I have been “home” since 2002.
I was not raised in the Longhouse and only learned of our traditional ways when I came home as an adult. I am the first in my family to attend Longhouse and do my best to follow the Great Law. It is a struggle to do your best, but I have raised my children with the knowledge I have learned since I returned.
I was at Confederacy Council in May 2016 and on Saturday July 2, 2016. I listened as Mr. Allen McNaughton said how women are to be respected and advised the men on the decisions to be made. I have heard him speak previously when he stated how long he has been in his position and was raised in the longhouse, since he was four years old, I believe.
During both of these council sessions, a woman spoke and was spoken to harshly by titleholders. In May, Karen McNaughton wanted to ask a question and was hollered at by Ms. Ruby Williams, a clan mother. This month, Mikey Thomas spoke up and was hollered at by Mr. Steve Maracle and spoken at by Ms. Ruby Williams and Ms. Eileen Jacobs. Mr. Steve Maracle spoke of the protocol and the process at council.
At both of these times, it was stated by the Chiefs, the floor was not opened to the public for comments. The floor was never opened to the “public” since I’ve attended from 2002 to currently. At no time was any person other than title holders allowed to speak — with the exception of Mr. Aaron Detlor and Ms. Hazel Hill. These two persons have no titles but are allowed to speak anytime at any council session.
The discussion on the floor was a Cayuga Nation matter; a woman wanting to “remain” as a Cayuga Wolf clan mother. This woman could barely walk with the two women aiding her to the floor. This woman admitted that the Cayuga Chief asked her for the beads and she gave the beads to the Chief as he asked. At no point did this woman indicate she approached the Cayuga Chief to discuss this matter with him, as is the protocol. This woman also admitted that there were two meetings by the Cayuga Nation and she only attended one and did not know of the outcome of the second meeting. This woman was asking the Confederacy to “reinstate” her title and she wanted the return of her beads.
In the Great Law, matters of a nation stay with that nation to come to a resolution. The other nations do not have the authority to dictate to other nations any rules or laws. It remains within that nation to resolve its issues. During this council, the Mohawks, Senecas, and Onondagas determined that the woman was the “titleholder” and the beads should be returned to her. The Chief was not present, nor did anyone have a discussion with him during this process. After this decision was made, I could no longer remain in the Longhouse as this decision went against our laws.
If one nation is making decisions for another nation, then we are no longer following the Great Law or any protocols. I mentioned the aspect of the role of women for a point. During this process of discussion by the Chiefs, I went over to ask a question from a Cayuga clan mother. While I walked across the floor Mr. Aaron Detlor and Mr. Butch Thomas made a comment about me while I walked across the floor which was heard by people on that bench.
“Large and in charge” — this is men demonstrating their respect for women. On this bench excessive use of profanity is used and derogatory comments about women are also heard with no regard.
After the decision was made without the presence of the Cayuga Chief, I left and went outside. I was talking to the women and men to process what had just happened, feeling very sad and confused, Polly came up to one of the women I was talking to. Polly was loud and said to a young woman, “you have no business being upset as you are non-native!” I could not believe I was hearing this from a person who was in the longhouse. We are told when you enter the longhouse you are to have a good mind. In the great law you are not to cause a person to anger, but Polly was loud, angry, and attacking this young woman and her family. I thought we were only defined this way by the Indian Act.
We just heard in council Mr. McNaughton speaking of protocol and a woman comes out with this attitude. My child was witness to these actions of the men being derogatory against the women and now we witnessed a woman coming out and attacking a young woman.
This is the reason my young people do not want to attend council. My young people see and hear for themselves the actions of the titleholders and the people in the longhouse. How are we supposed to have the children, the future, believe the Confederacy and the Longhouse, is a good safe place? It is so disheartening. Many young people believe the Confederacy and the Longhouse are just as corrupt as any other form of government and religion. The titleholders and the people do not adhere to any rules or seem to have a good mind. It is shown by their words and actions towards the people.
It will be interesting to hear the teachings of the Great Law Recital in our community in August and to see who the speakers will be. It is with peace, love, and understanding I must share these words and hope for the best going forward.