Canada has officially returned some traditional land to Kahnawake as part of an agreement to build Highway 30.
It was a long, drawn-out battle that, at one point, involved four nearby municipalities suing Quebec over what they perceived as their lost lands.
But that’s all behind the Mohawk Council now and the territory is eager to develop the 500-acre parcel.
“It was a good day when we were notified that the actual transfer was done,” said Chief Clifton Phillips.
“That the land base of Kahnawake, after centuries, has finally grown – not decreased.”
The portion is only a fraction of what the community is expecting through its Seignury of Sault St. Louis land claim.
And they waited 10 years to get it because of the court battle.
” I still believe there’s a consequence that should happen to the rest of the mayors,” said Phillips.
“They held us up. They cost the community of Kahnawake tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to get things going.”
Most of the land returned to the Kahnawake is adjacent to the highway.
But not everyone wants to see bricks and mortar there.
“It’d be very disheartening to see all this land being land-filled and paved over,” said Kanerahtiio Hemlock with the Kahnawà:ke Community Garden.
“For me that’s very short sighted and, in the long run, I think it’s very irresponsible.”
Hemlock would like to see the 20-acre garden blossom and grow in the space.
“In terms of community land for agriculture, there is nowhere else in Kahnawake. This is it.”
Phillips promised to consult the community on what to do with the land.
In the meantime, he will savor the victory.
“The days of taking from Kahnawake are far, far gone,” he said.