We are all Treaty People

It's Treaties Recognition Week in Ontario! This week provides us an opportunity to think critically about the land that we live and work on, and its relationship to Indigenous Nations both past and present. 

The University of Waterloo is situated on Block 2 of the Haldimand Tract, a 950,000 acre section of land that runs six miles on either side of the Grand River from its start at Lake Erie north to the small community of Badjeros, Ontario. The land was originally granted to Six Nations in 1784 in recompense for being driven from their home lands during the American Revolution. Six Nations had supported the British during the war, and their lands originally in what is now upstate New York were attacked by the Americans. The land was originally supposed to be held “in trust” by the Crown for the sole use and benefit of the Six Nations, however by 1798 there were already White settlers on the land. Prior to being given to the Six Nations the land was occupied by the Neutral Nation, and by the Mississaugas from whom the land was purchased by the British government.

Today the Six Nations of the Grand River is made up of only 46,000 acres, approximately 5% of the original total land granted. Six Nations of the Grand River is the largest Indigenous reserve in Canada with over 27,000 members from the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk), Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ(Cayuga), Onöñda’gaga’ (Onondaga), Onyota'a:ka (Oneida), Onödowáʼga꞉ (Seneca), and Skarù:ręˀ (Tuscarora) Nations as well as a small population of Lenape people.

Six Nations of the Grand has been battling the Canadian government since 1985 for compensation over lands taken from the original grant in the Haldimand Treaty. There have been 29 land claims filed since 1985, with only one having been resolved. Six Nations Land Defenders are currently protesting the development of a subdivision in Caledonia which is being built on unceded land. This site is called 1492 Land Back Lane.

You may be wondering if you are living or working on unceded land. One of the ways in which we can explore the history of the lands that we live on is through maps showing the historical development and settling of areas. Below is a map hand drawn in 1794, just 10 years after the Haldimand Treaty, showing the Haldimand Tract, the Grand River, and indicating where various Indigenous Peoples were living. Nations identified on the map include the Delware (Lenape), Cayaugas (Cayuga), Mohawk, Augougas (unknown), and Anandagas (Onondaga).

Map of the Grand River showing Indigenous Nations on the Haldimand Tract.

Take some time this week to explore the history of the area that you live or work on. A great resource is this interactive map from Native Land Digital. Did you find anything surprising? Are you living in an area covered by a treaty? Let us know! 

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