Joseph Brant vs. Peter Russell: A Re-examination of the Six Nations' Land Transactions in the Grand River Valley


  • John S. Hagopian


Some historians have not sufficiently appreciated the importance of the legal context to understanding the Six Nations’ dispute with the colonial Upper Canadian government over land transactions in the Grand River Valley. Viewed with an emphasis on the right of restricted use accorded Amerindians in the Proclamation of 1763, the historical appraisal of both major actors must be reconsidered. Peter Russell, faced with the threat posed by Six Nations’ agitation for a clear title he could not provide, emerges not as the weak-willed administrator of earlier histories, but as a skilled negotiator who diffused a heated situation, reducing it to a bureaucratic exercise which ultimately ended in his favour. Joseph Brant’s tenacious, if illinformed, pursuit of an expanded title for the Six Nations renders suspect the allegations of corruption and embezzlement which have been levelled at him.