Society as a whole is made up of different people from varied backgrounds, each with many valuable things to offer their communities. Kahnawake is certainly no different.

The issue of non-Natives in Kahnawake is being debated fiercely on the Internet, on the street and in local coffee shops, and many vocal community members have very strong opinions on both sides.

The big question of who is Mohawk seems to be the toughest one to answer. Is a Mohawk someone who can be deemed that solely by blood, with little or nothing given to benefit the community in return for that birthright?

Being Mohawk is a right some people are born into, but it is also a privilege. Maybe if there was a test to prove your worth as a Mohawk person, one which recognizes what our ancestors have taught us – that blood is not the sole determining factor – we would truly be able to determine who deserves to be here and who is Mohawk.

The whole blood quantum debate is relatively new to us since we never measured who was and wasn’t part of our communities based on that criteria before the Indian Act.

Thanks to the Indian Act, it has become ingrained in the heads of many people that measuring one’s blood is the only way to determine who is Aboriginal.

Some will argue that growing up they were always taught if you marry out, get out. True enough, but just because they were told that, does it make it right?

If we are so worried about who qualifies as a Mohawk, let’s ask everyone in Kahnawake, young and old, rich and poor, what they are doing to keep the language, culture and traditions alive and how they demonstrate respect for each other and the community on a daily basis.

That is how we traditionally measured who was Mohawk – through content of character and how they helped the community.

Following the Great Law of Peace includes being constructive and building the Nation through simple things like praising your kids and teaching them how to become strong, positive Mohawk people.

Destructive behaviour, such as targeting those deemed “unfit” to live here and terrorizing good people, doesn’t help the community and will not make life better.

Putting away drug dealers, child and spousal abusers, and targeting organized crime would be a step in the right direction.

The issue of non-Natives living here who were asked to leave is not something new. Speaking to community members, some say this happens every 10 years or so. The issue comes up, the Mohawk Council feels the pressure and they react.

Joe Delaronde, Political Attaché for the Mohawk Council Kahnawake (MCK), made an interesting comment in the Montreal Gazette when he claimed that the community was concerned about protecting its identity “because at a certain point the Canadian government will come along and say ‘You’re not even Indians.’”

Since when is anyone in Kahnawake concerned with what Ottawa thinks about membership? Ottawa doesn’t make those rules anymore, we do.

Last week MCK Grand Chief Mike Delisle was quoted as saying that the practice of kicking non-Natives out of Kahnawake has been done since “time immemorial”.

That statement is blatantly false. Using the term “time immemorial” is an erroneous, irresponsible statement that fails to take into consideration our true history of acceptance, where our ancestors would never have treated people the way the MCK has treated these 26 individuals and their spouses.

If we had in fact been “evicting” non-Natives so definitively as he claims, then many of us would not be here today. We all have ancestry that is mixed. We just need to look in the mirror to know that it is true.

Could the reflection in the mirror be the real problem? Are our people suffering from a self-hatred for no longer having the dark brown skin, the dark silky hair and high cheekbones?

The truth is we all have worth and something to offer each other, our community and the greater world – both Native and non-Native. We need to embrace who we are and shake off the fear because it is pulling us into a very dark place.