Burtch dispute simmers with Chiefs’ warning
The hereditary Six Nations government, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, is warning they will “peacefully resist any attempt” by the province, federal government or elected Six Nations band council to interfere with the farming of Burtch Correctional Facility lands by a supporter.
Kristine Hill leased the land near Mount Pleasant from the Confederacy with her then-husband in 2014 and has farmed the land ever since.
As part of the Haudenosaunee council’s involvement in negotiations to remove a barricade from Highway 6 at the height of the Douglas Creek Estates dispute in Caledonia in 2006, the chiefs say they negotiated the return of the Burtch property to the hereditary government. Press reports at the time said it was done for the removal of three barricades. . The former Burtch jail, which closed in 2004, lies within a Six Nations land claims.
In early 2017, however, the Six Nations elected council and province agreed to put the lands into a corporation “to be held in trust under the band council” and not the traditional government.
Hill was also served with a notice by the band council earlier this year to vacate the land. She currently has an injunction against her preventing her from going on the property and said she was served in the last week with a contempt of court for violating the order. She will be in court Aug. 10.
Confederacy chiefs held a press conference Thursday and, led by Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton, highlighted a letter the Haudenosaunee have sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“Since 2006, we have lawfully managed and maintained the Burtch Correctional Facility lands, consisting with good government practices,” said MacNaughton. “We take the position that the transfer of the lands to a federal corporation is invalid.”
MacNaughton said, “We can also advise that we will peacefully resist any attempt by the Six Nations elected council and the Province of Ontario – and/or Canada – to interfere with Ms. Hill’s lawful use of the Burtch Correctional Facility lands. We are concerned that refusal by the province to honour commitments will result in Haudenosaunee individuals taking more steps to protect their jurisdiction.
“We would urge you once again to return to negotiations so that we may find a peaceful resolution to the matters between us.”
The Confederacy also supplied a letter, dated May 17, 2006, from former premier David Peterson, who was involved in initial negotiations surrounding the barricades in the Douglas Creek Estates disputes. It read, in part: “Ontario is prepared to return title to the Burtch lands to the Six Nations people. The land is to be available on an interim basis for the Six Nations people for immediate use while the land rights negotiations continue.”
It also said: “It is the intention that the land title be returned to its original state, its status under the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784.” The traditional government was the only government on Six Nations until 1924 when the elected band council system was established with the backing of the Canadian government. Turnouts for band council elections are usually very low.