Monday, 10 March 2014

Accusations of Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing Directed Toward the Canadian Government

The words in the post title are those associated with the actions of Six (Five) Nations in the mid 17th Century, and of Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) regime in the mid 20th Century.  However they have been resurrected by some at Six Nations where accusations of engaging in this behaviour have been levelled against the Canadian Federal Government today.  If this seems outlandish, in 2014, it is, but when placed within context of the history of those who chose to utter these words, there is no mystery - only grotesque distortions of the true meaning of these phrases.

First, it will be necessary to see what each term means, whether historically there is any connection to the Six Nations, and what those who chose to use the expressions in 2014 hope to gain from the warped twisted and insulting misuse of the highly emotion laden terms.  It will be important to understand what these terms mean, before looking at how highly distorted interpretations at Six Nations have become.

Genocide is, the systematic killing of all or part of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group.  See here for the specifics of the definition and recent examples (e.g., Rawanda in Africa).  Another example of the meaning of genocide is, a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.  For example, the mass murders and concentrations camps such as Buchenwald aimed at the "final solution" by Hitler's Nazi regime to completely wipe Jews from the map of Europe.  See here for more.

Ethnic cleansing is, the systematic forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a given territory with the intent of creating a territory inhabited by people of a homogeneous or pure ethnicity, religion, culture, and history. The forces applied may be various forms of forced migration (deportation, population transfer), as well as mass murder, and intimidation.  Many of the actions during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia would fall under this category.

Genocide versus ethnic cleansing involve, The crimes committed during an ethnic cleansing are similar to those of genocide, but while genocide includes complete extermination of the target group as the stated goal, ethnic cleansing may involve murder only to the point of mobilizing the target group out of the territory.  See here for more detail and more examples.

Being familiar with world history, and having watched true examples of all of the above during my lifetime, I was shocked to see members of the Six Nations Community using both expressions, levelled at the Canadian Federal Government.  While this seems beyond ridiculous, it will be important to see the rationale behind these statement, and do a reality check on each.  Since I am aware of examples when the Haudenosaunee employed both genocide and ethnic cleansing during historical times, it will be important to also discuss these facts since they can easily be validated with various sources from history, anthropology and archaeology.

Both of these terms have been used within the last few weeks to apply to events occurring today.  Since I believe that I am cognisant of the various issues and events happening in the various communities of the Haldimand Tract, I find the use of the terms very puzzling.  Not only that, but if verified, these allegations are profoundly disturbing, considering the definitions noted above.  So it is time to explore the specifics of these allegations.

Recent uses of the terms genocide and ethnic cleansing at Six Nations include information in the 26 February 2014 issue of Turtle Island News (p.2), concerning the "Tobacco Wars", in an article entitled, Bill C-10 is not about fighting crime, its about destroying economies, First Nation leadership says in rejecting the bill they report on the statements of some of these leaders.  They note that, H.H. is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council's planning department director.  In discussing Federal Bill C-10 (designed to crack down on contraband tobacco), Ms. H. stated that, This is an attempt to dissolve Haudenosaunee treaty rights and economies in order for them to gain control of our people.  It's more akin to ethnic cleansing and genocideA. H. is, a member of the Turtle Island Trade and Commerce business group, and TIN reported that she said that, It is an act of terrorism on our people and an activity of economic oppression.  In this particular posting I will focus on the accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, perhaps leaving "terrorism" and "economic oppression" for another occasion.

At the recent gathering to "commemorate" the violent rampage at Caledonia in 2006 using the false pretext of treaty and land rights, a group of leaders of this confrontation which created an indelible stain on the perpetrators and a permanent mistrust between members of the Six Nations and local Haldimand communities, discussed some of the issues as they saw them.  This was reported in Turtle Island News, March 5, 2014 (p.5) in an article entitled, The women who sparked the nation, remember 8 years ago.  The above H. H. was there, and continued to comment on, the fight for Haudenosaunee rights.  She then launched in another diatribe against Bill C-10 stating, The oppression and genocidal acts and the ethnic cleansing they're attempting will never, ever succeed because the spirit lies within each and every one of us.  I wonder if this includes me - because I don't for one nano second believe in tossing words like "oppression" at the Federal Government hoping that they will stick - let alone accusing the Canadian government of autrocities - which takes things to a level of complete absurdity, and is grossly insulting - especially since it is all a complete fabrication.  Lets then turn the tables around and see if the pot is calling the kettle black here, based on historical reality, where the Haudenosaunee come away with very bloodied hands.

