Feb 25, 2019 - If You Think its Only About Cannabis, You’re the Problem by Jaclyn Hall
It no surprise to the community that the Akwesasne Mohawk Peacekeeper Program conducted raids on “unlicensed” dispensaries recently. The community understands the need for law and order, but under whose law, is this order coming from? When meeting with the Sean Delude, Leanne O’Brian and Karihwateh Mitchell; the three respective women, representing each of their clans, discussed the peoples concerns. It is apparent that the community is concerned about the safety of the youth, and the regulations which need to be developed and followed.
Within the last month, Akwesasne Peoples meetings have been held every Wednesday, where developing regulations is a main priority. All kaniehkehaka are welcome to attend, learn and discuss matters which affect us as a community, and as a nation. We are not the only territory meeting on similar matters. All of the sister territories have been meeting amongst themselves, and then coming together as a Nation to deal with certain matters which effect our Nation in ways that are not apparent and obvious to anyone uneducated in the matter. This is the reason why it is so important to educate yourself, have open discussion and dialogue. Our people, at the Akwesasne Peoples Meetings are not trying to change anyone’s mind, the main goal is information sharing, education, consensus and understanding; which is the way it was meant to be.
Our community has forgotten, that before the Indian Act was imposed upon us, and the RCMP murdered Jake Ice; we had a government system in place. Our way of life worked for hundreds and thousands of years, but when the colonizers floated ashore in the ship, they brought with them their ideas, and form of Patriarchal government. Their ways did not sync with ours, as a matrilineal society. Although we became allies, we did not agree to surrender our ways, we agreed to live in peace amongst each other. Our people protected and sheltered the colonizers and settlers, we allowed them to settle on our territories in exchange for certain items, and treaty agreements. They came on their ship, they did not bring land with them, so they have no title nor authority over our people. They have the right to govern themselves, with their own system. Even then, the colonizers seen how our Great peace worked, and they could only aspire to be like us. They tried, but they were missing one major component; the connection to the land, which we are made of. We have been caretakers of this land since the beginning, the soil is made up of our ancestors, we are made up of the waters which flow through our territory and we have the blood of our ancestors and all that they have endured.
The Wolf Belt, which represents patriarchy and assimilation, is the logo for Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. That alone explains why we are in the situations we are in now. The Wold Belt represents the Seven Nations of praying Indians, who were converted by the French Jesuits. When they wanted Akwesasne to join, it did not happen. One could guess it was because the newly formed seven nations only allowed for males over 18 to have a voice. The women were ignored and belittled. There was no democracy, as the chief first born son would inherent the tile after his passing; doesn’t that sound a little familiar? Now, we know MCA is not operated in the same fashion, but none the less; their government represents assimilation. When the Crown came onto our lands and arrested our leaders and forced the get on the ship; the began interfering with our traditional council. By enacting the Indian Act, within the state of Canada, ran by the crown owned by Her Majesty the Queen. The Crown allowed each community to form their own by-law and regulations but imposed their provincial and federal laws on our territory.
So, when community members say things like, well quit taking their money, housing, and utilising their programs. You have to remember, when those settlers and colonizers came, we didn’t just give them a place to settle for nothing in return; where’s the reciprocity in that? They agreed on their end to continue honouring their agreements, basically the monies the crown puts in trust for the “Indians” is the rent they owe us. And no matter if the Indian Act exists or is abolished tomorrow, the Crown still owes us rent for as long as they are settled on Turtle Island. The community is concerned about what it would look like is MCA’s Council is removed, remember they are only administrators. When you think administrator, do you imagine someone signing treaties and agreements with foreign governments? Do you imagine admins lobbying for money?
The programs would continue to run, because of the program managers, executive directors and everyone else who works hard to provide the community with the programs that we are in great need of. Why can’t we make Canada come to Akwesasne to meet with the people, why does it have to be a closed-door discussion with a select few? Where does the funding come from to pay the Elected Officials to meet with outside agencies? When our own people criticize one another for utilizing western medicine and living in the modern day. You have to remember, even if we wanted to go back to our original teaching, we can’t live off of the land here in Akwesasne. We have all become accustomed to our modern-day lifestyles, all the elders who were alive in a different time are all but gone. The elders are the ones we need, to help us get back to our original ways.
We cannot point fingers at one another. It is no one’s fault, our elders were sent to residential schools and taught to be ashamed of our lifestyle. The idea is so engrained in many of our people, they don’t know or truly understand what it was like to be Onkwehonwe, before the Church came in. But when someone opens their eyes, later in life, you cannot shame them. Its better late then never. There is always someone ready to teach you, all you have to do is ask.
With social media in today’s day and age, community are able to voice their concerns more easily. But what’s lacking is the face to face communication, where words are exchanged, and the energy is in sync. We have to remember how important it is to be with people, and to talk in person; nowadays our youth or so hypnotized by the screen, that is one of our struggles is keeping the true spirit of family alive. Without family, we don’t not have the proper support system, without the proper support system our people fall, they go astray. Then we end up with hurt people lost, just trying to find some kind of connection. We always have to remember, we are all humans, we adapt, and we evolve, right now MCA is trying to control that evolution, and we must adapt. But we also have to speak up, when the evolution is not helping our people to survive. When other species evolve, they do not evolve to become lesser then, they do it to become better at survival. It is in our nature to want to survive, but when we have different beliefs, our idea of surviving does not match up.
When the stand off took place at the Akwesasne Peacekeeper station, the people tried to appeal to men standing in front of them, as just that, men. When the people were informed that Abram Benedict finally agreed to meet, after 5 hours of the stand off. Not one elected official came to hear the concerns of the people. The Chief of Police would not come outside to meet the people, and they would not let the people in to meet with him. At first, the AKWE’s said only two people could go in to meet with Sean Delude. The people deliberated on who to send, it was decided that three women, one from each of the original clans. The people demanded Sean Delude to resign, alongside all the new peacekeepers and any peacekeeper belonging to a different nation. It was asked who signed off on the warrants, which no answer was given. It was asked, “Why was the OPP invited onto our territory?”, the answer was, because the peacekeepers didn’t have the “Numbers”, although Mr. Delude stated Akwesasne is federal, they had no legitimate reason as to why they brought provincial law onto Akwesasne. When asked, “What are you charging the dispensaries? Under what grounds?” Mr. Delude stated, Under the “CANADIAN” cannabis law. Mr. Delude said the people should take a step back and wait until MCA issues licenses. MCA has had since October to get it together, why did they chose to wait, so it can fall under Ontario Provincial Law? The women then countered, and said the people want Mr. Delude and Ms. O’Brian to resign, and maybe they should take a step back and leave until the people can figure out how to handle the situation. In which, the women were met with ridicule.
The lack of respect was apparent, when the meeting took place, with three Kaniehkehaka women, and two outsiders and one Kaniehkehaka man. Not one employee of the Akwesasne Peace Keeper would take responsibility for the raids, although the one Kaniehkehaka man, Karihwate Mitchell, knew the judge in Cornwall signed off on the warrant. It only takes half a brain to figure out who is truly behind the raids.
After refusing to leave, the discussions fell though. When the women came out and informed the people of the discussions that took place in the peacekeeper station. An altercation ensued between some of the men and the peace keepers. After the men got their frustrations out, everyone became peaceful again. Everyone agreed to go home, after the peacekeepers promised a meeting with the Grand Chief of MCA and the Chief of Police to take place Sunday on the “American” side, which was supposed to be open to the people. That promised went unfulfilled, instead both band councils issued a joint press release. The complete lack of support and understanding amongst our own people, is something that needs to be addressed on both sides. If our own people can dismiss the Kaienerakowa, like its some legend, it is disheartening to know we have come to the point where “Skennen” is meaningless to the majority of our people.
As soon as the Peace keepers hire a dozen new recruits, the first thing they do is enforce foreign law on our territory. They arrested one person and brought them straight to Cornwall, Ontario to process him under their Canadian Law. How does it made sense to arrest someone within our territory, and charge them outside of our territory? Because there are no laws in place, within Akwesasne to charge them. Which is why MCA is pushing their Legislative Committee to develop several new laws, but as of now there are no laws within Akwesasne, pertaining to Cannabis.
Everything is coming at our people all at once, we barely have time to catch our breath, and something else comes up. What woke a lot of people up, was the Dundee Settlement Agreement, which basically is a surrender. Community members appealed the decision, in which court hearings are taking place. The first appeal hearing was open to the public, when MCA;’s attorney said some interesting things. Now, the Akwesasne Court wants to keep the appeal closed to the public, and they will not provide the requested transcripts from the first appeal hearing. Then we have the raids that took place several weeks ago, which got even more people’s attention. Once the second raid took place at Wild Flower, the women had enough and called upon the men to gather and deal with this issue head on. Now, we are at point of no return, we need to see this through and finish what we have started. For the next seven generations, and so long as the women bear life, we will not stand down.