It is not that I did not expect this to happen. It has been apparent for some time that Men's Fire (developed out of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council HCCC) have not been "getting along" with some of the more outspoken agencies which also claim the support of the HCCC. The Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) claims to speak for all of Six Nations, but draws its support from the HCCC (or, as it is now clear, parts of the Hereditary Council).
What would prompt this fracture line? It would be no surprise if it was money and power.
There are so many constantly shifting alliances at Six Nations, moving like a school of sardines, then breaking off into tight knit groups, sometimes merging back into the school, sometimes taking an independent route. Everything is fluid, in dynamic motion.
At some point recently, Men's Fire and the HDI came to view each other less as allies in the same cause, than competitors for the "conservative following" at Six Nations. So then the ultimate question is, who does the HCCC support? Since there are splits within the ranks here, who knows - today this, tomorrow that.
An article in the 20 August 2014 issue of "Two Row Times" online, seen here, is entitled, Meeting with "the people" must start somewhere. Here we learn of the thoughts and words of Bill Monture, one of the leaders of Men's Fire.
Bill Monture, a well-known local activist and traditionalist, built a meeting place on his Chiefswood Road property as a neutral space and has begun a process by which he hopes to find the future for Six Nations in the past.
Recently, he hosted a meeting at the converted barn, which was attended by a room full of unlikely participants, including Mark Clearwater and Randy Reed representing the provincial government, Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt, and about 30 rank-and-file Six Nations citizens to openly and frankly discuss matters of interest to Six Nations as a people and the future of co-existence of the traditional wisdom of the ancestors and the reality of the 21st century, and to do so without the presence of the media.
He and the group known to the Six Nations community as the “Men’s Fire” are trying to refocus the attention of all parties currently vying for the power to speak on behalf of the people of Six Nations, and at the same time, educate settler governments and corporations on how to rightly deal with Six Nations.
Basically, he is attempting to become THE focus of power at Six Nations, leaving the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC), and the Haudenosaunee Development Institute in the dustbin of history. While the first named is no surprise, the following very direct statements show how Men's Fire now view the HDI. Continuing from the above quote,
To that end, invitations went out to the Elected Band Council, the Confederacy Chiefs, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, Clan Mothers and members of the general public to attend the meeting with Hewitt and the Province.
The message was, if you are going to deal with Six Nations, you must deal with the people of Six Nations and not the Band Council system set up by the Indian Act, or the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, which Monture does not accept as being established by the people of Six Nations to represent them.
This is the clearest statement to date of a spit between Men's Fire and the HDI, who at one time were very cozy. More from the article,
He [Monture] believes that any consultation should be done with the people at large through the clans or through the Chiefs Council directly, and without the HDI. Furthermore, "We should not be going to the HDI or to Band Council and making deals on the side. That is not the process and it’s not our Great Law.” Ouch. This must be a major topic of discussion within HDI circles as they press their case as being the one true party with which government and corporations must negotiate with. This is a major fissured, and the damage it will cause is unclear at present.
In addition, Monture claims that both the Elected Band Council and the HDI are keeping the people in the dark over details surrounding deals being made with outside interests by both organizations regarding community owned lands and resources. To remedy this situation, he would like to see “the people” more involved in the decision-making, as was the case before the Elected Council was forced upon Six Nations almost 90 years ago.
In relation to the recent meeting, “We made it very clear at that last meeting a couple of weeks ago, who they need to talk to, and that is the Confederacy Council and not the HDI, not [Elected] Band Council, and not Ken Hewitt. Those Treaties were made with our Confederacy Chiefs. Not with Band Council or Ken Hewitt or any other municipality." In fact this statement is in error, the Chiefs of the Grand River never made any treaties with any level of government. There were agreements, there were surrenders, but treaties - absolutely not.
It should be noted that Monture is basically saying that Six Nations should return to days of old. A time when they were governed by a system that was established in the Stone Age for Stone Age people. The hereditary system may have served Six Nations well back in the day, but it also permitted the complete genocide of the Huron / Wendat, Attiwandaronk, Petun, Wenro, Erie and other peoples who were "in their way" in the sense of being able to control the fur trade without "competition". So, considering that the system was deemed dysfunctional when it was abolished with the assistance of the Six Nations Warrior's Association, and that anthropological studies since that date (the 1949 Noon study using Council Minutes from the time just before the change in 1924; the 1961 Shimony study) confirm that this form of governance was in serious trouble even with the most mundane and local issues - to suggest that all step backwards to an idealized time may be romantic, but it is irrational.
However Monture's next statement is borne out by the facts, and questions in front of the media as that posed by Elder Jan Longboat and reported on here earlier. Monture said,
“The people want to know what is happening,” he said. “Why isn’t that money they are getting from these deals filtering into the community? It is the people’s inherent rights they are using to sign these agreements, but there is nothing coming back into the people’s pockets. It’s all going to them.”
Monture touches on an issue that has been creating increasing levels of frustration and anger at Six Nations. When the Director was asked about where the money from land development and "green energy" corporate deals was, her reply was that anyone interested needs to go to their clan mother and their chief and make inquiries from that direction. Considering that perhaps one in four (that is being very very generous) people at Six Nations know their clan, let alone have any involvement with the chief that is supposedly representing them, this response did not sit well with a very large number of Six Nations members.
So another fault line appears to ensure that Six Nations will never be unified to the point where it will, as a community, be in a position to negotiate with anyone over anything without some other side stepping forward and saying that they were not included so the deal or whatever is not valid.