True factual examples of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) history include events of the 1640s and 1650s which were known as the "Beaver Wars" and the "Mourning Wars".  Perhaps the best short description, based on the primary and best secondary sources available (all of which I have read), is Timothy J. Shannon, Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier, New York, Penguin, 2008 pp. 32-38.  There is no way to dismiss the "inconvenient truth" in relation to this period in the history of the Haudenosaunee.  It was recorded in sources such as the contemporary Jesuit Relations which include direct observations by the Jesuit priests who witnessed the horrible atrocities first hand.  Basically, due to economic competition and the need to replace population lost to wars and pestilence, the Five Nations went on a "killing spree" to exterminate competition, and to capture those to adopt as replacements for those lost in increasing numbers.  Those who were adopted tended to be women and children, but another form of "adoption" was typically reserved for adult males.  Here a small number were adopted into families who lost members recently, but most were, in the Iroquoian language, "caressed".  This ritualistic torture is so upsetting I will include only a general description here, but detailed descriptions can be found in any book on the Iroquoian people (including the Haudenosaunee).  Fingers, parts of fingers, defleshing, burning from the top to bottom, placing of hot coals on the head of the hapless victim, cutting off of more and more body parts, and eventually death and consumption of the flesh (cannibalism) was the standard fare.  These practises continued even up to the War of 1812.  As disgusting as this is, and how apologists might wish to deny it, the facts are the facts and the practises extend back (as can be seen by butchering marks on the bone) as early as man has been in the Americas.  My ancestors without a doubt participated, and of course it makes me sick, not proud.  My Norwegian ancestors were just as brutal, with for example the "blood eagle" reserved for particularly suitable individuals like the King of Northumbria who allegedly tossed Ragnar Lothbrok into a snake pit, and whose children took revenge some years later.  The procedure involved cutting open the ribs and pulling the lungs free so they would inflate while the hapless victim was still alive - looking somewhat like the wings of a bird.  Horrible.  The Viking numbers were not large enough or they likely would have completed acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide - unless it was more expedient to keep the people alive so they could be robbed again at a later date.

By the time the Five Nations had realized their goal of complete extermination (some few, particularly Huron, did escape), between the years 1640 and 1657, there was little left of the Huron / Wyandot, and nothing of the Petun, Attiwandaronk, Erie or Wenro.  Peoples "wiped off the planet" by the Haudenosaunee "warriors", allowing the young men to show their prowess in battle, and having many intended effects to provide an advantage to the Five Nations.  This ruthlessness and cruelty is why they were so feared, even many years after the events. 

There are dangers in using evocative but historically inaccurate terms to cast aspersions at the Federal Government of Canada.  There is not one shred of evidence that anything the government is doing has even the most minuscule hint of what H. H. has declared.  However I can give examples of instances where in fact, the Haudenosaunee perpetrated true and historically verifiable - there is no disagreement on whether the acts happened or did not happen - they did, and they conform to the above definitions of genocide and ethnic cleansing. 

Do some at Six Nations wish to bring up these events from the distant past? They do so at their own peril and risk opening old wounds and alerting those not familiar with Canadian history as to the atrocities perpetrated by Haudenosaunee people. 

The whole matter is still an embarrassment to Six Nations - even in 2014 some at Six Nations and their toadies unwisely attack excellent and popular writers who dare tell the truth.  The classic example is the reaction to the book by Joseph Boyden, The Orenda, Toronto, Knopf, 2014.  He discusses, in the form of a novel, the information found in the Jesuit Relations and has received scorching reviews from Six Nations members and academic apologists.  Some First Nations people such as well known Ojibway writer Web Kinew is entirely supportive of the book (see here).  It can't be all that bad, despite the best attempts of the Six Nations lobby to get people to view it so.  "Orenda" was a 2013 nominee for the Governor General's Award for Canadian fiction; and the 2014 winner of CBC's "Canada Reads" award and so objectively it is a good piece of literature.  Some First Nations people such as Hayden King (actually part Cherokee and never resided on a Reserve) are not so bullish about this work (see here).  I agree that some of the events portrayed do not accord with known history - such as the Haudenosaunee raping women. As far as I know, in the pre-Reserve days rape was not part of Six Nations culture - it is not mentioned in historical sources. 

