“This vote is wrong in every way: All of it is in breach of our treaty”

The “Partial Settlement Agreement” vote that the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Band Council is holding is a violation of the terms of the Simcoe Deed and a scheme to trick Mohawk people into giving up their land to Canada.

TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY – The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Band Council (MBQ), the administrative arm of the Canadian Federal Government in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, is holding a vote that would break the terms of the Simcoe Deed and “settle and release” the Fee Simple title of 299 acres of Culbertson Tract land to Canada.

The terms of the vote are such that a mere 12.5% of MBQ members plus one, or 1292 people could make the decision to turn lands over to Canada in exchange for the MBQ band council receiving $30 million and control of the lands under the Indian Act. According to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, there are 10,326 registered members of the MBQ, 8156 of whom live off-reserve. As long as a majority of at least 25% of MBQ members vote in favour of the settlement, it will be considered accepted by Canada. 

The planned vote was met with derision and scorn from the Onkwehon:we people in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory that Real People’s Media interviewed on the matter. According to one Onkwehon:we woman in her forties, “In what world is 25% of the Mohawks on an Indian Act Band Council list, able to invalidate a treaty affecting all the heirs of the Six Nations people that fought the Americans and lost their homelands?” She added, “this vote could set a dangerous precedent. This is a big deal.”

Listen to Episode 1 of the WGO Podcast Culbertson Tract Edition featuring Gene Hill, Mohawk of the Bear Clan.

A continuation of fraud and genocide

Mohawk Bear Clan elder Gene Hill views the vote as a continuation of Canadian policies aimed at defrauding the traditional people of their rights while empowering a Christian faction seeking assimilation with Canada. Hill stated that “This chunk here, the Simcoe Deed, they didn’t give to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. That was given to the Confederacy.” Hill added: “Any land dealings that we do, any place they’re all supposed to come together. No matter if they’re on the American side, or Caughnawaga, Brantford, etc. They’re handling this all by themselves, and it’s very illegal.”

Indeed, the terms of the Simcoe Deed refer to the “Chiefs, Warriors, Women and People of the said Six Nations” and their “heirs for ever” and do not mention the “Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte” which is an Indian Act Band created and controlled by the Federal Government of Canada. The MBQ did not come into existence until about 90 years after the Culbertson Tract was alienated from the Mohawks, and it was imposed without consent on the people who wanted to maintain their traditional systems of governance.

In an interview for the What’s Goin’ On Podcast, Hill spoke extensively about the way that the Christian Churches and the Orange Order Lodge were used to suppress and marginalize the traditional people in Tyendinaga. Hill was clear about what he saw as the end game from Canada. “This is what you got to tell the people. They’re eliminating the Simcoe Deed so that when they do that it can be open for tax at any time.”

Another Mohawk elder, Mario Baptiste of the Wolf Clan, was furious with the vote. “They got that land back under the terms of the Simcoe, because they were violated. Now, they want us to violate that very same Simcoe, by going along with this bullshit [vote] that they’ve scammed up.”

Baptiste stressed that the MBQ Band Council as an organization “have no authority, no jurisdiction. They are not heirs. The Indian act was not in power then, so how can they be heirs? They’re only there because of the Indian Act, not because they’re Indian, or they’d be hung for treason.”

Listen to Episode 2 of the WGO Podcast Culbertson Tract Edition featuring Mario Baptiste, Mohawk of the Wolf Clan.

How the decision should be made

Instead of following the Indian Act, Baptiste said, “Let’s go back to our customs and traditions here and the agreements under the Simcoe. It makes it pretty clear how it’s done. It’s to be a gathering of the entire nation. Not Tyendinaga, not Six Nay, it’s the entire Mohawk Nation together. With a show of hands, that’s how the vote is to be conducted. Not in part here and part over there, and part over there, in a phone-in plebiscite vote.”

In order to take the Culbertson Tract lands out of the control and jurisdiction of the “Chiefs, Warriors, Women and People of the Six Nations” in 1837, the Crown was required by the Simcoe Deed to call a big meeting or assembly and to discuss the matter with the Chiefs, Warriors, Women, and People of the Six Nations. 

That means that for any kind of deal on Simcoe Deed lands to be valid, the Governor General of Canada, Mary May Simon, would need to call for a public meeting with the Hereditary Chiefs, Warriors, and people of the Six Nations where the matter could be discussed and resolved face to face. 

Baptiste is opposed to participating in the MBQ election, even to vote “No.” He says, “This is not how traditionally or culturally we made decisions. How can we violate our own? Blame it on them? No. Participating in that [vote] you’re giving them the authority to do that, and that’s wrong.”

Instead, Baptiste suggests that the people should themselves simply occupy the land on the Culbertson Tract and use it in accordance with their customs and traditions. 

Kanenhariyo Seth Lefort, a member of the Bear Clan who was appointed to the position of War Chief during the February 2020 shut down of rail traffic through Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory following the RCMP raid on the Wet’suwet’en, said:

“This vote is wrong in every way. It’s illegal. It’s contrary to our treaty and our customs. The treaty says this is how you’ve got to do this. We make these kinds of decisions in person, and we do it where we can see each other and come to agreement on the course to follow. If we can’t come to an agreement, then we break our peace. That’s what’s on the line, our continued togetherness.”

“What Marc Miller and Elected Chief Don Maracle are trying to do is to sneak around and swindle the people. They are tricking the people that they harmed with residential schools, Indian day schools, the sixties scoop and disenfranchisement, to vote on something when we have no business doing that. They are omitting all these people who have a voice in this matter. The band council status registry is not our custom. It’s not our way, it’s not our list, it’s not our membership, and it’s not the heirs of the Simcoe Deed. Don Maracle and the other elected Band Council members need to come home so we can talk about this together in our clans.”

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