Concerns with the residency bylaw

In light of the recent article regarding the residency by-law, I wanted to make a few points and raise some serious concerns.

I don’t understand what the residency by-law on Six Nations is exactly or what it’s designed to do.

Although I am a member of 6N, I was born and raised off reserve. Growing up, I was never exposed to much of the Haudenosaunee culture. Although I was told that we were Native American and my mom did her best to teach us that this was something to be proud of, as a child, I never really knew what that meant other than I was browner than most of my friends and my family laughed a lot more and a lot louder than most of theirs did. I remember feeling embarrassed and even ashamed when my teacher showed us a film one time about the early settlement of Europeans. I was only in grade 3 or 4 and even then I knew that the actors in the film were not Native and they were dressed up with bad wigs and acting goofy. And other than the occasional family get together with my cousins, the odd social, powwow or event at the friendship centre, I never had much experience playing with other native children. In my whole elementary school, there were maybe 5 or 6 of us.

Naturally, when I grew up, I associated more with, fell in love with, married and started a family with a non-native. By the time my son was born, I had learned enough about Native people, culture and language to know that I wanted my boy to have every opportunity growing up to know who he was and where he came from. As a young child, I want him to form friendships, associations and identify with the Onkwehon:we community and legacy at large. An opportunity I never had much access to. I knew that if I didn’t raise him immersed in our community as part of everyday life, the chances would be greater for him to identify with and marry into the dominant culture, just as I had. Further perpetuating the assimilation and colonization of our people. Not to mention, my own affinity for and longing for connection to my roots.

Although I will fully accept his choice of a partner when he grows up regardless of race, gender, etc., I am and will continue to raise him immersed in our schools, our social structures, community events, customs and spirituality to give him the greatest potential that he may identify with and have an affinity for a partner from the Onkwehon:weh community.

We are currently saving up for and planning the building of our home on 6N. My partner understands, respects and embraces the decision to raise our son and future children connected to their roots. Like any good father he wants what’s best for our children.

However, I understand his apprehension regarding the residency by-law considering that if something should happen to me, I can’t promise him that he could continue raising our children in our family home with the life they are accustomed to.

So what then are my options? Take the risk and hope like hell that nothing happens to me or no one notices? Or raise my family off rez to be further assimilated into dominant society? Is my kid written off of his inherent right to live in and be part of his community with his mom and dad because I married a non-native? Canada changed their policy with regards to losing rights when you marry a non-native but have we ultimately?

I understand many community members fear in that we need to protect what little lands we have left but aren’t we in fact perpetuating the colonization of our people with how this residency by-law is structured? Why can’t this residency by-law be amended so that families could stay but the title of house and land stays with the band member? If the member dies then the ownership can be passed to the child or children held in trust by a family band member until they child is an adult. Couldn’t interracial families apply for some type of residency agreement for the non member with stipulations i.e., personal character reference letters from other band members and/or an agreement/contract to obey the laws? The house and land ownership would never have to leave a 6N band member. This way, children can continue to be raised in their family home, in their community with their parent.

It seems that many people are so blinded by their anger and resentments over the past and current atrocities still being committed against our people by the Canadian government that we fail to recognize that we are further making the native children of these families victims of their own circumstance. Do they not have the right to grow up being part of their Haudenosaunee Nations without being separated from one of their parents?

With the current policy, we are destroying the very thing we are ultimately trying to protect, the identity of our people. It’s time to reassess and revamp the residency by-law to actually protect our young people and our future generations.

Sincerely concerned,

Jonelle VanEvery

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1 Comment

  1. Best Wishes to you and your family. I hope everything works out in the end. My mother was with the Wikwemikong band and when she met my father who was white, -there was no way for her to live on the Reserve. She was disenfranchised. Yet, if you were to visit the Reserve, you will see blonde haired blued Natives living on the Reserve? Their mother’s are of German decent, and they also got instant status when they married a Wikwemikong man, along with their children. There’s a double standard on every Reserve, and it has to be changed.

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