Response to article: On the Other Side of the Barricade
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Response to article: On the Other Side of the Barricade

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John Ahni Schertow
November 7, 2006
 

Response to “On the Other Side of the Barricade

First Maximilian, thank you for taking the time to write “On the Other Side of the Barricade .” You raised a number of important points and questions with regard the dynamics of the situation in Caledonia, and the overall situation of Onkwehonweh People.

There are a number of things I would like to discuss, clarify, and expand from your writing…

When most people view the situation in Caledonia, it is assumed there are only a few Parties involved: The Six Nations, The Government, and Caledonians. The reality is that there is a complex relationship central to this, and it is important to understand it.

There are those at the site: Some Clan Mothers, some Warriors, some people from the Haudenosaunee Community, and Canadian Supporters. There are the outside supporters whom are comprised of Canadians, Haudenosaunee and other Onkwehonweh people around the Canadian State and other Territories. There are also the Governments of Canada and Ontario, the vocal opposition (of Canadians); and finally, there is the Confederacy and the rest of the Haudenosuanee (locally)

In addition to obvious complexities of this relationship—if only because most of the above have their own agendas and positions—there is another layer, being the Nation-to Nation relationship and the person-to person one.

All of the Conflict we have seen to date (except for the initial OPP invasion) is primairly fueled by the person-to-person one.

Most Haudenosauee People see this situation vastly differently from Canadians, be they supporters or Opposition.

Some believe in and support a violent confrontation with the hate-motivated (or all) Canadians and the government itself. Some so-called Warriors hold this true, but they do not speak for the entire Confederacy in the Same way the Prime Minister or one Mr Mchale does not speak for all Canadians..

Equally, as you pointed out some also see Canadians, in a homogenized way — but that is also not a uniform belief of all Haudenaosunee…

On the flip iside there just as many, if not more Canadians who lump all Haudenosaune and Onkwehonweh people together too – as terrorists, criminals, non-humans.

As far as the confrontation goes (from the Haudenosuanee side) – I think it’s perfectly understandable.. They are sick and tired of the Nation-State game and the arrogant assumption that western society is the center of the universe. Canada’s assumption that is “The Decider”, their continuous encroachment on Six Nations territories; the constant undermining and dividing of the Confederacy (eg, with the installation of the Band Council, with the integration of the Church, and with the Code of Hansome Lake ). and most importantly their inability to respect historical agreements and fulfill their legal obligations.

It is as if the Haudenosaunee are to allow Canada to do whatever it wants when it wants, and we are to act as abused housewives who can’t give “no” for an answer… because when we say “No..” what happens?!

Thus, some want to confront Canada.

The Confederacy and much of the Community see it differently. They are just as sick and tired as the Warriors are, but the Confederacy epecially does not have the luxury of just doing what they want. They do have the resonsibility to act in the best interests of all involved, and in this situaiton – and rightly so – their course has been to deal with it as they have been.

Max, you said:

“We are told by some of the protesters, members of one or another Mohawk Warior Society, that the band councils which rule their reserves are creations of the Canadian government and rule without legitimacy–they are non-traditional. Yet, these non-traditional entities have been in existence for the better part of a century, and one would expect that the novelty might have worn off by now, that invention has become convention.”

The fact is, the Band Coucnil was imposed. Continent-wide, Band Councils were imposed by intimidation, force, persuation, manipulation, and sometimes by the honest desire to “please the men with the guns”. It doesn’t matter if they were or were not opposed or prevented from becoming functional within any given society.

For a greater understanding, let’s turn to the Oneida Nation of New York Inc.

Run by One man, Ray Halbritter – he illegally and openly seized absolute power over the Oneida Nation. The Confederacy went through the traditional channels – giving him three warnings (the third is the final, at chish time if you do not do as you’re ordered, then action is taken. Depending on the situation, sometimes that would mean death, other times banishment, or being stripped of your authority and never able to serve the people again). The problem was, Halbritter had (and still has) the backing of the US government. This is a complete violation of the Great Law, but there is nothing the Confederacy can do that will not result in the US stepping in. Children would no doubt be taken away. The women would be jailed. Some men would be murdered… this “pressure” would continue until Halbritter and America got it’s way.

To date, Halbritter has seized property, demolished houses, banished ‘his opponents’, kidnapped, illegally incarcerated individuals, locked the Oneida Longhouse–and in sense, broken the Confederacy.

Is he legimitate because he can maintain his position through force, treason, and terrorism?

Honestly, I do not know the details of the history regarding this particular Six Nations Band Council, but I do know that on the whole, Band Councils literally function as CEOs of Corporations. They do not act in the best interests of the people, they manage them like they are a product. They are not accountable to the People (only to the Federal Government) and they cannot be readily deposed because it is often understood that “Things will happen.” (I heard that said to a Grandmother once.)

I also know that the many Indigenous Nations on this land have been tolerating the Band Councils and this Westminster system of governance since they were subjected to it.. but that is all changing now, out of purre necessity.

Every single Nation on this continent still knows of their Traditional Government and the Band Council system is on the way out. All uncertainty aside, that’s the way it’s going to be.

Clarifying Nation-to Nation

You said

“Quite aside from this is the question of tact and consistency. It seems like a difficult line for a Mohawk Warrior to maintain a denunciation of colonialism while at the same time recalling with pride how the Mohawks were allies of the British in the fight against the Hurons and the French. To proclaim “we won” when condemning the principle of “might makes right,” and then to do so in Quebec where even the licence plates are inscribed with the words “Je me souviens” (I remember), might be viewed by some as a potentially self-defeating provocation. Likewise, to condemn the “white man’s courts,” while praising the successful Noongar land claim in Western Australia, or to bask in the words of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or to denounce colonization while making appeals to the authority of Queen Elizabeth II, all strike me as a confused and chaotic script that is still “under construction.” It’s as if the aim were to produce a discourse that deconstructs itself, that falls apart in the very act of being articulated, that evaporates in open air.”

