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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Monday, April 19, 2010

Tribal Leaders React to Boat Crash

This article is as it appeared in the Plattsburgh Press Republican
Published April 17, 2010 01:26 am - Tribal leaders react to Monday's boat crash in Akwesasne waters, saying Coast Guard crashed into civilian Hydro yacht.
Tribe: No contraband involved in crash
Tribal leaders seek private investigation

By ANDREA VanVALKENBURG
Staff Writer - Plattsburgh Press Republican

MASSENA — Tribal leaders say there was no contraband found in the civilian boat that was struck Monday by a U.S. Coast Guard vessel.Coast Guard operations have been suspended in the international and tribal waters as the investigation into the boat crash continues.
TRIBAL WATERS
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne said few facts about the crash have been released, but it appears the civilian Hydro yacht, operated by two Akwesasne residents, was in Akwesasne waters of the St. Lawrence River when a chase apparently began. In a news release, tribal officials said it's still unclear what members of the Cornwall Regional Task Force were attempting to stop the men for, but that "it has been confirmed that the two Akwesasne boaters were not in possession of any form of contraband."
CRASH IN U.S. WATERS
As the Akwesasne boaters were pursued in U.S. waters, Mohawk officials say, it was "struck by one of the police vessels in pursuit." That vessel has been identified as a Coast Guard ship. The two Akwesasne men suffered serious injuries in the wreck and were airlifted to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, where they are still being treated. Sources say one of the men was paralyzed in the crash. Four Coast Guard members suffered minor injuries. Authorities have refused to identify those involved in the accident, despite repeated requests from the Press-Republican and other news agencies.
TRUST TESTED
Citing the nature of the incident, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is pushing for an independent investigation. The incident is currently being probed by a number of U.S. and Canadian agencies, along with tribal authorities. Grand Chief Michael K. Mitchell said, "the Akwesasne community looks to the outside police agencies to help keep our lands and waters safe from criminals who would use our geographical location to their benefit, and incidents such as the one that occurred this past Monday test that trust we place in them. The outside police agencies are entrusted to protect our lands and waterways from illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, human cargo and various other contraband, and it is incumbent upon these outside agencies to conduct themselves in a respectful and honorable manner within the territory of Akwesasne."
INDEPENDENT PROBE
Tribal leaders say the crash has far-reaching implications to the relationship between the Akwesasne community and outside police agencies. They fear profiling by other agencies could result in a rise in similar incidents. "The real criminals in this matter are those who put the international border through the middle of our community," Mitchell said. "And we, as a community, continue to suffer from that act in our daily lives. Outside police agencies should take all safety precautions, and follow proper procedures and the law. We need to be satisfied that these standards and precautions were followed in Monday's incident. The only way to do this is through an independent investigation." Coast Guard officials have not released any further information about their investigation, citing its ongoing nature.
INFORMATION SOUGHT
Anyone with information about the crash is being asked to contact the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police at 358-9200 or Akwesasne Mohawk Police at (613) 575-2340
Or better yet post the info in the comment section so the Mohawk People can deal with it themselves.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Two Injured in Assault on the River

The following is a Press Release from the Men's Council of the Kaianerehkowa Longhouse in Akwesasne.
Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne
For Immediate Release
April 13, 2010

Ahkwesasne - Last evening, in the final daylight hours, members of the Men's Council for the Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne were called to the scene of an incident where a couple of young Mohawk men were attacked on Mohawk waters. Upon the questioning of eye-witnesses and conversations with the victims, the following was determined: The act of aggression was committed by a group effort consisting of RCMP, the US Coast Guard and the US Border Patrol using the vessels under their control. It is presently unclear which agency actually rammed the small craft operated by the young men, but the RCMP and Coast Guard immediately fled the scene after the assault, leaving the Border Patrol to fish the injured men out of the river and see to their injuries. Both men are hospitalized with back injuries with one of them currently suffering paralysis. Neither has been charged but the damaged boat which lost its motor in the collision has been confiscated. The US Border Patrol denied committing the assault on the young men.

The Men's Council of the Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne condemn this act of aggression and demand that those responsible for this criminal act be held accountable. The parties involved in this action have no right to interfere with our use of our water ways and, in fact, have from time to time forced our people to use the river as our only means to access areas of our community.

The US and Canada use Our land to connect their people and commercial interests and then attempt to dictate to Our people on what terms we can access Our communities. The constant high level of tension between the Kanienkehaka and our oppressive neighbors has now been ratcheted up once more. This Council will consult with the People and take steps to aggressively confront this action and any future acts of violence against our people.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Two Row Wampum Is About Respect


The Two Row Wampum has been mischaracterized too long. We are told by too many that the Two Row started between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch, that it is a trade agreement and that it specifically references the canoe and the ship. While it has been used over and over again in many circumstances and explained in many ways, the reality is that the Two Row is simply about respect. In the words of Kaneseraga; "Our first and most sacred covenant is with Nature and our Mother, the Earth." The Two Row starts here. When we say the Ohenton Karihwatehkwen or the "words before all else" we do this to convey our respect to all of creation. We start with the People and cover every relationship we have; from the most distant stars in the sky to the stone, soil and water at our feet.

