In Michael Delisle Jr.’s email response to the article in the National Post’s column of the September 22nd edition entitled “The one place in Canada where racism is still tolerated: native reserves,” Delisle Jr. states that, “Ours is a community of approximately 6,500 people who have been relegated to a postage stamp of land, thanks to the lax immigration policies of our ancestors.” As a Kanien’kehá:ka woman, I find his statement very insulting to our past, present and future generations.
Delisle Jr.’s statement attempts to diminish the confidence of the few people who still have hope in our true government (the Great Law of Peace). It also suggests that our ancestors were weak or incompetent, when in actuality, our ancestors were wise and true, far from “lax.”
Our ancestors developed immigration policies that ensured our survival today. If an individual or nation were found to be guilty of breaching the laws of the Great Law of Peace (i.e. committing theft, rape, murder, treason) they would be clubbed to death. If they survived, their face would be appropriately marked and they would be discarded outside of the territory.
Maybe Delisle Jr. chose to respond to the National Post the way he did because he is aware that discrimination is becoming a shared common value in Kahnawà:ke, even of those who classify themselves as traditionalists or “Longhouse.”
What Delisle Jr. should have addressed is the that the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke is subject to the discriminatory, racist policy of the Indian Act system and their “Mohawk Law.” Because the band council has no claim to our treaty rights, they are bound to fulfill Canada’s conditions in order to receive funding.
In contrast, our people are entitled to our to our own laws, traditions, customs, languages, and spirituality; including tax free rights, funding for education, health services, etc. in accordance with the Two Row Wampum Peace Treaty. Canada has a fiduciary responsibility to the treaty people of North America (Turtle Island), because our ancestors were proactive and kept in mind all of the future generations to come.
And here we are today. How can we attain political independence and financial stability?
And how do we prevent our remaining treaty rights from being negotiated away by Canada and its band council?
The band council were to be administrators of our treaty funds from Canada. Our government (the Longhouses) were to always be the authority in our territories, and uphold our treaty rights.
In Kahnawà:ke, we Kanien’kehá:ka live much like any other person: man-made democracy (band council), capitalism (individualism), and religion (consumerism), throughout the Five Nations Confederacy territory. Does that mean that traditional people are the minority?
What is our identity? Is it peace, strength and righteousness? Or is it discrimination, inability and selfishness? Is it our culture? Is it our spirituality? Is it our Nationhood status? And whose definition of our identity should we be concerned with?
Do we want to continue to oppose each other and merely “survive” with the privileges of Canada’s good graces? Or do we want to live free of imposition, and assert our treaty rights as a Nation with our true government in place?
Which law should we accept: the band council’s law or the Great Law of Peace? Does trying to merge both create division? Does Kahnawà:ke benefit or suffer from division?
Would all of our problems be solved if we all spoke Kanien’ké:ha?
Should the disrespect of our Rotinonhsón:ni ancestors be tolerated? Why aren’t we utilizing what we learned from the two decolonization presentations that were held in Kahnawà:ke this past spring and summer? If we care about our culture and Nationhood status, why aren’t we encouraging each other to remember who we are? Is it because it’s less effort to turn your back on your people? Or maybe Canada’s colonial Indian Act policy has created confusion in the minds of our community?
This would be understandable since our customs and traditions that teach inclusion are not compatible with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke’s discriminatory “Mohawk Law,” which I have been informed has no legal standing due to the absence of a recognized Mohawk judicial body and the lack of a completed and sanctioned membership law.
When we as Kanien’kehá:ka think of creating new laws, it should not be based on anger, but peace. It is the Great Law of Peace that protects us and provides us with our identity as a Nation with treaty rights – not the Indian Act or the band council.
At the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke’s open “Discussion Forum” (September 30, 2014), regarding residency, Delisle Jr. stated that his priorities are land, saying, “I’m selfish.” The current “Mohawk Law” stipulates that even children who have a clan are not valued, and families are to be discarded because one of the parents’ are not Kanien’kehá:ka.
As Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke, we are not of one mind on this matter. During the 1870s and into the early 1880s Kahnawà:ke became divided over Rotinonhsón:ni government and Canada’s Indian Act band council system.
As I stated at that meeting to Delisle Jr., we all suffer from the same inter-generational trauma due to colonization and genocide. As a result, we are faced with opposing views that stem from different upbringings; different world views causing the obstruction of our immediate and extended families. This has proven to have a negative impact on our external relations.
When the women (represented by the Clan Mothers) have lost the ability to manage our families and land, then we are at a time of desperate need for guidance and mediation.
