CORNWALL, Ontario – In a press conference held at the Best Western in Cornwall, representatives of the Iroquois Seven Nations of Canada announced their interest to participate in the negotiations over the Dundee land claim.
The Iroquois of St. Regis had been a party to the land claim as far back as 1981, but that changed in 1985 with the creation of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA).
The Seven Nations feel that those living outside of the MCA’s boundaries were excluded from the negotiations on Dundee.
“The MCA does not exist as far as we are concerned,” said Seven Nations Sub Chief George Adams. “It is a corporation formed through a by-law in 1985 by the then Grand Chief.”
During recent negotiations concerning the Energy East Pipeline, the National Energy Board recognized the Seven Nations as an intervener in that case. The Iroquois of the Seven Nations now hope that that recognition from the federal government can allow them to parlay a seat at the negotiating table on the Dundee land claim.
“We have been fighting for a long time to get our land back,” said Seven Nations of Canada Chief Mike Thomas. “We put an original land claim in 1981. It is now 2016 and something must be done. We have tried a number of times in the past, but the government has not listened to us. We have talked to the government, but they have refused to talk to us.”
Michael Krystal is the lawyer for the Seven Nations. He has been practicing law in Canada since 1996 and has a background in aboriginal cases. Krystal hopes that the Seven Nation’s recognition in the Energy East case will translate to their voice being heard on Dundee. He feels that the Seven Nations have a unique perspective that they can bring to the table.
“The Seven Nations are cynical about the current MCA negotiations and are worried it is a cash grab,” Krystal said. “They are concerned for the land and they should be at the table because they bring a different perspective. They want that land back.”
A part of the on-going land negotiations is a possible $240 million being offered by the government as compensation for the land.
When asked their position on co-operating with the MCA on this issue, Krystal said that his clients would be sending them a letter informing them of their interest in joining the negotiations.
“As a courtesy to their interest, we have extended an open letter to the MCA as an open hand before we went to the government,” he said. “We are seeking to be partners at the table, because historically we were at the table.”
Chief Thomas pointed out that Indian Affairs never approved of the MCA name change that excluded the Iroquois of the Seven Nations of Canada in the first place.
“We want to move back and we will move back to our land,” Thomas said. “The government has been ignoring the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which was re-affirmed in ’94. The Proclamation was designed to protect our lands in negotiations.”