Monday, March 20, 2006

Support Mohawk Sovereignty!

I am forwarding the below call to support the Mohawk Nation. The authors ask that people forward it by email or post it to their websites.

March 2006
The Coalition in Support of Indigenous Sovereignty - Native Caucus is asking that you take some time to phone, email or fax the authorities below to register your objection to a potential incursion onto Mohawk Territories this spring and at any other time.

This request comes as a result of warnings by community leaders in Akwesasne, Kahnawake, Kanehsatake and Tyendinega who are preparing for a joint Canadian Forces/RCMP raid on April 1, the latest in a series of actions designed to destroy the Mohawk tobacco trade. Our position on this issue is as follows:


In 1876 the Indian Act imposed the band council system of government on the indigenous people of Turtle Island (North America). Among other things, this law:

  • Deposed already existing leadership to establish band councils and the areas over which they had jurisdiction. The Indian Act was passed without consultation with any indigenous leader, usurped the treaty process (nation to nation agreements) and made First Nations governments null and void, despite the fact that these governments had served our ancestors for millennia before Europeans arrived on Turtle Island. This is akin to the US government passing a law that disbanded the current Canadian government, determined what type of government Canada must have and designated the limitations of its power.

  • Made First Nations Communities economically dependent on Ottawa. The federal government controls the only sources of revenue for social programs, economic development projects or job creation in FN communities. Ottawa determines through a variety of legal and financing mechanisms what band councils can and cannot do for their communities. Even the process of pursuing a land claim is legislated by Ottawa, funded (or not) by Ottawa and decided ultimately in Canadian courts. Land usage on FN territories is determined by Ottawa. There are many examples in history when the federal government leased or sold First Nations lands or resources and consequently reaped huge profits that did not accrue to the community. Clearly, the poverty that exists in First Nations communities is, and always has been, by Ottawa's design.

  • Blatantly discriminated against women by recognizing Native descent through the male line so that First Nations citizenship rights for women were recognized only through their father's lineage and husband's status, and by prohibiting them from voting or running for office in band elections. This was a complete contradiction to traditional First Nations practices, in which descent for many communities was reckoned along the female line, and where women had significant authorities in political, economic and social life. While there were many nations and many practices, it is safe to generalize and say that women held positions of leadership directly and/or appointed male leaders and held them accountable. This was completely overturned by the Indian Act.Although women now have the right to vote and run for band office, almost a century of being excluded from political, economic and social decision-making has left First Nations women on and off reserve in very vulnerable situations. Women are among the poorest in First Nations communities. They have been targeted through various amendments to the Indian Act and thousands were stripped of their status along with their homes, benefits and any treaty rights they may have had. The hundreds of women who are missing from our communities, dead and murdered, is a direct result of a deliberate and calculated attack on the rights and authorities of First Nations women by the Canadian government.

  • Determined who could call themselves an "Indian" and live in First Nations communities. The Indian Act established an Indian registry and with subsequent amendments there has emerged a complex set of legal categories (status & non-status Indians, Treaty Indians, Bill C-31 Indians, etc.) designed to divide and disempower First Nations families and communities. Non-status Indians are those who are not recognized by Ottawa as First Nations. They cannot live in their communities, do not enjoy benefits or treaty rights and are not permitted to participate in band council elections. Again, this is akin to the US determining who could be a Canadian and who could not, as well as who could live here and vote in Canadian elections.

Initially through the use of Indian agents with sweeping powers and more recently through purse strings, Ottawa has controlled band councils, band chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations. Whether this current control is perceived of as friendly or hostile is irrelevant and sidesteps the basic assumption that First Nations people are children who cannot manage their own affairs. To recognize that some band councils, their chiefs and police are sincerely interested in serving their communities while others are corrupt may be true but fails to recognize that the band council system is itself inherently corrupt, paternalistic and racist.

The Indian Act was and is an instrument of genocide. Likewise, the system of reserves, band councils and taxes are all tools of genocide. At best, the levying of taxes by Canada or the provinces on commercial activities within and among First Nations communities is an infringement of sovereignty as well as a violation of the treaties that exist, not to mention the inherent rights of First Nations people.

This is particularly objectionable when the levying of taxes applies to transactions involving tobacco. It was First Nations people who developed, cultivated and cared for tobacco plants. Our ancestors were the first to understand and benefit from the use of tobacco in ceremony (even in times when our ceremonies were illegal). Canada now assumes it has a right to control the tobacco trade, which is consistent with its assumption that it has a right to control the lives of First Nations people. Now that tobacco is being used to generate income and sustain First Nations-owned businesses (an anti-genocidal activity), Ottawa wants to step in and crush the initiative.

We reject the portrayal of Mohawk communities as divided between the minions of organized crime and law-abiding citizens. Mainstream media and Canadian authorities would have us believe that thugs are defying legally elected First Nations governments and Canadian laws. Such an analysis does not acknowledge the impact of a band council system, imposed, funded and controlled by Ottawa. It does nothing to educate us on the long history of genocide that remains official policy in this country. It does not examine Ottawa's historic role in sabotaging activities that contribute to the economic independence of First Nations people. On these grounds we are asking that you and your organization fax or email the officials below and voice your concerns regarding a potential violation of Mohawk sovereignty, which would follow a systemic pattern of violations over the years. Below is a sample letter that you can edit, cut and paste into your own email if you choose.

Nia:wen / meegwich / thank you for your support.

For more information contact: or

Scroll down for the sample letter. To voice your concerns send an email, phone or fax:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900

Jim Prentice,
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians
Parliament Hill: House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone: (613) 992-4275
Fax: (613) 947-9475


To: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians

I am writing to register my concern regarding ongoing violations of Mohawk sovereignty and continued actions that threaten the health and safety of the residents of Akwesasne, Kahnawake, Kanehsatake and Tyendinega.

I strongly urge you to put a stop to government-sponsored activities that portray these communities as being bastions of "organized crime" engaged in an illegal tobacco trade. Furthermore, I suggest your government cease operating under the assumption that Band Councils and the Assembly of First Nations, which are funded and controlled by the federal government, are the only legitimate representatives of First Nations communities.

Many studies, some commissioned by the federal government (such as the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People), have determined that the issues confronting First Nations communities include sub-standard health care, inadequate and sub-standard housing, inadequate employment opportunities, poverty, violence, racism, etc. These studies clearly attribute this set of deplorable conditions to the actions and inactions of consecutive Canadian governments.

Raiding Mohawk communities and seizing tobacco products does nothing to address the day-to-day issues confronting First Nations people. In fact, such activities actually contribute to worsening the oppressive conditions under which First Nations people live by depriving families of their livelihood as well as assaulting their dignity and violating their inherent rights. Military and police incursions onto First Nations territories are not a solution to the long standing issues confronting these communities. Moreover such actions shame non-First Nations people, many of whom reject complicity in a centuries-old genocide project.

Your government has the option of creating a disaster that would rival the Oka Crisis, Gustafson Lake and the murder of Dudley George put together. Or you can decide to deal with First Nations communities in a way that is proactive, peaceful and respectful, for the first time in Canadian history. I strongly urge you opt for the latter of the two choices.


Categories: , , , ,

1 comment: