“Sometimes the law is an ass”
by Ellen Gabriel, Two Row Times, August 13, 2014
With Respect to All my Relations
Let’s be clear here, the Kahnawà:ke residency Law that states anyone who marries a non-Mohawk or non-“Indian” automatically has to leave: “you marry out stay out”; this is not a Mohawk law but colonial assimilation rhetoric implementing the Indian Act’s policy.
I want to address this issue because it concerns all Kanien’kehá:ka citizens as it affects our nation and is not an issue solely for those embedded within the colonial created borders of a ‘reserve’ system. It affects our land base and the people of our nation and distracts from the real enemy, the settler state of Canada & the United States.
It must be addressed by our nation due to its continuous malicious character that has been so hurtful, destructive and self-defeating. It is the opposite of nation building and our customary laws. It is perpetuating a discriminatory colonial attitude that has for far too long alienated many good people from their immediate and extended families.
There is an excellent letter to the Editor in the Eastern Door, dated August 8, 2014 by Cheryl Diabo explaining how unjust this law is. Ms. Diabo goes on to suggest that non-“natives” should sign an oath like paper before living in the community in order to ensure that what little land we have left, remains within our nation. This is a wise and practical way to resolve this issue and reflects a more traditional custom than that which presently exists on most “lands reserved for Indians.”
Kaianera’kó:wa (the Great Law of Peace) is about peace, love and respect. It is about living in a peaceful way with yourself, your family, the community and all our relations. It is not about racial purity but a way of life based upon a clan system. There are even options if one does not have a clan to be adopted by one of our 3 clans however, one must follow the process & protocol of adoption. That person must swear an allegiance to Kaianer’kó:wa and give back to the community. Adoption of a person from another nation is a very old custom amongst the people of the Iroquois Confederacy. Unlike the Indian Act which declares status through the paternal line and whereby a person just needs a number to get services without ever having to give back to the community.
I pray for Krissy Goodleaf and her family to remain in the community that has been her home for what I assume is most if not all her life. The Indian Act has done enough harm in stealing our children away, disrupting our family units, then rejecting the women who marry a non-‘native’ who then experience racism and discrimination on the outside, and even from her own community.
It is shameful to see the degree of assimilation that exists amongst our people. Instead of what our ancestors taught us which is to cherish all life, and that our actions today will impact the faces not yet born, I wonder what they would say if they could see us now.
The “divide and conquer” formula, which allows Canadian colonialism to succeed, has us all fighting for the tiny postage stamp pieces of land we’ve all been sequestered in. Instead we should learn our history and work on regaining back our lands from the thieves who stole it in the first place: Canada, Britain, the US, et al. who practiced genocide against us and who continue to use coercive violent means to carry on the business of dispossessing us of our lands and resources.
Our health and well-being sacrificed for the colonizers’ and settlers’ needs to a point where each generation of Onkwehón:we has never known real Peace. Instead we must take up the centuries old struggle against Canada’s debauched theft of Indigenous peoples (Indian Residential School & murdered and Missing Onkwehón:we women) and our lands.
A Mohawk building on her own land should not be what we are fighting. And perhaps this Kahnawà:ke community law needs to be re-visited.
And one more clarification: Onkwehón:we means “human being” referring to Indigenous peoples. It DOES NOT mean “Status Indian”. Mohawk or Kanien’kehá:ka custom dictates that the women have title to our lands and not the Government of Canada nor its band councils.
Skén:nen Akwé:kon Tetawén:nera – Peace to All My Relations.