The back and forth rhetoric of dirty words on the Rez is a historical truth that has been in play since the deposition of the hereditary chiefs in the 1920’s. And as it turns out, repeated rhetoric has been borrowed by various camps throughout the years to frighten the people and push a narrative.
The nastiest dirty word thrown about? Tax.
Allegations from supporters of the hereditary system of leadership to this day use the allegation of ‘tax’ being the dark and sinister master plan of an evil overlord somewhere on the Rez are still muttered to this day.
Interestingly, this same allegation was being launched at hereditary chiefs and their supporters by the Elected Chief and Council of 1970.
The following is a transcript of an open letter, penned by Elected Chief Richard Isaac in June 1970 to the people of Six Nations. You might notice it has some familiar tones to it — what we now recognize as recycled rhetoric and allegations that seem to have been dusted off and repurposed — making their way into current politics fifty years into the future.
“To all members of the Six Nations Indian Reserve:
The present Elective Council came into being in 1924 as a result of a vote by referendum of the people of the Six Nations. This came about as a result of dissatisfaction with the old system of being governed by the Hereditary Chiefs. The people wanted to be governed by elected representatives. As far back as 1910 there was a strong agitation to supplant the Hereditary Council with a council chosen by the people. This agitation continued to grow until the Government had to take notice and by a secret ballot, the people themselves decided on the elective system of government.
It is being said that the Elective Council represents only 547 people, that being the number who voted for Chief Councillor in the last election. However, in the last election there was an election for Councillors in 2 out of the 6 districts. There was acclamations in 4 districts. Under those circumstances a small turn out was expected. The last election held when there was no acclamations was in 1961, at which time some 41% of the eligible voters cast ballots. A 41% turn out of voters in any election, even outside the Reserve, is a fairly good turn out.
To say that the Elective council is a puppet of the Federal Government is anything but the truth. The Government did not force the Elective Council upon the people of the Six Nations. The people the Six Nations demanded and forced the Government to establish the Elective System on the Six Nations Reserve.
To turn back the hand of time, and re-establish a system of government with full sovereignty over what is left of the six Nations lands, would not only be impractical but disastrous for the Six Nations people. Who will pay the Old Age Pensions, the Family Allowances, the Mother’s Allowances, the Disability Allowances, Dependent Fathers’ Allowances, Welfare payments where needed and the Education costs for both on and off Reserve students, the upkeep of roads, and many other grants and services now being enjoyed by the people of the Six Nations?
The time is long past when the people of the six Nations could reassert sovereignty and survive. We must face up to present day condition, however hard that may be and realize that we cannot now turn back without bringing untold hardships and suffering to the people of Six Nations.
The people of Six Nations will now have to decide the path they wish to take. Do they wish to continue under the present elective system and enjoy the Old Age Pensions, the Family Allowances, Welfare payments, the Mother’s Allowances, the Disability Allowances, Dependent Fathers’ Allowances, Welfare payments when needed, and the Education costs for both on and off Reserve students, Housing Loans, and all the other services now being provided or do they with to go back to the Old Ways and be denied all these services?
There does not seem to be any middle road, and it is now for those who have been sitting on the fence to show what path they wish to take.
The hereditary Chiefs through their supporters, the warriors, have been asking the people to sign a petition, whether they are in favour of the Indian Act and the White Paper policy of the Government. They are misleading the people in that they are using this as a vote for approval or disapproval of the elective system. The elective council is against the White Paper policy and expressed its opinion in no uncertain terms at the time and sent a copy of its disapproval to all the members of parliament. Many of those who signed the warriors petition did not understand how this petition was to be misused. Some people have been threatened to sign the petition or be run off their own property on the Reserve. Many are wondering how they may now get their names off this petition.
What would the position be if the hereditary system was re-established with full sovereignty over the lands and people of the Six Nations? It would mean that we would be a separate people and we would have to raise our own money to run the Reserve. Where would the money come from? The warriors claim that it could be done if the Government paid what they owe us. The Government has a lot to account for, but to get a settlement will take time. When claims have been outstanding for a long time and while the hereditary chiefs were the ruling body, they did nothing to get these claims settled. All the surrenders were made by them, and if they could do nothing then, how do they expect this settlement to be made immediately so they could carry on. It will take years yet to get these claims settled. What would they do in the meantime? There is only one thing they could do to pay Welfare Allowances, Mothers’ Allowances, Dependent Fathers’ Allowances, Disability Allowances, the Old Age Pensions, Family Allowances, Ontario Hospitalization, Teachers Salaries and other educational costs and that is raise the money by taxing the people on the Reserve.
So, this is the question facing the people on the Six Nations now. Are the people in favour of the elective system of government with all these services provided for them, or are they in favour of going back to the old system under which all the people would have no say in the government, and have to pay for all these services by taxation?
The Elected Council of the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve — Dated June 30, 1970.
Signed, Richard Isaac, Chief.”
View letter: SixNPL0032172261T