Village Café is a great place to meet over breakfast, and after years of speaking about indigenous rights and the validity of Haudenosaunee governance I found myself sitting there at a table with Brian Beattie, an influential leader from Brantford who was personally impacted by Stephen Harper’s residential school apology and wanted to know what his organizations could do to help the native cause. I can still remember the words “How can we find resolution?”
We have spent so much time studying history, politics and law in the hopes to persuade the general Canadian population to accept our views we are completely unprepared to deal with the converts who want to know what steps should come next. Or at least I was.
If I remember correctly, I think that I went on about how we need to be properly honored on a social and international level but I was unable to articulate any achievable goals or even establish one simple objective. Although the food was great, the meeting left a bad taste in my mouth. I have been thinking about it ever since.
What do we really want?
Author and teacher Adrian Jacobs has said that “Less than 1% of the land mass in Canada has been legally and fully surrendered.” The Dominion of Canada bought 4 million square kilometers from the Hudson’s Bay Company on December 1st 1869, two years after the provinces were consolidated for an amount totaling £300,000 ($1.5 million) (See Ruperts Land Act). No one knows how Hudson’s Bay Company originally acquired this stunning swath of wilderness to legally resell the land. There are many more similar examples like this voiced by educated Onkwehon:we leaders that continuously and predictably fall upon deaf ears.
The problem we face is when a native person raises these facts, North American settler-guilt goes into overdrive and people either shut down by putting their head into the sand or furiously attack the native strawman who to them, is nothing but a burden on the taxpayer. It is like clockwork. Look at the online comments sections in which “good Canadians” post responses to any article about Elsipogtog, Caledonia, or native hunting and fishing rights. We want the general consciousness of Canada to improve.
The Haudenosaunee have maintained a government, a land base and a language; all the criteria for national sovereignty but one mention of this fact and we are condemned as separatists at best, or traitors at worst. The Crown understands that we have not been subjugated, why don’t they simply tell their population and constituents? Or do we have to wait another 40 years for a Prime Minister down the line to apologize for treating us as second rate Canadian citizens instead of sovereign allies to the British Crown.
Our visitors and neighbors should take heart in the enduring resilience of the Two Row Wampum and know that our intent isn’t to shame them or force an upheaval of their society. Our wise grandfathers understood that we would peacefully share this land but they did not foresee us being portrayed as burdensome protestors or marginal groups whining on TV. The Corporations, cities and countries are fearing an eviction notice but we intend only to be recognized and treated fairly in the name of peace, friendship, and respect.
“I believe the conditions are being deliberately created in our Indian boarding schools to spread infectious diseases. The death rate often exceeds fifty percent. This is a national crime.
– Dr. Peter Bryce to Deputy Superintendent for Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott, April 12, 1907
Forcibly removing 150,000 children from their homes and brainwashing them to hate their language and culture is extreme. The 186 years of torture, rape and confinement in the name of God is atrocious and extreme. Breaking an International Peace Treaty and attacking an allied government is extreme. The deliberate suppression of appropriate history in the educational system is also extreme. Therefore the pathway towards justice and reconciliation must be extreme.
I cannot speak for all Haudenosaunee people and much less the entirety of the indigenous population but I can make what I think are relevant suggestions which may lead to reconciliation.
This is what honour means to me, this is my Honour List:
- The consensual and cooperative removal of all religious structures from our territories with the hope of rebuilding them together at a time we deem appropriate.
- An official statement from the government of Canada that the Haudenosaunee are not a conquered nation but instead a partner-nation responsible for the protection and creation of the Canadian state from 1784-1812.
- An international admission of guilt for the crime of genocide inflicted upon the 600 plus indigenous nations by the Canadian government.
- A rewording of the financial arrangements between Onkwehon:we governments and the Canadian government which properly honours native people and the international treaties such as the Two Row Wampum.
- A reversal of wording to properly reflect that native people have financed Canada through the Indian Trust Fund which disappeared in 1867 and to strengthen sovereignty by providing financial aid to our governments similar to the way the USA sends funds to Israel. We are not welfare recipients.
- Abolition of paternalist attitudes towards Onkwehon:we nations and a dismantlement of the Indian Act and Elected Council systems without the enfranchisement or assimilation of Onkwehon:we nations into the general Canadian body.
- Recognition of our ancient and legitimate traditional governments at an international level.
- The abolition of the land claim system to be replaced with a perpetual tax-sharing model in which original nations are compensated for loss of lands & resources by taking a fair percentage on all tax dollars generated from those lands.
- A complete overhaul of the Canadian education system with direct input from Onkwehon:we scholars and elders.
This Honor List is an unofficial and incomplete personal recommendation to find restorative justice. Every single Onkwehon:we person in this continent will have a different yet equally valid list. I invite you all to create your own Honor List and share it on our website with the hope that we might return to our original path of friendship, peace and respect.