Here we go again. I have heard all this time and time again, both recently, and in exploring the historical records, the same grumblings yearly back to the beginning of the "relationship" between the parties. The spark for the present posting is an article written in "Turtle Island News", April 23, 2014, p.3 entitled, "Six Nations Band Council taking trip to New York to attend U.N". In the past, Six Nations have used the United Nations (and earlier the League of Nations) as a platform to sound off on all of the perceived abuses experienced by Native people at the hands of Canada, who prides itself as a country which treats its citizens with respect. Before reading the article I will predict here that the Six Nations delegation will try to convince the U.N. of the many perceived abuses Canada has perpetrated against its own Aboriginal peoples.
Background to Chronic Disagreements with Canada: I think it is fair to say that Six Nations are by in large respectful of the (British) Crown, with whom they have had a largely positive relationship and shared history running between the years 1664 and 1867.
However, as Canada came to assert its independence, the British Crown began to transfer responsibilities to the "colonies" even before Confederation in 1867. See here for a good overview of the subject. Specifically, In 1860, the Management of Indian Lands and Property Act (Indian Land Act) brought about another fundamental change in First Nations' relations with the Crown. This Act transferred authority for Indian affairs to the colonies, enabling the British Crown to dispense with the last of its responsibilities towards its former allies. However, colonial responsibility for the management of "Indians and Indian lands" very soon became a federal responsibility with the creation of the new Dominion of Canada under the 1867 British North America Act.
The next key development in the transfer of powers from the Crown to Canada was the "Indian Act". Here, In 1876, the government introduced another piece of legislation that would have deep and long-lasting impacts on First Nations across Canada. The Indian Act of 1876 was a consolidation of previous regulations pertaining to First Nations. The Act gave greater authority to the federal Department of Indian Affairs. The Department could now intervene in a wide variety of internal band issues and make sweeping policy decisions, such as determining who was an Indian.
The various changes in the Indian Act and other legislation or attempted legislation show the complexity of the matter. The "White Paper" of 1969 (attempting to repeal the discriminatory Indian Act), and Bill C-31 in 1985 to address inequities in relation to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are but two of the more important legislative initiatives. Readers can consult the above reference for further information as applies to today.
In referring specifically to Six Nations, they have obsessed over three issues, pointing the finger of blame at Canada over three particular perceived "abuses"- all of which I have blogged about before. These are:
1) Colonialism: This accusation that Six Nations continues to be treated like a group under the thumb of some imperialist colonial regime inconveniently flies in the face of reality. The mandate of Indian Affairs (and its successors) was / is to protect the interests of Native people who if, for example, were given land in fee simple, would likely in time of need sell the land and set the stage for complete assimilation. This has happened before (back into early Colonial times) and the government has consistently attempted to keep communities intact - but can expect accusations of "colonialism" as their reward for the protection the Canadian Government efforts. Colonialism in this context often refers to the perception of many at Six Nations that they are a sovereign people and should be given the rights of self - determination without government interference. While this has a nice ring to it, if anything of this nature were to happen, and the Government of Canada turned over the keys to all programmes and services, anyone from here knows exactly what would happen. The Elected and Hereditary Councils would be at each other's throats and nothing would be accomplished except a great deal of infighting and ultimately the irreparable tearing of the fabric of the community. Many, however, live in a dream world unwilling or unable to picture what life would be like without Canadian laws, and Canadian taxpayer dollars. Since no one living and working on the Reserve pays any taxes to Ontario, Canada, or even the Band Council to support the Reserve infrastructure, it should be evidence who is footing the bill for projects on Reserve - indeed, those Canadians living outside the Reserve boundaries who pay income taxes, and sales tax on virtually everything. Just produce the "status card" and magically there is no need to bother paying any tax for most purchases. Most Canadians would love to be free of paying taxes on gasoline - but they have no "status". It seems like being given the privilege of a tax free life is pretty sweet - but is really "colonialism" so should it be abolished and we should install a system where everyone is treated the same - remove "colonialism", and we all pay the same taxes. Seems eminently fair, and we wipe away all vestiges of colonialism (in this case special privileges).
2) 1924: More blame that can be cast is over the shift in 1924 from a Hereditary Council to an Elected Council. The myth is that this was imposed by Canada who used the strong arm of the RCMP to lock the doors to the Hereditary Council House. In fact the action was in response to repeated and determined efforts by "progressive" elements at Six Nations (particularly among the educated Christian Mohawk) to ensure quality in their representatives (e.g., having some minimal educational standard). As the Hereditary Council became more dysfunctional and uncooperative, the Federal Government gave in to the petitions and brought Six Nations in line with other Native communities (and the world) by instituting a body elected by the people. Success means adaptation and change. To remain static and accept something that is simply not working, is to remain mired in the past and left in the backwash as the whole world enters the information and technology age. Romanticism about the "old ways" is fine, but deliberately choosing to walk the path to backwardness and marginalization and poverty only makes sense in the minds of those who expect to "be taken care of" - not having to work for what they get.
