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.
February 8, 2010
Re: Evictions of Non-Native residents
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