By Jan Longboat and Jim Windle
SIX NATIONS — About 20 community members were invited to gather at Earth Healing Herbal Gardens and Healing Retreat on Friday, to welcome the Right Honourable Paul Martin and Liberal candidate for Brant-Brant County-Six Nations and New Credit Danielle Takacs.
The day began with the lighting of a sacred fire, tobacco burning and an Onkwehonwe opening and a blessing of the sacred water. Visitors welcomed the opportunity to remain outdoors and enjoy the natural environment.
Martin shared his motivation and dedication to listen, support and take the suggestions and recommendations of the grassroots community people to a higher level of awareness.
Takacs also shared her experiences and decision to run in October’s federal election. Topics discussed included residential schools, higher education, the Indian Act, land issues, culture, the environment, indigenous health, and cultural genocide.
Jan Longboat, Onkewhonwe teacher, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother of a large Turtle Clan, took the opportunity, upon request, to host the community meeting and open forum to hear the grassroots Onkwehonwe communities concerns, suggestions and resolutions.
The time schedule was very short and many items were not sufficiently presented, however, Martin promised those in attendance he would return when he has more time to visit and discuss these and any other matters.
Longboat asked Martin why he has become so active in advocating for Onkwenonwe rights and causes since leaving political office.
“He said he was around 43-years-of-age before he had even heard of residential schools,” relays Longboat. “He said he couldn’t believe that human beings can be so abusive to another human being.”
He said it was at that time, after finding out about this black stain on Canadian history, that he decided he needed to get involved in doing what he could to acknowledge what had happened and to making it right.
Longboat, who also took the tour of the old Mohawk Institute Residential School with Takacs and Martin, said she felt the experience made an impact on both guests.
Mohawk Workers representative, Bill Squire was at the gathering as well.
“I was very happy that Billy came,” said Longboat. “He certainly spoke well about how the Indian Act as well as the residential school system has put us in a precarious and dangerous situation.”
Martin agreed that something needs to be done to radically change the Indian Act as it presently stands.