1924 is always a hot button issue here, despite the facts, it is always the big bad ole government who wiped away centuries of tradition. Of course as all here know the Hereditary Council did not go anywhere and is still a viable and powerful force at Six Nations, doing it would seem everything in their power (e.g., by affiliated groups such as the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and Men's Fire) to ensure that their power is not only recognized, but in many cases surpasses that of the Elected Council. This division remains the most divisive and acrimonious example of factionalism at Six Nations to this day, and to this day these parallel governing bodies still cannot agree on anything of consequence. At least the Elected Council meets at regular posted intervals and they and their agencies have some modicum of transparency.
3) Residential Schools: The third card to be played in the "blame game" is the Residential Schools. However, whereas the horrors of this programme is very poignant in places such as Alberta, it is but another matter that has been "very controversial" at Six Nations. Some refuse to "play the game" so that restitution money can be obtained, and are admirably honest. As I have said before, elders who attended the Mohawk Institute have said, "at home we were beaten, went hungry, and learned nothing. At school we were beaten, had three meals a day, and learned something". In addition the Mohawk Institute is situated on the Six Nations Reserve and is within walking distance of the homes of many students. Also many of the teachers at Six Nations were trained at the Mohawk Institute. To use this as a battering ram against Canada, as an example of the abuses that they have supposedly experienced, is highly questionable.
Historical Attempts by Six Nations to Embarrass Canada on the World Stage: It is one thing to have a dispute about this or that local issue and, if the cause is just, to push locally to effect a local (Canadian) solution. However, history shows how a different approach (means to an end) has been deployed. Over the years Six Nations members have sent delegations to England to meet with members of the Privy Council and the Upper House, and even the reigning Monarch, to address concerns. The Four Indian Kings in 1710, Chief Joseph Brant Thayendanagea both before the American Revolution and after, Chief John Norton around the time of the War of 1812. Their goal was to obtain redress for grievances (such as The Corporation of the City of Albany and the Van Horne et al. Patent claiming the very lands upon which the two remaining Mohawk villages were situated in 1776). The chiefs were feted, wined and dined and had celebrity status in England. However the successor, the Federal Government of Canada through the Indian Department and subsequent incarnations, did not inherit this goodwill. There were legitimate complaints, such as questions about the Trust Fund monies, and the losses experienced by Six Nations due to bad investment decisions by trustees such as using primarily Six Nations money to prop up the Grand River Navigation Company. These issues have never been adequately addressed by Canada and have remained open sores as far as Six Nations is concerned. Complaints, some perfectly reasonable, and others highly questionable, continued to simmer.
In 1917, as Canada became embroiled in World War 1, Cayuga Chief Deskahe, Levi General, went to the League of Nations in Geneva Switzerland to present a list of grievances against Canada. Irrespective of the veracity (or not) of his words, he created a lot of embarrassment for Canada. The basis of his claim was the Two Row Wampum, whose link to proving Six Nations sovereignty was a given according to some Chiefs at Six Nations; and to many historians little more than a long standing belief without any supporting evidence. The actions of Deskahe may have factored into the reasons why the Canadian Government installed an new elected system at Six Nations in 1924. Deskahe's visit was considered by some to be a slap in the face of Canada, and very disrespectful, and at the very least controversial. See here for the a synopsis of the life of this important figure in Six Nations history.
These accusations stand in stark contrast to the reality, which includes the billions of dollars in transfer payments and welfare payments made by the Federal Government using Canadian taxpayers dollars. There is an old saying, "don't bite the hand that feeds you" but it is ignored at Six Nations. Even with the current controversy over Bill C-10 which would criminalize the transport and trafficking of contraband cigarettes, a huge industry at Six Nations, leaders have demanded that the Canadian Government provide more handouts to compensate for poor choices made by people on the Reserve a generation ago. So instead of self - reliance, we see more and more dependency - reliance on the Federal Government which is a huge cash cow for Six Nations. Six Nations is one of a number of Native groups whose behavior has been criticized by prominent and forward thinking and successful Indian leaders such as Clarence Louie, Chief of the British Columbia Osooyoos Band for the last 29 years; and Tsimshian lawyer Calvin Helin, "Dances with Dependency: Out of Poverty Through Self-Reliance", Woodland Hills, Ravencrest Publishing, 2008. Too much dependency, not enough self - reliance.
