Six Nations Representatives Oppose Riverside Dam Reconstruction


CAMBRIDGE – Staff working on behalf of the elected Six Nations of the Grand River Council want to see the brakes put on rebuilding the Riverside Dam.

Now that the original dam no longer fulfills its technical purpose of providing water flow to the old mill, the dam should be dismantled and the river should flow naturally, said Bethany Kuntz-Wakefield, head of the wildlife and stewardship of the elected council.

The consultation and accommodation process team, which negotiates all development issues on the disputed land on behalf of the elected council, along with Kuntz-Wakefield’s predecessor Paul General oppose the dam. This was communicated to the city several years ago, says Kuntz-Wakefield.

The Riverside Dam is located on disputed land which is currently the subject of litigation.

“Cultural heritage was the basis on which they decided to build this new dam, and you don’t even have to argue that it’s expensive and it’s going to cost a lot of money to maintain. There is no reason for it to be there except for cultural heritage reasons, and it is the cultural heritage of the settlers, not the Aboriginal cultural heritage, ”says Kuntz-Wakefield.

Cambridge City staff first performed a structural assessment of the dam, determined it to be in poor condition and something needed to be done in 2009.

The city’s assessment of the alternatives showed that dismantling the dam and naturalizing the river was the preferred option.

City documentation also acknowledges that municipal staff received verbal support for river naturalization from the Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation elected council.

In response to the community’s call for the dam, city councilors asked staff to prepare another report on how to proceed to repair or rebuild the dam in March 2018.

The dam and its associated aquatic features are deeply rooted in the city’s history, culture, geography and aesthetics, according to the cultural heritage report. A dam has been there for over 120 years. The dam itself is recognized as a heritage structure and considered to have artistic value.

Many people feel personally linked to the project. The Friends of Riverside Park Dam and Mill Pond Facebook group has just under 1,000 members.

The project is expected to be built in 2022 and 2023.

“A major public consultation was conducted as part of the environmental assessment study,” said Susanne Hiller, spokesperson for the city.

Hiller says the consultation included a meeting with the Six Nations of the Grand River, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and an approach to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy through the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, its negotiating arm.

Cambridge City Council decided to rebuild the Riverside Dam because the dam and mill pond are “a proud asset to the community of cultural heritage significance,” according to city documentation.

“In many Indigenous cultures, nature and people are not separate,” says Kuntz-Wakefield. “People are inseparable from culture and people are inseparable from nature, which means that nature is cultural heritage. There is no difference between built culture and natural culture in terms of heritage.

“They should have at least thought about it,” says Kuntz-Wakefield.

When asked why she was drawing attention to this particular project, Kuntz-Wakefield replied that “this is just another example of Indigenous values ​​being supplanted by settler values ​​in the environmental assessment process, and it is the process by which we make decisions about what we are going to do.

“The different ways we see the world will have different outcomes for the health of ecosystems and the environment, and we should listen to the world views of those who have been here for thousands of years.”

Staff will give a full update to council on the preliminary design report for the new dam on Nov. 23, according to Hiller.

Dam in the Haldimand sector

The Haldimand Tract is land given by the Crown to the Haudenosaunee as compensation for the loss of their homeland when they aided the British during the American Revolution. It stretches six miles – about ten kilometers – on both sides of the Grand River.

Block Two, where most of the Region of Waterloo is located, was historically ceded by the Six Nations to the Crown “for the purpose of selling them to third parties,” according to the lands and resources of the elected Six Nations council. of the Grand River. department.

The proceeds of this sale were intended to be a “sure and permanent means of support” for the Six Nations.

According to the Department of Lands and Resources, the Six Nations allege that “the Crown has failed to demonstrate that all principal and interest due from the sale of Block 2 has been credited to the Six Nations Trust Fund accounts.”

This claim, as well as other land claims, is the subject of litigation. Other steps are planned for spring 2022, according to the elected council.

Historically, the Six Nations or Haudenosaunee, which includes the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, and Tuscarora, lived primarily in what is now known as upstate New York.

When Kuntz-Wakefield refers to the thousands of years of the Six Nations in the Grand River area, she says she is referring to:

  • These nations traditionally traveled through and roamed this region to hunt and gather food and medicine, she said.
  • The remnants of the nations that traditionally settled in this region, including the Attawandaran or Neutral People, were absorbed by the Six Nations people after being decimated by war and disease. Descendants of nations who have lived in the region for thousands of years are considered by the Six Nations to be part of them, according to Kuntz-Wakefield.

  • The Six Nations specifically chose the Grand River watershed as their new home because of its resemblance to their home territory. Kuntz-Wakefield, says traditional knowledge of the ecology of their former territory can be helpful in understanding the Grand River watershed.

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