Well folks, it sounds like we might have a hot controversial summer again. According to Aaron Detlor, who is touted as the legal advisor for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC), some Haudenosaunee people are considering a court challenge of the elected council’s and elected system’s authority to govern Six Nations along with the Indian
Well folks, it sounds like we might have a hot controversial summer again. According to Aaron Detlor, who is touted as the legal advisor for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC), some Haudenosaunee people are considering a court challenge of the elected council’s and elected system’s authority to govern Six Nations along with the Indian Act. These Haudenosaunee people, he said, want the elected council removed.
We all know our community is divided when it comes to governance. But is getting rid of the elected council and turning governance over to the HCCC in the best interest of our community? I don’t mean any disrespect to the HCCC, but it’s been 91 years since the HCCC (a.k.a. Hereditary Chiefs) governed Six Nations. According to the HCCC’s recent newsletter, there’s a move afoot to re-establish some of their own governance structures that existed pre-1924 in preparation for the removal of the elected council. Do we really want our governance to go back 91 years? In all likelihood the governance structures that worked back then won’t even be relevant today.
Six Nations is a completely different world from what our ancestors lived pre-1924. We have a population of over 26,000 people. The elected council has 750 employees to deliver the various programs and services. The elected council monitors the management of an $80 million budget. To protect the interests of Six Nations, the elected council has to keep on top of all the local, regional and national issues. Is the HCCC prepared to do all this?
Furthermore, we know the traditional system of governance is broken. The benches aren’t full and the chiefs who do sit on the benches are divided. It’s the same small group of chiefs and clan mothers who hang around with the HDI. The clan mothers are divided. The Mohawk clan mothers are not even given recognition. When I asked the Haudenosaunee Resource Centre for a list of the clan mothers there was no Mohawk clan mothers listed. Right now the only governance system that is working for the betterment of our community is the elected system.
I’m surprised the HCCC wants to remove the elected council. Since 1991 they have maintained they only wanted to govern the 8 Points of Jurisdiction. The HCCC would certainly have to change the way they do business. No more taking six months to a year to make decisions. No more shutting down for 10 days when someone dies. The HCCC can’t do that if they’re responsible for 750 employees and an $80 million budget. And for sure the HCCC would have to meet more than once a month and treat people equally and justly no matter what their political and religious beliefs and practices. Are they prepared to do all this?
People will tell us they support the traditional system. They support the ceremonies and the longhouses, the mid-winters, etc. But does that mean they would support the HCCC taking over the governance of Six Nations? Detlor claims it does. I disagree. Two years ago, Hazel Hill started a petition asking people to sign in support of the HCCC and very few people signed the petitions that I saw. After a while Hazel pulled the petitions from the stores. Somebody else tried to start a petition but it went nowhere. Some people say the overwhelming support for the land reclamation in Caledonia proved the majority of people supported the HCCC, but far as I know people were there to support the land. That’s why I was there. Other people will say because so few people turn out for the elected council election proves people support the HCCC. I’m of the mind the majority of people don’t support either council. As long as their life is good and their families are taken care of, that’s what matters.
Some people may not like the elected council and the elected system but we need only look around the community to see what the elected council has done for Six Nations. We have a wonderful community, lots of good services and facilities. We have our own Police Service. We have paved roads. We have a housing system that is fair to everyone. We have everything for our young people. Once the Youth & Elder’s Centre is completed we’ll have even more. Our seniors are taken care of.
Clearly the Haudenosaunee people Detlor speaks of are not looking at governance realistically. There would be more benefit to our people and community if the two councils worked together. But if the HCCC’s plan is to launch a court challenge to remove the elected council then our community members deserve to be consulted and deserve nothing less from the HCCC than a comprehensive Plan of Action as to how they plan to govern and to manage the administration.
Councillor Helen Miller
2251 Chiefswood Rd, Ohsweken ON 519 717 2565
Editors response: Some people believe that the clans and people make up the real Confederacy. Also, history has shown that the political infrastructure of the Great Law was able to govern grand societies that existed here pre- 1924 before colonization crippled our people and made us dysfunctional. Our population could have been in the hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions then. If you are a Mohawk person you are a Confederacy person as well, perhaps just an inactive or dormant one. We all have the responsibility to rebuild our clan house and nation. Everyone has a right to have their voice represented at Confederacy Council, and our collective future is dependent upon participation.
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