I fully understand why you have said this Max, but there is a concept that will for starters, make sense of this.

First let me say that we all know the situation in Caledonia is not new or unique. The Haundenosaune and all Indigenous Nations have always pursued justice, the redress for historical crimes, — but so few things, in fact nothing at all, has ever been really addressed.

We fought war for centuries, but what did that get us? We signed treaties in good faith with our colonial counterparts, but what did that really accomplish? To the landlord-tenant relationship, it’s like the tenant seized the house from the landlord, and now forces him to live in one corner of his own back yard.

For the past couple generations, our course has taken us to the Colonial Courts, and it has been pursued dilligently but also without end or long-term resolution. And now many are beginning to understand that this course is not our sole means for resolution, or even a good one.

We are all– in our own way and on our own terms– coming to realize that there are many different things we must do as Individuals and as Nations with a common will to live our Traditional Ways of life, without being encroached upon — to live in peace and in good health.

Today, we approach the Queen, the Courts, the UN, the ICC, the OAS, the Pope, China. Some put up barricades, send hundreds of emails to the press, put out posters, leaflets. Some build websites and spend hundreds of hours teaching people online, and others spend just as much exploiting words and playing games because they want to be a part of what’s happening.

Whether or not it actually helps is not necessarily the point, because we are all exercising our spirits and trying to accomplish something here, whatever it may be. Maybe we all want the same thing, but our differences in opinion and perspectives and beliefs makes room for the assumption that we are enemies, unable to meet half way?

Whatever it may be, the confusion you are talking about is not so much confusion as it is personal development, evolution.

At the heart, it is the process of decolonization—something that’s right on par with the rest of changes we’re seeing in the world.

The pursuit of the Nation-to-Nation relationship is a big part of that, because we are a nation in the truest sense of the word.

The danger we are faced with though does not come from working for this or aligning ourselves as equal to Nation-states, or even in allowing ourselves to participate in their system, because it doesn’t matter where we are so long as we maintain our integrity and do not compromise ourselves to ‘save’ ourselves.

The Danger comes from when we carry on our own backs the legacy of what is not ours (eg, if we actually became a Nation-State). The majority of Indigneous People want no part of that, and if any Band Councils or any groups try to move toward that, we will readily hear and see it prevented.

There are some however who are sort-of purusing this — the AFN is the first example that comes to me, but I think they are more interested in making indigenous Nations into municipalities. I guess it is very easy to please their pockets.

I think this is undrstandable aswell. Assimilation has this funny way of making you into your own enemy.

Regarding ‘the Nationhood trap’

We also come to the question of the “nation-to-nation” relationship that is especially advocated by members of the Mohawk Warrior Society. In practice, this is cast as an argument for sovereignty, for nationhood qua nation-state status (internalizing European notions of sovereignty and re-presenting them to Canada as Aboriginal), conflicting with the obvious reality that they are not such entities under international law and have no such recognition in the United Nations. That’s actually not the most significant problem in my view. The more significant issue is whether such proponents have understood the ramifications of their quest. To be viewed, respected, and treated as separate nations means that they become foreigners with respect to Canada. In such a situation, rights to employment within Canada would be eliminated. In order to move from one corner of Canada to another, they would need passports, thereby reintroducing the same pass laws that were treated (and rejected) as an abomination of internal colonialism. Access to social services, such as health, education, and public works would also be terminated. In order to sustain a quality of life which most residents of their communities desire as evidenced by current practice, they would now have to pay to import “specialists” from Canada or elsewhere, which could cancel out any benefits to be derived from any rents to be paid by Canada for use of reclaimed Aboriginal lands. It’s possible that this arrangement could even place them in a relationship of debt and dependency with the rest of Canada. Worse yet, it would sever many urban, non-status Natives from their homes of origin.

Keeping the decoloniztion process in mind – the reality has always been at the forefront of most people’s minds, Max.

I mean, we are already separate from Canada. (The Haudenosaunee have their own law, land, Language, history, Customs and Traditions, form of government, passport (since the 1970s)).

And it’s not like Canada is really doing anything for the Haudenosaunee or any Indigenous Nations here… On the whole, we have no guaranteed legal rights under Canada, most people on reserve live in third- and fourth-world living conditions (according to the UN, though we already knew this), the Band Councils are corrupt, INAC and it’s policies are garbage, the Federal and Provincial Governments act like they’re part of reality tv (“the govies”) and the UN refuses to do anything (if only because the UN is a club for Nation-States and would never do anything to compromise the global finance scheme headed by the IMF and the WTO).

You see, there is literally no venue for us, except the one we are pursuing on our own. And we will continue pursuing it regardless of how many mistakes we make because the alternative is to forfeit our natural right to exist as unique human beings of separate and distinct civilizations, and just get jobs at Walmart…

That is as unacceptable as Canada’s absence of will, intent, and maybe even ability to do what is supposed to, with regard to the responsibilities it inherited via the Two Row Wampum Belt and other agreements.

Ok, I’m going to end there Max. There are other things I wanted to explore and talk about here, but if you’d like perhaps we can do that another day.

Tjurrara Ahniwanika
https://intercontinentalcry.org

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