Evictions at Kahnawake

An open letter from the Native Women’s Association of Quebec challenges the band council’s evictions that have been widely reported in the corporate media. As usual the posting of this does not imply endorsement of its positions or analysis. In particular, as a someone who is not a resident of the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk community, I do not know enough about the ongoing situation to be able to judge.

Kahnawà:ke, QC
February 8, 2010

Re: Evictions of Non-Native residents

Open Letter

QNW is troubled with the decision taken by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) to evict non-Native residents from the community of Kahnawà:ke, a decision which ruptures the family unit and the community as a whole. It is imperative that clarification be made regarding Mohawk customs as a huge misconception has been conveyed by the MCK that misrepresents all Mohawk people to the public.

Indeed, traditional Mohawk customs dictates that a man who marries a Mohawk woman can and should reside in the woman’s community. According to Mohawk customs, women are the titleholders of the land, a tradition that was undermined by the Indian Act which was originally created to define who was an “Indian” and to keep “white men” from living on “land reserved for Indians”. In fact, adoption of non-Mohawks in Mohawk communities was and still is a common practice and includes ceremonies to welcome new residents, reinforced by an adoption belt thereby securing the individuals rights to live on the territory. But adoption also comes with responsibilities which include learning the language, honouring and upholding the laws and traditions of the Mohawk people and obligations to the adopted clans.

However, since the creation of the Indian Act every effort has been made to oppress the customs and rights of all Indigenous peoples. Even now, all membership codes must still be approved by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. The 4 types of membership codes identified by Stewart Clatworthy and Anthony H. Smith in 1992 are in one way or another based on blood quantum either explicitly or by being tied to Indian Act status rules and do not follow any Indigenous peoples laws or customs. Consequently, it is important to clarify that the eviction notices do not follow Mohawk customs or tradition.

On the contrary, the letters of eviction are a sad reflection of the degree of colonization that is embedded in the mind set amongst some Indigenous peoples. It is a mindset influenced by the Residential School system and the assimilation policies of the Canadian government and whose doctrine is now being carried out by our own people. For any band council to continue following the policies of the Indian Act seats them beside the oppressor and denies its own community members the right to determine their own destiny.

In many First Nations communities across Canada, the presence of non-Native people has not eroded Indigenous customs or traditions. The real perpetrator and threat to Indigenous identity is the racist, sexist and inhuman policies carried out by the Canadian government through the Indian Act. If we fail to recognize this fact and if we fail to support those whose liberty is violated, we all stand to lose all our rights and freedoms.

We therefore hope that a fair and just solution can be reached amongst the Mohawk people in Kahnawà:ke so that all its residents may live in peace and in security

Skén:nen – In Peace

Ellen Gabriel

Posted on February 15, 2010, in Indigenous Struggles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Mohawk Artist

    First of all. The people being asked to leave never asked to be part of the community. They didn’t go to the longhouse to ask to be adopted. They didn’t go to the Council to ask if they could be residents. So don’t be saying that it is our policy to adopt everyone. They are not related to anyone here. Oh So the opinion of the Native Women’s Association of Quebec is that only Canada and USA can have immigration laws? They don’t just adopt everyone that comes off the plane without due process. Our land has been taken for Hydro, Mercier Bridge, the St. Lawernce Seaway, train tracts, and highways. Now we should just allow them to take our homes for their future generations of non-natives because they have no place else to go? That is what you are applying with the letter. Just give it all way. Maybe the Native Women’s Association want to only read about Indian’s in History Books. Long ago there use to be Indian’s but Human Rights of Canada felt they should be accepting and assimilate into the collective. They are now extinct. Not what I want to see for our next Seven Generations. A little education for you. Mohawks are not subjects to the British. We are not subjects of Canada. We were allies. Let that sink in.

  2. Just so you know “Mohawk Artist,” firstly I am fully aware of the feelings of the actual people in Kahnawà:ke over this. Secondly I am simply reposting a letter that was sent to me, if you had bothered to read any of the other parts of this site you would see that things that are not written by myself are not necessarily endorsed by me, and are only posted for the interest of readers.

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