OHSWEKEN Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill said her council remains committed to working with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs following the end of a two-month protest at the council’s administration office.
Elected council staff were back in their offices on Monday, 63 days after a protest on the front lawn closed the administration building.
Members of elected council and staff walked onto the Chiefswood Road property and into the building on Monday morning. Employees dismantled the barricades set up at the entrances to the buildings and community members cleaned up the front lawn, removing items belonging to the protesters, who are supporters of the traditional Haudenosaunee Confederacy leadership.
The demonstrators were demanding that the elected council sign a letter stating the Confederacy council is the governing body of Six Nations.
David Smoke, acting deputy chief for Six Nations police, said officers were there to “stand and keep the peace” as employees returned to work.
Smoke said six to eight protesters were escorted off the property with no arrests or injuries.
Hill, who was attending meetings in Toronto on Tuesday, said that when staff returned it was clear the administration building had been broken into, several offices “rummaged through” and materials, including documents, stolen from her office and that of the senior administrative officer.
“We are assessing what was taken and we will give that information to police.”
Hill said elected council met with Confederacy chiefs twice over the past nine weeks. At the last joint meeting on June 5, it was agreed that each council would recommend four representatives to a working group “to set a joint path of working together.”
She said elected council submitted the names of four community members about a month ago and is still awaiting a list of names from the Confederacy. In a statement, elected council said it “remains committed to working with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs, and the community as a whole, on finding a path forward for the good of the community.”
“We have been prepared to work with them all along,” said Hill. “Our door is always open.”
Statements were issued over the course of the protest in order to update the public on the situation. “The current governance issues we face were inherited by us from the previous generations,” said Monday’s statement. “We did not create this situation.
“These tensions have been in the community for 95 years and will continue to be present as long as the conversations remain silent.”
The statement said any changes in governing processes should be done with input from the community.
“The success of any governing body is dependent upon the participation and voices of the people it serves.”
An earlier statement said that “if the community decides that Six Nations Elected Council is no longer representative of them, then a process needs to be established to make the transition to a more representative body, for the benefit of the entire community.”
Hill said members of council, staff and community members went to the protest site several times in unsuccessful attempts to reach a peaceful resolution. Earlier this month elected council issued an injunction notice against the demonstrators demanding they leave the property.
“People have a right to protest,” she said. “But they don’t have a right to block our entrance and steal documents.”
Hill said staff “went above and beyond” to ensure residents’ services were maintained during the demonstration. She also thanked community members for their patience.
“It has been a long two months for everybody.”