Trigger Warning: This story discusses child rape and rape apologists.
The Gaiwiyo Handsome Lake tradition, which started in the 1850s, has occupied the ceremonial space in Haudenosaunee longhouses in Iroquois communities — at the exclusion of all other traditional expressions of Haudenosaunee ceremony.
Sadly, the tradition is not exempt from the human failings and hypocrisy of the rest of the world’s religious authorities.
The conviction and sentencing of a Sour Springs longhouse faithkeeper was a tragic enough story to start with. Now, a total of 30 character reference letters in the sentencing of that faithkeeper have surfaced — several of them with the same harrowing plea. Child rape convictions be damned — some Gaiwiyo community leadership say they need Matt Myke to return to Six Nations immediately so he can resume conducting ceremonies.
“Our communities..would be at a great loss if he were to be punished at any level or any length of time. Especially for something he may or may not have done,” writes one author.
Still casting doubt on his guilt — this is the signature move of what we call a rape apologist. It is toxic behaviour that has no place anywhere near Haudenosaunee culture or our children. Especially in a people group that is historically grieved with the sexual assault of indigenous boys and girls by religious leaders in the residential school system.
Another author writes, “He has been around my children since they were 9,6 and 3 years old. He has never come off as a danger to them or to myself as a sexual predator.”
One man, also a faithkeeper at Sour Springs longhouse writes, “I have the utmost respect for Matt and I completely believe he is a valuable asset to our community, longhouse and families.”
No, he is not and shame on anyone who placed the responsibility of our ceremonies in his hands after his arrest and conviction.
Is this the cost of keeping the Gaiwiyo tradition alive? That one can be excused from child sex assault and a victim’s pain ignored as long as the perpetrator has been able to properly memorize some prayers and songs?
One of the authors, also a faithkeeper and an elementary school teacher for students in Grades 4-6, pleaded with the judge saying, “we need him back as soon as possible” in order for Myke to conduct ceremonies.
In the longhouse tradition, Faithkeepers serve as the spiritual leaders of our only sanctioned Haudenosaunee ceremonial spaces. As such, they become the sole arbiter of the truth as those who hold the ceremonies and language.
But what happens when those who are tasked to hold the truth — lie?
One author took to social media over the weekend and attempted to change the subject — spinning a new narrative: that the Haudenosaunee community had no right to be holding faithkeepers and Sour Springs longhouse leadership accountable for supporting a convicted child sex offender. Instead, the community should be ashamed for demanding ethical leaders because the children of the convicted child sex offender were becoming upset by the controversy.
Anyone who abuses the role they have as a ceremonial leader by presuming to tell throngs of followers on social media that they are wrong in their outrage against child rape are deceitful and abusive and should not be leaders.
People are thirsty for our culture because of genocide. But when the well we come to drink from — that you are responsible for taking care of as a ceremonial leader is poisoned with untruth — you make the people sick.
We as a people know in our spirits what is right and what is wrong. We can recognize the truth, We know what is good.
Do not let poisoned people define the world for you.
It is reprehensible that a rape apologist would put forward so much effort to use shame against people for holding a pedophile accountable to his community by trying to change the subject and label society the “real” guilty parties in this situation. It is the responsibility of the people to hold hereditary leaders and ceremonial leaders accountable to their choices when they hold such important positions. It is shameful that anyone would prioritize language and ceremony over and above the accountability and punishment due to a man for raping a child.