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What's at stake on uncommon ground? The Grand River Haudenosaunee and Canada in Caledonia, Ontario DeVries, Laura Alice


Caledonia, Ontario made the news on February 28, 2006 as broadcasters reported on a strategically planned ‘occupation’ by Haudenosaunee protestors from the nearby Six Nations territory of a half-finished forty-hectare housing development known as Douglas Creek Estates. Negotiations over ownership of (and compensation for) Six Nations’ twenty-eight unaddressed land claims began shortly after the Ontario Provincial Police attempted and failed to remove the Six Nations occupiers, who assert that the land was not surrendered in the 1840s as Canada claims it was. The reclamation effort sparked tremendous controversy in Caledonia and across Canada; negotiations have achieved no resolution at the time of writing, and conflicts over land and resource rights are increasing in frequency and intensity both in Southern Ontario and across the continent. This thesis undertakes a discourse analysis of texts publicly circulated by the involved parties to discover the underpinnings of the dispute, to link it to histories of Haudenosaunee and Euro-Canadian settler societies, and to generate insights regarding future Canadian-First Nations relationships. Competing claims to the land evidenced in these texts also constitute conflicting visions as to definitions of legitimacy, sovereignty, justice, citizenship and ‘normal’ society. As such, discursive claims are woven through with power relations and the rights to shape political and geographical landscapes. Discourses accessed, re-presented and re-articulated on both sides connect (this) land to national-cultural imaginaries, including ways of interpreting history and relationships, economies, law, and future ‘places to grow.’ Accounting for connections between identity and discourse reveal the ways in which spaces of difference and ‘truth’ are claimed by each party. In Caledonia, Six Nations is discursively positioned outside of ‘the law,’ of acceptable and rational society, and of political recognition as a nation; on the basis of these and other exclusions, Haudenosaunee epistemologies, histories, and priorities are rejected in this dispute over land. This present-day conflict re-presents Canada’s foundations in British colonial law and the ongoing symbolic and physical erasures of people who were here first, and demonstrates again the need to shape new relationships and landscapes in Canada.

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