Finding common ground a priority

The political landscape at Six Nations right now can be likened to the aftermath of a wild genocide tornado. There are casualties, there is chaos and confusion like never before.

In the midst of surviving colonialism and waking up to the reality of reclaiming our indigenous cultural and political identities — in walks the developers with hands full of cash — looking to facilitate some reconciliation and make some money on “Indian Land.”

Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, known colloquially on Six Nations as “the Dev Corp”, held a public meeting/press conference at the Six Nations Community Hall to publicly request that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, known as the HCCC, remove a cease and desist notice on the Niagara Reinforcement Line, known as the NRL.

Tabitha Curley, Communications Officer for Dev Corp, told a crowd of 100 people gathered at the public meeting that the Confederacy Chiefs and Clanmothers were invited to come to the public meeting in person at an HCCC council meeting.

HCCC did not attend, a fact noted by community members who did show up, wanting answers about what is going on with the NRL. Instead a written notice was read aloud by Colin Martin, a Six Nations man who says he was tasked by the HCCC to deliver the message and confirmed to TRT he was part of the initial delegation who went to the NRL site to shut down construction in January.

The letter, which we have printed in its entirety in this week’s issue of the TRT, is shocking. The official statement bears several spelling errors, including the word ‘Haudenosaune’, the use of the character ’n’ in place of the word ‘and’ — as well as a slew of incendiary allegations the indigenous men and women who sit on the Elected Council are “pushing Canada’s agenda of division and colonialism.”

But perhaps the most concerning part of the letter was in the first few paragraphs. In it, the HCCC says that discussions about the NRL with the Dev Corp became tense and that “as a result of the heated discussion” a string of wampum that represents the families of Six Nations fell to the floor.

The letter gives no evidence as to how the wampum fell to the floor or how the heated discussions caused the beads to fall.

In their statement the HCCC goes on to say that the chiefs and clan mothers “immediately decided it to be a bad omen n shut down further discussion on the issue.” A person was then selected to burn tobacco and pray to ask that nothing bad happens because of that “bad omen.”

Not every band member at Six Nations believes in the Haudenosaunee traditional government. Some feel they were prevented from knowing traditional ways because of colonialism. Others feel they have been excluded from traditions due to an injustice — negative experiences they’ve had at council meetings or longhouse ceremonies — a sad fact we as community members don’t like to talk about in public.

Likewise, other families have longstanding connections to Christianity and church culture, a tradition that stems from the Mohawks and Such Others following Joseph Brant and settling at Six Nations to begin with.

While there is representation in the community that would agree the string of wampum falling to the floor during this moment is a bad sign, there are others who would just assume it was a happenstance.

Cancelling conversations between the HCCC and the Dev Corp because some beads fell on the ground, no matter how sacred one holds them to be, is not a sufficient answer to the people of Six Nations for why the Confederacy system and the Elected system cannot find a place of common ground and peace. Especially if you are asking the people to trust you to govern.

Throwing allegations around claiming that the Elected Council is only talking with developers on projects because they ‘keep copying us’ is relying on the schoolyard excuses of children.

The year is 2019 and the families of Six Nations of the Grand River deserve more than this.

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