Village and Tyendinaga."  (Although he has aboriginal ancestry, he does not live in an aboriginal community in Haldimand County.)

From his early life onward, he has been aware of "unresolved land disputes" between the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) and the Canadian federal government (as successors to the British Crown).  He "tended to focus on what the evidence would clearly show to be true" ("Genesis," October 31, 2013, #1).

For more than 30 years, he has examined not only "specific relevant documents" related to the Six Nations (SN) land claims, but also "related records, and the diaries and letters of Indian Department officials. . ." ("Surrenders. . .1841-1850," November 8, 2013, #30).

His research into the SN claims primarily took place over a 20-year period "between the mid 1970s and mid 1990s."  He reviewed records at Library and Archives Canada, the Archives of Ontario, The Library of the Woodland Cultural Centre, the Brant County Library, and the Haldimand County Museum and Archives.  In addition, he has scrutinized the 29 claims listed on the SN Lands and Resources website ("Examination. . .29 claims," December 21, 2013, #57).

Some of the Main Reasons Why DeYo Started His Blog

1.   The Caledonia, Ontario crisis, which started on February 28, 2006.  He says SN has no legal right to be claiming the land at the "south end of Caledonia," and he has the historical documentation to prove it.  He notes that "2006. . .was to see my world and that of those around me change forever. . .among other things, I realized there was a huge psychological gap between many of the Six Nations residents and the 'townsfolk' in for example nearby Hagersville, Caledonia and Brantford."

2.   Fallout from the Ipperwash "incident."  He observes that because of this "incident," the Ontario Provincial Police [OPP] "went from elite to effete, and their leadership became enablers. . .the rule of law vanished as the area degenerated into anarchy."  He suggests if people want to learn more about the suffering of the local non-aboriginal residents that they read Christie Blatchford's Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us (2010). 

3.   Blockade of Highway 6, by some SN protesters, October 17, 2013.  DeYo got stuck in this blockade, and it became one of two triggers that led to the creation of his blog.

4.   McKenzie Meadows Project article in "local Native paper," October 30, 2013.  After he read this article, he feared the "whole problem (questionable land claims and fallout) would never go away," so this became his second trigger ("Genesis," October 31, 2013, #1).

DeYo and Gary McHale: Six Nations are Not Indigenous to the Haldimand Tract 

The conclusion DeYo has come to is that many of SN's 29 claims are based on "unsupported, unvalidated and patently false" information.  Two key documents that he says prove his assertion are a 2009 report prepared for the City of Brantford (the "Holmes report"), and a 2010 Ontario Supreme Court ruling by Justice Harrison Arrell ('Recent," December 24, 2013, #64; "False," January 18, 2014, #77).

DeYo is not implying in any way that claims put forward by other Canadian aboriginals are lacking in merit; that is beyond the scope of his research.  He says there are problems with the SN claims because the SN are not indigenous to the Haldimand Tract.  He explains how the Crown purchased the land the Six Nations are currently on from the Mississauga:
The Five Nations did exterminate the Huron/Wyandot, Petun, Attiwandaronk, Erie and other peoples of Southwestern Ontario. . .in the mid 1600s.  Thus they removed by conquest all of the former occupants of Southwestern Ontario, leaving it a human desert for a number of years.  However, Mississauga (Ojibway/Chippewa) peoples soon began to move into the area and establish settlements or at least territorial rights. . .By 1696, the Three Fires Confederation had destroyed all but three settlements of the First Nations and they had no presence at all there by 1700.  The Three Fires Confederacy was composed of the Mississauga, Ojibway and Pottawatomi. . .In the end, the land was left to the Mississauga who were the acknowledged "owners" of Southwestern Ontario, and from whom Governor General Sir Frederick Haldimand purchased the Haldimand Tract for Six Nations occupancy in 1784.
Hence when the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 was signed by 20 representatives of the Five Nations (the Sixth Nation, the Tuscarora, were not incorporated until about 1714), they were yielding their "beaver hunting grounds" in Southwestern Ontario to the British - however, they had no claim to Southwestern Ontario because they had been totally defeated by the Mississauga and their allies ("Treaty," January 17, 2014, #75).
He explains that the Six Nations:
. . .were dispossessed Loyalist refugees looking for a suitable place to settle.  When Captain Joseph Brant chose the Grand River lands, it was necessary for the Crown to purchase the lands from the rightful owners - the Mississauga.  It was widely known that the only claimants to these lands at that time were the Mississauga. . .

. . .When Governor Haldimand was faced with the task of accommodating the thousands of Six Nations and other Native peoples who had fought for the Crown, and whose aboriginal properties in NY had been utterly destroyed by the depredations of the American General Sullivan, he obtained a deed of sale from the Mississauga who owned the entire region by right of conquest dating to the closing years of the 1600s. . .

