by Murray Lumley and Christine Downing
Haudenosaunee prophets have some hard truths to speak to Canadian Christians about land claims. Some settler (i.e., non-indigenous) neighbours of the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) community have created a meeting space, called “Two Row Understanding through Education” (TRUE), for learning more about the early agreements that made it possible for newcomers to settle on this land. “Two Row” refers to the Two Row Wampum Treaty-the first agreement between Haudenosaunee inhabitants and Dutch settlers, not to interfere with each other but to live in cooperation and harmony.
TRUE emerged in the context of organized non-natives harassing and attacking the Haudenosaunee after the latter reclaimed land that non-native commercial development is altering beyond repair. Since the original Haldimand Tract-ten kilometers on either side of the Grand River from source to mouth in southern Ontario-was deeded in 1784 to Chief Joseph Brant and the Haudenosaunee for their allegiance to Britain during the American Revolution, agents of the British and successor Canadian governments have seized land and misappropriated funds from leases held in trust for the Haudenosaunee. Less than 5% of the Tract remains under Haudenosaunee control. Of the twenty-nine well-documented land claims registered with the Federal government on portions of the other 95% of the land, only one has been settled. All claims have languished in the Government’s hands from thirteen to twenty-eight years.
On 28 August, TRUE held a meeting on the role of churches in this dispute. Haudenosaunee pastor Adrian Jacobs decried the “theft of hundreds of thousands of acres of land and billions of dollars from the [Canadian government-administered] Six Nations trust fund.” He also had a hard message for the church: “At the Judgment, rewards will be received for actions taken rather than for what is said; how can a nation of earth-stealers receive the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Another prophet who spoke at the meeting was Ruby Montour, an avowed follower of Christ and defender of her people’s land and rights. Canadian authorities had charged and fingerprinted Montour that morning for violating a racist and constitutionally questionable injunction against First Nations stopping work at commercial development sites. She reminded the audience that the Haudenosaunee have kept their side of the Two Row Wampum treaty and that “Six Nations [people] don’t dig up Europeans’ graves to build condos.” She also added a word about personal accountability: “The more the Creator lets you know, the more you are responsible.”
CPTer Allan Slater also had a word regarding equal treatment for Whites and Natives: “Equal does not mean equal when one side has everything taken from them.”
CPT has visited Six Nations territory since 2006, learning from the community about the historic and ongoing injustices.
More information on the Six Nations is available at www.sixnations.ca/