Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is the "Mohawk Council of Kahnawake" trying to Hijack the Longhouse?

Last year when 60 Minutes exposed a cheating scandal that involved Mohawk Internet Technologies, an IT/gaming company that is licensed and regulated by the band council of Kahnawake (the MCK), Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes asked band councilor, Mike Delisle, if internet gambling was illegal in Canada. Delisle said Internet gambling is illegal in Canada, but told Kroft, "We're not Canadians. We're a member of the Haudenosaunee Five Nation Confederacy. And we're Mohawk, Kanienkehaka, people. We're not Canadian."
What Delisle failed to mention is that the band councils exist as a function of Canadian law. The MCK is not the Kanienkehaka. It is not Haudenosaune. It is an administrator for the Canadian government. They are funded by Canada, they are regulated by Canada, their police and courts uphold Canadian law and they administer Canadian ID cards. And although I'll admit I have never seen it, I'll bet there are more than a few Canadian flags flying around their offices and chambers. But when push comes to shove the MCK cannot defend itself on its own existence, all of a sudden they are Haudenosaune; People of the Longhouse.
These guys are realizing, like Jim Ransom did of the Saint Regis tribal council, that these tribal and band councils ain't shit. When Saint Regis tried to fight OSHA violations by the US Department of Labor against their casino in Akwesasne (which bears the name, "Akwesasne Mohawk Casino"; no mention of Saint Regis) they received a slap in US Federal court when they were ruled against with the court telling them they could not use Mohawk treaties because they were not the party to them. The court literally said that the Saint Regis Tribe could not claim to be the Mohawk Nation.
This kick in the groin to tribal and band councils did not get much attention, but some noticed. The MCK noticed, so inch by inch the band council tries to reshape itself into the Kanonhsesne; the Longhouse. When a Mike Delisle or a Joe Norton hide behind the sovereignty of the Kanienkehaka in this public manner it is fairly easy to call them out. But what is going on behind the scenes?
Even this judicial reform nonense is a concern. There has been a big push to incorporate concepts from the Kaianerehkowa in the tribal court system that will be uniquely "Mohawk", although the court's authority will come from Canada. The Kaianerehkowa could not possibly be bastardized enough to accommodate creating individuals or a panel to sit in judgement of others. And for what, so property can be "legally" seized from individuals as judgements? No way! Band councilors have been quoted as claiming that the Great Law is theirs too. I say "bullshit!" These band and tribal councils have abandoned the Kaianerehkowa as well as their birthright as Kanienkehaka. They get their authority from Ottawa and Washington, not from our history, not from our ancestors and not from the instructions handed down over time immemorial. Just like the rest of Canada and the United States, these tribal and band councils know where true sovereignty lies.
So how do you regain a birthright you have surrendered? These guys either think they can just repackage themselves as Kanienkehaka or worse yet can earn brownie points from their custodians by undermining the Kanonhsesne.
Let's be clear the Kaianerehkowa does not create authority or institutions. It provides a process for sovereignty to stay where it belongs, with the people. Band councils are for people that do not want to accept responsibility and simply want someone else to do the work that they are too lazy or too useless to do themselves. Abuse of authority comes from delegation of authority. Our Longhouses need to become more active and they need to resist any incursion from these imposers and impostors.

19 comments:

Simon L'nu said...

Only thing wrong with this piece is that across the imaginary border, on the north side of it, band councils don't have courts like the tribal councils do in the so-called u.s.

Also, I would extend this to all L'nu (Onkwehonwe for you; I mean L'nu generally for all 'Indigenous' peoples) as well: we all need to be aware of our past and present, and our future. We have our own systems of governance, that pre-date the colonial systems even, in some (if not many) cases. Just a matter of exercising this!

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

For now that might be the case in some communities but only because their tribal police enforce Canadian law and use Provincial courts. Canada would love to establish "band" courts that get their authority from them. That is why this push is on.

Anonymous said...

Keep the band council in the band office and out of the longhouse. They are a Canadian entity not a government of the people. Look in Tyendinaga what they tried to pull. Some BS referendum that hardly anyone participated in approves a porta-prison. Cheers to those who keep fighting it. You are the power.

Anonymous said...

