Watching the recent events in Kahnawà:ke regarding the protests on evictions of families with non-Mohawk spouses has been horrific as it reveals the extent to which colonization has been indoctrinated within Indigenous communities. Attacking the family unit has been the centuries old goal of Canada’s colonial policies in order to “beat the Indian out of the Indian”.
As Duncan Campbell Scott stated:
“ I want to get rid of the Indian problem. … Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill. ”
The impacts of colonialism is evident in every aspect of Onkwehón:we communities’ daily lives. From the imposition of the band council structure over traditional Longhouse government; with band council’s authority resting with the Canada’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (MAANDC formerly known as INAC); to access to services, education, dispossession of our lands and resources.
There exists within this dysfunctional form of ‘governance’ a norm of human rights violations founded on racist imperialist doctrines which have crafted the legal fallacies of Indigenous peoples’ land dispossession. For over a hundred years the Indian Act has coercively indoctrinated Indigenous peoples into believing that the colonizers definition of identity was true, causing cultural shame so that our languages are the most threatened in the world . But the indoctrination can only be successful if the colonized adopt it and the coercive prolongation of the number of generations of Onkwehón:we peoples suffering under Canada’s genocidal policies.
Witnessing on social media racism hidden within claims of Indigeneity unwittingly rooted in colonial values is disturbing. Combine this with societal and institutionalized racism in Canada adds to the already monumental challenges we face in rebuilding our nations from colonial genocide. Thus it is important to emphasize Canada’s liability in the unfolding of these events via its practice of colonization through the implementation of the Indian Act.
Like the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women, these problems are rooted in colonization and are a threat to everyone’s security. Canada still practices colonization utilizing tools of economic terrorism and coercion to perpetuate their assimilation ideology.
And so while certain groups of people think they are exercising their ‘sovereign’ right to evict families with a non-Mohawk spouse, they are actually perpetuating colonization. Meanwhile a naive public judges us unaware of how their ignorance of their colonial history has a hand in this tragedy. But they need only educate themselves to realize the manner in which their society, their government’s legislation and policies have contributed to the many social ills of Indigenous peoples which consequently threaten our security and enjoyment of our human rights.
But there is an even stronger uncomfortable silence of those who want and should publicly state their opposition to the evictions. But stating one’s opposition can be dangerous to your health – as colonial history reflects in its criminalization and dehumanization of Indigenous peoples. There are many who disagree with the evictions but who understandably out of fear of reprisals, are not speaking out against this manner of protests. However justice and freedom necessitates that the average person speak out against this injustice as it goes against our traditions, our ancestral teachings. Present and future generations are depending on us to uphold everyone’s right to justice and freedom; something Canada has been and continues to be unwilling to do since its creation.
Racist doctrines defies our traditional democracy under Kaianera’kó:wa and remaining silent threatens our Great Peace into becoming a remnant in our history unless traditional elders, leaders and the people speak out against this type of violent attack on the security and peace of our nations’ families.
Understandably the Canadian colonial definition of who we are as Indigenous peoples needs to be unravelled and standards of citizenship redefined based upon our customs, traditions and ancestral teachings of peace, love, strength and respect.
Quoting mystical- like ‘elders’ who state “if you marry out, get out!” supports the colonized based ideology that only “Indians” can live on the colonial created lands of lands ‘reserved for Indians”.
Protests ingeniously espousing colonial values to justify threats and the oppression of Onkwehón:we families are rooted in racist ideologies like that of the Indian Residential School system (IRSS) and the Indian Act. Forcible removal/evictions of families can be likened to the policy of the IRSS. Canada’s genocidal system required disruption of the family unit in order to succeed with its goal of eliminating all aspects of Onkwehón:we culture, customs, languages and traditional forms of governance.
And so we need only look at Canada’s Indian Act to see where the root of this calamity lays.