Kahnawà:ke is 1/8 of a Nation (Kahnawà:ke, Ahkwesáhsne, Ganienkeh, Kanehsatà:ke, Tyendinaga, Ohswé:ken, Wáhta and Kana’tsoharé:ke). The Nation Council consists of three clan families: Turtle, Wolf and Bear (Rotiniáhton, Ronathahión:ni and Rotihskaré:wake). Each Clan has a special function through heredity of their matrilineal characteristic birth traits. First, the Turtle Clan (Validators/Mediators) validates that the matter at hand should be counselled on. Second, the Wolf Clan (Initiator of matters) prepares and presents the matter to the Bear Clan (the Deliberator). They deliberate on the matter and either identify the irregularity to the Great Law of Peace or confirm the consistency with the Great Law of Peace to the Wolf Clan. Once the final matter has reached consensus, the Wolf Clan addresses the Turtle Clan for validation of their decision. Is it consistent with the Great Law of Peace or is there a need for mediation?
Once consensus is reached by the three clans, the women’s authority (represented by the Clan Mothers) should be re-affirmed.
It should be noted that the three clan families co-operate in the counselling process, where each person uses their voice. Then, they are represented by the Chiefs; this is true democracy. There is no debating, voting, or elections, as that is a competitive and divisive process of man-made democracy that is inconsistent with the Great Law of Peace.
As many of us are aware, “the Mohawk Nation Office at Kahnawà:ke serves as the Secretariat for the People of the Longhouse at Kahnawà:ke,” and was mandated “in 1987, by the People of the Longhouse to establish facilities and to operate a secretariat with the intent of re-establishing the full functions of Nationhood.”
The Rotinonhsón:ni Confederacy is responsible to council on matters of family when any one of our Nations fail to come to one mind on a matter of common concern; particularly on matters of families consisting of children who are being discarded.
The counselling process is a fair one, where all facts and persons involved or directly affected by an issue are to be heard while the council of the three clans are in session, allowing for informed decisions to be made. All decisions are based on the three founding principles of the Great Law – peace, strength and righteousness.
Should all three attempts at resolving an issue fail (in this case, the issue would be whether the discarding of families is just or not), then we are to subject ourselves to the two equal, but opposite powers of creation (Tharonhiawá:kon and Shawís:kara) through the Bowl Game (Kaientowá:nen). This outcome would be final, and go through the formal process to be made official. Then, hostilities should no longer be known between one another – only peace. The weapons of war that were used against our own (in this case, threats, personal attacks, vandalism, stone throwing, etc.) should never be raised again
As our history tells, Tekanawí:ta, an Onkwehón:we man born with heightened spiritual consciousness and spiritual power, shared his knowledge of universal harmony and interdependence with the warring nations of his time. This led to the formation of the League of the Five Nations Confederacy, with the Great Law of Peace acting as instructions on how to organize our minds as one. This brought healing to our families.
It’s currently being argued that, “no decision of the Longhouse can go against the community or it goes against the Great Law because it upsets the peace.” No Longhouse should ever manipulate the Great Law of Peace to suit those who do not respect it or its principles. The mission of any Longhouse should be to uphold the Great Law of Peace, and to guide the people if they go outside of that law, as foreign concepts could be destructive to our Nation and have negative impacts on the rest of the Confederacy.
The counselling process is not just for show, each matter counselled upon is judged on its own merits. The Great Law of Peace is an astringent and universal law that does not expire or become outdated, as it is based on the universe’s harmony and interdependence.
There is this fear that Canada will claim there aren’t any Indians left to have any status. That would only be true if the Great Law of Peace is not upheld; if we continue to allow Canada’s Indian Act band council to handle our affairs.
On August 27th, peaceful alternatives to breaking up Kahnawà:ke families were presented to the Bear Clan council at the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawà:ke’s Longhouse on the 207. These alternatives included residency permit options and a disclaimer to remove the option for an “open-door policy.” This was also presented to the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke, as the true intentions of many of those who are in relationships with Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawà:ke are not to disrupt the collective peace. Up until today, there has been no response from the Longhouse.
If those who developed the band council’s “Mohawk Law” took into account their past, present and future generations, maybe the general atmosphere of our community would be respectful today. Shouldn’t we make our decisions with past, present and future generations in mind from now on?
If you are going to decide to support the band council’s current “Mohawk Law” as is, it would be wise to read it, as many are arguing that no families are being broken apart, when actually, it is not just the “individual non-Native” being evicted. The band council’s “Mohawk Law” threatens the suspension of Kahnawà:ke membership privileges to Kanien’kehá:ka members who are married or living with non-native partners, family and/or children.
Delayed justice is denied justice. The health and safety of our women and children should be a priority. Why not follow in our ancestors’ footsteps, and leave behind a legacy that’s wise and true.
Cheryl Diabo, Kahawinóntie Wakhskaré:wake born of the bear clan family Tehana’karí:ne