The people of Six Nations have dual citizenship. Some of us interpret that to mean that we are both Canadian and American, but what if it stands for something else?
Maybe our first nationality is whichever one we belong to – Kanienkeha:ka (Mohawk) and Gayogoho:no (Cayuga) seem to be most plentiful on Six Nations. Before 1784, the land we know as Ontario was part of the Dish with One Spoon, which was and still is a safe zone for hunting by treaty wampum. It was called the Beaver Hunting Grounds.
A census from 1785 showed 464 Mohawks, 381 Cayugas, 194 Onondaga, and 78 Seneca, migrated to the Grand River as a permanent settlement. A huge variety of other nations came with us including 113 Tutelos, 246 Delaware, 129 Tuscarora and 115 assorted others such as the Cherokee and Nanticokes. Goodbye United States of America. We’ve been living here in our meat refrigerator ever since.
This is why we can go over to Buffalo and get our Social Security Number if we have a letter from our Band Office. We can be American if we want. And many of us do! We all know people that are living on the other side of the “imaginary line.”
There was a young fellow from Six Nations that was going through intake at Parris Island, South Carolina for the United States Marine Corps. During physical training Staff Sergeant Williams told one of our guys, “You North American native guys are the best athletes I’ve ever seen come through here.”
So we can thrive anywhere, really. It’s all our homeland, all of it.
In the meantime some of us are trying to figure out how we can stop being identified as Canadians. Filling out forms is the worst, because Canadian forms funnel indigenous people into being identified as “First Nations of Canada”. It is insulting because it implies we were Canadians for the last 500,000 years when really Canada is really just an upstart colony — a corporation.
Yes, we have been playing along with their program for a few hundred years.
Most of us enjoy the benefits of the colonial franchise by taking advantage of the Ontario Health Card, Indian Status Card, and Social Insurance contracts but some indigenous people are taking sovereignty and nationhood to the next step.
Kanahus Manuel, a Secwpemc woman from British Columbia is a resistance fighter who has given birth to her children on her own territory and did not register them with the Canadian government. She is in full control of their healthcare, education and well-being. These four hopefuls are called “Freedom Babies” by their clan.
They may have a very humble life, but it’s a good start.