Today Six Nations band members will make the journey to the Community Hall in Ohsweken and cast votes in the Six Nations General Election.
What about those folks who are as of yet undecided? What about those who are not sure if they are going to head out to vote yet?
We took time with the candidate to get some closing comments on voting, why Six Nations band members should take part, and what focus they will take on governance if elected.
Good luck to them all.[hr]
Ava Hill – “I think the main reason people don’t vote is apathy. They should go out and vote or someone else is going out and making that decision for them. If they were coming to council for support, wouldn’t they want a say in the person sitting there making those decisions. I think they should look at it from that perspective. We gotta get people hyped up to get more involved. I think that is why we don’t get as far ahead as we want because we are too divided and that is what the Canadian government likes. They’ve told us that you’re a divided community you can’t make decisions. And we are just helping them do that. The thing for me is unity. We need to come together we need to look at the big picture. We are the largest native population in this country, if we united we’d be a force to reckon with. The things we could do would be endless.”
“The biggest issue is going to be the funding cuts which is going to affect the services we can provide to our people and the legislation the federal government is going to impose on us. This is aside from the fact that we are divided. If we aren’t divided then we can help fight those things together. On the funding issue we need to look at developing our own revenue. We need to look at developing partnerships.”
“The legislation that the Canadian government is enforcing upon us, we have to join forces not only in our own community but with other First Nations across the country. This majority government is going to try and ram things through. We can’t win these battles on our own no matter how big we are.”
“I think it is up to the leader to inspire them, but in our system it is up to the people to make the decisions. There is so much apathy right now so the leadership has to inspire them. We need to get a peoples movement going right now. How do we get our people interested in resolving things again.”[hr]
William Montour (current band council chief) – “The biggest issue is the drug culture which is upsetting our family structures and putting children in jeopardy.”
“We have good administrative governance. It’s the relationship between the traditional government and elected and their perceived differences. I still believe that government has to be of the people, for the people and by the people. That means the present governing structures must get past their bias and listen to people of Six Nations to create a reasoned and acceptable governance structure. It also means that people of Six Nations have to get involved in what happens and not sit back passively waiting for something to be done.”
“If people don’t vote you are accepting the status quo or you are comfortable with it. It is like this both on and off reserve. I believe we need change for our future and not dwell on our past. Dwelling on past is like driving a car down the road and looking in the rear view mirror; you can’t avoid what’s in front of you because you didn’t see it coming. Outside governments are continually focused on defining and limiting our rights and we need to be on the ball when it comes to these legal fights.”[hr]
Nathan Wright – “From my perch at both the Chiefs of Ontario and AFN I see what the agenda of the Harper Government is. I see a lot of infringement and I see a lot of challenges that government presents in front of the people of Six Nations.”
“My vision is to be that person that has been on the outside that has been looking at all of these things coming at us and going, ‘Guys, we got a lot coming at us here. I think we gotta get ready’, and then preparing. Preparing is going to be so critical for us going forward as we need to be able to mount an offense to thing like taxation, the First Nations Education Act, land for sure. We are going to be dealing with an attack on our children by way of social services. We are at a critical time to take a few years to make a decision on our plan going forward.”
“Do I believe in the band council system? No. It’s under the Indian Act. It’s a delegated authority given to us by the successor state of Canada. That needs to change because if it doesn’t all these pieces of legislation that are coming down eventually what Harper’s going to do is say, ‘the Indian Act is gone. Now you are governed by all these different pieces of legislation that deal with land, they deal with Education, that deal with matrimonial property, that deal with the institutions and the financial institutions that come in. That is going to replace the Indian Act if we are not careful. We have time. By empowering people in the community we have time to come up with a new system that is our own and that would achieve self-determination. And we have a lot of guides out there that would help us along the way. The first thing that we have to work on is the governance piece. We already have the Great Law of Peace which defines our laws, our principles, our values going forward. What I am suggesting is coming together as a community with all of our tools and actioning that.”
“I am proposing we begin that discussion through what I’m calling a centre of governance that at a minimum takes all of the tools that we have in our community and puts them together in a co-ordinated fashion that facilities that discussion amongst ourselves. This centre of governance with all of these tools coming together from within our people starts that discussion of, ‘how do we want to govern ourselves?’ How do we want to make decisions for ourselves? The youth are going to be a very integral part of that discussion, the elders are going to be a very integral part of that discussion, the confederacy, the Men’s Fire, the Mohawk Workers, all an integral part of that discussion. All bringing our fires from where we come from into one fire so that we can have a good discussion on determining what the best system we can come up with.”
“I firmly believe that through dialogue we can stream all of our histories together into a common voice and that is why i was championing an institution that can guide us along that path.”[hr]
William Charles Monture Sr – “I’m very concerned for our future. I know whats coming. The [canadian] government is putting through things to take away our rights by making modern day treaties. They have no authority and our people have no authority to make those decisions for the rest of us, especially the AFN or the Iroquois Caucus or the Chiefs of Ontario. They represent the Annishnabe people, but I see nobody there from the Confederacy.”
“That was even asked of me, ‘what happens when you go to the AFN?’ I’m not taking band council. I’m taking the ones who bring that [traditional] knowledge because we need to go and address who we are. Harper with Atleo thinks he represents all Ongwehowe people. He only represents his people. We need representation.”
“Its sad because, I talk with the people about our issues and I sit back and look around me there is nobody else dealing with it. You’ve got band council, and I’m not badgering them, but they are making deals with developers on issues with our lands. We’re supposed to hold those lands sacred to our hearts, but yet we’re putting it out there for money. We have land leases, let’s go after them. Let’s make them account for all the money that they owe us. That is what we need to go after. If I am elected, everybody on the tract sitting on those land leases are gonna get a notice from the council. It needs to be put out there.”
“Let the [confederacy] chiefs council carry the eight points of jurisdiction and the band council should only be dealing with administration, that is all its designed for. If you put everything back into its original state, of dealing with the confederacy you don’t have to worry about anything that is coming in to affect our way of life because they have the authority. If these two councils would get together and work together they could make a difference.”
“By you not going to the polls on Saturday and you not putting an ‘X’ on who you select, than you are agreeing to everything that the Canadian government does to you and the band. So, its real simple. By staying silent it means that you agree with everything that the government is doing to your people. You are accepting it without any recourse or any fight. What it is going to do is make our job a lot harder to deal with these issues. Come June 2014 is when things are going to start rolling in. And then people are going to start pointing fingers saying, ‘why didn’t you do anything?’. There is no such thing as traditional people anymore. There is no such thing as the canoe anymore. We are totally in their ship whether we like it or not. Right now we have to find a way to get out of the ship and get back into our canoe. And we need to start steering it. Not the government. Because right now if you look at everything that is coming down, the government is telling us what to do. We need to take control. The people need to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough!’. We need to take care of our business.”
Unfortunately candidate Ross Johnson did not reply to your requests for comments.