Jan 2/98: Oneida Nation position on Project OK


January 2, 1998

Mr. Joseph Norton
P.O. Box 720
Kahnawake Quebec
J0L 1B0

Dear Mr. Norton,

The secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake has brought to the attention of our Nation Council, that your office and private interests are implementing an economic project that will have long-term negative impacts on the integrity of our Haudenosaunee culture.

It is our understanding that a group of entrepreneurs are establishing a production system using cheap labor in Mexico to produce products that will use the sacred and spiritual symbols of our culture. These products will be imported into Canada and internationally for sale to tourists.

Another factor of this venture is the establishment of an Indigenous Trade and Commerce Commission between the Government of Canada and The Government of the Republic of Mexico, supported by your administration. The Commission is slated to Afacilitate the reciprocal certification and protection of indigenous intellectual property and trade mark and patent protection@. What will this mean? This may mean that all sacred and spiritual symbols that are associated with our culture could be patented as intellectual property of these entrepreneurs. This demonstrates a blatant disregard for the sacred and spiritual symbols of the Haudenosaunee culture.

In review of the documentation provided we raise the following concerns:

* Why are the collective property rights of sacred and spiritual symbols being misrepresented?

* Why is an agreement being made with the Government of Mexico when they continue to commit acts of genocide and murder against Indigenous peoples?

* An international Indigenous Trade and Commerce Commission can not be supported that intends to regulate the collective intellectual property of the Haudenosaunee.

* Economic projects that intend to use cheap labor of our relatives in other countries of the Americas can not be supported. This is the same economic policy of white corporations who are primarily profit motivated and disregard the human rights violations of those countries.

We understand those individuals involved in this trade project represented themselves as Mohawk people of the Mohawk Nation. In addition, they are using the cultural and spiritual symbols of the Haudenosaunee. Their representation has obligated them to be responsible for the integrity of our culture. It is of paramount importance that the concerns of other Haudenosaunee communities and Nations be considered in future development projects that directly impact our National Treasures and spiritual and sacred cultural property.

Another concern of our Nation Council, is whether or not the Indigenous people of Mexico have asked for assistance to improve the economic conditions of their communities. According to the Great Law there is procedure for this to happen. If this project is about supporting and helping our relatives in Mexico proper procedural protocols need to be followed that would involve the whole of the Haudenosaunee.

Furthermore, our concern for the continuous exploitation and genocide committed against our Indigenous relatives in Mexico is unacceptable to our Nation.

Our Nation Council is requesting an answer to our concerns. We look forward to a written response from your office concerning this issue at your earliest convenience.


Howard Elijah

cc. Frank Natawe, Secretary
cc. Other Haudenosaunee Councils

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