Election time in Tyendinaga is always controversial. It was almost 130 years ago when the Canadian Parliament passed the Indian Advancement Act to allow the “intelligent Indians” – according to the Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs – “advancement in civilization and intelligence with a view to eventually attaining to an equality…with the white portion of the population.”
The band council elections are in direct conflict with the Kahswentha and the Kayanerakowa. However, the Government of Canada refuses to acknowledge the Haudenosaunee’s original political system. Ironically, the number people who vote in Tyendinaga is approximately 12% of the entire population. Last election’s chief was voted in with 927 votes. Hardly a majority.
In 1888, Tyendinaga fought to return to the original teachings on selecting a Chief. In a petition dated October 29, 1888, to the Governor-General of Canada, the people clearly stated how they would like to govern their own people. “Brother! As we understand that the majority must rule, and a very large majority of the Bay of Quinte Six Nations Mohawks have on the 13th day of October, 1887, renewed their Council Fire according to their rites, and decided to do away with council men entirely, and have hereditary chiefs take their places.”
Obviously returning to the Kayenerakowa is not conducive to government policy. Tyendinaga, St. Regis and other Mohawk communities were subjected to arrests when they continued down that road. Tyendinaga fought a good fight. Doctoral candidate Amber Adams writes, “They fought it hard; some of the most eloquent protests against elective government came out of Tyendinaga.”
Luckily this year’s candidates do not have to worry about being arrested.
In this year’s elections five people are running for Chief while eleven people are running for council. Barbara Frances Brant, Shawn Brant, Balin Isaac Hill, Corey T Maracle, and the current Chief R. Donald Maracle are running for Chief. The council consists of four seats, those running are; Barry Brant, Jennifer Brant Neepin, Christine Claus, Sandra Lewis-Den Otter, Manson Loft, Carl (Ted) Maracle, Curtis E. Maracle, Douglas E. Maracle, Melissa R. Maracle, Keith A Sero, and Catherine Simmons.
Each candidate is active in some form of cultural revitalization or an advocate for cultural identity. For example, Christine Claus is the former president of the Native Women’s Association or Keith Sero was the National Treaty Relations Manager. When asked why he was running for Chief, Shawn Brant said he recognizes that “the only change that can be made from inside, that can’t be made from outside is the assertion of interest in land. A land claim can only be made by a duly elected Indian Act council. An individual cannot file a land claim. Tyendinaga has 0 land claims filed with federal govt. The issue of land interest and land issue settlements is absolutely necessary for the creation of a plan that will allow us, the land base and resources necessary, to move forward into the future as a strong Mohawk community and society.”
The 2013 Tyendinaga Elections are slated for December 7th at the Quinte Mohawk School from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. The next day starting at 9:00 am the votes will be counted and the winners will be announced.