If you have lived on Six Nations long enough, when attending community meetings, you will eventually hear someone voice this sentiment: “Our people don’t vote, it is not our way”. Take note.
Our ancient path involves consensus, and there seems to be consensus that we used to operate by consensus, thus explaining why voting can be a very emotional and controversial issue on Six Nations and on all other Haudenosaunee Territories within the corporation of Canada.
Why then, did we move from a system of inclusion, wherein all parties were willing to speak with each other, passing issues across the fire; to a system in which 49% of the population is ignored if they lose a vote? Conventional criticism of the American Way has been, “Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch.” As best we can observe, it would seem that taking into account the interests of the whole population is not compatible with the political and economic system within which we currently live.
Are we too busy with our nuclear families and independent lives that there is no time left to have heart to heart discussions with our clan members or attend Chief’s council? Checking a ballot seems so much easier, we can then hope that someone else will deal with our problems for us. Voting, for a certain faction of the Haudenosaunee, has become a form of drive-through fast food politics. Our concern? By voting, our people are losing connection with their roots, becoming politically obese, and are risking heart failure.
Canada wants us to opt into their franchise and become Canadians. They send us birth certificates and social insurance numbers and encourage our participation into their elected systems. Election results show that approximately 1,300 people cast their ballots each year and are, effectively, a tiny minority of the Six Nations, when one considers the 11,000 eligible voters on our territory. Possibly, things will change this year, with “Warriors” such as William Monture Sr. running for Chief on Six Nations or Shawn Brant running for Chief in Tyendinaga. One wonders if Canada is cringing in fear or laughing with delight to see these supposed “extremists” participating in Canada’s machinations of suffrage.
The prime catalyst and motivation seems to be the rallying cry to “effect change from within.” Perhaps we should explore that rationale.
If we were Canadians then perhaps creating the Haudenosaunee Party of Canada (HPC) would make logical sense. But what if we are not Canadians and the Elected Council is an imposed system that was devised to subjugate our people and usurp our birthright?
There is a fine line between change from within and assimilation to a system hostile to our very existence as a people. Indigenous nations collectively condemn the doctrine of discovery which is supported by papal bulls Romanus Pontifex, 1455 and Inter Caetara, 1493. If we wanted to change that system from within should we then convert to Catholicism, and urge our Cardinals to elect a Haudenosaunee pope to realign their colonial perspectives?
In the end, it doesn’t matter anyway, effecting “change” from within is not only dangerous, it also violates the terms of the Two Row Wampum. In our first and foundational treaty, our peoples agreed we would not steer each others vessel. In essence, that is what the Elected Council and the AFN are trying to do as they lobby in the Royal Courts of Ottawa.
We need to stop obsessing about what is going on inside foreign governments such as the House of Commons and worry about the state of our own vessel. Shouldn’t our main priority be plugging the holes in our canoe before we concern ourselves with the viability of our ally’s ship. We can then remind our visitors that from where the sun rises to the where the sun sets, this land is our Kanonhses. We will then be able to truly live together with undying relationships of peace, friendship and respect.