Ottawa offers $239 million to settle historical Akwesasne claim

Claim dates back to 1800s

APTN National News
AKWESASNE—The federal government has offered $239.8 million to Akwesasne to settle an outstanding specific claim that dates back to the 1800s, according to the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.

The specific claim centers on 8,100 hectares of land along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River which the Akwesasne Mohawks say was never surrendered. The area, found in Quebec, is known as the territory of Tsikaristisere or the Dundee lands.

If it agrees to the settlement, 7,400 hectares of land will also be available to Akwesasne to turn into reserve territory under Canada’s additions to reserve “willing buyer, willing seller” policy.

Akwesasne would be required to release all claims to the Dundee lands if it agrees to the settlement. The settlement requires a community referendum to come into force.

The statement said the referendum would be held in the coming months following education sessions in the community.

In the early 1800s, the Crown and Akwesasne chiefs leased out lands in the Dundee area to non-Mohawks. This eventually led to tensions after the Mohawks demanded the lands be given back when the leases expired.

In 1888, the superintendent general of Indian Affairs offered $50,000 if the Mohawks agreed to surrender their interest in the lands. On Feb. 16, 1888, a document was signed that was interpreted as a surrender. The Mohawks, however, disputed the interpretation and maintained their aim was to gradually reclaim the leased lands.

About 10 per cent of the lands that had been patented to private parties were returned to reserve status between 1889 and 1927. Ottawa also purchased lands within the claimed area beginning in 1971, but the lands did not receive reserve status.

Specific claims deal with historical grievances around loss of lands or mishandling of trust monies by Ottawa.

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