Six Nations Returns to Council House

Six Nations Returns to Council House

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John Ahni Schertow
January 1, 2007
 

MNN. Jan. 1, 2007. It was a beautiful sight. Over two miles of cars bearing Iroquois Confederacy and Unity flags. When everyone arrived at the Old Confederacy Council House in Ohsweken, the padlocks were already off. The Indian Act cops were no where in sight. [Maybe they were having donuts with the OPP]. This was followed by speeches and a celebration.

Today the Iroquois Confederacy took back its Council House that was stolen in October 1924. We proved once again that Canada’s 1924 Order-in-Council PC 1629 signed by Prime Minister McKenzie King and approved by Governor General Lord Byng of Vimy was illegal from the get-go.

Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, had plotted for years to get rid of the Six Nations Confederacy Council. He even got Parliament to introduce an amendment to the Indian Act which would allow Indian Affairs to take away Indian rights from any “pesky” Indian, like his arch rival, Fred Loft, a well-qualified Indian accountant of Six Nations. He was always asking too many questions. By the 1920’s Scott had illegally gotten rid of traditional governments of most of the Indigenous people throughout Canada. Six Nations was the toughest and the last to go.

The Six Nations tried to prove that the Indian Act was “ultra vires” [illegal] the British North America Act 1867 and that it did not apply to us. On Scott’s advice, we could not present our case in the Supreme Court of Canada. He was afraid that his horrific extermination policies would be exposed to the light of day.

The people chose Levi General, the Deskahe, to go overseas to bring our problems before the newly formed League of Nations. They were supposed to stop large nations from dominating small nations. The Netherlands, Persia [Iran], Estonia, Panama and Ireland supported him. The British, the dominant world power at the time, pressured them to drop their support. The Six Nations could then never present our case to a neutral tribunal after that.

Once Scott knew the coast was clear, he got the Prime Minister and Governor General to sign the secret illegal Order-in-Council. It violated Six Nations and international law.

The Council House had been closed for repairs. After the illegal Order in Council, it was opened up again. The first illegal Indian Act election was held there on October 21, 1924. This fake council made it possible for Canada to claim that Deskahe no longer represented the people.

Deskahe left Europe in January 1925. He always wanted to return to Canada. Tough Border controls were put in place. They would not even allow his family members and his doctors to visit him in Tuscarora near Buffalo New York. On March 10 he made his famous last radio broadcast which is available on the internet. He died on June 27, 1925. Canada refused to let him be buried in Six Nations.

This is not the only time the Confederacy attempted to take back the Council House. In March 1959 the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said it was up to the Six Nations to decide which council was their proper representative. We took him at his word. The people decided to take over control and remove the band council.

On March 5, 1,300 people marched on the Council House while the Indian act band council was in session. This was more than double the number of people that voted in the government’s band council elections. The Indian Act band council locked the front door. The marchers removed it from its hinges and took possession. John Maracle [now deceased] said, “We went in the front door and they ran out the back”. He was helped by such activists as Mad Bear Anderson, Clinton Rickard, Richard Maracle, Melvin Squires, Art Anderson, Mark Maracle, Dick Hill and people from other Indigenous communities. [Some are still around and took part in today’s takeover].

They issued a proclamation nullifying the Indian Act and declaring Iroquoia a nation and that they were reestablishing its traditional government. 133 police were appointed to replace the RCMP. They announced an economic program designed to make the territory self-sufficient by pooling farming equipment.

Canada did not respect these plans. On March 12th 1959 at 3 a.m. over 300 well armed RCMP invaded. There was a scuffle, attack and the women were beaten up. This roused the people. To this day it has distanced the band council system from the traditionals. Meanwhile Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had cut off all services to the people, which is a violation of human rights. Today that cannot happen. The Indian Act council was then forced back in, just like they did in 1924.

It wouldn’t take much to install the Confederacy Council today. All illegal corporate entities have to be removed. Six Nations jurisdiction can now be respected. The legitimate nation-to-nation relationship can resume as it was at the beginning of the colonial period, through the formative years of British North America and the formation of Canada.

No state has a right to make orders to dissolve anyone else’s government. Canada must acknowledge its error and make reparations. We can now assert our right to self-government that existed before they came here and is now acknowledged under international law. As President Wilson said in 1914, “They day of conquest and aggrandizement is gone”. Almost a century later, it’s time for Canada to wake up and get on board. Even the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People acknowledges that we have a right to self-determination.

Canada can never use padlocks again to exclude us from our sovereign governments and our public buildings. Now that international law supports Indigenous self-determination, there is nothing to stop all of us from asserting our jurisdiction to our lands and resources through our traditional governments.

Canada, you have to keep the peace and butt out of our business. It’s time for you to learn how to obey the laws. It’s important to make sure there is an orderly and smooth transition back to the way things were and always should have been. The Confederacy Council shall be fully reinstated.

You undermined us before by holding our vast trust funds. You can’t keep this from us anymore by deposing us.

Canada, you have to deal with us as equals. If you don’t, just remember what your own Supreme Court says in the Quebec Secession Reference, “Just because you can do something doesn’t make it legal”.

If you believe in the rule of law, let’s see it. Admit you’re wrong. Give us our finances. Give us the accounting we’ve been asking for since 1920 and before. In other words, face up to the ugly truth and leave corruption behind. We want to do business on a decent and honest nation-to-nation basis.

Canada is a foreign colony. Colonialism is just so yesterday! Everywhere else in the world, if you don’t want to decolonize, you leave. Indigenous people everywhere have the same rights as we do at Six Nations. Our monies and resources have been and continue to be used to build all of corporate Canada. It’s all ours.

Canada, get used to the new relationship with your landlords. Have a Happy New Year and a great big bowl of “hangover” soup!

[Send congratulations thebasketcase@on.aibn.com or call Hazel at 519-445-1351, 519-865-7722, Chief Arnie General 519-445-2624]

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