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We are publishing our press release dated July 11, 2022 that provides detailed information about our plans and our media platform, including our Journal. our main focus has always been to restore the Haldimand Tract to its rightful owners. We have already begun this process and we are now ready to announce it. Read Press Release

Breaking the Law for Profit: Businesses Encroaching on Treaty Lands

As more and more businesses invade treaty lands, the Mohawk nation of Grand River are been forced to take matters into their own hands. The reason? The encroaching businesses are violating the terms of the treaty that was supposed to protect the rights of Kanien’kehá:ka people forever—but it hasn’t worked out that way in practice. Instead, Kanien’kehá:ka people find themselves struggling to defend their rights and preserve their way of life from ruthless developers who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

The business of exploitation

The business of exploiting someone else's riparian rights is a lucrative one. After all, riparian boundary disputes are often complex and expensive to litigate. And, if a business can get away with it, the rewards can be great. Grand River territory was lawfully acquired by the Mohawk people under a formal treaty. A treaty that grants exclusive use to the Mohawk posterity. Businesses operating on treaty lands encroaching on the riparian boundary exploit these rights. People who have no legal right to the land they're using in this way put their financial interests ahead of any concern for overall public safety or mohawk welfare.

They also put economic development ahead of traditional indigenous land use practices which may be environmentally sustainable. These businesses undermine respect for others' fundamental human rights, including basic property rights, as well as cultural traditions such as subsistence fishing and hunting. Not to mention that the Haldimand Proclamation is the law of the land, yet no one is willing to observe it.

When these tactics are employed, new social tensions emerge between the trespassers and rightful owners. Faced with such an influx of violations against our culture and laws, we find ourselves confronting serious questions about sustainability in our homeland. How long will it take before our resources - fish, wildlife, water - become extinct? How long will it take before people follow the law? How long will it take before the Mohawk Nation ceases to exist? No one really wants an answer to this question. But there is little choice but to ponder these things.

Riparian rights are ours by law and convention. Respect for them makes good sense both economically and culturally because they're rooted in centuries-old relationships with natural resources.

It's no secret that businesses operating on treaty lands can make a lot of money. After all, these lands are often rich in natural resources and offer prime real estate for development. But what many people don't realize is that these businesses are breaking the law. The Mohawk people have exclusive use of these lands under a formal treaty, and any businesses operating on them are doing so without permission.

Under international law, treaties are legally binding documents signed by sovereign nations with well-defined borders. In this case, the Mohawk people were granted the title to acquire Grand River territory under a treaty written with Great Britain in 1779 and concluded in 1784. So while anyone else could potentially apply for an investment visa or set up a business venture elsewhere, they would be doing so illegally if they did it on land that rightfully belongs to another group of people.

Riparian buffers - areas of natural habitat alongside rivers - are important for maintaining water quality and biodiversity.

An example of riparian rights in the Jay Treaty, "Indians have their first rights of all creeks, rivers, and lakes, 16 feet on both sides of said creeks, and 66 feet on both sides of all rivers and 99 feet around all lakes, and islands on the said lakes. This land mentioned is their inheritance where they can camp, or abode while pursuing their occupation of fishing and trapping."

A common law concept, the riparian zone is a typical ecotone that connects terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. At the same time, environmental stress magnifies here and the natural regulation of rivers is extremely active. However, the construction of dams and the operation of reservoirs have turned many riparian zones into river/reservoir alternation interfaces and influenced the shaping of the hydrological and water environment, and the Grand River basin ecosystem as well, six nautical miles on both sides of the river.

In addition, riparian forests have many functions. They help to purify water, maintain oxygenation of waters, regulate water temperature, prevent soil erosion and provide habitats for fish in rivers and streams.

Examples of Riparian Boundary Violations

In recent years, there has been an influx of businesses operating on treaty lands without the consent of the Mohawk people. This is a direct violation of the rights granted to them under the treaty. Not only is this illegal, but it also puts the Mohawk people at risk of losing their land. The Mohawk people have fought tirelessly to gain and maintain control over their homeland and would not want to give up what they have worked so hard for. For these reasons, it is imperative that we protect the grand river territory from being overrun by outside business interests. The best way to do this is by acquiring riparian rights. These rights will allow the Mohawk people access to legal recourse in order to stop trespassers before they can cause any harm.

Riparian boundary violations could be prevented if appropriate legal tools were available. Riparian rights provide legal protection for people or communities that own property along the water’s edge. Riparian owners are entitled to use the waters flowing through their property, as well as objects that float on those waters such as logs or ships. They may prevent others from using those same resources unless agreed upon otherwise by both parties.

These laws exist to promote commerce and trade between nations, but unfortunately, many international agreements are vague about how ownership should be delineated when rivers cross borders. Currently, Canada and the Mohawk have no "Mutual Legal Assitance Agreements" that would establish the law per se, which leave Mohawk customary law as the only valid law form on Grand River territory.

But here at the Grand River, the boundary line does not intersect with the River, as it runs along the river from its mouth to its source, so the Mohawk have total Riparian rights along the grand river. Under the Pledge of 1779, the Mohawk were to be restored to the state they were in before the war at the government's expense, this pledge also included the right to exclusive use of the acquired territory. As noted above, riparian rights are afforded to someone who owns property along the water’s edge. When these properties abut waterways, the owner has exclusive use of the water and anything floating on it (such as logs or ships). Ownership of riparian boundaries cannot be established except where they lie directly on navigable waterways like rivers. Here is not the case, as the boundary line follows the shoreline of the Mohawk Territory. The entire length of this river lies within our Territory and therefore riparian rights apply to us exclusively under the terms of the Haldimand Proclamation. This also includes the shoreline of Lake Erie which in effect breaks the Boundary line established by the British and the USA in 1908. This Boundary line failed to observe the riparian rights established by the Haldimand Proclamation.

Legal Violations Regarding Treaties and Rights-of-Way

The United States has a long history of violating treaties with Native American tribes. The most recent example is the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was built without the consent of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. This pipeline violates the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, which guarantees Native Americans the right to free passage on all rivers and streams.

In Canada, and for greater certainty the Grand River Territory was lawfully acquired by the Mohawk people under a formal treaty that grants exclusive use to the Mohawk posterity.

A business operating on treaty lands encroaching on the riparian boundary for profit may find themselves in violation of Canadian or U.S. law, depending on whether they are conducting business in Canada or in America respectively.

The importance of understanding both Canadian and U.S. laws cannot be overstated. When it comes to the operation of their businesses, corporations should consult a lawyer who specializes in Indigenous law to ensure compliance with legal boundaries.

What This Means for Mohawk posterity

The Mohawk people have exclusive use of the grand river territory by virtue of a formal treaty. However, businesses are encroaching on this land for profit, which could have negative consequences for Mohawk posterity. This treaty is a key part of Mohawk history and identity, and it is important that it be respected. If businesses continue to encroach on this land, it could jeopardize the future of the Mohawk people. For example, if there were an oil spill in these areas, it would devastate the ecosystem and put wildlife at risk. In addition, these businesses may not follow environmental regulations because they do not consider themselves subject to them.

By Benjamin Doolittle UE · September 16, 2022 · Comments: 0 · RSS · Permalink

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