Citizenship Summit to plan for Indian Act membership changes

AKWESASNE — The Iroquois Caucus is holding a Summit on Membership and Citizenship Wednesday and Thursday in Akwesasne.

The Caucus has invited members from all Haudenosaunee reserves with representatives from both elected and traditional councils to attend from each community.

The Caucus will be looking at how the leadership will address a coming influx of members once federal changes to what makes a Status Indian are made complete in Ottawa.

The changes, coming from Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act in response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux, correct gender discrimination or unknown parentage in the Indian Act and reinstate their status. It also opens doors for the descendants of those previously removed from band membership to be issued Indian Status.

That is causing a big stir across Canada. Kahnawake’s Ietsénhaienhs Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer says Canada’s amendment to the Indian Act could add up to 35,000 people to Kahnawake’s membership list alone.

“No doubt some of these people will try to identify themselves as citizens of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation,” said Sky-Deer. This, says Sky-Deer, is not a matter for Ottawa to decide, but that citizenship among the Haudenosaunee is an internal issue for the Haudenosaunee to settle.

“Our people could provide a powerful voice if we can speak as a united front on this important matter,” says Kahnawake’s Grand Chief Joe Norton. “The time is now for discussion between the Traditional Haudenosaunee and the elected leadership. We must find the common ground necessary to prevent us from being overrun by people who, in many cases, have never set foot on our territories.”

The Caucus has opened the meeting to 6 representatives from each of it’s member communities from Akwesásne, Kahnawà:ke, Kanehsatá:ke, Oneida of the Thames, Six Nations of the Grand River, Tyendinaga and Wahta.

This is the first in a string of Membership Summits expected to be held in the coming months. The Caucus said in a statement this first meeting will not be open to the general public but says that may change for future meetings.

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