Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Omerta ("Code of Silence") at Six Nations

It has never surprised me that so many Native women have disappeared, or their murders have gone unsolved.  Many Natives and their apologists continue to blame the Government or the police for not caring about Natives and placing a low priority on solving these crimes.  The truth, however, is likely to be quite different.  Many of these women were in the sex trade, and / or were homeless ensuring that unless they had a protector (e.g., pimp) they were among the most vulnerable of persons and the most at risk.  The reason why most were in this situation can likely be traced to the abysmal conditions on the Reserves that were once their home.  It is virtually certain that all experienced sexual assault, abuse, substance abuse and all of the other ills that plague First Nations communities in the North and the West in particular.  There is one other factor which puts police in a position where it is almost guaranteed that they will be unable to solve the crime.  Omerta.

Omerta is the "code of silence" most typically associated with the Mafia, but found in many communities including the Black community in many parts of the United States.  No one talks out of fear for their lives, or the lives of their family.  No one talks because of the belief that matters are best handled "at home", and that the White legal system will only open wounds.  So police cannot rely on the typical sources needed to solve crimes - witness testimony.  It would be a bit rare for a Reserve member to testify against another Reserve member in Court - it is taboo, even when the victim, usually a female, wants to press charges.  Generally she will be convinced that other methods such as "healing circles" and "forgiveness" are better options.  I will write a great deal more on this subject when I review a book on the "Aboriginal Industry" by Widdowson and Howard in the near future.

So how does this play out at Six Nations?  Many people likely believe that omerta is something found in other communities, not Six Nations.  It is very difficult to obtain hard facts here, only anecdotes - but that does not mean that the concept is irrelevant or wrong.  Here a very straightforward question can be posed, and the answer will be very telling.  During and after the situation in Caledonia in 2006 with violence against property and persons, theft, vandalism, arson, criminal mischief, and a complete flaunting of the laws of Haldimand County, the Province of Ontario, and the Federal Government of Canada - how many at Six Nations spoke out publicly against this barbaric turn of events?  As far as I know the answer is zero.  Does that mean that all at Six Nations supported the violence?  No, not at all.  None the less, in looking at the letters to the editor of local newspapers, including those in Haldimand and Brant Counties and the two on the Reserve, who stated the obvious - that the situation got out of hand and it was reflecting poorly on all Six Nations.  Did either the Elected Council or the Hereditary Council issue a formal apology - no, nothing remotely similar to the best of my knowledge.

Speaking out publicly, in other words off Reserve, against a fellow member of Six Nations is something that is avoided at all costs.  So basically one runs into the "wall of omerta" in trying to get to the truth.  The truth is not as important as group solidarity by in large.  It is important to put forward the "face of solidarity" when in fact none exists.  The Elected Council and the Hereditary Council agree on almost nothing - and seem to take pains to set things up so that the other will take the fall or the blame for whatever divisive issue is at stake.  Omerta functions to keep white people out of the loop.  Of course this is in practise impossible since all of the laundry, dirty or otherwise, is to be found in the two newspapers on the Reserve, sold at places off Reserve and easily available to White people without setting foot on the Rez.

So while omerta functions to keep the perception of Six Nations being one on all important issues (from land claims to wind turbines), the truth is something far different.  So what happens if someone at Six Nations "rats out" another in a public venue (e.g., testifying in Court)?  For years it has been much the same.  Recall the story of the Hatfields and the McCoys in West Virginia and Kentucky?  That is what is at risk at Six Nations.  Not only will the individual be at risk physically or at the very least be shunned, but his or her entire extended family will likely get drawn into the fray and the fur will fly and the "feud" can last for years, or even generations.  Knowing this, there were occasions in the past where I have "held back" saying or doing anything inflamatory.  For example a while back I had every reason to deck one very obnoxious neighbour who was making false allegations against me while throwing punches.  Instead I dodged the punches until this alcoholic exhausted himself.  I allowed him to get in his car and drive away - just up the road.  If it had been anywhere else I would have defended myself and / or called the cops.

Welcome to Six Nations.


1 comment:

  1. Code white systemNorth American health-care facilities classifies Code White as an event of actual or potential abusive/violent/aggressiv.