The Lice needs to be removed from our communities...Their treason can't continue to disrupt our way of life...They have made their choice to live in the white man's vessel now we need to make a choice...

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

I hesitate to analogize others to lice, because that same desciptor was used on us by the white men to justify extermination. When the military was challenged for killing Native children the quote was, "Nits make lice". The Nazis also used the expression as part of their campaign to justify killing Jews and Gypsies. Other than that, I agree.

netsia said...

I'm questioning the definition of 'institution' as you appear to be denying as applicable in the article, this:
"Let's be clear the Kaianerehkowa does not create authority or institutions. It provides a process for sovereignty to stay where it belongs, with the people."
This description of yours of how our law functions for us resonates with me, however, my understanding (and I might be missing something) is that the very well defined structures of our society's governance, being of exceptionally sharp clarity, especially at the confederate/Grand Council level, to my understanding certainly must be thought of as a governing 'institution'. I mean, what else is it?![Of course this has also to be a limitation of the English language]. Also the Long-house, when considered as it truly is meant to function in defining all manner of extended family relationships, including being a central foundational structuring of our society's political functioning at the most primary level, would seem, again as far as I'm able to reason it, another of our most key 'institutions'?
At the same time, reading this statement from a creative/libertarian viewpoint regarding our 'institutions', I guess that I might be in agreement that their being meant for ' "all time" ', means that they are not create-able by outside or contemporary political currents? And now just wondering & so putting the thought forward:- is it correct to say that they 'must not change'? meaning according to their primary institutional functions? Hmm, as a free people I guess we must be free to make changes collectively, since institutional mandates can be determined through the carrying out of clear protocols, which served us very well in the past until the dissolution of the powers of the league ceased to properly function as a 'bundle of arrows', but still, I would want to then ask on a particular example, say of clans, would we not lose some very important compass to who & how we are, as a people/society if we were to ever decide to change the clan representations ascribed from the wider animal kingdom?
So, now I have to run off topic along this line of thought... If we are not readily able to experience sitings of, say, bears, or eels, in the wild, in their natural free state of roaming throughout a healthy environment, being just two of our clan symbols, which we are responsible as stewards for, then does this cultural impoverishment of our indigenous cultural reality, also sound a call to political arms to be fully defending these cultural losses from colonial encroachments and destruction of natural habitats? Since we all do know, in our hearts, minds, our whole beings, and together collectively, as a body politic, each time we greet a member of a Bear Clan, that we 'bear' the obligation of defending this cultural right of our heritage for seven generations hence. If things continue as they are, how likely will it be for the seventh generation from this day, to be able to experience bears in the wild around us, being themselves naturally capable of reciprocally teaching us things that we have yet to discover & learn from them!? Let me ask you this, when was the last time you encountered a bear going about its business in the environs of Haudenosaunee territories? I personally have not done so even once yet in this lifetime. You might know that today it is being considered by some conservationists that what could already be a shorter period of time, than seven generations, from today, that Polar Bears could become threatened with extinction, and that would not be due to the actions of the Inuit though the Inuit would bear immeasurable consequences of cultural loss and every other kind of permanent loss that this would entail, as we all would.

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

You are correct to suggest that language barriers can cause gaps in both explanations and understandings. Unfortunately bad interpretations from both language and generational gaps can lead to more than just misunderstandings. I have seen where these gaps have created the proverbial, "tail wagging the dog" scenario.
Let's start with the basic mistranslation of the Kaianerehkowa. It has been referred to as the "Great Law of Peace" for as long as I know of. Yet no part of the word translates to Peace or Law. The best literal translation may be "a great good way". Inspite of it's grammatical redundancy one can see that what we used as a form of government for thousands of years was not described as something unnatural or strictly man-made like a law or a structure, but rather as a "good path", no, a "Great Path". The Kaianerehkowa lays out, not just a process, but a series of processes that addressed literally and metaphorically all aspects of our lives. Many times the literal and metaphoric explanations were intertwined so as to create a timeless application to issues our ancestors could only imagine we might face while still being relevant to the issues of the day. Being coerced to frame the Kaianerehkowa in the white mans terms may have been some misguided attempt to validate our ways to these people consumed by structure and tradition. But when the Kaianerehkowa became, for many, the Great Law, the Constitution of the Five Nations, the rules of order for the Confederate Lords, something got lost and the institutionalizing of our governing process was on. Clans, Clanmothers, Chiefs councils; these were not institutions. They were families. When we allowed those who carried the wampum to be treated differently than the rest, when we and others began placing more responsibility and authority on councils or worse yet specific individuals we got away from our original instructions. We srtayed from the path. Most of the tribal and band councils came right out of our Longhouses. It was easy when we had already allowed our process to become unnatural, just a man-made structure. These band councils and tribal councils can get by on only 5 or 6% participation in their elections and referenda because their authority and enforcement doesn't come from the People. A Longhouse council, even a Grand Council is meaningless without participation by the People. The Kaianerehkowa provides no authority to a chief, only responsibility. The Chiefs have no Law, no autonomy, no independence. They are not the Sovereign. They are not the Nation. They are not the government.
We need to relearn our responsibilities and stop trying to farm them out to others.

netsia said...

This is just now the second time, and only during this past week, that I've received this insight to a more accurate translation into English words for Kaianereh'ko:wa being "Great Good Path/Way"! For what it may be worth, I find the close similarity to the Tao, or, "The Way" very compelling, as, even before finally beginning to feel drawn into the full realities of our culture, I had found that the philosophy of the Taoist world view, being fundamentally concerned with observing, studying, understanding natural law, i.e. reality, is what resonated for me most among all other philosophies of the world. And still further now, is that I am just suddenly seeing/sensing the added significance to our focusing our awareness/actions/way of life on being mindful of concepts such as 'Good' and 'Great', and the fullness of what these mean for us.
Also very much appreciate the range of clarifications you've brought attention to of the imperative aspect of fully assuming our responsibilities, as individual members of our society and as a societal collectivity.

netsia said...

Following up again with a more specific thought/proposal related to the functioning of our Confederate representatives, concerning societal 'responsibility':

Your point about the designation of the confederate titled names being understood to confer not special status but rather of being democratically selected/appointed to represent & work on behalf of the people/collectivity, is well taken, and I believe that we understand this, with our Thanksgiving address furthermore continually re-invoking in us, our awareness that beyond the Haudenosaunee collectivity we also bear the responsibility, as stewards, to maintain balanced reciprocity across the full spectrum of the natural world.

In this important matter, I just want to say, by recalling the one part of Obama's inaugural speech which caught my attention & has stayed with me, where he said~'implored(?)' to reason that,[paraphrasing him-] while the USA has a Bill of Rights enshrined within their constitution, that they probably do also need to have a Bill of Responsibilities!! I am supposing that our way could be indicating that the responsibilities must be balanced at least in equal measure to 'rights', and, just as the USA learned/modeled their democratic government in reference to ours, ours being so far the truest constitutional democracy that has yet existed on earth, and that, just as the USA, having imperfectly/insufficiently copied ours in the original founding of their constitution, on significant matters concerning impeachment and the equality/equal rights of women, and all races within society, so too might this be a time when the USA advances still further toward the possibility of coming into the "shelter" of our governing law, if they were to evolve their constitutional insight of good governance to effect something like our understanding of responsibilities as applied by each individual and our society collectively? I think that this is something to be hopeful of, and, more than to only 'hope for' I think that our nations' representatives have a responsibility to communicate=make such an appeal to the current US President, his administration, and the other parts of their present government, to give them the fullest assistance that we can to help them achieve this, as this would be achieving a great advancing of all society. As I understand it, our diplomatic protocol defines this type of process of appealing to another nation to adopt our way of governance, as having to be undertaken at least three times successively in earnest good faith. So I think that with the present opportunity presented, that this should, no must, be undertaken. I know that Obama has called for a scheduled round-table meeting of some sort with First nations representatives in November(I think it was?). So then!- who is aware of how the Haudenosaunee's Confederate Representatives are planning to do their utmost to honour our ways, and our proud tradition of diplomacy and covenant making with the USA colonies in this time??!

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

I must say you are far more optimistic about Mr. Obama and the American idea of democracy and rights than I. I often must remind myself and others of the Kaswentha, or Two Row Wampum as an important policy or philosophy of our people as well. While the Kaianerehkowa lays out the Fire as the symbol of our family and stresses the importance of that fire as source of comfort, illumination and security, it is both literally and symbolically the place to counsel; to gather minds. Diplomacy, inclusion and the work for peace are major components of the Kaianerehkowa but balance the inclusion concepts symbolized by the White Roots of Peace with the respect an honor of the space between cultures provided for in the Kaswentha. While there is much to be learned from the contents of another vessel, allowing one to over take the other weakens both. I was once asked by a young man whether the Kaianerehkowa represented a Democracy or a Republic. Upon researching the exact definitions and concepts embodied by the two very different political philosophies, it was clear to me that much of what defines a Republic was pulled directly from our ways. The US modeled what started as a Republic after many of our concepts; inalienable rights, sovereignty vested in the individual, natural law, liberty, equality and the birthright of the few cannot be extinguished by the will of the masses. Some time prior to the Civil War the US shifted more towards a democracy. Citizenship and the concept that the people are a unit of the whole began to be the theme. The idea that a person's rights are defined in an alterable document is far from what they learned from us. Evolution is a funny thing. No matter how close the origins of two species may have been, the distictions between the two can make the relationship unrecognizable. And irreconcilable.

netsia said...

It is interesting, the formation of a Republic vs. Democratic Governance [though again, for us, I think rather or more than disappointing to be necessarily couching the discussion in English language terms!].
Up until ~20 months ago, I was actually a-political, and it's really only the pursuit of ecological entrepreneurship that has been necessarily steadily increasing my awareness of how political corruption undermines good governance which can assure the maintenance of ecological balance in the world, so this aspect does tend to focus the practical nature of how I consider our realities, and in this area of application specifically I do not believe that any awareness I have is able to even suggest a possibility of irreconcilability on basic principles of reason between & among differing peoples, I can also just admit that I am an incorrigible optimist about everything really!
At the same time I also honour the interpreted force of meaning of the Kaswentha Belt, as a covenant observing the practical implications of irreconcilable societal differences. I feel it's interpretation in our lived lives to be of great importance across an entire continuum of the wise reasoning handed down to us in it; firstly, and still currently that: for as long as irreconcilable differences/modes of societal being do persist between 'us & them', that the separateness must be honored equally by both parties to the covenant, and I take this literally to mean that, as is also the most famously known interpretation of the Kaswentha, that they are to have remained in their "ship" & us in our "canoe", and so they never have had the agreed to right or privilege made available to them by us to even enter into or cross, let alone reside within our territories since the time of the Guswentha's making & that is the factual matter of the agreement as it still stands today, but for & importantly, the "13 colonies/George Washington" Belt, which recognizes the Haudenosaunee League's co-existence, on an equal basis and with-- I believe of great metaphorical significance-- WE the Rotino'shonni:onwe situated at the centre of the covenant's representational composition
!!!!!!! ! !!!!!!!
{I cannot recall the exact arrangement but I'm just going to have another look now!}, and so while the USA colonies have historically contravened this covenant by encroaching into our territories, which they had very explicitly agreed not to, there has been a welcoming recognition by us of their presence as a peoples residing here on Onowaregeh (Not so for anyone else however, as far as I am aware?), which must have had something, or a lot, or even mainly to do with our having recognized their demonstrated intent to adopt our way in large part, enough to have indicated the reasonable possibility that they could eventually find their way, by following the roots of the 'Tree of Peace', into a state of readiness to fully enter the "shelter" of the Haudenosaunee??; Secondly:...cont'

netsia said...