The Two Row with its magnificently simple design depicts two rows of purple wampum set against a background of white. The two rows are equal and run side by side with each other. We represent one of those rows. The other is for any and all that we share a mutual respect. Any one of those mentioned in the Ohenton Karihwatehkwen can be placed on that second row. When we say those words before all else, we describe our connection to creation and all that it has produced. The key is respecting our relations as equals and respecting that while we all have our own path; we are still connected.

When the Two Row is described as two vessels on the river of life, it is the river that connects us. The distinction of the separate and equal rows show a respect for the distinct paths our vessels travel. It is said that everything that is ours must stay in our canoe while everything that is theirs must stay in their ship. This concept of possession was foreign to our ancestors. What they did understand was responsibility and the consequences of losing our way. It was told to me that much of the problems of today is that too many want the "things" or benefits of every path or vessel they see with the responsibility of none. When we disrupt the paths of others simply for the taking or when our path is disrupted, there are consequences.

The Two Row started with us. We used it to show respect to all that accept the responsibility of maintaining their path. Nature has always done this unequivocally. This concept was put in place between the people of the Haudenosaunee and shared with people of other cultures. The Two Row Wampum was also put in place with other Onkwe Ohnwe as a path for peace without coming under the Kaianerehkowa and the protection of the Tree of Peace. When helpless strangers reached our shores and expressed a desire for peace the Two Row was offered and accepted, first by the Dutch and followed by the French, British and ultimately by their offspring that would come to be known as Americans.

The Two Row Wampum began as covenant of respect that we shared with and offered to all that we knew. When the concept was offered to a foreign people with no common history, language or culture, it would become the first and only treaty ever offered by our people to the white man. Perhaps we should have stuck with offering the Two Row to what and who we knew. How could our ancestors know these strangers to our shores would be incapable of genuinely living with respect for others?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Brian Higgins and Chris Lee Have Turned Their Backs on Western New York



On March 17, 2010, Congressmen Chris Lee (Republican) and Brian Higgins (Democrat) voted in favor of a measure that will cost thousands of Western New Yorkers their jobs, that disgracefully interferes with the inherent rights of sovereign peoples and threatens the economic stability of one of our region’s largest employers, the Seneca Nation of Indians. An attack on the economy of the Seneca Nation and its People is an attack on the economy of all of Western New York.

Before the end of June, approximately 140 Seneca Indian owned businesses will be forced to close their doors resulting in the immediate loss of close to 3000 jobs in the Western New York area; most of these jobs are held by non-Indian residents of New York State. This figure does not include the job losses that will be experienced by non-Seneca businesses either directly or indirectly from the virtual collapse of the Seneca Nation’s private sector economy. The overall impact will be felt by Western New York’s accountants, marketing consultants, advertisers, postal delivery personnel, internet service providers, attorneys, restaurant owners, and the countless non-Seneca vendors that provide services to Seneca businesses.

Congressmen Lee and Higgins were advised of the dire economic consequences that a bill that makes tobacco nonmailable through the United States Postal Service would have on Western New York communities and jobs. Congressmen Lee and Higgins were advised that Seneca businesses had no delivery alternative to the United States Postal Service because New York State had previously strongarmed all private delivery carriers into discontinuing delivery of tobacco products for Seneca businesses. Please do not listen when Congressmen Lee and Higgins tell you that they were unaware of the consequences. Either they just didn’t listen or they just don’t care.

Congressmen Lee and Higgins are part of what is currently wrong with the political culture in Washington; these men are part of the “politics as usual” mentality running rampant in federal, state and local governments today. Republicans and Democrats alike are to blame. Politicians must learn that they are accountable to their constituents and that there will be consequences at the polls for turning their back on their communities.

Congresswomen Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, among others, stood up in support of Indian Tribes and jobs in her state by voting NO against the bill supported by Congressmen Lee and Higgins. Congresswomen Herseth Sandlin had this to say in opposition to the bill – “I believe the bill threatens the government-to-government relationship with Native American tribes set out by our founders in the U.S. Constitution.”

In stark contrast, Congressmen Lee and Higgins said nothing.

Congressmen Lee and Higgins your silence was deafening. We are still listening; do you have anything to say to Western New York? No more excuses.

Friends of the Seneca People and nypoliticiansunveiled