Political schism at Six Nations nuetralizes Chief Ava Hill’s influence

To understand the outrage that is being directed at Chief Ava Hill, who leads the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC), you must first understand the deep and profound political schism that has long defined the community’s politics. 

The situation immediately at hand involves a roadblock outside of Brantford, ON, that shut down an intersection on lands under claim — a protest organized to support the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s effort to stop the TransCanada pipeline in British Colombia, which transverses their lands.

Hill has been telling Provincial and municipal officials in Ottawa to ignore the traditional chiefs and to enter into consultation discussions only with her government. 

That has outraged members of the community. 

Elvera Garlow, an influential figure in the community who advises the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council of Chiefs (HCCC) and founded Grand River Education and Training, has publicly called on Hill to stop disparaging the traditional council. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41890360_1027122430792348_1058141240060542976_n-3.jpg“Elected Band Council Chief Ava Hill is misleading all municipal, provincial and federal governments by telling them not to meet and hold talks with our Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs, ‘because they are not the government at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory,'” she wrote in a widely circulated message to the community.   “This must stop.” 

Garlow has called on the two Councils to meet to discuss SNEC’s limited role as an attache of the federal government of Canada whose role is merely to administer federal funds congruent with the Nation-to-Nation treaty relationship.

Many traditionalists at Six Nations see Garlow as a potential successor to Hill — someone they can trust to properly and rightly castrate the political ambitions of the federally imposed band council. 

A longstanding struggle for recognition and liberation 

The Six Nations of the Grand River at Ohsweken, ON is the largest First Nations community in Canada.  Two competing governments have long battled for recognition as the legitimate government of the Haudenosaunee people, and the title holders to the tract of land secured under the Haldimand Treaty of 1784 and known as the Grand River Country.

The first government — the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council of Chiefs — was founded in 1142 at Onondaga Lake with the codification of the Great Law of Peace, which established the oldest constitutional democracy in the world.  That government invented much of American style democracy — separation of powers, dual sovereignty, a legislative body comprised of representatives chosen from political sub-units, and a legislative process that requires consensus building.  Benjamin Franklin drafted the Articles of Confederation largely on his study of the Great Law, which inspired much of the principles enshrined in the United States Constitution.

That traditional government still meets on the first Saturday of every month at Ohsweken, operating as a sovereign government in exile.  The Confederacy allied with the British during the American Revolution and bore the brunt of a genocidal military campaign ordered by General George Washington during the American Revolution — led by Generals John Sullivan and James Clinton — that burned nearly every Haudenosaunee village across the Confederacy’s ancestral territories in Upstate New York.

The survivors of that genocide fled across the Niagara River to the lands along the Grand River — six miles on each side from it’s source to Lake Erie — secured in negotiations with Governor General Frederick Haldimand as a term of the Confederacy’s alliance with the Crown.  That tract of land today represents the largest outstanding land claim in Canada — and could, by some economists’ estimates, tank Canada’s credit rating as the Nation’s single largest ‘off-balance sheet’ debt.

The second government was forcibly imposed on the community in 1924.  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided the Six Nation’s council house, beating the traditional chiefs with billy clubs, and installing their own system of elected Councillors under the Indian Act — a devastatingly racist tool of Canadian colonialism, much of which is still in force today.

The Canadian government was hell-bent on subjugating the Haudenosaunee.  After all, unlike Canadians, the Six Nations were allies rather than subjects of the Crowne — and the British still controlled Canadian foreign policy until 1949.  The Canadian government grew resentful of this relationship, exacerbated by the racism and white supremacy of the day. 

That was the political context in 1917, when Levi General was condoled as a hereditary chief of the Cayuga Nation and became known as Deskaheh

In 1921, Deskaheh travelled to London with Rochester-based attorney George Decker, who was hired by the Haudenosaunee Chiefs as their attorney. Because the Canadian government would have denied Deskaheh permission to travel, the Confederacy issued their own passport for him on the advice of Decker.

In August of that year, Deskaheh appeared at the Hippodrome in full regalia, with a document entitled Petition and Case of the Six Nations of the Grand River.   Winston Churchill, then the British undersecretary for the colonies at the time, insisted that the petition be returned to the Canadian government.

In 1922, Deskaheh went to Washington, DC and gained the support of the Netherlands’ minister of foreign affairs, H. A. van Karnebeck, who forwarded their petition to the League of Nations’ Secretary-General. 

Canada was so outraged that by 1923 Canadian officials had built a Royal Canadian Mounted Police barracks on Six Nations’ Grand River lands and imposed a military occupation that would last until 1959.  The RCMP regularly conducted searches of private homes, prohibited Indians from cutting wood for fuel (while allowing others to do so), made it illegal for Indians to possess or consume alcohol, and imposed a curfew that banned Indians from being out after dark. 

At the time, the RCMP issued pamphlets with a slew of draconian administrative laws that turned the Reserve into a concentration camp — all the while, with the Haudenosaunee land base dwindling from theft and squatters.  The actions of Canada intensified the need for the community to seek protection from the British Crown.

On July 14, 1923, Deskaheh travelled to Switzerland where, for eighteen months, he lectured large audiences in Geneva, Bern, Lausanne, Lucerne, Winterthur, and Zurich. In the series of lectures, he reminded European colonizers of the new world of their obligations under the Two Row Wampum, the most significant pact made between the Haudenosaunee and European governments.

That political agreement codified the understanding that the relationship between Haudenosaunee people and European settlers would be like that of two vessels travelling the same waters but each directing their own course, careful not to traverse the path of the other. 

Deskaheh’s eloquence, persistence, and ability to speak French helped win the support of Ireland, Panama, Persia, and Estonia. While his lectures generated warm reception by the Swiss people, they were not effective in changing British or Canadian positions.

On September 17, 1924, the Governor-General of Canada Julian Byng, the Crown’s representative to Parliment, mandated that the Six Nations Confederacy Council at Ohsweken be replaced with an elected council as described by the Indian Act

On October 7, 1924, the RCMP dissolved the traditional government of the Six Nations, stealing important documents and wampums and declaring an immediate election to displace the traditional government.

Although Deskaheh became even more outspoken as a result of these events, even writing King George V directly, he was unable to make headway and was never able to meet his original goal of securing Six Nations’ entrance to the League of Nations as a member-state.

Deskaheh lived his last six months in Rochester, delivering speeches including his most famous one on March 10, 1925, on a local Rochester radio station.  In this speech, he made a statement regarding policies of “forced acculturation” that have been much-quoted since:

“Over in Ottawa, they call that policy “Indian Advancement”. Over in Washington, they call it “Assimilation.” We who would be the helpless victims say it is tyranny. If this must go on to the bitter end, we would rather that you come with your guns and poison gases and get rid of us that way. Do it openly and above board.”

Deskaheh was staying at the home of Chief Clinton Rickard on the Tuscarora Reservation during the final months of pneumonia that followed a bad cold he had contracted in Europe.  He sent for his traditional medicine man, but the medicine man was not allowed across the border at Niagara Falls.  

Deskaheh was buried on June 30, 1925, on the Six Nations Reserve, with two thousand mourners accompanying his casket to the cemetery after a ceremony at Sour Springs Longhouse.  

It remains to be seen whether or not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will recognize the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council of Chiefs as the oldest still existent constitutional democracy in the world.

 

 

Geneva, 1923: The Iroquois Commission with Chief Deskaheh (middle) in front of the Palace of Nations.

8 Comments

  1. Now that’s putting words in my mouth! I would never ever think of being a successor to a Band Council Chief or Councillor! I am from the Hereditary Onondaga Deer Chief title Hahi:hoh of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. I believe in the Great Peace and follow Gaihwiiyo.
    We just finished Mid Winter Ceremonies today. We completed the gei: niyoihwa:ge, the four ceremonies given to us by Shogway’adihs’oh. I feel renewed and I am looking forward to another year of respect and appreciation of everything on earth.
    I would like to see the two councils at Six Nations hold meetings to come to a unification for the people. Each has a responsibility-neither can exist alone.
    In my opinion, the Confederacy is responsible for our traditional lands, our inherent rights and nation to nation treaty relationships through the Two Row Wampum. Whereas the Elected Council is responsible for administration of government programs and services at Six Nations Reserve.

