Prince Edward County Council will be formally recognizing Indigenous heritage and peoples by way of a resolution.
During Thursday’s Committee of the Whole Meeting, Councillor Bill Roberts put forward a multi-faceted resolution to recognize both National Indigenous Heritage Month and National Indigenous People’s Day in 2021. The resolution was passed as a Roberts/McMahon motion.
The resolution itself cited the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s call to action for municipal governments to provide education to the public regarding Aboriginal peoples.
As part of the resolution, staff are to bring a report to council no later than November 24th with recommendations on how the municipality is prepared to publicly display Indigenous Art on municipal properties and exhibit such art in County Museums.
Of the more contested parts of the resolution, Roberts suggested staff provide recommendations on how The Gunshot Treaty cairn at Carrying Place be publicly profiled and identified as such. He also suggested staff explore the current land ownership of Foresters Island.
As well, staff are directed to bring forward plans to hold an annual meeting between members of council and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Council, for the purpose of supporting each other, as the resolution states, exploring appropriate and mutually beneficial economic development and community initiatives in the future.
Councillor Kate MacNaughton questioned why the resolution only pertained to 2021.
“I ‘d be thrilled if it was an annual undertaking,” expressed Roberts. “For me, I thought it was disappointing that for 2020 there was such little recognition and such little to actually show in terms of active reconciliation and tangible reconciliation. If we are successful for 2021, I’d hope that would be something the community would take on annually.”
Councillor Stewart Bailey inquired as to why Roberts wanted to include the clauses regarding both the Gunshot Treaty and Forester’s Island in his resolution.
“I’m curious about the inclusion of the item to do with the Gunshot Treaty and the part about Foresters Island,” questioned Bailey. “I’m wondering why they’re included.”
Roberts responded that, as a Loyalist community that has benefited greatly from Indigenous land, recognizing the importance of Indigenous history and current land rights is important.
“Everything in here has been raised by our Mohawk neighbours, except for the cairn. This is a Loyalist community and the cairn commemorates the surrender of Massasauga lands that was perhaps one of the worst treaties ever constructed between Loyalists and Indigenous peoples,” said Roberts.
Roberts added that the current location of the cairn is not befitting of the recommendation put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, with abundant advertisements fettering any educational purpose behind the cairn.
“If you’ve been by the cairn, what’s most recognizable are the diner ads, real estate ads and the variety store ads-not the cairn itself,” explained Roberts. “If the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s aspirations for municipalities is to seize opportunities for education and deepening our understanding, that is not going on with this cairn.”
Councillor Janice Maynard put forward a friendly amendment, which was accepted, to recognize places of Indigenous historical importance throughout the County and not just the Gunshot Treaty cairn.
Roberts further explained that, as for Foresters Island, ownership has been shrouded in the mists of antiquity.
As he explained, around 1780, the island appears to have been deeded to the Mohawks, and more specifically, to a Mohawk captain who was a commander in the British Forces during the American War of Independence.
“In the interim, it’s become quite complicated as to who holds ownership of the island,” said Roberts. “The municipality-Shire Hall-receives $6,000 per year in taxes from the island….so before getting into a conversation about returning land or arresting taxation on the land that reflects ownership, it would be nice to figure out who exactly does own it.”
Councillor Jamie Forrester expressed concern at including the issues relating to the Gunshot Treaty and Foresters Island in the resolution.
“I’m very comfortable supporting this motion, but I do have concerns about the two paragraphs we just talked about,” he said. “I’d like to see them excluded this time, and maybe brought back at a later time.”
Despite separating the clauses, council still voted to accept the parts of the resolution pertaining to the Gunshot Treaty and Foresters Island.
In other news from the horseshoe, Barry Davidson was recognized for his volunteer work to upgrade the Millennium Trail. Davidson was nominated by Kevin and Sheila Hanbury.
Councillor Mike Harper acknowledged the work of Davidson and noted that he could have been recognized for any number of civic minded projects he has taken on throughout the years.
“Barry Davidson has done, obviously the Millennium Trail, which is huge, but we could have given him civic recognition for so many things,” said Harper. “He’s on the Wellington Rotary Club. He was involved with the helpline early on when COVID-19 hit and I know he’s still keen to help the community with affordable housing.”
Davidson’s award will be presented to him at the next possible 2020 meeting wherein physical distancing constraints are not in place.