This week hereditary leaders put out a statement ahead of the federal election, discouraging Haudenosaunee people from voting, tying it to ‘staying inside the circle’.
As a result of that statement, a group of individuals obstructed voters from casting their ballots at the Six Nations/Mississaugas of the Credit polling station located at the Gathering Place on the Grand.
It is baffling that hereditary leaders would want to discourage people from voting. But it is insidious and abusive to read hereditary leaders making soft suggestion that voting in a federal or provincial election would make a person not Haudenosaunee anymore.
This is precisely why hereditary leadership is problematic for Six Nations.
Do the hereditary leaders of Six Nations still have the moral authority to act as leaders when they are provoking such a narrative among the people?
What kind of leadership tries to fuel support by scaring people with the threat of unbelonging? Hereditary leaders, that you can’t vote out.
Perhaps the concept of all people having an undisputed, equal voice on matters of importance to the nation makes them nervous?
Belonging is one of the core tenets of a persons mental health, perhaps even more so among indigenous people because of the cultural poverty and insecurity we all carry from colonization, residential school, 60s Scoop, etc.
None of those things are our fault, but they hurt. And we all carry those wounds everywhere we go. It hurts that we don’t have access to our languages in our families. The loss of Indigenous Knowledge is like a grief that all indigenous people bear day in and day out.
Hereditary leaders first acting as gatekeepers to Indigenous Knowledge and then suggesting that a person doesn’t belong or is no longer a Haudenosaunee is victim blaming and only serves to hurt the people.
You don’t loose Haudenosaunee value if you vote. That is religious, dogmatic and bigoted.
It is a manufactured risk. Something that triggers on the cultural insecurity we all struggle with as intergenerational survivors.
You don’t become less Haudenosaunee from voting in the same way that you don’t become less Haudenosaunee when you file income tax and get Child Tax benefits. It’s a system of circumstance we deal with because of colonization.
Hereditary leaders putting out messaging that abstaining from voting somehow secures your inclusion in the culture gives abstainers permission to glean a sense of superiority over others in the community. Hence — the group of people obstructing others from voting on Monday.
At the same time, hereditary leaders saying that participating in the vote is a way for Haudenosaunee people to ‘remove themselves’ is a lie.
It is gaslighting the people to first say — “if you vote you don’t belong” — and then to create a cloud of smoke and mirrors by putting the onus of a person’s exclusion on the shoulders of the people as if to say, ‘it’s not us saying you don’t belong, it’s you unbelonging yourself’.
This kind of psychological warfare against the people is shameful.
It builds a caste system of belong/not belong. Two tiers of Haudenosaunee. That is wrong because it hurts peoples hearts, mental health and spirits while simultaneously granting permission for those who abstain from voting to self-righteousness.