Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to many frequently asked questions regarding Kahnawà:ke Land Claims. They are categorized by claim.

General Questions

Canada has a Specific Claims Policy and a Comprehensive Claims Policy. Canada funds First Nations or their central research unit to research and submit formal claim arising from breaches of lawful obligations or unresolved land rights. Canada then conducts a legal analysis to see if there are Crown liabilities, and accepts or rejects the claims on the basis of this analysis. When the claim is accepted, federal teams enter negotiations based on their mandates and Canada provides funding to cover the costs of negotiations. In the context of Specific Claims, if a settlement agreement is reached between Canada and a Claimant, Canada makes a payment to the Claimant Nation once the settlement is ratified by both parties. In 2009, Canada passed legislation to establish an independent Specific Claims Tribunal which can review and rule on the settlement of Specific Claims of a maximum value of $150 million. The Tribunal has been reviewing claims from First Nations since August 2011.

Canada has three main categories for addressing land claims:

  • Specific Claims; where Bands (not individuals) can prove that the Crown has breached its legal obligations since Confederation through the mismanagement of Indian lands or assets, fraud under the Indian Act or failure to meet the terms of Treaties. Settlement usually comes under the form of cash compensation for past damages, conditional upon a release all interest in the lands or assets affected.
  • Comprehensive Claims; deal with Aboriginal groups (Indians, Inuit or Métis) whose Aboriginal Title has not been dealt with by a land cession Treaty. These negotiations processes focus on future arrangements to share traditional lands and resources (but not on compensation for past damages) and self-government provisions.
  • Special Claims, which Canada analyzes on a case by case basis.

Seigneury of Sault St. Louis Questions

The Seigneury of Sault St. Louis was granted in 1680 by King Louis XIV (with a 2nd grant, also in 1680, granted by Governor and Intendant) to the Jesuits to administer for the exclusive use and occupation of the Iroquois of the Sault (now the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke). French settlers could not settle within its boundaries. The grants were located between two existing Seigneuries, namely: La Prairie and Chateauguay. In 1762, Kahnawà:ke brought the issue of their lands being deeded away by the Jesuit Order before General Thomas Gage. On behalf of the British Crown, General Gage dispossessed the Jesuits and put the Iroquois of the Sault in full possession of the SSSL. However, General Gage also reissued some land deeds to French settlers in 1762.

In the 1600’s, the French Crown brought their system of land holdings to New France (now Québec). In that system, the French King held all of the lands and made grants to Seigneurs to settle the lands; Seigneurs then issued deeds of concession to settlers. In return for the lands conceded, the settlers paid seigneurial rents, or seigneurial revenues, to the Seigneur. However, the Seigneury of Sault St. Louis was unique and different. It was granted in 1680 to the Jesuits for the establishment of a mission (according to the Grant) and for the exclusive use and occupation of the Iroquois of the Sault.

Many Iroquois came to live at Seigneury of Sault St. Louis (which is within the northern part of the Traditional Mohawk Territory) due to the economic advantages of doing so. Over time, the Mohawk language and culture became dominant in the settlement. Each time the village was moved, a Mohawk name was given to the new settlement. Over time, this community came to be known as the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke. The Seigneury lands were lands set aside specifically for the Iroquois of the Sault, who later became the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke.

The approximate size of the Seigneury is 20 km in length along the St. Lawrence River and 11 km deep. Kahnawà:ke’s current land base is less than 13,000 acres. More than 23,000 acres were deeded away.

The Seigneurial “rents” that are due to Kahnawà:ke are not rents coming from leases. Seigneury lands were deeded to settlers and their title can be traced back to Crown deeds. The settlers paid seigneurial rents and various fees to the Seigneur; in exchange, the Seigneur would have built and maintained common buildings, like the Church or mill and services, like clearing roads. In the 1600’s and 1700’s the seigneurial rents may have been paid in kind through the provision of services (like a day of work or food products). The seigneurial rents were abolished by the adoption of the Québec Act in 1935.

Note: Within the Seigneury, municipal taxes are collected by the municipalities; therefore, the municipalities must provide services for the taxes collected.

These will depend on the outcome of the negotiations between the parties. There will be consultations with the community on options for compensation, including obtaining more land, cash compensation, and other considerations.

The beneficiaries of a settlement agreement have not yet been identified, this will be determined in the negotiations. To best inform positions taken at negotiations, the MCK will dialogue with community in the future to collect direction on the issue.

In previous consultations, community members have expressed the settlement agreement should benefit the collective.

The settlement agreement will be implemented through trust arrangements benefiting the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke. To collect explicit community direction on the matter, the MCK will consult the community to determine trust arrangements for the administration of the settlement monies well in advance of any potential ratification of a settlement. Community members could be selected to participate on trust boards to manage the trust funds.

The premise of Canada’s offer to negotiate is based on compensating Kahnawà:ke for the lands deeded away by the Crown and for the loss of use of those lands. Canada will reassure third parties by assuring them that compensation will not be the responsibility of the current property owners and that their rights will not be adversely affected by the settlement package.

This map is for discussion purposes only. The Seigneury should include the disputed lands up to where the mouth of the Turtle River joins the St. Lawrence River. On the west, in the 1770s, the Governor purchased tracts of land which extended beyond the SSSL western boundary and were to be added to the SSSL lands. Only a portion of these lands was officially transferred to reserve land.

In 1995, Kahnawà:ke submitted an historical land grievance related to the Seigneury of Sault St. Louis. In 2003, Canada accepted, for the purposes of negotiation and on a “Without Prejudice” basis, that the Crown had breached lawful obligations to the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke. In general, Canada usually prefers to negotiate with First Nations rather than to go to Court. Canadian Courts have also been directing Canada to negotiate resolutions on First Nations’ grievances.

Canada has offered to negotiate a fair compensation package for the loss of the Seigneury of Sault St. Louis lands and the loss of use of these lands. In accordance with previous community consultations, the MCK advocates that compensation will be inclusive of both monetary compensation and other forms (ie: lands), so that Kahnawà:ke secure an adequate land base for future. The value of the settlement will be determined by the parties through negotiation.

Since the adoption of the Negotiations Protocol in 2005, the MCK SSSL Team has been meeting with the Federal Team to explore possible options for resolution of the grievance. The MCK has considered possible options to resolve the grievance, including but not limited to: addressing the status of the SSSL Lands, contemplating the acquisition of lands to replace SSSL lands deeded to settlers; contemplating a cash compensation component for loss of use of the lands; and settling key legal issues. The MCK continually uses the community positions on key matters that were collected through the 2006 and 2008 SSSL Consultations to inform its negotiations positions. The MCK plans to consult with the community in the near future to further consider options for the settlement of the grievance.

In negotiations, the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke and the Canadian government will determine the resolution of the grievance, instead of a judge ruling over the matter in a Canadian Court. Canada’s position on entering negotiations with any First Nation is that any admissions made at the negotiations table are without prejudice to their legal position, should Canada be taken to court on the same issues. This means that in court Canada would use whatever legal arguments they can to minimize their liabilities, including the statutes of limitations and prescription, which restrict the possibility of initiating a legal proceeding to a period of time defined by law after an event has taken place.

The need for confidentiality in negotiations processes is to encourage full and frank discussion between the parties. Canada and MCK have agreed that all discussions, communications and negotiations shall be confidential and shall not be used by one party against the other in a court of law. The negotiations will be on a “without prejudice” basis with a view to reaching an out-of-court settlement. Both parties committed not to negotiate through the media and not to use what was proposed during the negotiations if this grievance went to court. The confidentiality agreement allows for the MCK to engage in direct dialogue (solely) with community members on the negotiations. This provides MCK with flexibility to consult community members on matters relevant to negotiations.

Canada provides loans to Native Claimants in negotiations in the form of advances against the eventual settlements of their claims. Under Specific Claims, Canada often adds the amount loaned to the cash settlement amount. At current, the SSSL negotiations are funded through the Native Claims Loan Funding program as described.

