“A nation built on lies will not survive as a nation”
This document is a draft paper now circulating for discussion among Mohawk traditionalists of all seven Mohawk communities in Canada and the U.S. We thank Kahn-Tineta Horn, a traditionalist from Kahnawake, for sharing it with us.
ETERNITY IS MEASURED AGAINST THE WILL THAT PEOPLE WOULD HAVE TO SURVIVE. THIS WILL DEPENDS ON A NUMBER OF THINGS ONE OF WHICH BEGINS WITH THE FUNDAMENTAL CHOICE BETWEEN LIFE OR DEATH. As A PEOPLE, THE KANIENKEHAKA NATION MADE SUCH A CHOICE IN THE MIDST OF VIOLENT AND BLOODY WARS. As A RESULT OF THIS CHOICE ALL HOSTILITIES CAME TO A HALT AND A RENEWED ORDER WAS ESTABLISHED. THUS WE WERE GIVEN THE TASK TO PROTECT THE VERY DOOR THAT WE ENTERED WHEN WE ACCEPTED Kaienahsarakowa (the Great Law of Peace, law of all laws).
As the people of the Mohawk Nation we would like to express our greetings to the People of Canada. We are the living generation of the Kanienkehaka who are a founding nation of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy (Kanonsonnionwe). In our language we are known as the people of the Longhouse which also means the people who follow the Great Law of Peace (Kaienerekowa). This law is known as the Constitution of the Six Nations Confederacy.
The land and resources that sustained us for many, many generations were under the guardianship of our people and our government for the use, protection and preservation of the many gifts which these territories contained and that were given to us by the Creator. The land and soil are vested with our people forever. This virtue is vital to the survival of our people through the many future generations to come.
Our ancestors some generations ago welcomed your ancestors to our land and territories in Peace, Friendship and Respect. According to our law and the principles contained in our constitution our Iroquois ancestors recognized the Dutch, French and English people as separate nations with different cultures and languages. Also having leadership or some semblance of a governing structure which enabled them to enter into agreements. This process was not new for the Iroquois since our people’s government entered into similar agreements with recognition given to other indigenous nations and tribes prior to the arrival of the European powers.
The recognition given to nations foreign to our confederacy finds itself based on the distinct differences between us and any other nation. These differences come from our natural right to express ourselves collectively through our own culture, beliefs,
traditions, customs, language and laws. Bilateral treaties of peace and friendship were founded on a very important principle that neither nation shall override or interfere with the other.
Our ancestors entered into a relationship agreement based on the principles of peace, friendly relations and respect for each others’ human rights and fundamental freedoms. This agreement or compact is commonly referred to by our people as the two row wampum treaty and was originally entered into with the Dutch and served as the basis for our relations with the French and English. Our Iroquois ancestors entered into a process of treaty making which led to the sharing of our lands and resources with our white brothers. This process is referred to as the silver covenant chain and was the process established between ourselves and the British Crown or sovereign. The process is renewable every three to five years and serves as an example of the commitment made by both the participants to ensure a lasting process and one that would allow the growth and prosperity of each party.
Hunting and habitation including national defense were some of the subjects that were dealt with by our treaties. Also the recognition and respect of jurisdictions in which the administration of justice and law enforcement was exercised independently by both parties.
These historic treaties provided the English not only with opportunity but legitimacy in order to maintain a proper footing in the lands and territories of the Iroquois people. The notion of land rights on the part of all Canadians—in fact the country of Canada where it exists within our traditional lands— will find its legitimacy in the treaties that were established originally between the British Crown and the Iroquois Confederacy. This provided an atmosphere of stability for the British and made it possible to progress later to what was called the Dominion of Canada.
For the Iroquois, one important thing was neglected in the early days of Canadian Confederation and that was to establish some legitimacy and rationale for the occupation of our traditional territories. Although many treaties were made with western First Nations this was not the case in the east. To this day the courts attempt to evade the issue while Canadian politicians ignore it and avoid any direct debates dealing with it and the moral implications for the losses incurred by us and other eastern First Nations peoples.
Throughout history our people have maintained that our relationship with the residual powers of the British Crown, now called Canada, is based on the Two Row Wampum concept. Our representatives continue to promote this as the only means of reference when dealing with Canada. This concept would set the stage for any formal discussion or “negotiations” between our two peoples. It is felt that an understanding of this type is the only way that our people will have the ability to preserve, in a peaceful environment, all that we hold sacred to us. This is our right, and it is the choice and example offered by our ancestors. The renewal of this arrangement with Canada is constantly pursued by our people and we did have a similar arrangement or proposition with the French Crown. This latter was not furthered because of the English conquest of New France and the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
Last fall the Quebec National Assembly announced a draft declaration for the independence and sovereignty of Quebec and separation from Canada. The separation issue is considered by us as a domestic problem and should be resolved in Canada by Canadians. However, the Canada-Quebec problem involves many issues that currently affect our people and threatens to become more of a problem for us should the Québécois people decide to form their own nation state. We consider that the distinct differences between the two factions in Canada will eventually force some new arrangement “in Canada” in one way or the other. This will have its effect on our people and we are determined to take the necessary measures to protect our rights and fundamental freedoms. The interpretations given in the international context to nation states treads itself on the issue of our traditional territories. Our territories may span into the enforced jurisdictions of three dominating powers, United States, Canada and perhaps Quebec. The land base determined by these two (potentially three) powers straddles our territory and is an area of contention for us.
Like any other nation on this earth we have the right to live and prosper. We have been given the necessary tools to do so in a peaceful righteous manner. This manner embodies our people, our laws, our cul- ture, our language, our traditions and customs, our constitution and treaties and most importantly our traditional lands and all the resources from those lands that we deem necessary to continue and prosper. All of the things which have evolved through time and our generations to become today’s Kanienkehaka (Mohawk Nation).
All this and much more is considered to be well worth protecting. And in the face of uncertainty due to the current trends in Quebec and Canada we prepare ourselves for all potential scenarios, peaceful or otherwise. We intend to inform all of our brother nations in the event we may call upon their assistance once again.
We consider that evolution can take on different forms which in some cases may lead to a certain amount of instability. We extend only our best wishes and intentions forward and remind the people of Canada and Quebec that a nation built on lies, half truths and murder will not survive as a nation. It is destined to ruin naturally wherever the humankind may dwell. We are obliged, almost driven, to remove or suppress any threat to our survival in order to ensure our safety and the safety and survivability of our children.
Many truths are hidden from public view but this only delays the eventuality that a question will be asked and the culprits will be judged. Subtlety only serves to prolong the strain and anxiety inherited by all future generations when the time comes for all truths to be known. Should these culprits be anyone of us then we are faced with sacrificing the honour of our children and condemning them to a future of instability and uncertainty. This, in part, and much more is what our Mohawk traditional leaders are entrusted to consider before making their decisions in council. Vested with them is a great responsibility and that being simply described as “the impact of our decisions on our future generations.”
We offer this concept for your consideration as you decide what steps to take in your struggle to live and prosper…, on our land.
Peace and Righteousness Kanienkehaka Kanonsonnionwe Mohawk Nation Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy