The Two Row Wampum is an agreement whereby two nations coexist and travel the River of Life in peace and friendship. This agreement incorporates all social, political, and constitutional aspects of nationhood. In summary, it states: "You keep your laws, ways and traditions in your vessel, and we will keep our laws, ways and traditions in our vessel. We will travel the river of Life side by side in parallel paths (two rows) which never meet, in peace and friendship, never interfering with one another." Legally, it means that each of the two nations retains its respective jurisdiction. Neither of the two nations can impose its laws and ways over the other.
The Two Row Wampum Belt Agreement has its roots in the arrival of the Europeans on this continent. It soon became clear that the Europeans had come with a different way of life. The People of the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, observed how the newcomers acted toward each other, toward the land and everything that was on it. In order to maintain peace the Two Row Wampum Agreement was afforded each newcomer nation that arrived on our shores.
At the time of it's inception, the Two Row Wampum Agreement was established on a government to government basis. Whenever a dispute arises between native and non-native peoples, we find ourselves in a situation where we are left at a standstill and therefore nothing gets resolved. If this agreement were respected, the mechanisms already exist within it that would allow us to peacefully resolve such issues as taxation and jurisdiction. To avoid a crisis situation, responsible governments should be looking towards re-instituting this process.
The traditional Kanienkehaka have always maintained that their authority comes from the Kaienerekowa (Constitution of the Great Law) not the Canadian Constitution. Today the position is the same. The Kanienkehaka (Mohawk Nation) have never relinquished our sovereignty over our territory, nor have we given the United States or Canada the authority to impose taxation within our territories. Our territories have always been a 'duty-free' zone.
Kanienkehaka are a non-taxable people and not 'tax exempt'. The latter infers that one is taxable but has been 'given' the right to not pay tax.
Kanienkehaka are also not tax collectors for any foreign governments. Just as it would be absurd to ask the United States to collect taxes for Canada on American soil.
Jurisdiction is more than an abstract legal term. It is bound with sovereignty and identity, and all their ramifications - social, cultural, political, and economic. The Canadian government, like European colonizers around the world, have learned to conceal what is in effect genocide in many pretty terms. For example, alternative funding becomes municipal structures and self-government becomes not self-determination but 'Indian government' as Canadian municipalities
. The Traditional People of the Longhouse have consistently warned the Kahnawake Band Council and many other people that self-government agreements would only bring about taxation and municipalization of our sovereign territory. As Kanienkehaka we once again restate our objection to any form of foreign taxation on native lands.
Mohawk Nation Office - Kahnawake Branch