Extremism at Six Nations

Editorial by Jonathan Garlow

Its almost charming but mostly insulting when someone finds out you are from Six Nations and they just have to say, “Oh! I get my cigarettes there do you know (insert generic rez-name here)?”

These people ask as if I have the entire band list memorized and categorized within my giant egg shaped skull. Of course I don’t because there’s tens of thousands of people living here.

It’s all relative I suppose. There are many remote reservations within the confines of Canada that have tiny populations of 200 people or less. Six Nations is a metropolis compared to those ones.

After growing up on Six Nations and also after travelling to many other reserves I can say with full authority that there isn’t just one kind of “Indigenous person”. Even though we may share the same Iroquois ancestors we have very diverse people groups with totally different worldviews within our communities.

Six Nations has academics, athletes, business people, workers and artists – children, women and men of every age. Then there’s our activists, free thinkers and philosophers – this one’s for you’s.

The colonizers brought the concept of money and debt with them. They also brought the ideas of heaven and hell which one might label as Colonial Christianity (the Indian-killing, land-stealing type of Christianity).

I suggest that the disunity within Six Nations stems from our attitudes and responses towards these two foreign ideologies.

On the most extreme right are Six Nations residents who believe in nothing else but the Bible and the Bible alone. These types do not recognize anything of value when exploring our own rich cultural history. In the most extreme cases of self-hate this small minority feels that North American colonization was necessary and the mass genocide, God-approved.

Thank God there aren’t many of these extremists.

Then there are those who believe in the other type of Christianity known as Gai’wiio which is also called the Handsome Lake religion. In the 19th century a man named Jemmy Johnson smuggled his uncle’s ideas about heaven and hell ideas into Iroquois spirituality and today it’s called Longhouse.

While the USA still struggles to separate church and state the Gai’wiio adherents at Six Nations seem to be searching for a polity or a state to attach to their Longhouse.

Meanwhile, the great majority (in my opinion) are the Status Quo Indians who believe a bit here and there from both previously mentioned camps and are just going with the flow – people trying to survive without causing a great disturbance. We go to school, work, pay bills, eat bologna sandwiches with mustard and watch the Toronto Maple Leafs not win the Stanley Cup year after year.

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