We have been people of the Grand River for just over two hundred years now but there are a few problems with our situation. The problem with these problems is that they are nearly invisible.
The biggest one is that according to the Indian Act we don’t actually own Six Nations Reserve No. 40 because Canada considers these 50,000 acres to be Federally owned Crown Land.
There is an illusion of ownership and control but most people are able to recognize that certain rules and regulations apply to this land when it comes to commerce and trade that are not defined by our government but by corporate Canada.
According to our own history and law there are two views. One is that we were awarded this land because of our allegiance to the British during the Revolutionary War as chronicled by the Haldimand Proclamation.
The other view is that Ontario and the Grand River did not belong to anyone because it was the Beaver Hunting Grounds therefore the Huron or the Mississaugas broke a pre-existing treaty (Dish with One Spoon) by selling common-law land to a fledgling Province of Canada 300 years ago. This view asks, “What right did Haldimand have to award us our own land, our hunting grounds?” If we follow this legacy then Ontario is not a province it is a giant refrigerator for the indigenous people of the northwest of the continent.
At this time we are in diaspora. The word diaspora refers to a scattered population with a common origin in a smaller geographic area. The word can also refer to the movement of the population from its original homeland.
The next invisible problem is that our nations have taken on a secondary identity as a refugee within a foreign authority and land. We are the Six Nations of the Grand River, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and the Oneida of the Thames. Does anyone remember that we used to be the League of Nations of the Finger Lakes?
Even our names in the language reflect our true homelands, Kanienkehaka means people of the place of the flint, Onondaga means people of the rolling hills etc. etc. How long will it be until we change our name to people of the Grand River, or people of the flat clay soil? Maybe people of the crappy area the British didn’t want?
When I look at the Israel-Palestinian conflict the biggest thing I see is that it took the Jews 1878 years to return home after Titus crushed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They were dispersed northward, and like the Haudenosaunee they lived in exile amongst other nations as second rate citizens for hundreds of years.
The successor state of Canada has not been acknowledging our pre-existing treaties with their Monarch. We aren’t getting the best treatment or recognition as allies. Instead we are governed as subjects because our population was annihilated by diseases that we had no immunity to. How long will we endure until we give them their three warnings? How long until we splash red onto the wampum?
As far as we know we have never broken the Two Row Wampum or the Covenant Chain, we are always trying to polish it. Why is that? Is it even possible for us to declare these treaties null and void due to gross negligence by the British party?
Regardless of how that situation works out, can we envision a day when we gather our people together and retake our original homeland back? Do you know that the Haudenosaunee people today have a total population of over 300,000? If we have 500,000 people by 2020 is that enough for us to march the 300 km or so back to our ancestral lands? Or do we have to wait until there are a million of us in the year 2050?
Until then we will continue to endure hardship and turmoil as a displaced people within a system that dishonors us and our legacy. Until then our hearts will groan in anticipation to be revealed to the world who we truly are and who we have always been.