Band councils can create their own membership codes based upon 4 different kinds of criteria created by Canada and which are all based upon blood quantum. Membership codes are seemingly essential in an ever increasing population with an ever shrinking budget and land base exacerbated by illegal expropriation of our lands and resources. Membership codes must be approved by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and until such time they remain unenforceable moratoriums. It is important to note therefore, that as creations of the federal government, all band councils are legally obliged to follow all human rights instruments be they domestic or international.
As the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states in
Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an
indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions
and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination
of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.
Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or
territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and
informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after
agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with
the option of return.
Indigenous peoples’ rights are human rights and should be applicable anywhere we choose to live not solely on the colonizer unilaterally accepted terms of “lands reserved for Indians”. Indigenous peoples are wrongfully categorized by Canada as a ‘minority’ population, thanks to acts of genocide, however we are not minorities; we are nations with the rights to self-determination.
Like so many generations before us, resiliency has been one of our strengths in fighting the oppressor as there was a time when all our peoples and nations, spoke the same language, were taught the same laws, values and customs and it was clear who the Oppressor was. Sadly since Canada’s IRSS apology the status quo of colonization continues as we are coercively forced by Aboriginal Affairs bureaucrats to implement assimilation laws and policies for services we receive.
Before the Indian Act imposed system, we chose our leaders based upon their characters as children and nurtured their good qualities.
Today band councils are chosen by different standards and are based upon colonial imposed norms.
Kaianera’kó:wa is a way of life not a religion. Its foundation is based upon 4 pillars: peace, love, respect and strength: it is a way of life and not based upon race. The Hiawátha belt representing the Iroquois Confederacy sitting under the Tree of Peace, was not meant to be a flag, it was meant as a symbol and reminder of the hard work of our ancestors in working together to bring peace to our lives: an end to war against each other. There is the central fire, then two squares on both sides of the central fire connected by a white line having at its end an extended white line on both sides to indicate that we as its citizens were to promote the Great Peace and invite other nations to join us in it.
That is the law I choose to follow and not Canada’s racist colonial assimilation values.
The issue of residency on our shrinking communities’ land base is a Kanien’kehá:ka nation issue in which a discussion must begin in a respectful and peaceful manner. It must begin within an inclusive process of the education of our ancestral teachings, along with our colonial history and its impacts. Decolonization means eliminating the colonial brainwashing that attacked our identity, starting with the Indian Act’s definition of who we are; and not accepting the tiny postage stamp sized ‘reserves’ we call communities. Upholding our customs whereby the role of the women of our nations are revitalized and acknowledged in regards to title and protection of the land, in conjunction with the revitalization of the role of men as protectors of the people of our nation.
During the 1990 Crisis we categorically stated that the Kanien’kehá:ka have never accepted the unilaterally imposed status of Canadian citizenship because we never surrendered our lands and rights to self-determination. Whether you are Christian, Kontinonhsés:ne, or any other kind of label we need to have a process of reconciliation amongst ourselves in order to rebuild our nations and it must fundamentally be based upon the pillars of love, respect, strength, and peace for all our peoples, lands and all our relations. Present and future generations deserve a richer and more peaceful legacy to survive whatever the future holds.
These are the teachings I was taught and meant with the intent of respect for all views, for peace and justice.
Skén:nen – in peace
Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel
Wakeniáhton – Turtle Clan
Prior to 1985 , “automatic entitlement to band membership usually accompanied entitlement to Indian status. The 1985 amendments recognized the rights of bands to determine their own membership. As a result, persons may possess Indian status, but not be members of a band. Section 10 enables First Nations to enact their own membership or citizenship codes, according to procedures set out in the Indian Act. Bands must follow two principles: the majority of the band’s electors must consent to the band’s taking control of membership, and to the set of membership rules (which must include a review mechanism); and the membership rules cannot deprive a person of previously acquired rights to membership. Once the band controls its membership list, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has no power to make additions or deletions, and no further responsibilities regarding the band list.”