  2. Fine words well expressed . . . I greatly appreciate this retelling of past obligations and serves as a reminder of my ancestral responsibility to live by the two row agreement.

  3. imo and from documents i’ve seen, false stories like this one, with TONS OF MISINFORMATION just add to the confusion that fuels the PURPOSEFUL divide… “The Six Nations of the Grand River at Ohsweken, ON is the largest First Nations community in Canada. Two competing governments have long battled for recognition as the legitimate government of the Haudenosaunee people, and the title holders to the tract of land secured under the Haldimand Treaty of 1784 and known as the Grand River Country.” really? PLEASE READ THE ORIGINAL HALDIMAND PROCLAMATION OF 1784 for yourself… two “governments” (interesting TRUTH to referring to these entities as “governments”, which is EXACTLY what they are… PAID FOR GOVERNMENT ENTITIES.) which are COMPETING and have been ~ because ~ fact IS, NEITHER ONE is the legitimate title holder to the tract of land as suggested. these lands they are referring to were granted to the MOHAWKS and such others… as clearly stated in the Haldimand Pledge of 1779 AND the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784. the Grand River Mohawks are the ONLY and TRUE signatories to the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784. do your research. the time is now. time to leave all ego behind and look at the facts and TRUTH. it is well documented throughout history, that the Grand River Mohawks remain a separate and distinct people apart. research the Haldimand Pledge of 1779, the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 to start. an interesting fact is also clearly documented in a 1996 provincial court case which states, on page 13, that Six Nations DOES NOT have any treaties with Canada or the Crown… wait, WHAT??? yes, it’s true. do your research. the Six Nations fraudulently claimed signatories to Haldimand-Mohawk lands with the Simcoe Patent/Grant of 1793. Paid for false titles and purposeful and full misrepresentation has taken place. Joseph Brant and the Grand River Mohawks completely REFUSED the Simcoe Grant of 1793, as documented by Governor Simcoe himself, 2 years later, in a personal letter to his superior, Lord Dorchester on Dec. 22 1795. The Simcoe Grant was made for the province of upper canada, therefore, placing Haldimand-Mohawk lands under canada’s jurisdiction. also being subjects of canada and NOT as ALLIES with the Crown on a TRUE nation to nation basis. Joseph Brant and the Grand River Mohawks NEVER accepted, recognized or acknowledged the Simcoe Grant. that is a fraudulent document with false titles and full misrepresentation. that fraudulent document is what is used for fraudulent land claims with the “Six Nations” today. (as the government entity and corporation under the indian act, as an extension of the federal government) who have NO TREATIES and ARE NOT SIGNATORIES TO ANY OF THE HALDIMAND-MOHAWK LANDS ~ AS OUTLINED IN THE HALDIMAND PROCLAMATION OF 1784 WHICH CLEARLY STATES “…MANIFESTED BY THE MOHAWK… A CONVENIENT TRACT OF LAND UNDER HIS PROTECTION…AS A SAFE AND COMFORTABLE RETREAT…IN HIS MAJESTY’S NAME AUTHORIZE AND PERMIT THE SAID MOHAWK NATION…TO TAKE POSSESSION OF AND SETTLE UPON THE BANKS…WHICH THEM AND THEIR POSTERITY ARE TO ENJOY ~ FOREVER.” so the “powers to be” ALL know this TRUTH. they are desperately trying to fuel the divide. the truth is out there. please start thinking for yourself and look at the documented facts. the time is now. the only way out is with the Grand River Mohawks on unceded Mohawk Territory, who remain a distinct and separate people apart. of the 634 federally recognized tribes in canada, the Grand River Mohawks are NOT on the list. this also “proves” they are NOT subjects of canada. the Grand River Mohawks do NOT fall under the indian act or any other foreign governing body or government. the Grand River Mohawks remain a separate and distinct people apart, as ALLIES and not subjects. despite purposeful acts of GENOCIDE attempts by ALL governments and “Six Nations” as a government entity, the Grand River Mohawks STILL do exist today, as a separate people apart, which is also documented with a 1972 letter from the Governor General recognizing Edwin Squire Hill as principal hereditary chief of Mohawk Wolf clan. YET STILL, continued attempts to erase the word “MOHAWK” from HIStory can be seen clearly at the Royal Chapel of the MOHAWKS, on MOHAWK street in Brant’s Ford. they have written on Joseph Brant’s supposed tomb marker, that he was a “Chief of the Six Nations.” he wasn’t a chief and he certainly wasn’t “Six Nations”. so why would they write that? to erase the word Mohawk from existence as it exposes the out right THEFT of a near million acres of the most fertile and resource rich HALDIMAND-MOHAWK lands by the “Six Nations” ((as the government entity and corporation of the imposed band council through the indian act, as an extension of the federal government. )) so erase MOHAWK and replace it with “Six Nations” so that can it be familiar and recognized from the fraudulent Simcoe Grant of 1793 ~ that names “Six Nations” as signatories ~ and is used for ALL land claim$ ! THIS IS TRUE AND DOCUMENTED FACTS. DO YOUR RESEARCH. the “Six Nations” have treaties of their own… in the UNITED STATES. the treaty at Fort Stanwix Oct. 22, 1784 and the Canandaigua Treaty of 1994 are both examples of this. strange that the treaty at Fort Stanwix is just 3 days before the Mohawks received the Haldimand Proclamation Oct. 25, 1784… and the Canandaigua Treaty is less than a year after Joseph Brant and the Grand River Mohawks REFUSED the proposed Simcoe Grant of 1793. coincidence? maybe. lol. the time is now. united we stand. this is the ONLY WAY OUT ~ out of the control of the corrupted and manipulative government entity known as “Six Nations” ~ which is the named corporation UNDER the indian act, as an extension of the federal government. Grand River Mohawks and such others. as ALLIES. as sovereign human beings. onkwehon:we. on unceded Mohawk Territory. as it is clearly stated and documented and acknowledged in their court documents. IS THE ONLY WAY OUT. find your truth. it is literally right in front of us! the time is NOW. UNITED WE STAND. DIVIDED ~ WE HAVE NOTHING. LITERALLY. THIS IS YOUR LAST HOPE FOR ANY TRUE SOVEREIGNTY.

