"What does it mean, or what has it meant, to live on this Indigenous territory?"
As a Haudenosaunee person registered to the Six Nations of the Grand River, it's extremely important to me to live in this territory. It's the only place I've lived. But it brings up bigger questions and bigger thoughts around the fact that this land was not historically Haudenosaunee territory.
My relatives do come from New York. And in 1784, Sir General Robert Haldimand proclaimed six miles wide on either side of the Grand River, to be given to the Mohawk nation and each of the other five nations for them and their families to enjoy forever. So I think about all the things like who said that Robert Haldimand could do that? Why did they do that? These were lands right of Anishinaabe folks. So I know, 230-240 years ago, this was not where we were, this is not where my bloodline comes from. But in 230 years, it is the only home that I've ever known, it is the home of my ancestors, my relatives, people I can see in pictures, and my current family today — right on fourth line in Oshawa. So [it's] extremely important to me, and I think about [it], like where would I go if I were to leave? When I have thoughts of, 'Oh, I'm gonna pack up and move to BC or try a try living somewhere different', I think, why? Why would I go anywhere? Who would teach me about my people and my language? I would be not at home in someone else's territory. I'm very aware that this is where I'm from and these are the people around me who know my culture and who know the language. So there is nowhere else for me to go. I am at peace and content knowing that this is my land, these are my people. This is the language that I will be learning. This is the language I teach my child, my children. So it's extremely important to me, but I am mindful of the thought of stolen land - someone stole this land from Anishinaabe and treatied it to us for our allyship to the British. So I am very aware of that. And I try and think of the fact that this is all stolen land that somebody treatied lands to us. And what does that conversation mean, in a broader sense?
Part of the reason that Land Back Camp became a thing was because Kitchener has historically been a meeting place and gathering space for many nations. That a lot of Indigenous folks came through these waterways and built up a little economic hub and feasting grounds and ceremony grounds where inter-nation marriages occurred, where we met and traded — so much activity has occurred along the Grand River along O:se Kenhionhata. I think having such a diverse group of First Nations, as part of Land Back Camp really speaks to this area, the Grand River, Victoria Park in particular. And unfortunately, the queerness in my Indigeneity has been taken, was stolen from me. So, being on the land, being Indigenous and being queer, are all very foundational to my being, to my children's being, to my health, to my well-being, my mental health, my balance, all of these things are connected to these lands, to these waters. So it's important to me because there is nowhere else. And like Skye said, this is home, I can go to Six Nations, and still go down those stairs in my grandma's house and see the history. See where my mom began, see where my grandparents lived. That is foundational to me, and to my connection to Six Nations and to these lands.
What does it mean as an Indigenous person to live on this territory? What does it mean for you as a Mohawk person to live here on Mohawk lands?
It means a lot to you? And why does it mean a lot to you?
Because it's my home