Cornwall Island landowners want to resurrect their own band council

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Beverly Pyke and Nelson David White look over some charts that show the area where they'd like to see a new band created.

CORNWALL, Ontario - A pair of Cornwall Island landowners frustrated with the representation they are receiving from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne want to see a an old band resurrected that represents the Ontario portion of the reserve.

Beverly Pyke and Nelson David White told Seaway News in an interview there are dozens of Cornwall Island residents who feel the same way, and they are looking for leadership that better reflects life for Ontario residents of Akwesasne.

"People are frustrated," said White.

Pyke said the division of leadership within the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) has created headaches on this side of the provincial border.

She said while there are eight district chiefs representing Quebec portions of the reserve, there are only four from Ontario.

"When issues come up, the Quebec chiefs get their way."

Among the concerns on Cornwall Island and other portions on the Ontario side of the reserve are land claims and title changes when landowners pass away.

"There are over 200 land claims going on right now," said Pyke.

She and White are hoping that by getting the word out now, more residents will step forward and agree that a new band should be created. If that happens, the duo said elections could take place as soon as next month to create a leadership core for the fledgling band.

But it won't be easy, as the MCA is sure to put up a fight. White said the MCA stands to lose millions in federal funding if a new band is created.

The MCA has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Individual bands on the Canadian side of the reserve were amalgamated under the MCA in the 1980s. The U.S. side of the reserve has its own council which deals with Washington and New York State.

White said the debate concerning a new band for the Ontario portion of the reserve is not new.

He and Pyke have been in touch with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office to discuss their plan. They said the ministry has provided information about how to proceed, but has not yet suggested it would consent to creating another band.

The MCA is headquartered in St. Regis, Que. where it runs departments like emergency services, housing and social services.

White and Pyke said they would like to see those services left in place, but create new service providers for the Ontario portion of the reserve on a smaller scale - not exactly an easy task.

"This will be a huge undertaking," said White.

They said it could take years to establish another band.

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