A Monday morning ceremonial signing marked history being made for Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, but it won’t mark an end to negotiations.
Chief R. Don Maracle and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Marc Miller announced that the deal was official at Tyendinaga Mohawk Community Centre, with the band reclaiming nearly 300 acres of land that Maracle says was never surrendered – considered to be lost to unlawful alienation nearly 200 years ago.
The Chief of Tyendinaga’s Mohawks says that land represents just a piece of what the band seeks to reclaim, but that it is a big step in the right direction.
“It’s significant progress on settling at least part of that claim,” Maracle said.
“I guess what was important was that we didn’t have to surrender or give up anything. And also Minister Mark Miller has acknowledged that wrong was done, so it’s a way of making something wrong, right.”
As part of this agreement, the Mohawks will also be compensated $30 million in federal funds for the loss of use of the land since 1837, while the Ontario government put forward $315,000 for failing to consult on a quarry within the territory of disputed land.
The claim over unlawful alienation was initially filed in 1995 with the Canadian government agreeing to negotiate a settlement in 2003.
Maracle says during these long standing negotiations, it’s been difficult to get the federal government to relent from the idea of MBQ ceding portions of the land, over 900 acres, as part of the agreement.
He says that has been a major sticking point, but that it will continue to be if needed.
“We never did agree to surrender any land,” Maracle said.
“The Chief and Council have absolutely no mandate whatsoever to surrender any land… and we won’t be doing that.”
More than two thirds of the land remains to be negotiated, with a large portion running through the town of Deseronto.
Maracle said in general a lot of land was taken from Canada’s Indigenous under fraudulent and suspicious terms, and so a lot of hard work remains to be done.
He said this partial settlement can act as a template for future land negotiations.
“It can be a template on how to settle claims,” Maracle said
“The crown has gotten away from this notion that everything that belongs to the native people has to be surrendered… Our future is important to our people too, and having land and a place to grow is also important to our people.”
While a date has yet to be set, the two sides will meet once again in October.