In 2007, MCK had requested that a new funding arrangement be established for SSSL negotiations, in which funding would not come in the form of loans but rather grants. This request was not approved. As a result, each year the MCK accepts funding, they record a protest against the use of loan funds rather than grant funding.

Canada has a policy providing for “Additions to Reserves”, or ATR, which establishes many requirements in order for land destined to a First Nation to be officially added to the Federal Indian Lands Registry. It is expected that should any settlement implementation include purchasing lands, the ATR policy will apply.

In the ATR process, Canada places conditions on the conversion of land to reserve status; such as environmental condition of the land, and harmonization of land use with surrounding municipalities, and addressing any third-party interests.

The Seigneury negotiations will be without prejudice to any future claim by the Mohawk Nation. To initiate a Mohawk Nation Claim, a formal claim submission for the Mohawk Nation traditional territory would need to be submitted to Canada and the USA by all the Mohawk communities.

In 2006, a community consultation was undertaken by Dr. Gerald Taiaiake Alfred and his team of three researchers. Community consultations were also carried out in 2007-08 by a contracted Community Consultation Group: Ratirhiwaro:roks – Seigneury Community Group. MCK conducted its own SSSL consultations with MCK employees and the employees of affiliated organizations. A number of meetings also took place at the Elders Lodge and Kahnawà:ke Survival School. The consultations indicated that most community members prioritized the return of lands over a monetary compensation to settle the SSSL Grievance.

In 2011 a Consultation Officer was hired to collect information on community members’ preferred methods of engagement for future Seigneury consultation. This has informed the MCK is community members’ preferences about how they want to be consulted, and was used to develop a new consultations strategy for 2014 onward.

The MCK is now preparing to begin another round of consultations. These consultations will be used to collect community perspectives on key elements of the SSSL negotiations, including: Lands, Key Legal Issues, Compensation, Implementation, etc. For more information on the upcoming consultations, please visit the SSSL Consultations tab of the Negotiations section of this website.

It is highly recommended that even if you have attended SSSL consultations before, that you make efforts to attend again.

This consultations approach will be different than previous consultations. The Council of Chiefs will be directly involved, providing updates on the status of negotiations and negotiations issues. They will ask community members to provide feedback on moving forward with issues regarding lands. It is important that the community provide their input so that Kahnawà:ke’s perspectives are accurately represented.

There are several ways to engage in consultations and share your opinion. For more information on this, visit the Community Consultations tab of the Negotiations page here.

In 1760, British representatives approached the Seven Nations of Indians who had allied with the French to request they remain neutral through the end of the war with France. On this occasion, Britain made a number of promises, including promises that His Majesty would maintain his allies in their lands. This Treaty was finalized at Kahnawà:ke and is sometimes referred to as the Kahnawà:ke Treaty.

The Seven Nations, sometimes referred to as the Nine Nations (depending on the season the meetings were held) were: Iroquois of Kahnawà:ke; Iroquois of Akwesasne; Onondaga, Oneida and Cayuga of Oswegatchie; Iroquois, Algonquins and Nipissings of Two Mountains; Algonquins of Three Rivers; the Hurons of Lorette; Abenakis of St. Francis, and the Têtes de Boule (wandering Indians). NOTE: There are no copies of the actual Treaty of Oswegatchie, but the Supreme Court of Canada in the Coté case accepted historical records containing references to the Treaty promises.

In the 1762 Military Tribunal before General Gage, Daniel Claus represented the Iroquois of the Sault. In his presentation, to show that the Iroquois of the Sault were the rightful owners of the Seigneury, he noted that he was told that a Chief had in his possession a parchment establishing ownership of the SSSL lands. This parchment had been passed onto his wife who may have been persuaded to hand over the parchment to a Jesuit priest. In Gage’s decision, he noted that if there were indeed such a parchment, it would have been a copy of the Seigneury of Sault St. Louis’s 1680 grants.

NOTE: Chiefs in Kahnawà:ke before the advent of the Indian Act, were Chiefs selected traditionally and organized under the Seven Nations Confederation as allies of the French.

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