A few weeks ago I wrote an editorial, illustrating an example of cultural bullying. After the story was published a group of Six Nations people put my own identity under the microscope.
A discussion ensued online and one man went so far as to suggest that I have no place to speak as an indigenous person because I am mixed and that I should kill myself.
That comment that was liked by a number of Haudenosaunee women from Six Nations that I have considered lifelong friends. Some of them even went as far as to defend the man’s statement, tried to convince me that I didn’t read it correctly and when I showed them proof — they accused me of lying about it for attention.
What followed for me, was a three day mental breakdown. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts in my past. Something I am sure the original poster and ‘likers’ didn’t know.
Thankfully Six Nations has vital mental health services for people struggling with suicidal thoughts to reach out to in a time of crisis. I called the mobile crisis line and was able to talk to a real person from Six Nations right away who knew the situation in the community.
Social media can be so damaging to our struggles as a community. When you pair this with divisive rhetoric, measuring who belongs and who doesn’t, or spreading false information to rile a group of people — it is literally poisoning us. Psychologists actually call this ‘poisoning the well’.
Last week the new target was SNEC member Audrey Powless-Bomberry. A meme was created and distributed online saying she spoke at a meeting in Fort Erie, declaring “most” of the people at Six Nations were “oppossed” to the HCCC.
Several people shared that image and the false information around the community, upsetting people and inflicting harm on a community member.
Most of the people who grew up on Six Nations know the councillor as “APB”. She was at the forefront of getting hundreds of the community’s children out of asbestos contaminated buildings in the 1980s and have new schools built on the territory.
APB says she did not say most people are opposed to the HCCC, but said most people on the territory do not support the HCCC. While it might seem like a minor difference — the shifting of one word in the absence of context and evidence matters a lot. Not supporting someone is vastly different than opposing them.
It seems in our own little corner of the world we’re being gaslit by specific people who are politically motivated. Rile the base by appointing an enemy.
On Monday, SNEC member Melba Thomas was next, getting harassed by an unidentified man and called a “motherf**ker” by protesters preventing her access to the Central Administration building.
A number of the same protesters were the ones gathered outside of the NRL’s reinforcement line completion blocking access to A6N workers and launching the cultural bullying attack I mentioned earlier. The same people who later suggested that I end my life. The same group of people who blocked Sixth Line in 2018. The same people who blocked access to the Burtch property in 2016 over tobacco farming.
Time after time, roadblock after roadblock what emerges is a common narrative. Personal attacks on people’s indigenous identity, questioning what their Haudenosaunee values are, demands the SNEC submit to the HCCC and stories of protesters attacking people who publicly speak out against them for having a differing opinion.
We are not a community divided. That concept carries a negative connotation that we all should think the same way. That is conformity. That is not our way.
We as Haudenosaunee have always been, and always will be, diverse. That is our strength. And finding healthy ways to communicate with one another, respecting our autonomy to original thought — that is using a good mind.