Editorial: The Alcohol Debate. What about the 1922 raid?

On-reserve or off-reserve Alcohol will always bring about great debate. It is usually the act of weighing against each other the fervent testimony of an ant and an eagle each describing the same elephant. Same subject, two differing vantage points.

For this analogy we place no superiority to either the ant or the eagle’s point of view.

To one, is the valid argument that death, pain and a life of suffering are all too often the best friends of booze. But the eagle would say, “What gives the settler government the right to tell us what is good for us and what isn’t? We are not children and we can make our own rules. Besides, that brewery will bring local jobs and money into the community.” And that is an equally valid point.

We have all heard about the illegal takeover of the Six Nations government by armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1924. But not much is said about an earlier abridgement of Six Nations’ right to self-governance.

For those who do, it might seem ironic that in 1922 and 2014 the controversy is over the same issue. Alcohol on the reserve.

In 1922 Chief Deskaheh was humiliating Canada in Europe by bringing a well researched and powerful truth to world, that Canada is guilty of breaking treaties, flagrant land fraud and outright theft of Six Nations Trust Funds for Canada’s gain and Six Nations loss.

While he was out of the community, someone ordered the North West Mounted Police to storm the community, break into homes and arrest anyone found with alcohol or alcohol making equipment. See the parallel to Bill C-10?

Deskaheh wrote a firm yet respectful letter to someone in high authority. This is what he said: The hand written penciled letter has faded over the years so there are a few question marks or spaces. But most of it is legible.

It says:

“Sir: It is true that recently a number of persons (mostly by those who have been influential under the provisions of Bill-14) went into the illicit manufacture and sale of liquor and as soon as this matter was brought to the attention of the Chiefs in Council (they) decided on the 25th of July, last, and appointed a committee to negotiate with the provincial Attorney General…. But the [Superintendent of Indian Affairs] ….sent the N.W. Mounted Police, some 18 in number, instead.

The net result of the raid was the finding of one small and very crude still and a bottle of moonshine in the house yard of another Indian.  In the first instance, no arrest was made. In the second an Indian was captured without the slightest resistance, at his home. A few days after, in Brantford, he was convicted and sent to prison for 10 days. On Thursday as he pleaded ignorance of any knowledge of how the same came into his home yard.

Request that a deputation should await upon you in Ottawa at your earliest convenience. With the utmost hope of clearing up the misunderstanding that still surrounds the conditions of the arbitrations.

I would therefore sir beg to ask that you would inform me as soon as convenient of the proposed conference with you….

Chief Deskaheh – Speaker – Six Nations Council”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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