. . .The Six Nations are aboriginal to the area between the mouth of the Mohawk River to the Finger Lakes and beyond towards Lake Erie.  However, these lands do not belong to the Crown any longer, and so the Six Nations are no more aboriginal to the Haldimand Tract than their fellow Loyalists and military comrades. . .("Six Nations are NOT Aboriginal," November 2, 2013, #6).
Caledonia activist, Gary McHale, covers some of the same ground as DeYo in his book Victory in the No-Go Zone: Winning the Fight Against Two-Tier Policing (2013; 186-187).  For instance, he says ". . .despite the impression given by the OPP, government and media, Six Nations are not First Nations.  They have no signed treaties with the Canadian government, and no basis under which to make a property claim" (187).

Thomas King's Questionable Comments on the Caledonia Crisis in The Inconvenient Indian

The information provided by DeYo, McHale and Blatchford makes me question even more some statements made by Cherokee/Greek author, Thomas King, in his book The Inconvenient Indian (2012).  King describes Blatchford's Helpless as a "sloughing off of history. . .style of scholarship."  He also contends that the Canadian and Ontario governments have "ignored and dismissed. . .the long-standing native land claims dating back to the 1700s," and implies this contributed to the Caledonia crisis (165-166).

In addition, King takes aim at the Ontario government for settling a $20 million lawsuit with some non-aboriginal Caledonia residents in 2011.  He implies this compensation may have been politically motivated, since a provincial Liberal election occurred a few months after the settlement.  There is ample justification for concluding that it was indeed politically motivated.  But I am shocked that he then claims this settlement shows that "[t]he concerns of the Mohawk and the land claim itself were shoved into a closet. . ." (175-176).

It seems to me that, since historical evidence demonstrates that SN have no right to be claiming certain areas, including land at the south end of Caledonia, then Ottawa and the Ontario government would be in a difficult position to resolve the matter.  It also seems to me that, if anything, the Ontario government, in particular, has gone overboard to appease SN regarding certain claims.

Conclusions

DeYo summarizes his concerns as follows:
To expect meaningful change to happen without resistance is unrealistic.  What I do hope is that those with the power to act, will show some respect for the data and the facts - and respond accordingly with some backbone.  My greatest trust is in the Courts.  It is here where we can find true justice in Ontario, free of the taint of politics ("Recent," December 24, 2013, #64).
If DeYo is wrong in his assertions, then the parties in question need to provide the necessary data to prove this is the case.

Afterthoughts

I agree with many of the statements DeYo makes in his 80 blog posts, but I feel he sometimes generalizes too much.  I believe this is because most of his interactions with aboriginals have involved Six Nations, and have ended up being negative.

I have also had some negative interactions with aboriginals, as explained in some of my previous posts on this blog.  However, I have also had some positive experiences, and am optimistic that things are getting better in certain areas.

For instance, I have been heartened by many of the aboriginal success stories that have been presented on the Sun News Network by commentators such as Ezra Levant.  Although Levant is one of the aboriginal communities' biggest critics (and has a tendency to exaggerate), I hope he continues to provide coverage of when aboriginals do well. 

A growing number of native reserves thrive as collectives because they have shaken off the cloak of dependency on government funding, have taken personal responsibility for their actions, and have moved forward with viable and self-sustaining action plans.

As I explained in my "Canadian Aboriginal Integration. . ." post, "I remain firmly on the side of those aboriginals who agree that maintaining their Canadian citizenship is a good thing."  I do not have a problem with aboriginal rights that have resulted from Canadian Constitutional provisions, as long as these rights do not harm aboriginals or non-aboriginals, e.g., traditional practices among some tribes that condoned violence and disparaged women.  I favour an aboriginal governance model that allows for integration with the Canadian government system.  In other words, I do not agree with natives creating separate nation states outside of the Canadian Constitution.

(In addition, I totally support those aboriginals who do not want to remain as part of collectives on reserves or in urban areas, and who wish to become part of mainstream Canada.  There are thousands who have chosen this route.)

I believe the Six Nations are lagging behind other communities in terms of effective governance because of their complex history and community dynamics.  As DeYo has pointed out, and as I have read elsewhere, there are some Six Nations members who realize the reserve situation could use some improvement.  For those who feel this way, I highly recommend Tsimshian author/entrepreneur/lawyer, Calvin Helin's, The Empowerment Mindset (2012).  The sub-section of Chapter 2, entitled "Community- and Group-Conditioned Negativity" (38-41), is particularly relevant.

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