Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation

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The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (Mohawk: Kenhtè:ke Kanyen'kehá:ka) are a Mohawk First Nation within Hastings County, Ontario. They control the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, which is a 73 km² (18000-acre) Mohawk Indian reserve on the Bay of Quinte in southeastern Ontario, Canada, east of Belleville and immediately to the west of Deseronto.[1] They also share Glebe Farm 40B and the Six Nations of the Grand River reserves with other First Nations.

Mohawk language stop sign.

The community takes its name from a variant spelling of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant's traditional Mohawk name, Thayendanegea (standardized spelling Thayentiné:ken), which means 'two pieces of fire wood beside each other'.[2] Officially in the Mohawk language, the community is called Kenhtè:ke, an old word, the meaning of which is unclear. The Cayuga name is Tayęda:ne:gęˀ or Detgayę:da:negęˀ, "land of two logs."[3])


Following the American Revolution, the Mohawk, who were allies of the British Crown, lost their traditional homelands in the Mohawk Valley of what became New York state, when they were forced to cede their lands following the defeat of the British. As compensation for their allegiance, the Crown offered them unsettled land in Upper Canada. A group of Mohawk led by John Deseronto selected the Bay of Quinte because it was said to be the birthplace of Tekanawita, one of the founders of the Iroquois Confederacy in the 12th century.[4] The majority of the Mohawk followed Joseph Brant to the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in what became Ontario province.

On May 22, 1784, the group of 20 Mohawk families (between 100 to 125 people) arrived at Tyendinaga. Nine years later, the Tyendinaga tract of land was officially set aside under Crown Treaty 3½, signed on April 1, 1793, by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe and thereafter known as the 'Simcoe Deed'. This tract of land, measuring 92,700 acres (375 km2; 144.8 sq mi) was legally accepted by the British Crown, and subsequently by the Canadian Government.[4]

A wave of Loyalists also settled in the Bay of Quinte area, and the government granted many of them land in the Tyendinaga Tract.[5] During the period from 1820 to 1843, the Mohawk lost two-thirds of the treaty lands of the Simcoe Deed.[5] Additional land loss has left the Mohawk with only 71 square kilometres (18,000 acres; 27 sq mi) in this area today.

The major new settlement for the Mohawk and other Iroquois in Canada was the Six Nations Reserve of the Grand River (where prominent Mohawk leader Joseph Brant struggled with the colonial government for control of the land). In addition, Mohawk and others joined the existing communities of Kahnawake, Kanesatake, Wahta and Akwesasne (the latter four were mostly Mohawk settlements established along the St. Lawrence River during the colonial era prior to the war.[4]

Land claims dispute[edit]

Since the late 20th century, the Mohawk of the Bay of Quinte have been embroiled in a land claim struggle with the Canadian government over a stretch of land referred to as the Culbertson Tract, for which they filed a claim in 1995. The government accepted this for negotiation in 2003.[6] The Mohawk allege the land was illegally purchased from Mohawk in the 19th century. As set out in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, ; the terms and conditions for purchasing land from Natives required there to be a community vote before the Mohawk could sell the common land to any outsider.[6][7] Research and documentation has shown that these terms and conditions may not have been followed at Tyendinaga.[8][9] Within the Simcoe Deed were provisions for the government of the reserve to remove 'intruders'.

After a stagnation of the land claims process following Mohawk protests in 2006–09, the Band Chief Don Maracle in January 2011 announced his intentions to file a suit that month related to the land claims, seeking return of the Culbertson Tract.[10]


As of January 2011, the registered population of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation is 8,006 members (the third-largest band in Ontario), of whom 2,124 live on the Tyendinaga reserve and 5,864 live off reserve.[11]


Tyendinaga is home to First Nations Technical Institute, an educational partner with Canadore College, First Nations University of Canada, Humber College, Loyalist College, Queen's University, Ryerson University, St. Lawrence College and Trent University. FNTI course offerings include a program in Aviation (in partnership with the Tyendinaga (Mohawk) Airport), Law, Public Relations, Indigenous Community Health and the Mohawk language.[12]

The reserve also has a primary school, Quinte Mohawk School. For secondary school, on-reserve residents have the option of attending Moira Secondary School in Belleville to the west of the reserve, or attending the Ohahase Learning Centre, a private secondary school operated by the First Nations Technical Institute.[13] Ohahase means "new road" in the Mohawk language.[13]

The language group, Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna, organizes a variety of cultural educational programs, including Mohawk language classes and language documentation.[14] In 2012 TTO was attempting to raise money to found a Mohawk-language immersion primary school (similar to the one operated at Akwesasne, another Mohawk reserve) to be called Kawenna’òn:we.[15]


A First Nations community-owned radio station, known as KWE, Mohawk Nation Radio operated on a frequency of 105.9 FM until early 2011. It relaunched in June 2012 on 89.5, but subsequently relocated to 92.3 and covers the area from Belleville to Deseronto. FM in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. The station has no known callsign and has no relation to CKWE-FM, another First Nations community radio station in Maniwaki, Quebec. The community currently does not publish a newspaper of its own.


  1. ^ Bruce E. Johansen; Barbara Alice Mann (2000). Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 320. ISBN 978-0-313-30880-2. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  2. ^ Isaac, Ruth et al. A Spelling Worldlist of Six Nations Mohawk. Brantford: The Woodland Indian Cultural-Educational Centre, 1986. Print
  3. ^ "Cayuga: Our Oral Legacy - Home. Cayuga Digital Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  4. ^ a b c "History of Tyendinaga". Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
  5. ^ a b Paul R. Magocsi (1999). Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples. University of Toronto Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-8020-2938-6.
  6. ^ a b Roy Vogt (1 May 1999). Whose Property?: The Deepening Conflict Between Private Property and Democracy in Canada. University of Toronto Press. pp. 104–106. ISBN 978-0-8020-8186-5. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  7. ^ "Tyendinaga and The Struggle for the Land | Ontario Coalition Against Poverty". Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  8. ^ Frank Cassidy; Robert L. Bish (1989). Indian government: its meaning in practice. IRPP. pp. 36–40. ISBN 978-0-88982-095-1. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  9. ^ Dec 11 2011 - 6:00pm (2007-03-21). "Mohawk Community Demands Return of Stolen Culbertson Tract". Mostly Water. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  10. ^ "Quinte News – Mohawks Want Culbertson Land Returned". Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  11. ^ Indian and Northern Affairs Canada - First Nation Profiles: Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Registered Population
  12. ^ Teresa L. McCarty (2013). Language Planning and Policy in Native America: History, Theory, Praxis. Multilingual Matters. pp. 126–128. ISBN 978-1-84769-865-0.
  13. ^ a b "Ohahase Learning Centre". FNTI. 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  14. ^ "Mohawk language circle aims to strengthen identity". CBC News : Politics. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  15. ^ "Primary Immersion | Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna". Retrieved 2011-12-12.

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