Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill has signalled his support for the development moratorium within the Haldimand Tract declared by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council last week.
“We reiterate and acknowledge their call for the moratorium,” Hill said, noting the elected council’s “major” land claims lawsuit against the federal government is scheduled to be heard in court late next year.
“It would not be responsible to allow continued development in an uncertain legal environment,” Hill said. “The government of Canada owes Six Nations potentially in the trillions of dollars in relation to our lands.”
Hill made the comments during a virtual press conference on Monday while discussing the importance of finding common ground with the Confederacy on issues such as clean drinking water on the reserve, new long-term and palliative-care facilities, and the need for a permanent home for Kawenni:io Language School, which has been without a fixed address for its 30-plus-year history.
The Confederacy — made up of hereditary chiefs and clan mothers — announced any developers wishing to build along the Grand River need to first go through a consultation with the Confederacy’s development arm, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute.
“In terms of the (consultation) process, we need to make sure the people are part of that process as well, and what that looks like,” Hill said.
“We need to all be held accountable for our actions, and again, be accountable to our people.”
The federal government has said the elected and hereditary leadership — often at loggerheads over who is the legitimate authority on Six Nations — must smooth over their long-standing differences before negotiations can begin over the future of 1492 Land Back Lane, a planned Caledonia housing development presently occupied by Six Nations land defenders.
“We have to develop that road map together in order to get to unity,” said Hill, who characterized recent talks between the two councils as “optimistic.”
“Our people have said over and over again that they would like to see the two bodies work together,” he said.
“What that looks like is the big question.”
The chief said one positive to come out of the pandemic was how representatives from both councils collaborated on public health measures.
“We’ve come together on this issue, and it’s that beauty of when our people do come together, we can really flourish,” he said, expressing hope the two councils can join forces “and once and for all address our long-standing land issues.”
“We have to make sure that we’re keeping Ontario and Canada accountable, because this is very much part of their issue as well,” Hill said.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator