Introductory Summary: One week ago, "all hell broke loose". I will provide a quick overview of the major events, in anticipation of more information being available tomorrow. Very different perspectives of what happened can be found in articles written in Two Row Times (TRT allegedly pro Men's Fire) and Turtle Island News (TIN allegedly pro Haudenosaunee Development Institute - HDI) of 27 April 2016.
The Problem: As I have blogged about on many occasions over the past few years, HDI has been accused by both the traditional (supporters of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council - HCCC) and elected council (supporters of the Six Nations Elected Council - SNEC) of a lack of transparency. They have engaged in less than open deals with wind turbine corporations, and land developers and requests to "see the books" have been rebuffed (although denied by HDI). Things have been simmering for some time, but boiled over last week. The specific spark was allegedly HDI's handling of the McClung / Avalon housing development east of Caledonia in Seneca Township, and the perceived outstanding land claim. I have many times blogged about the fact that all lands outside of I.R. 40, the Six Nations Reserve, were surrendered in 1841 and ratified after almost 10 years of discussion via Lord Elgin's Report of 1850. Six Nations does not own any land in Seneca Township according to the records (which I have included in previous blog postings), it was all surrendered and unless we accept that previous agreements are null and void for some valid reason, Six Nations has no legitimate claim at McClung. As noted previous, the author here has gone on record that he is also opposed to the development, but for different reasons (environmental and quality of life). None the less, this is the stance of Men's Fire - that they are the legitimate group to negotiate with the developer, and that HDI has failed in any efforts at obtaining negotiation and accommodation at McClung.
Factionalism - Men's Fire Versus HDI - Was the Lawyer for the Latter Assaulted?: Both the HDI and Men's Fire are affiliated with the hereditary council (HCCC). Acting, they said, under authority of the Cayuga Clan Mothers, about 8 to 15 members of Men's Fire entered the offices of the HDI in the GREAT building in Ohsweken and asked A.D., the lawyer for HDI, to remove himself from the Territory - to get off the Reserve. When he failed to comply, and as cameras rolled, the lawyer stood his ground despite the confrontation turning adversarial and physical, with a report that A.D. suffered a dislocated knee. Meanwhile someone called the publisher of TIN who upon arriving called Six Nations Police. In further questioning, the head of Men's Fire was asked upon what authority was his group taking these actions. He apparently referred TIN and others to a specific Cayuga Clan Mother (who, it was reported) denies the assertions. Meanwhile one of the employees working at GREAT (Grand River Employment and Training) entered the dialog and said she was a Cayuga Clan Mother and knew nothing of this. Men's Fire had stated that they with "monitor" the situation and ensure that A.D. does not return to his office.
Authority of the Clan Mothers: Since the Clan Mothers appoint the hereditary chiefs, they have the power to "dehorn" them (turf them out of power). Hence the Clan Mothers have a key role to play at Six Nations. Stopping for a moment, one could ask if one Clan Mother could be unaware of decisions made by another, especially when both are Cayuga. The answer is that in the ideal, the answer is no. In reality there are 4 largely independent Longhouses and any picture of 50 Chiefs and 50 Clan Mothers being in one place at one time is simply an illusion. Many chiefships remain unfilled, or have been filled by members of an inappropriate clan. However HDI principals have asserted that anyone who wants further information, for example to see the books, needs to contact their Clan Mother. The problem, the majority at Six Nations have no idea of the clan to which they belong (via their mother's direct maternal line). The majority are not affiliated with the hereditary faction and resent having to go through some entity such as HDI, or find a Clan Mother to which to hitch their train, in order to find information on how Community funds are being spent. The factional cross currents at Six Nations are infinitely complex, as is well documented in this blog.
The Result of the Confrontation: The lawyer did not leave Six Nations and instead went with the Six Nations Police to press assault charges against the members of Men's Fire present during the altercation. Members of the elected and the hereditary factions agree that it would be setting a dangerous precedence to allow anyone or any group to arbitrarily decide who should go and who should stay on Six Nations Territory. Men's Fire has been accused of vigilantism and for being little more than a gang of thugs. The assumption here is that the lawyer is a Six Nations member. Herein lies a problem that needs to be addressed, but to date has left many scratching their heads.
Is the HDI Lawyer a Six Nations Member or Even Aboriginal?: It is known that the HDI lawyer is from Toronto, and has worked on other Reserves where there are unproven allegations that he has been "double dipping" or engaging in shady deals in his role in other Reserves, as well as questionable billing practices at Six Nations. This does play into the concerns about lack of transparency - not opening the books such that no one knows (although HDI would argue otherwise) where the money from the wind turbine or land deals goes. Whether it is being invested in the Community, or is lining the pockets of the principals at HDI is a question that has been asked and for which there is to date no apparent clear answer. It would be one thing if the lawyer was a Six Nations member (although not impacting the question of transparency) since the thought that 8 men with questionable authority would be allowed to drag a member off the Reserve is going to upset a lot of people no matter who they tend to support. However, what is his aboriginal status?
Some time back, in a public forum, I asked the lawyer his Clan - he said he did not know. I recall him being asked if he was a Mohawk. He did not answer, but another member of his entourage said, "it doesn't matter, he is of a good mind". One member of the elected council has assumed that the lawyer is a Six Nations member, and hence her anger towards Men's Fire. But what is his status at Six Nations? Some say he is a Six Nations member, others say he is a Mohawk from Tyendinaga, and others that he has no Native ancestry. At the moment this is up in the air. This needs to be cleared up so that future actions will make more sense. If he is some White guy then banning him from the Territory is a viable option. If a Six Nations member then as far as I know, he has every right to be on the Reserve and to remain working where he is until such time as a legitimate power (e.g., all Clan Mothers; consensus of elected council; Ontario Bar Association) decide that he has crossed a line and can be removed from his position (but not the Reserve). I have previously noted that if anyone has a legitimate (non trivial) complaint against a lawyer in Ontario (last I checked, Six Nations is within the boundaries of the Province of Ontario), they need to lodge a formal complaint with the Ontario Bar Association which regulates the activities of lawyers in Ontario. The first questions to answer are whether the lawyer is aboriginal or White, simultaneous with an inquiry into whether he has committed any infractions relating to the standards and practices of lawyers in Ontario.
The Two Reserve Newspapers in Conflict: Meanwhile TIN accused Men's Fire of being in collusion with TRT, and who they believe helped "orchestrate the ouster" of the HDI lawyer. TRT counter that they were on site to film when the lawyer was supposed to be evicted thanks to a "tip". TRT in turn accused TIN of being in the pocket of the HCCC and HDI (the truth of which is pretty evident to any reader of this paper - they are the publishing arm of the hereditary faction). The latter does not even consider TRT to be a "Reserve newspaper". While that accusation may have been to a degree true in previous years when White activists were involved with TRT, that is no longer the case - and the fact that the printing takes place in Brant County hardly disqualifies TRT from being one of two Rez papers. So there is no love lost between these two publishing entities who will tend to align themselves with one party / faction or the other, although in my opinion one of the two is far more objective and hence trustworthy.
The Opinions of the Elected and Hereditary Factions: So, where does the hereditary council stand on this issue. We are not sure yet. Where does the elected council stand on this issue. We are not sure yet.
Tomorrow I will check the two newspapers for the most recent events in this developing story.
Update: There is actually not much to report that is new as reported in the 4 May 2016 editions of both papers, except that it is clear huge fault lines have once again developed within the community. Some are siding with Men's Fire, and others angry in particular about the violence used against A. D. Apparently on Monday the latter plans to return to work, and those who work in the same building are on edge because Men's Fire plan to be there in force (with possibly members of other Reserves) to ensure that the lawyer does not return to his post. We shall see what transpires - hopefully cooler heads will prevail.
I have spoken about this problem many times before. This factionalism, tearing at the fabric of the Community, has been characteristic of the Reserve throughout its history since 1785, and even extending back to the homeland in what is today Upstate New York. At Six Nations the aggrieved parties would typically contact the Colonial Administration requesting intervention. For example in 1815 tensions over differences re the participation in the War of 1812 were reaching a boiling point, and 8 chiefs of the Upper Mohawks complained about a dispute with the chiefs of the Lower Mohawks, that reached back to the time when they were living in two villages in the Mohawk Valley, and it was leading to assaults. They perceived that they, “are treated like outcasts” (Indian Affairs, RG10
Series, Vol. 118, p. 169562, no date but before 27 November 1818 – Vol. 790, p. 7048). The Indian Department did what they could to get the sides talking, but none the less two years later many Mohawks and others left for the west country where diaspora mixed Haudenosaunee communities existed in southwestern Ontario, and Ohio. It is all so hauntingly familiar - and to blame for example colonialism flies in the face of historical fact. In Upstate New York in the 1760s and 1770s if communities had internal or external conflict they turned to Sir William Johnson to settle the matter. It was the Colonial Authorities who were the peacemakers - a fact that those who have not read the original documents will not realize! The old ways were in disarray after the terrible epidemics of the 1600s took away those who were the keepers of knowledge. Most communities never fully recovered, and we are feeling the effects rippling down to present day, but with blame being directed towards the most convenient target. I have always said, "look in the mirror first before shifting blame elsewhere" - not a popular stance.