    • About…knowing your history. So well documented is history of the Ojibwe …who I believe were here before we were.

    • I have an affidavit and a follow up letter identifying these lands and agreement as stated by my Great Great Grandfather. I will supply them if you would like. My research supports Nicole’s truths.

      • Wanda Duncan ~ if it is possible, we would appreciate a copy of any related documentation. pls message me, email or i could provided a mailing address to send paper by mail if necessary… any supporting documentation and relevant historical truths are always greatly appreciated.

  4. from my teachings, it was joseph brant and the mohawks who wanted to make sure the wording included “such others” to help ensure all onkwehon:we had a home…forever. as well as protected. as the mohawks, as the elder brothers, as the only true signatories… my understanding was that the intention of the original agreement of 1784 was they were the caretakers and protectors for the lands to enable all decent people, onkwehon:we, to come under the tree of peace and live in harmony, as set out by the Creator and peacemaker, and have a HOME… so yes, such other ARE equal, however, as you know the importance of words in the legal system, with the Mohawks being named as separate in the origianl Haldimand, they are the only signatories. and without them signing off their lands or relinquishing their rights to it, they still hold underlying title. it might be seen as a “legal loop hole” of sorts. the original haldimand proclamation of 1784 is STILL existing, valid and alive… “we” would all have to come “under” the mohawks as such others to be able to get out from under the imposed indian act… as sovereign, original, ancient, human, onkwehon:we.

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