$239 million Dundee settlement referendum passes

Shawna O'Neill
$239 million Dundee settlement referendum passes
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AKWESASNE – A special referendum regarding the Tsi:karistisere/Dundee Claim Settlement Agreement was held in each district of the community on Saturday, Dec. 8; online voting was available as of October 1. 

Approximately 80 per cent, 1,749, of those who made it to the polls voted in favour of the conditions associated with the agreement, while 20 per cent or 448 voters, voted against it.

“We’re pleased with the results,” said Grand Chief Abram Benedict. “A lot of work has gone into negotiating this claim. A lot of previous Chiefs and staff dedicated a lot of time to this…seeing the results is reassuring and a reaffirmation.”

Chief Benedict said that the settlement funding of $239 million will be invested in short-term plans before any long-term decisions are made. Considering specific provisions with the agreement, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) will meet with the community for consultation.

Chief Benedict also maintained that expanding reserve land base is still one of the MCA’s biggest priorities, particularly in Dundee and the Cornwall and SDG riding. Cornwall Seaway News previously reported that as a part of the settlement, the MCA has the opportunity to expand its lands by 18,282 acres in accordance with the Additions to Reserve policy.

A total of 2,197 voters cast their ballots, which represents 28.1 per cent of all 7,818 eligible voters. In order to ratify the agreement, it was mandated that at least 25 per cent of registered voters must participate.

“Recognizing our unique location, 28 per cent may sound small but it is quite large…it is a good indication,” said Chief Benedict, who recognizes that a lot of eligible voters choose not to participate in the system.

Chief Benedict believes that the advanced voting information sessions contributed to the overall vote.

“We wanted to make sure the community understood the history of the claim, the proposed parameters (associated with the claim) and what it means in the community going forward,” he said.

Voters were asked to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following question:

“As a Voter of the Mohawks of Akwesasne, do you:
(a) approve the terms and conditions of the Tsikaristisere/Dundee Claim Settlement Agreement initialed by the negotiators for the Mohawks of Akwesasne and Canada, which settles and releases the Tsikaristisere/Dundee Claim; and (b) authorize and direct the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne to execute all documents and do everything necessary to give effect to the Tsikaristisere/Dundee Claim Settlement Agreement?”

“Want to thank the community for voting,” said Chief Benedict.  Chief Benedict acknowledged all members who worked with the claim, including those who are no longer with us and MCA members.

The land claim was originally filed in 1981. 

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