by Lloyd Dolha
Mohawk leaders from the Bay of Quinte have suspended land claim negotiations with the federal government after federal officials announced that they won’t consider buying private properties owned by non-aboriginals in the disputed Deseronto area to make the lands part of the Belleville area reserve.
Margo Geduld, spokesperson for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), said that buying property in a community such as Deseronto, which falls within the land claim made by the Mohawks of of the Tyendinaga reserve is never an option in this type of land claim.
Don Maracle, chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte who live on the Tyendinaga reserve, said that position is a huge blow to the Mohawks, whose band council is now considering it’s legal and political options after breaking off talks in the second week of June.
”We also need land to ensure the future best interests of our people,” said Chief Maracle.
While INAC officials won’t disclose what is on the negotiation table with the Mohawks, Maracle said the government is considering a cash settlement in exchange for a Mohawk surrender of the land.
The land in question is known as the Culbertson Tract, that comprises some 400 hectares that runs along eastern boundry of Tyendinaga, situated on Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte, east of Belleville and west of Kingston.
Those lands were never properly surrendered to the federal government which the Mohawks say were taken by the federal government in1837.
Since that time, the Mohawks have sought to repatriate those lands, ultimately filing a specific claim for the lands when the process was created in 1991.
The federal government acknowledged that the Culbertson Tract was never surrendered and remains Mohawk land in November 2003, and since that time have been trying to get Tyendinaga to accept a buy-out of the disputed land.
The Mohawks of Tyendinaga have occupied the disputed land for the past two years since March 2007, which is also the site of a gravel quarry.
In late April, the protest and occupation of the quarry site escalated into conflict when a Kingston realtor, Emile Nibourg, announced plans to develop the lands, that culminated in a written commitment to bring a crew of “25 to 30 guys” to the site.
The Mohawks responded by closing roads immediately adjacent to the proposed iste, which they held for several days.
While the OPP swat team was eveventually brought in to remove the Mohawks from the roads, no confrontation ensued, and Nibourg backed away from his plans to develop the disputed lands.
Several days later, after the roads had been reopened, Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant was arrested on Friday April 25th, during an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Tevelvision Network (APTN), stemming from an incident that took place days before.
Supporters rushed to the quarry after hearing of Bryant’s arrest. The arrest sparked off police actions that led to the jailing of four other Mohawks, with the OPP pulling their weapons on community members at the quarry site on a weekend of tense standoffs and road blockades
The same weekend, Six Nations community members erected a blockade of the Highway 6 bypass near Caledonia in support of the Tyendinaga Mohawks.
In a related incident, two Mohawk women were assaulted by Canada Customs officers on Saturday June 14th at the Cornwall Island border in Akwessahsne.
Mohawk rights activist Kahentinetha Horn 67, suffered arterial damage during the assault and was hospitalized under guard. Also hurt in the incident was Mohawk Nation News (MNN) editor Katenies, who was held until Sunday and released.
Charges against Ms. Horn were dropped and Horn was hospitalized until her release on June 18th. Charges against the MNN editor were dropped on Monday June 16th.
“I understand that our people are very upset about this, “ said Ms. Horn, after her release from hospital and under private care for her injuries.
“I am concerned that the incident has upset my daughters and grandchildren. There is no excuse for what they did to us,” she said.
The incident is under investigation.