(cont'); Secondly: which could tie the force of interpreting the "13 Colonies/George Washington" Belt into a logical evolutionary status of the interpretable force of the Kaswentha Belt's meaning, could be that, though the parallel lines of the Kaswentha's representing our distinctly separate societies does/can be interpreted literally in its compositional admonition, that the two societies may in fact never meet, at any foresee-able time, but that, and I wonder if this is a contemporary innovation on my part, or not(?), if they would ever become essentially as us, meaning fully prepared/evolved as a society to the point of being ready to enter the Long-house Confederacy, that this could happen, and that the Kaswentha would have fully served all of us in the wisdom of our purpose in making it, as a foundational covenant with them? Two following points to propose for consideration of the reasoning of this, i.- is the imperativeness of our Haudenosaunee society to collectively insist upon and ensure that our understanding of the covenants which we made are honoured to the fullest extent by all parties to them, since we are the indigenous peoples and so the enforceable covenants which we have made are to always prevail in all matters of interactions with them, and ii.- that to be fully aware of ourselves living out or lives/destiny as the Haudenosaunee, that we must be aware of all that we have done/accomplished 'til today, and that this should be understood to mean that our sacred covenants must be as alive as us=living covenants; then: For all of our covenants to be fully vital in their force of application also then naturally means that We the Rotino'shonni:onwe must be able to live/demonstrate our inherent power to evolve as a society, which must include applying the force of interpretation of the covenants in how we deal with the joined parties, and which must include evolving the covenants according to wise reasoning, a rather weighty/profound responsibility, which however can only lead to our undermining our collective destiny inasmuch as we avoid these responsibilities. At least we have a wholistic societal structuring to our political processes always available to greatly aid us, and that one very deep insight of wisdom admonishing us to always be fully mindful of considering the effects of what we do/do not do upon our future generations!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

meaning fully prepared/evolved as a society to the point of being ready to enter the Long-house Confederacy...

How does a nation do this?

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

I believe our Longhouses, our communities and our Confederacy are in such a state of disrepair that WE need to revisit those white roots. We need to retrace that path and relearn what it mean to seek that shelter. The Confederacy was much bigger than 5 or 6 Nations at one time. Many people from many Nations had sought the shelter of our peace. Much work by those who wanted from us went into creating the dissention that has brought us to where we are now. As I have said; we have lost our way, not our ways. We just have to want to find our way back.

Anonymous said...

Kaianerehkowa
+
Handsome Lake
+
Christian
+
Band Council
=
Confusion,Confusion,Confusion
There goes the One MIND

This is why one can't reach out to the other nations outside of the 6 nations who are still of the confederacy and build back those relationships...Polish those chains

So again I say the ones behind the confusion must be removed in order to reaffirm order and responsibility to the Kaianerehkowa

Hell right now the omish look more soverign than we do...

netsia said...

I would not go ahead and say outright that I know precisely how this is to be accomplished between ours & outside sovereign nations & confederations.
I think we can safely assume on a general level that it would involve all of the essential traditions of diplomacy & ritual which have determined the precedents of actions throughout our historical relations.
More concretely & still as an utmost simplistic description, it would involve a diplomatic application on their part or on our part(which is my suggestion now) to establish a mutually engaged diplomatic council for the purpose, also then equally involving a concurrent process of separate deliberations by each, I would just suppose, again as a generalized reference, similarly to how the EU takes on prospective new members?
The only real problem=real conundrum I have about it has to do with my knowledge of a barrier presently existing amongst the 'added rafters' to our Long-House's Constitution, which would first need to be amended, or more likely set aside permanently for being contradictory to the original purpose of our League's founding.
!
So, I think that yes, that's about it! in a nut-shell anyway!

netsia said...

Contemporary reflections by a number of Constitutional thinkers readily admit to the historical loss of political influence among a wider circle of Onowaregeh First Nations having had to do chiefly with what has been referred to as an 'elitist' law introduced by the founding Five Nations. This contradiction of our principle of equality set up a confederate weakness which was then exploited initially by the French colonialists!
So I do think that finding our path again will necessarily involve going all the way back to re-dress this much earlier aberration ourselves, before further progress seated in true integrity of our Constitution's founding would become possible. Incidentally, a first instance by which this can be addressed would be to fully instate the Tuscarora Nation on a fully equal basis as the other original five.
I know that personally this is going to now be the one principle cause that I'll be harping on to try and advance more than any other constitutional matter.
It really is significant when you come to realize that had this constitutional weakness been avoided, we would have been well on our way to having established the first multi-national 'United nations' political entity, unlimited in potential extent, and probably would have quite easily spread across Onowaregeh and then been fully ready to embrace the rest of the world.

netsia said...

Very much agree!

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