Delisle hopeful renewed talks on SSSL land claim will resolve impasse

 By Marc Lalonde

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A new federal policy of resolving land disputes with First Nations communities by returning land to those nations instead of just compensating them with cash has given the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake hope that renewed negotiations over the Seigneury Sault St. Louis land dispute might finally come to an end.

“We have a renewed hope and spirit that would also happen here in Kahnawake,” said MCK Chief Mike Delisle, who sits on the External Government Relations and the Indigenous Rights and Research committees. “Canada has changed its approach to land disputes and we have seen where Canada is giving land back instead of just money, Canada has changed its position and our hope is a renewed mandate.”

Talks with the government have re-opened after about eight years of dormancy, and Delisle said the MCK is hoping for a relatively speedy conclusion to a grievance dating back more than 300 years.

“That is our hope,” he said. “We’ve been in discussions for six to eight months because we’d like to see this file closed at some point.”

Discussions in 2015 ended with no resolution to the dispute, Delisle added.

The Seigneury Sault St. Louis land dispute dates back hundreds of years to when French settlers first arrived in North America. In 1680, the seigneury, made up of about 24,000 acres to the south, west and east of the community — was granted by King Louis XIV, and in 1703, the Jesuits, who had been given control of the land when the French arrived about 60 years earlier, handed the land over to French settlers.

However, the land didn’t belong to the Jesuits, it belonged to the Mohawks of Kahnawake. By 1750, the Governor of New France ruled the SSSL lands didn’t belong to the Jesuits and they couldn’t concede what didn’t belong to them. Just over a decade later, under the British regime, in 1762, the governor of Montreal ruled the Seigneury land belonged to the Mohawks of Kahnawake.

In his judgment, the governor ordered the SSSL land be put in possession of `the Indians of the Sault,’ to `enjoy peaceably for themselves.’

In 1807 and 1830, Kahnawake chiefs made representations to the British Crown to seek redress for the land that was taken from them.

Today, much of the SSSL territory has been alienated away from the community through development and lack of government movement on officially returning the land to the community.

Delisle said the appointment of a new federal negotiator by the Crown-Indigenous Relations department has given the MCK hope that the community might one day actually get compensation for the substantial amount of land that has been taken from them over the years.

He added that the MCK is hoping the federal government will give cabinet approval to the negotiator for a new mandate on the land grievance.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s why we asked for it. It’s not about the person, it’s about the mandate.”

  Marc Lalonde/ Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/IORI:WASE/LJI is a federally funded program. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.


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