The crime of acting sovereign

The passing of the anti-native tobacco Bill C-10 through the Senate last week was an ominous sign. Once again the Harper government is plowing ahead with no pretense of respect for Onkwehon:we people. The Canadian government is now only waiting for royal assent for the bill to pass into law. When it does, every police force in Canada will have the right to arrest and jail (with mandatory sentencing terms) indigenous people for the crime of acting sovereign.

For make no mistake, that is exactly what this Bill is about. Onkwehon:we people, believing themselves to be sovereign and to have the right to grow and trade a plant given to their ancestors by creation millennia before the arrival of the white man, will be attacked by the government of a foreign and invading jurisdiction seeking to interfere in their ways.

But whatever Canada does, Onkwehon:we people are going to keep growing and selling tobacco. Not only is the native tobacco industry one with suppliers, distribution networks, and productive assets already in place, but the highly profitable production of tobacco aids in the reconstitution of indigenous nations depressed by centuries of poverty and discrimination. The local tobacco industry is supported by the community and gives back to the community.

The basic arguments put forwards by groups like the Haudenosaunee Trade Collective are fundamental and foundational to the Onkwehon:we outlook, and advocated for by respected academics and historians such as Rick Hill (whose interview can be seen on the HTC website at

The Canadian government can pass Bill C-10, but its another matter to enforce it. If the government wants to proceed with raids on the territory, there is every likelihood that force will be met with force as a simple matter of self-defense. Tobacco production is so bound in to the economic reality of the community, that the people as a whole will support the industry. And pro-actively speaking, the political response from the Six Nations tobacco industry has been to link up more closely with the Confederacy and to come up with a Haudenosaunee regulatory system for tobacco – outside of the Canadian system altogether.

Now that Bill C-10 is going to become law, Onkwehon:we communities are well aware of what’s coming and are preparing for the consequences. Like many of Harper’s attacks on native rights, Bill C-10 may hasten the political “facts on the ground” that Harper sought to avoid by proposing this Bill in the first place.

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