Lately people have been discussing the word “sovereignty.” It has its roots in the Monarchal system of Europe and the underlying meaning is a Royal bloodline chosen by God to rule over the lesser people. The sovereign decree comes down from the Sky-God to the chosen King, which makes his law divine, or so they claim.
When the first settlers arrived here in this continent, they wanted to speak to the Great Indian King of the Forest. “Take me to your leader!” they said. There is no possible way the European visitors could conceive of the political system of equality and freedom that the indigenous peoples enjoyed. That’s why some early documents refer to the Hodiyanehso (Chiefs) as Confederate Lords.
Because of our constitution the GAYANESHAKGOWA, each clan family has a type of sovereignty, independence or autonomy depending on how you want to word it in the English language. The wolves cannot command the turtles and the turtles cannot control the bears. Each clan is made of families who can trace their matrilineal bloodlines to the 50 clan mothers who received their symbolic animal line that continues today.
Further to that, each member of the clan family has personal autonomy and self-determination – as long as it does not undermine or jeopardize the collective. That’s a fancy way of saying everybody is equal. They say that the Clan Mother knows what the clan is thinking and feeling because she is in constant communication with the family, so she gives a message to her Chief, who speaks on everyone’s behalf at council. That is the power of the Great Peace.
At the last Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, the official representative for the Onondaga Beaver clan asked the council how they can pass laws over people. He claimed that in the old ways, there has never been a manmade law that was enforced through threat of punishment. Other leaders have said in times past that our society was governed by natural law, clean conscience and good faith. We used common sense.
So if we were a self-governing people in the past, how can we integrate our ancient ways with the need to protect each other from the criminalization of tobacco? Bill C-10 is targeting the Six Nations tobacco industry and could possibly send good people to jail. The Haudenosaunee Trade Collective seems to be doing all it can to engage the community for support and for feedback.
Maybe all the Hodiyanehso need to do is reemphasize our legitimacy as a government and as a people. What right does a visiting government have to pass laws over the original one? Under international law, OPP or RCMP agents invading Six Nations Territory under Bill C-10 or Bill C-51 could be viewed as an act of war. What would happen if these Canadian agencies tried to shut down tobacco plants in North Korea or China? We are being bullied.