Six Nations began a search for unmarked graves at the property of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in November 2021. (Photo by Jim C. Powless Turtle Island News)
By Victoria Gray
A proposed subdivision in Brantford won’t get support from Six Nations without the green light from the Six Nations Survivors Secretariat.
Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) passed a motion to tell the City of Brantford they will oppose the development in Eagle Place at the Political Liaison Committee meeting on March 28 until the Six Nations Survivors Secretariat has cleared the land.
“Our concern is that before any construction goes on it needs proper archaeological investigation to be done first,” Lonny Bomberry director of Lands and Resources said. “Kim Murray (executive lead for the Secretariat) has an interest in this because there might be some evidence of graves there who knows. It has to be investigated first.”
SNEC plans to write the City of Brantford an official letter to that effect.
The 30-hectare development at Erie Avenue and Birkett Lane in Brantford sits near the 500 acres of land owned and operated by the Mohawk Institute Residential School, there is currently a criminal investigation of the lands within and surrounding those 500 acres. Crews are using ground penetrating radar and LIDAR to search for unmarked graves of children who attended the school from its opening in 1831 until its closure in 1970.
SNEC is supportive of the work and funded the initial project with a $1 million to create and launch the secretariat at survivor’s behest.
Murray said she’s working closely with City of Brantford staff to go through documents pertaining to the school in their archives and the city is supportive.
“Until anything moves forward we’re in support of the Survivors Secretariat. They have to have an investigation to satisfy everyone that there’s no concern there,” Bomberry said.
Members of the CAP Team meet with Murray on a weekly basis.
Robin Vanstone supervisor of the Consultation and Accommodations Process (CAP) Team said the city is “very much aware” of the investigation of the lands and that their application for development now shows a warning to developers that their work may be delayed due to or the subject of an investigation related to the search for Indigenous children’s unmarked graves.
“Their proponents know there may be some issues regarding work that the Survivors Secretariat needs to do, they have been working with the Survivors Secretariat,” she said.
Elected Chief Mark Hill added that he has also had conversations with County of Brant Mayor David Bailey regarding work that may take place.
The proposed subdivision is 1.2 kilometres from the Mush Hole.
The 40-acre property, called the Riverwalk Community is bordered on three sides by the Grand River and four companies plan to build 1,200 town and single family homes, which could house 3,000 people.
The developers plan to build the homes over five phases in about five years.
Cachet Developments’ Riverwalk Phase 2 and Phase 3 will have 150 single detached homes and 40 back-to-back townhouses on 7.20 hectares; Liv Communities development at 88 and 92 Birkett Lane will consist of Riverwalk Phase 4 and Phase 5. It will include 419 townhouses that face the street and 180 back-to-back townhouses on 16.26 hectares of land.
Kingswood Homes’ Riverwalk East will have 150 street townhouses, 54 stacked townhouses, and 29 single-detached homes on 7.06 hectares; Multani Custom Homes’ Multani East and West will have 137 street townhouses and 47 back-to-back townhouses.
A road network has been proposed connecting Baldwin Avenue to Birkett Lane, extending Dover Court to Birkett land and connecting Fifth Avenue to Birkett lane.
The subdivision will also have a 1.3 hectare public park, sidewalks and connections to the trails for pedestrians.
The Developers were under the impression they’ve already worked out a deal with Six Nations due to a land “trade” with the Men’s Fire in 2015, to stop a protest, wherein some members of the group were given a 46-acre parcel of land near Oneida Road at Sixth Line to allow the development to go ahead.
Vanstone told councillors they informed developers that was not the case.
Murray has said Survivors Secretariat historians have discovered 93 death records over the course of the school’s more than 130-year reign, but there are only records of “a handful” that were buried at the Mohawk Chapel. Survivors also recount the deaths and disappearances of many others.