Mar 16/98: Haudenosaunee law vs. Onondaga Council


Mohawk Nation Office - Kahnawake Branch
Monday March 16, 1998

On March 2, 1998 four smoke shops on the Onondaga nation Territory were destroyed by a combination of bulldozers and fire. Several Onondaga Nation citizens were brutally beaten. This occurred at the direction of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs and Clanmothers on the premise that they were operating illegally.

Justice to the Haudenosaunee does not have the same meaning as in the American or Canadian justice system. Haudenosaunee justice is rooted in the following four principles: the use of reason, persuasion, satisfaction and compensation. It appears that not one of these principles has been utilized up to this point. What occurred on the Onondaga Nation Territory to Onondaga citizens is not justice according to the Constitution, the Great law of Peace. Words used by the Onondaga Council of Chiefs such as "control trade and commerce" are contrary to the concept of willingly working together for the good of the whole. In other words, when law is made it must have the consensus of all, especially those who will be affected by it. This is the reason an enforcement agency should not be necessary. When one has ownership of the law, then it is more likely that one will abide by the law. When one is part of the process from the beginning then one truly understands and accepts that the law is important. Our Constitution promotes inclusion rather than exclusion in order to have a cooperative society. It appears that this did not occur. Otherwise it does not seem feasible that four businesses could possibly be opposed to something that they, themselves have been a part of creating. Had it been only one person or business, perhaps one could say that he/she were obstinate and that persuasion would be used to correct them, but never violence.

Our Law is one of bringing about peace and harmony. It was stated by the Onondaga Council of Chiefs in their press statement of March 2, 1998 that "closures were affected without serious injury to anyone". The fact that physical injury occurred is too much. In addition one cannot measure the emotional injury that may damage the lifetime of individuals who, in some cases are close relatives. Our tradition tells us that we must have respect and love for each other just as we must have respect and love for the natural world. In the Ahentekariwatekwen (The Words That Come Before All), we give a greeting and thanksgiving for our people that they are still here, all life is precious.

Paul A.W. Wallace expressed in the "White Roots of Peace" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1946) that clear thinking or rational thought was the basis for the proposition that human beings should not abuse one another. Interactions between humans had to be on a positive level in order to further the principle of rational thought. In order to resolve any matter it was necessary to believe two propositions: a) that each person was capable of rational thought b) that each person desired a return to a peace state Negotiations, thus, could only proceed if the two above mentioned beliefs were present. The titleholders who have initiated this path of violence obviously do not believe in the necessary propositions or have forgotten them. Clear thinking "put your minds together as one" was the backbone of a willingness to lay aside emotions of fear and hatred in order to pursue the path of peace. To be able to negate the desire for revenge is crucial. In this case, there was failure on the part of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs. It has resulted in chaos and has upset the chances of a peaceful solution in the conflict. We are told that Rotianer (chiefs) must have skin seven spans thick in order to carry out their duties. Onondaga citizens would not abide by what the Onondaga Council of Chiefs considered "Onondaga Law" and was the reason the Chiefs retaliated in a violent manner. Social order and harmony amongst Haudenosaunee must be achieved at all costs. At the formation of the League, it was agreed that all weapons of war would be buried amongst ourselves and that no longer would Haudenosaunee oppress each other. We were given a way in which to deal with conflict. Diplomacy to resolve disputes is much harder than acting violently, but once achieved can bring about a lasting peace.

When Rotianer (chiefs) and Roiianer (clanmothers) have failed in their duties, then it goes back to the people for correction. As Haudenosaunee, we cannot stand by and say it is not my problem, the problem and solution belongs to all of us who believe in the Kaienerekowa.

Mohawk Nation Office - Kahnawake Branch

Back to SIS