Usually when Iroquois people hear the Mohawk Workers tell the story the Old Ones are accused of making a mistake. However, the story of how the Iroquois people made Canada has many subtleties that help us understand that 150 years ago the Old Ones had a strong sense of their Indigenous international rights as a People. Adding the Canadian rafter meant adopting a man to be their chief. This custom began in the 1600s with the Dutch and was repeated in 1869.
But it didn’t end there. In 1913 Arthur was given the condolence ceremony again at the Old Council House on the Six Nations Indian Reserve 30 kilometers from Brantford because his mother Victoria had died since he’d been there in 1869. The difference in 1913 was that he was Governor General of Canada.
And it didn’t end there. After World War I when Iroquois people had again kept their Two Row Treaty promise to the Crown for “mutual defense”, Prince Edward was also given the condolence ceremony. Addressed by Asa Hill, Prince Edward was adopted by David John at Victoria Park in Brantford. The throng gathered there witnessed the Canadian rafter’s new chief named Taionhense’iah (spelled “da-yon-hen-se-ia” at the time).
Taionhense’iah became known around the world as King Edward VIII.
Why did they do this? Was it their chance to be in the spotlights–their 15-minutes of fame? Were they grabbing at something from back in the day?
The Old Ones knew their place in the world as a People. They had stated the Two Row Treaty for all land in North America. Sitting on the Two Row is the Gunshot Treaty to regulate European travel. Sitting on the Two Row is the 1701 Nanfan Treaty that covers the 320,000 square-mile economic zone now known as the Great Lakes watershed. And lastly the Haldimand proclamation treaty covers all of southern Ontario from the Niagara escarpment and the land between lakes Erie, Huron, and Ontario–the Grand River valley set-aside specifically for the Iroquois. The 1701 Treaty of Montreal provides the land base for the Laurentian Iroquois—the Mohawks of Kanehsatake, Akwesasne and Kahnawake.
The Old Ones did not make a mistake. They knew precisely what they were doing. Here’s what they did on behalf of all Indigenous People.
Canada’s rafter was raised inside the Long House of Many Relations when the Iroquois told the Crown “we stood you up in our land”: Iakorakowa…ionkiiari Wisk Nihohnnowentsiake ahensenonni atewatiteshstohn nera ohnwentsiate.” The agreement would last “as the long as the sun rises, the grass grows and the waters flow” (the Old Ones say: “…tsi nikariwes enkahhwatsiratatie tahnon entkarakwinekenseke, ohente entkeniohseke, nok ohnekanos konnes…”).
The Long House is governed by the Indigenous peoples’ law-of-the-land from coast to coast, which means so is Canada. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) certainly affirms that pre-emptive right that was long acknowledged in international law. With this certainly in mind according to Sylvannus General, on June 21, 1880 the Iroquois chiefs near current day adopted the Indian Act to brace the Canada rafter to the other rafters in the Long House—from the Miqmaq rafter in the east to the Haida rafter in the west. Canada formally became a legal nation.
Also anything created by Canada is under the Indigenous people, including the Indian Act and by consequence the Band Councils. There might be a billion Canadians but the Canadian rafter has only one voice. There might only be a thousand Abenakis, but they also have one voice. Each rafter has one voice no matter how big or small. What happens when someone acts badly, such as Canada’s refusal to uphold the honour of the Crown? If an adoptee acts badly the Old Ones gave their children another option. When the adopted individual, family, or nation misbehaves they can always be expelled. The People could disown and remove the adoption (…onenkati sakwatka’we nok oni saiiakwarihsi tsi ionkwatekwe’tarakwenh, tahnon kati sewathahisaks ka’niiaonsesewe…).”
Indigenous Peoples have an international right to assert their Indigenous rights in their land. Indigenous leadership has a great responsibility to protect those Indigenous rights using the same thinking shown by the Old Ones–Canada is our country.
(T’hohahoken is also known as Mike Doxtater, a local educator.)