Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief's Council (HCCC) Expands the Rules for Membership Eligibility

There has been some limited discussion on Bill C - 10, "Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act", which the Federal Government has enacted (it has reached "Royal Assent" and can be put in place at any time) to regulate tobacco distribution and sales (e.g., unstamped, untaxed cigarettes being transported and sold, which are considered contraband).  Many at Six Nations believe that they have an inherent right or entitlement to make their own rules relating to tobacco or tobacco products.  A great deal of the economy of Six Nations has over the years been directed toward the large - scale manufacturing of cigarettes, down to the "mom and pop" shacks or trailers along any road on the Reserve, and some outside the boundaries, which sell tobacco products in varying degrees of processing to anyone with the cash.

Since Bill C - 10 is pretty much a "done deal", various factions at Six Nations are scrambling around trying to find ways to keep Six Nations members from being charged with for example trafficking in contraband tobacco - for which there are stiff fines for first and particularly second offences.

The "solution" arrived at by the various tentacles of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief's Council (HCCC) is to enact their own law, based on the premise of the "inherent right to self - determination", meaning that the perception is that they are exempt from the law (so much of what goes on among the conservative community at Six Nations swirls with beliefs that are at odds with Canadian law, previous agreements or even common sense).  Knowing that there will be test cases (some distributors or retailers without a Federal licence will be arrested to test the viability of concepts of self - determination in Court), the HCCC branches are trying to forestall the inevitable and perhaps show the Federal Government that they are able to regulate the industry within their own territory.

The debate continues.

What is new is the present effort to draft a law that would be a "Haudenosaunee Tobacco Law".  The details have yet to be revealed, but apparently the members of the "Trade Delegation" are actively seeking Community input before submitting the draft tobacco law.

What caught the eye of the present author was the linking of this law with ancestry - not ancestry as defined by the Membership Office, the Band Council, and the Federal Government - but simply "Haudenosaunee ancestry" as envisioned by the wider community and in particular, those who are drafting the "law" which will be proposed to the Six Nations community.

An article entitled, Draft tobacco law clarifies Haudenosaunee ancestry, appeared in "Turtle Island News", April 8, 2015, pp. 2, 4.  The very first paragraph in the article reads, Any person who can trace his or her lineage back to Six Nations of the Grand River will be protected under the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council' (HCCC) new tobacco law (p.2).  This statement was provided by at the Six Nations Polytechnic by K.T., the Haudenosaunee lawyer.  Hence, the perspective is seen in legal terms.

The above appears to suggest that in contrast to the rigid and highly restrictive definition used by the Membership Office of the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC), the HCCC will be opening up the definition to include ALL who have heritage that can be traced to ancestors who were "Six Nations of the Grand River" at any point in time.  This is a surprising and dramatic development, so it is necessary to seek cross confirmation of what exactly is meant by the above statement.  On page 4 the last paragraph in the article, lawyer K.T., said any Haudenosaunee person will be eligible as long as they can trace their ancestry back to Six Nations of the Grand River.  "We don't want to exclude anyone", she said.  "It's not our intent that we get to decide who is Haudenosaunee and who is not."

The definition seems unequivocal, although the quality of the documentation or other evidence pertaining to proof of descent from those who were members of the Six Nations of the Grand River, is not defined or even considered.  This opens a huge door very wide, and if they are serious about this "broadening" of the definition of who is Haudenosaunee, then surely they realize that there are many thousands more such descendants living off the present day Reserve who would qualify, than all of the present day on Rez and off Rez members together (around 23,000). 

Should this matter proceed any further, the present author is in a position to produce published and non - published original source evidence that would permit the application of untold thousands of "regular Canadian citizens" to claim, with valid evidence, that they "belong".  What has not been answered is how the Canadian regulatory agencies will be in any position to assess whether a person about to be charged under Bill C - 10 has the requisite documentation to fall under the proposed "Haudenosaunee Tobacco Law" - or any other law or situation where knowing the names and identities of all the players will be critical to enforcing the law. 

All of the above begs the question as to whether the HCCC are willing to take all descendants of Six Nations people who have come to the Grand River since 1785 under their wing, and grant them some sort of formal status.  Will there be a membership card based on the authority of the HCCC?  To what does this entitle people other than the proposed exemption under the Haudenosaunee Tobacco Act?

Have the HCCC opened up a can or worms?  Time will tell.

BTW, to the HCCC or the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), when can I expect my Haudenosaunee membership card - I have all the evidence you will need, just let me know how I go about obtaining my card, you know, in case I get stopped by the cops?  Soon Confederacy flags will be flying from houses and yards all up and down the Grand River from the mouth to the source.  Rather a smart move on your part - this inclusivity - more supporters - lots of positives.


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