It is of course a cause of concern to Six Nations at a time when so many "rights" are being claimed, and many are trying to compare Canada's attempt to rationalize its laws against illegal cigarettes. Indeed, the Haudenosaunee did commit acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and no whitewashing or sanitizing will work here - the evidence is far too robust and widespread across a spectrum of disciplines.  Some Six Nations members have weighed in on this book, including what can be seen here.  Although I don't take exception to the review given by the author (or the facts), and agree on many aspects (e.g., excessive Jesuit zeal), there are comments on this particular blog seem to be egregious, and bereft of facts, that I will comment on the specifics of the postings there at a later date - although I certainly respect this author's perspective (we often seem to share things from the same angle).  But, either you live in Indian Territory or you do not.  I am tired of "Haudenosaunee" and other First Nations people from urban Canada bemoaning all of the colonialism, racism, residential schools and cookie cutter nonsense that I hear all the time which does not accord with the inconvenient facts.  People who have lost touch with their true roots often fall into some sort of selective stereotypical romantic longing for what never was - more later.

Thus some think that by using genocide and ethnic cleansing that they are going to enlist the sympathy of the public.  Only the very ignorant would listen to and believe words saying that there is a resemblance between Canada 2014 and these two emotive terms.  It will backfire because it was the Haudenosaunee participated in one of the world's most notorious and thoroughly documented textbook examples of true genocide and ethnic cleansing, to the point where whole groups of people no longer existed on the map of North America - murdered and dismembered to fulfil the goals of those ancestors (including my own) who lived in the mid 17th Century.

Be careful what you say, it may come back to bite you in the ..........



  1. Lost two comments so far today...

  2. So I've just finished reading The Orenda and I think there is little doubt that it is a masterful work of historical fiction and deserves all of the accolades it has been receiving; I have a sense of some sort of ironic justice at play here as I believe the novel actually corroborates much of what you have written in your Blog posts; in fact, the author's meticulous research is a reflection of your own evidence-based research and critical analysis; the novel undoubtedly has opened up dialogue and discussion which has been lacking and hopefully will lead to much more interest in your articles which deserve to be read by a much wider audience; as for the Orenda, whatever accuracies or inaccuracies which may exist can be addressed as part of any ongoing dialogue; but I believe the novel succeeds on a level which most reviewers have missed or ignored and that is on adeeper philosophical level when it forces the reader (often in a very subtle way) to respond to a number of questions about who we were and are as a species both in the past and in the present...because ultimately the story is not just about Huron vs. Haudenosaunee; religious proselytizing or white man's materialism and greed but what it means to be human, what is proper to man, what is our relationship and responsibility to creation and all life that exists within that earthly creation. As the author so eloquently states in his closing: "But this isn't just about sadness, or pity, or blame. We're all party to our own wants as well as to our own shortcomings."......"we couldn't see our own demise coming." And equally prophetic Aataentsic saysthat " now is what is important, Orenda can't be lost, just misplaced. The past and the future are present ." DeYo your words bring light to darkness and allow Orenda to shine in its rightful keep on blogging.....Ah-ho! Ah-ho!

    1. Hey Tony, Yes, once again totally agree with what you are saying here. I have studied world archaeology, and participated in many excavations, and what I find interesting is the commonalities, not differences, between people. A good starting point is the article here - and the Talheim masacre site - from the Neolithic period. There are similar finds from copper, bronze, iron ages and recent times all across Europe. Same here whether gruesome Olmec, Myan, Aztec sacrifices, or those taking place across all of North America on a less extensive scale (lower population density). In Africa today, Rawanda or Nigeria same deal. And on and on. We seem to be hard wired for this behaviour. At one time I studied the neurological circuits underpinning aggression, and must admit that we used to perform psychsurgery on aggressive criminal psychopaths hoping to amend their behaviour. Bottom line, it was well intentioned but did not work so as far as I know this procedure was abandoned everywhere by the 90s. The scary thing is that most of these guys did not seem a whole lot different from anyone else, except perhaps that they lacked a conscience (although could pull the wool over the eyes of many professionals). Europeans, Native Americans, not really different in this way - we "treated" quite a few fellows from the Rez communities way up north, and "city slickers" from southern Canada (quite a few from BC for some reason). Wish that a pill or religion or some other quick fix was available - but we are who we are - defect in serotonin transporter gene or appauling environmental circumstances (e.g., Charles Manson). The environment and biology (via a predisposition) can interact to produce the same result. Fear that we will be wrestling with the same issues in 2114 - if we make it that far. Giving the planet a break would help. On that somber note, best, DeYo.