Meeting with “the people” must start somewhere

SIX NATIONS – The main disconnect between western style corporations and most Indigenous societies is that one deals with governments put in place to act on behalf of their people, while most traditional indigenous societies work alongside with “the people”.

This is a paradigm one group of Six Nations residents hope to revive.

Bill Monture, a well-known local activist and traditionalist, built a meeting place on his Chiefswood Road property as a neutral space and has begun a process by which he hopes to find the future for Six Nations in the past.

Recently, he hosted a meeting at the converted barn, which was attended by a room full of unlikely participants, including Mark Clearwater and Randy Reed representing the provincial government, Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt, and about 30 rank-and-file Six Nations citizens to openly and frankly discuss matters of interest to Six Nations as a people and the future of co-existence of the traditional wisdom of the ancestors and the reality of the 21st century, and to do so without the presence of the media.

He and the group known to the Six Nations community as the “Men’s Fire” are trying to refocus the attention of all parties currently vying for the power to speak on behalf of the people of Six Nations, and at the same time, educate settler governments and corporations on how to rightly deal with Six Nations.

To that end, invitations went out to the Elected Band Council, the Confederacy Chiefs, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, Clan Mothers and members of the general public to attend the meeting with Hewitt and the Province.
The message was, if you are going to deal with Six Nations, you must deal with the people of Six Nations and not the Band Council system set up by the Indian Act, or the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, which Monture does not accept as being established by the people of Six Nations to represent them.

Although the delegation of representatives and responsibilities on behalf of the Confederacy Chiefs has been a well-recognized fact throughout Haudenosaunee history – Joseph Brant himself was delegated but not a hereditary Chief – it is Monture’s understanding that the Chiefs had no right to do so. He believes that any consultation should be done with the people at large through the clans or through the Chiefs Council directly, and without the HDI.

“The Peacemaker came and he instilled his peace in the Clan Mothers,” Monture explains. “The Chiefs Council sits as a governing body as a representation of our Clans. It’s the Clans who decide what goes on here. They’re the ones the Province and everybody else should be talking to. I mean everybody. In that council they can address and deal with those issues. That’s why we have this thing called the Gayanashagowa (the Great Law) to deal with these things. We should not be going to the HDI or to Band Council and making deals on the side. That is not the process and it’s not our Great Law.”

Monture claims that both the Elected Band Council and the HDI are keeping the people in the dark over details surrounding deals being made with outside interests by both organizations regarding community owned lands and resources. To remedy this situation, he would like to see “the people” more involved in the decision-making, as was the case before the Elected Council was forced upon Six Nations almost 90 years ago.

“The purpose of the latest meeting,” according to Monture, “was to re-establish with them all who the people believe Ontario and Haldimand are to be in consultations with, regarding anything having to do with land or land use.”
“If we can get everybody in this room together, the government can’t say, ‘we don’t know who to talk to,’” he says. “We made it very clear at that last meeting a couple of weeks ago, who they need to talk to, and that is the Confederacy Council and not the HDI, not [Elected] Band Council, and not Ken Hewitt. Those Treaties were made with our Confederacy Chiefs. Not with Band Council or Ken Hewitt or any other municipality.

“The people want to know what is happening,” he said. “Why isn’t that money they are getting from these deals filtering into the community? It is the people’s inherent rights they are using to sign these agreements, but there is nothing coming back into the people’s pockets. It’s all going to them.”

A month earlier, the Men’s Fire hosted a similar meeting with Onondaga Chief Arnold General, Ken Hewitt, a representative of Band Council, Clan Mothers, Women’s Council, Men’s Council, and community members. The media was excluded from that meeting as well. That first meeting was to talk about Caledonia and the security fence around Kanonhstaton.

Monture critiqued an editorial by a local paper that accused Montour’s group of not inviting the people, the Confederacy or the HDI to attend.

“We gave an invitation the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, a verbal invitation to the Confederacy Chiefs and Clan Mothers, as well as the (Elected) Band Council,” he says. “What we agreed on was that we would not allow any of the media to come to this meeting because we felt that a lot of our people are shy and with the media there, they can’t open up and say what they wanna say.”

“These meetings are open to the public, the Elected Council, the Confederacy, and the HDI,” insists Monture. “We only restrict the media so people will feel more at ease. I just want the people to know the truth about that.”
More similar public meetings are being planned, but without media presence.

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  1. According to the Six Nations Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) traditional Great Law of Peace, the Haudenonsaunee have a Grand Council made up of 50 condoled Grand Council chiefs. The Onondaga have 14 chiefs, the Cayuga 10 chiefs, the Oneida 9 chiefs, the Mohawk 9 chiefs and the Seneca 8 chiefs on the Grand Council. I believe the Oneida Grand Council chiefs also represent the Tuscarora.

    If I’m not mistaken, the traditional Grand Council now meets at least annually in Onondaga New York.

    So, what is the role of the traditional 50 chiefs of the Grand Council if not to make decisions for Six Nations Haudenosaunee people?

    1. Hey Garry are you not reading it said clans not chiefs made the decisions. Chiefs are given the right to speak for their clan not to make decisions or even voice their option in council. The European influence has eroded The Great Peace to the point of chiefs act with out the clan system.

      1. So why do the Six Nations Haudenosaunee need a Grand Council and Grand Council Confederacy chiefs?

        Why not just let the clan mothers make all of the decisions and speak for the people?

        1. Garry figure it out and stop with the pathetic question I’m not playing your little game any more.

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