The Birketts Lane project: Indigenous Society is alive and doing well

TSI KANATAHERE – Saturday’s (Nov. 23) marathon meeting to discuss the real estate development project at Birketts Lane and Erie Avenue had all the ingredients for a dust up but that did not really occur. With observers from Oneida, Tyendinaga, and Akhwesahsne present, the local relatives kept their family problems in the closet. Family life is funny that way.

The central theme focused on the right of the Mohawk Workers (Kanyenkehaka Ratiyotens) to speak for the Mohawk People. Another theme concerned the financial gain by Guswentha Ltd. Developers, and how their scheme might undermine Indigenous land title in the Grand River valley.

Concerns were raised that individuals obstructed a project initiated and managed by Indigenous people – while settlers were developing projects throughout the Grand River valley unobstructed.

Various voices also said there should be some benefit to the Mohawk People for development projects in the previously held Mohawk lands from current-day Brantford northwest to Dundalk. A proposed trust fund governed by Mohawk trustees was hard to argue with. In the end, it was a long day of discussions, brainstorming, and processes for building consensus.

The cultural diversity at Six Nations could create a truly dynamic environment for conversations to solve our locally identified problems. The conversations at Kanata can be viewed as healthy, where understanding other views is prized. One meeting attendant said “I might have done it a different way, but at least I now understand what they want to do.”

Indigenous Society is comprised of many cultures. At Six Nations there are religious, political, educational, recreational, social, and intellectual cultures. We also have a multitude of sub-cultures within these cultures.

In the case of Birketts Lane we can see that Kanyenkehaka Indigenous Society has an active political culture comprised of subcultures – Mohawk Workers, Men’s Fire, and various Five Nations League Clan Families.

The desire to understand each other is at the heart of Indigenous Society. There are many subcultures at Six Nations. Religious subcultures include churches and longhouses that value teachings of their Holders of Ultimate Truth.

Social and community care subcultures include agencies like CAS and the HDI, as well as community volunteers. Education has established formal institutions such as the schools, but informal education occurs everyday in diverse settings. Political subcultures include remnants of the Wisk Nihohnnowentsyake League, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Band Council.

Indigenous Society differs from Canadian Society because of a simple fact. Members of Canadian Society are by-and-large “indigent” people who couldn’t cut the mustard in their homelands so they migrated here to settle.

Settlers and immigrant multicultural populations adopt the Canadian idea of comfortable self-preservation within a disappearing notion of a Social Gospel that is at the heart of Canadian Society.

Indigenous Society has a central theme that appears every now and then. Symbolized by the Condolence Ceremony, and the Dish-With-One-Spoon, Indigenous Society values the idea that everyone has the right to be healed, everyone has the right to eat, and everyone has the right to be happy. It’s a colour-blind rule.

Situated within contemporary Western Civilization, Indigenous Society could well teach Canadian Society about our values that would affirm theirs – Canadians need to reaffirm the Canadian Social Gospel to solve our current disputes.

The more Indigenous Society engages in peaceful conversations to solve local problems in practice, the more we can tell other Societies how to behave without being hypocritical ourselves. Social life is funny that way.

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