Land dispute leaves farmer barred from accessing her crops
Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener
Published Thursday, July 20, 2017 6:20PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 20, 2017 6:41PM EDT
A Six Nations farmer says she’s caught in the latest chapter of a dispute stretching back more than a decade.
At issue are the so-called Burtch lands, which Kristine Hill has been farming for the past three years.
The property includes about 380 acres of space, including 250 acres of agricultural land currently used to grow soybeans and tobacco.
Hill says she was told earlier this year that her lease on the property was “null and void,” as the land now belonged to a corporation controlled by the elected council of Six Nations.
“I never thought the fight would be with my own people,” she says.
Hill is getting support from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy chiefs council, which says it was promised the land as part of negotiations ending the Caledonia land dispute of 2006. The council takes the position that the lands were “lawfully leased” to Hill.
At a Thursday media conference, Chief Allan McNaughton said that the confederacy had written a letter to the provincial and federal governments chiding the province for not living up to its commitment.
“We are concerned that the refusal by the province to honour its commitments will result in Haudenosaunee individuals taking more steps to protect the jurisdiction of the Haudenosaunee chiefs council,” he said, reading from the letter.
McNaughton also said that the confederacy would take steps to “peacefully resist” any attempts to interfere with Hill’s use of the Burtch lands.
Both he and Hill say their issue is not with the elected council, but with the province. They accused of the province of intentionally attempting to divide the Six Nations community over the issue.
“They think they can dismiss Six Nations and carry on the way that they have over the past 100 years,” McNaughton said.
“It’s sad to think that we have an elected council that is falling for this.”
Hill says a court order prevents her from setting foot on the Burtch lands. Without being able to harvest her crops, she could be out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“They can say all the words that they want about reconciliation, about making things right … but until they actually do something to stand behind those words, it’s meaningless,” she said.
A spokesperson for the elected council of Six Nations declined an interview for this story, citing the ongoing legal proceedings.
With reporting by Tyler Calver