The fact is that the Six Nations are not even aboriginal to the Haldimand Tract (the Mississaugas are aboriginal here) but rather Upstate New York, USA. Also there is, unlike the groups under the "Robinson" category of treaties to the north and west, no treaty with the Six Nations. The latter pretend that they have "treaty rights" based on a fraudulent document. In fact the 1701 "Nanfan Treaty" is nothing more than a parchment detailing an expectation of an agreement about the right to hunt in lands they stole from the Huron and others in the 1640s and 50s through conquest (in this case genocide, eradicating entire tribes from the face of the planet). These were lands, in Southwestern Ontario, that the Five (later Six) Nations did not possess at the time of the agreement in 1701. The lands in fact were taken from them by the Mississauga 5 years earlier (1696) by conquest. Hence even if the Nanfan document is something more than a mere trade agreement, it is still bogus since it pertained to lands that the Five Nations did not own.
There have been numerous legislative changes and add ons over the years, with the Canadian Federal Government taking on a less paternalistic role and attempting to address the needs of the diverse Bands across the country. However it is typical to level accusations of paternalism and other trumped up charges. If it was ever determined that Canada was doing an outstanding job in addressing the needs of all First Nations peoples, the entire "Indian industry" (including the Chiefs of some Reserves padding their own bank accounts and those of family members with taxpayer dollars) would come crumbling down. However just about every possible negative epithet has been leveled at Canada, who consistently seems damned if they do and damned if they don't. It is ironic that Canada is being blamed for stalled land claims, the criminalization of contraband cigarettes, and so on yet is supposed to magically address the realities that cannot be fixed by anyone except those who are members of the Six Nations Community. Self - reliance is the key to moving forward into the 21st Century, but that holds perils and risks - so better to just play the blame game and dispense with any pretext of the need for personal responsibility.
Present (2014) Trip by Six Nations Contingent to the United Nations: Based on the information in TIN, the Elected Chief is planning to attend a U.N. meeting in May to address the, "continued imposition of legislation on aboriginal people"......... "without our free, prior and informed consent". The Chief and two advisors will also bring up the issue of land rights. It is the stated goal of Chief Hill to help, "to shame Canada because they like to portray that they're a champion of human rights". They apparently hope to learn about better ways to cope with "colonialization". Of course the listeners at the U.N. will not have the evidence with respect to "land rights" to hand. Those of us who have access to this documentation look forward to the day when these claims are addressed in front of a panel of experts who can examine all of the evidence and determine the truth. As someone who has examined all of the records in the matter, I agree with the statement of Justice Harrison Arrell of the Ontario Superior Court that if the matter is brought to Court, Six Nations have a "very weak case" - this based on the report submitted during the 2008-2009 Brantford Injunction case where the researchers provided a description of the specific land surrenders with references that any interested party can check. The Six Nations Lands and Resources Department has held copies of these records since the 1970s. Since the Six Nations land researcher is among those slated to be present at the U.N. in May, one wonders what he is thinking when he has had access to all these records for over 40 years.
So more shaming of Canada for alleged and unproven abuses. The reality though is that they will have the ear of those who want to believe what they are hearing, whatever the truth of the matter.
I am hoping that the money to "shame Canada" is not coming from the Canadian taxpayers, which would be the ultimate irony and the ultimate insult. This is money being spent on an unjust "cause" and if they want to perpetuate myths, then the money should come from their own pockets. Perhaps it does. Perhaps someone will ask this question at the U.N. meeting.
Fair and Equitable Resolution: In situations such as this it makes me think that the only way things are ever going to improve for all parties is to state, the tap dispensing flowing funds is being turned off. Without question the average Canadian taxpayer would like to wash their hands of the whole business, but also want to be fair. First though, the false land claims would need to be addressed in Court. If there are any proven irregularities in the Trust Fund or other issues, then it too should be explored as far as the remaining records will allow. However, if in the course of exploring all of the evidence it is proven that Six Nations have been over paid, and that there are debts with interest that has accrued, these funds will have to be returned to the taxpayers or liens placed on any and all assets. There needs to be a reimbursement for the immense expenses in the multi million dollar debacle that was Caledonia 2006. It is only fair, especially considering the fact, as expressed in the opinion of the Superior Court of Ontario, and the Federal Government researchers, that there is no basis for any land claim by Six Nations. In other words there is no data of any description that would justify the allocation of any parcels of land to Six Nations.
The one way street with Six Nations playing the role of victim, and Canada as the ogre, will have to be examined in the cold light of the evidence and things need to be made right before any and all can go on with their lives without the "Sword of Damocles" hanging over their heads. However, it is my opinion that this is not the route Six Nations wishes to travel. There are significant risks associated with exposing the evidence and the truth to the light of day. Perhaps this is why with all the bluster, many would prefer to continue with the status quo, and reap whatever benefits can be garnered by a creative interpretation of the facts (e.g., leaning on land developers, wind turbine and pipeline corporations for "compensation and accommodation" monies). Many will continue to hope that the public will remain naive enough to accept the Six Nations view, thanks to a tendency to identify with the underdog, the perceived victim - irrespective of the truth. It is disheartening, but not unexpected, to see the truth held in such low esteem - and subservient to an array of "causes".