One does not have to search far in this blog for discussions of the extreme factionism at Six Nations. A swirling kaleidoscope of groups emerge when any issue involving land (e.g., the "return" of the former Burtch Correctional Center) or money (e.g., who gets what in deals with wind turbine "green energy" corporations) comes into view.
Six Nations is riddled with factions, each vying for power - it has ever been thus. The only group empowered by law to deal with the Government of Canada is the Six Nations Elected Council. However this "inconvenient truth" does not in any way diminish the belief of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) from asserting their right to govern at Six Nations. They are the hereditary conservative group who claim a historical right to rule being in theory direct descendants of the system of governance established in the Great Law by the Peacemaker in the days before contact with Europeans. In 1924 this group had become so dysfunctional that educated Mohawks petitioned the Government to establish an elected system. Even after the doors to the Hereditary Council House were locked, the group continued to function as a parallel system, and continue to this day to maintain that they are the only legitimate authority at Six Nations. There has been no compromise between the two groups, only an entrenched digging in of the heels of their respective positions. Add to this other bodies who claim that for example, only the Mohawks have the right to negotiate land claims under the Haldimand Proclamation. The truth of the matter is that just about everyone at Six Nations is part Mohawk and part descendants of a number of the other Six Nations or Delaware groups. Being assigned to a band such as Lower Mohawk or Upper Cayuga or Tuscarora etc. is set by the Indian Act of 1876 which follows the father's (paternal) line. The Hereditary Council (in theory) follow the maternal (clan) line (although relatively few at Six Nations have any awareness of the clan to which they belong, and if they have a White maternal ancestor, as many do, this complicates things immensely).
So, just off the top of my head, in addition to the above two groups there is the Men's Fire, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, the Mohawk Workers, the Mohawks of the Grand River (formerly Kanata Mohawks). So many claim to be in charge of this or that and there are those who oppose them, so inevitably inertia keeps things static (nothing gets done).
Now there is a new factionalism problem, internal disputes from within the HCCC, which are ripping and shredding the oldest governing body at Six Nations. There are two newspapers at Six Nations, one who favours the HCCC, and one which is more neutral and hence likely to report on a factual non - biased basis. In the 8 July 2015 issue of "Two Row Times", page 8-9, is an:
A) Article: Mohawk Chief Allan McNaughton abruptly closes second Confederacy meeting in a row. The author was aware of mounting tensions within HCCC, but a lot of it has been kept under wraps until now, or just dribbled out - there did not seem to be a meltdown over the horizon - but that is precisely what has occurred.
The series of problems came to a head when Chief McNaughton "stormed out of the longhouse". Some of the emerging issues, concerns and problems as of July 20015, as I see them expressed in this article, are as follows:
1) The failure to observe protocol and its consequences. As anyone who has read the "Great Law" (Kayenkeragowa) would know, there are tribes, clans and moieties. It is imperative that the council come to a consensus, and this is done by following a well established system of rules. Proposals are discussed by one side (say the Elder Brother side) and passed across the fire to the other (Younger Brother) side for discussion. If those matters brought before Council have not been resolved satisfactorily, then they must be, as the author of the article says, "placed under the pillow" and held over for the next meeting. However the current Chief, in acting out of human frustration, effectively closed the meeting and nothing further can be discussed until the next meeting. With the head Chief (Tekaihogea, Turtle Clan, Mohawk) just walks away from a meeting, leaving everyone "bewildered", and the female clan members sent to bring him back were unsuccessful in even finding him - well this breach in protocol might at worse signal a death knell for the system, even if one understands the frustration that had built up. Apparently this is the "second time in a row" that this behaviour has occurred. If there is a groundswell of opinion that the Chief has not behaved acceptably there are procedures to remove him and replace him (the process is known as "dehorning"), but that is a very serious business - and for the head chief, that would signal serious internal strife.
2) There is a serious downside to protocol as it now exists. It should be noted that meetings are not as regular as they would be with other systems such as the elected system where as long as a quorum is reached (say 60% of Councillors present), the meeting can go on. However here, as noted in this article, the death of someone in the family of a Chief can result in a series of steps, required as per protocol, but which could delay any work getting done indefinitely. In a case such as this where some sort of reasonable timetable would be needed in order to work effectively with the Federal Government, the Hereditary Council falters badly. This is 2015, and we are in the social media electronic era, yet protocol requires the Chiefs to react as if it was 1415. When protocol is coming apart at the seams, you get fissons from within, which is precisely what we are seeing at the Longhouse.
3) The proposed Tobacco Law is highly controversial at Six Nations. The Hereditary Council (and Six Nations in general) refuse to accept Canadian Bill C-10 which would criminalize the contraband tobacco industry and severely penalize the individuals involved with it. The problem is that this industry is a mainstay of employment at Six Nations. Thus, a group led by the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) has proposed that Six Nations regulate the industry on their own, and enforce instances where the law is broken by a Haudenosaunee person (defined as anyone who has an ancestor who was a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River). The HDI emerged after the 2006 illegal take over of the Douglas Creek Estates near Caledonia, with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and all levels of government leaving the residents of Caledonia and surrounds to their own devices. They soon realized that their brand of militancy (use of fear and intimidation with thugs and enforcers showing up at say a new housing development site in Hagersville, or the repair of the bridge in Cayuga and forcing a shut down of all work) tended to have the desired effect, and with impunity. So through the use of extortion tactics, this group has been able to get developers and various levels of government to see the wisdom of "consultation and accommodation". The fact that this group has zero authority to do what they are doing, does not seem to phase many people - except the residents of Brant and Haldimand Counties. The exception is with Judges such as Harrison Arrell of Brantford who dropped the hammer on HDI individual members and issued severe fines. Few officials at any level of government have had the determination to do what Justice Arrell did in 2010. It appears that the government, and the OPP, fear the HDI (and so will not for example enforce the legitimacy of the Ontario Land Registry System) - which is precisely the desired response.
The problem for some members of the HCCC, even though the proposed law is being orchestrated by their own authorized (more on this later) body the HDI, they see serious flaws which would mean that instead of the Canadian Government making the rules and enforcing them, some sort of cloned system would be put in place by the HDI who would make the law, enforce the law, establish licencing fees, and perhaps profit from the fines issued when a law is broken. Most controversial of all is the "banishment clause" with the power to "expel anyone from Six Nations of the Grand River territory not complying with the tobacco law".
According to the "Great Law" a Chief or Clan Mother does not have the authority to invoke any such punishments on members of other Clans. The view is that the new law would be nothing more than a "Canadian style" system, and would circumvent the traditional powers of Chiefs and Clan Mothers.
Protocol dictates that if a matter (such as the proposed Tobacco Law) is presented three times and there is no consensus, the matter is "abandoned". Two meetings have come and gone, so there is in theory one more try then the whole business is dumped and what happens after that is anyone's guess.
4) The former Burtch Correctional property is creating considerable dissention. The previous Council had been prematurely closed. Thus the important business of how to approach the transfer of the former Burtch Correctional property back to Six Nations, which was not addressed then, was also shelved for another day - yet a solution is needed now. This too may succumb to the "three meeting rule". There is the Ontario Government putting the lands into a trust (since the Band Council is being challenged by HCCC and by law only the Elected Band Council can deal directly with Government in such matters); and the dispute over who gets to farm the land. A great deal of acrimony has been created over this matter, and now HCCC is unable to offer a clear response. Although not required to do so, the Ontario Government has sent a letter to the HCCC seeking their input on the matter, and requested a reply by 16 June - which came and went without the matter being acted upon - and now it is closing in on 16 July and still silence.
5) The proposal to dismantle the HDI is gaining momentum. In June some of the younger Chiefs had expressed their very serious concerns about the HDI, and they "called for all work involving the Haudenosaunee Development Institute be halted", and the staff, including the legal representative, be dismissed. Apparently "secret documents" about the HDI agreement clauses with Samsung were shown to these Chiefs. This matter concerns the wind turbines and solar panel farms on lands not owned by Six Nations, but in order to avoid "trouble" Samsung and other "green energy" corporations have thought it prudent to just pay up so that work delays will not be inevitable. The "deal" would mean perhaps $200 to each band member over 20 years, but if the deal was with the Haudenosaunee, and the definition was anyone with a Haudenosaunee ancestor this would include Wahta in Muskoka, Oneida of the Thames, or even people across Ontario or beyond who have Six Nations ancestry. So then the pie would have to be sliced infinitely smaller depending on who would be in this net, and the money would be meaningless except to the administrative staff (presumably HDI) who would obtain funds for their efforts. So some Chiefs and Clan mothers were questioning the HDI in broader terms since the latter has been involved in a lot of money generating activities of late (e.g., kickbacks from developers and corporations) - so, "where is the money"? Where are the books so that Six Nations citizens can see where the expenditures are going and who is being paid what. In what little has been given to the band members, they have seen expenses such as the HDI spending $280,000 in "travel costs". On the surface this seems astronomical, and some members are demanding that the books be opened for full inspection. Some have called the expenses. "outrageous in light of the poverty many of the Chiefs and Clanmothers endure on a daily basis".
In summary, there are a lot of very unhappy individuals at Six Nations who want answers from the HDI. These are not just HCCC supporters, but also those affiliated with the Elected Council, and citizens across the Territory. A simple question, "what is happening to the money"? Last month the HDI responded assertively (some would say aggressively) to those who were questioning them. It seems that while this worked for a short while, the heat is being turned up across a wider spectrum and questions of this nature are not going away - they require the HDI to open its books at the very least to all members of the Elected and the Hereditary Councils. With true transparency, the books would be open to all.
Also, and most disturbing, is whether the Hereditary - Confederacy system itself can show sufficient flexibility to address problems such as what to do with the Burtch property, and how to respond to the "Haudenosaunee made" Tobacco Law - or will it shatter into many small pieces and disappear as an effective entity, a tangible link to the past. Is it simply not possible to deploy a system designed in circa 1415 to successfully address complex issues in the modern world. All successful governing systems from the Middle Ages have been forced to change or simply disappear into history books. Can the Hereditary system remain a living breathing entity capable of carrying on the business of matters rooted in 2015, or at the very least a useful ceremonial role. Six hundred years or so, the endurance has been astounding, but in the end it is "change or dissolve" - so we will see what happens over they next few months. The HCCC (and HDI) appears to have reached a critical juncture.
B) Letter to the Editor: Reflecting the tenor of the above article, a respected Turtle Clan female elder sent a letter entitled, Mohawk Turtle Woman Speaks (p.7). She wrote that, We can no longer pretend that the current longhouse governance has the best interest of the community at heart. Therefore we have no alternative, but with great sadness and remorse, have made a decision that the present governance cease all action and begin to repair the present system of the Six Nations Confederacy.
It appears that the Confederacy Council has made inappropriate decisions regarding the Haldimand Tract, without consultation and accommodation with the Six nations community.
We now request that HDI will now cease and desist and make a truth and reconciliation statement to the community ....................... May the Spirits be with us as we clean and repair our house.
That is a very strong indictment of the Hereditary Council and particularly the HDI and is another of the mounting demands that the HDI stop all operations and provide the community with what it has requested, honesty and transparency, which can be accomplished by "opening the books". As voices mount, how long will it be that the HCCC will wish to retain its present affiliation with an "agency" that is perceived has having gone rogue?
I would certainly NOT like to see the demise of the HCCC, but people within and without are clamoring for change. The ball is in the HCCC's court.