Mohawk Nation position on Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples


This statement was passed in Council
at Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, December 18, 1996.

Mohawk Nation Office - Kahnawake Branch

We are Kanienkehaka Peoples, occupying the Kahnawake Territory and part of the Kanienkehaka Nation of the Haudenosaunee Iroquois Confederacy. We are not Native peoples as defined in the Canadian Constitution, but a Nation. Neither are we Canadian citizens but Kanienkehhaka. At this time we must remind Canada of the long-standing commitments made to the Haudenosaunee People over several centuries, exemplified in treaties established with first the Dutch, French, and then English. These agreements are symbolized by the Two Row Wampum and the Silver Covenant Chain, and are recognized as international law. We see that the three main recommendations contained within the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples are yet another attempt by the Canadian Government to ignore these established treaties. They are: (1) to dissolve the Royal Proclamation of 1763 enacted by Great Britain which affirmed Aboriginal nationhood, sovereignty and ownership of land in North America, and to replace it with new treaties established under Canadian laws and jurisdiction with the Aboriginal nations; (2) to set up a United States model of "nations within a nation" rather than affirm internationally recognized separate nations; (3) establish an "aboriginal order of government" based on existing structures implemented by the Indian Act system, which will place control of limited resources into the hands of a few individuals, augmenting the inequality that already exists.

We remind Canada of the principles of the Two Row Wampum and the Silver Covenant Chain. The "Gus-Wen-Tah" or Two Row Wampum, defines how the two peoples relate to each other and coexist. The two rows symbolize the 'river of life.' The Haudenosaunee and the European nations would travel in two vessels side by side in parallel paths which would never cross or meet. Each nation's vessel contains the government, culture, laws, ways and knowledge of the respective nations, with neither imposing their ways on the other. The fundamental principles of the Two Row Wampum became the basis for the agreements made between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch in 1645; with the French in 1701; and with the English in 1763. Another symbol of this relationship is the Covenant Chain, pure, strong and untarnished, which binds nations together without causing them to lose their individual characters, or their independence. Those who 'took hold' of this chain were responsible for keeping the relationship bright and to prevent it from breaking. The Covenant Chain binds the Haudenosaunee People and the European colonial powers in a relationship of friendship and mutual coexistence as separate independent nations.

Since the formation of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, before the Europeans came to North America, the member nations - Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora, have functioned as a single Confederacy with regards to all matters of national importance. Each nation has maintained its own government, or council fire, and each community within each nation has its own council fire. Since contact, relations between the Haudenosaunee and Europeans have been the responsibility of the Haudenosaunee as a Confederacy. The Haudenosaunee has carried on formal diplomatic and trade relations with Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and other nations for more than 250 years before the colony of Canada was created. Sovereignty of the Confederacy was affirmed with the enactment of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Haudenosaunee and all of its allied nations have continued to exist and function as governments up to the present time. The nations, communities and people that make up the Haudenosaunee are still living in our original territory.

Any change to treaties, specifically the treaties of peace and the Two Row Wampum Treaty, requires the consent of both parties, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy representing the Kanienkehaka Nation and the Crown represented by the Canadian Government. The Canadian Government is a third party and has no legal jurisdiction to initiate any changes. Canada has merely been entrusted to fulfill the responsibilities of these Treaties and therefore cannot initiate, alter or abrogate in part or whole any of these Treaties.

The Kanienkehaka has observed the confusion that is evident among the Canadian People and the Canadian Government, over the issues of sovereignty, government and nationhood with regards to Aboriginal peoples. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is sovereign in the international community, not within the Canadian (or American) context, therefore we can never be a nation within a nation as proposed by the Royal Commission. Also, there is no need for an "aboriginal order of government", the Haudenosaunee Confederacy already is an established government. The Haudenosaunee have been, and continue to be firmly resolved not to allow themselves, or their nations, to be involved in any process of renegotiation or implementation of new treaties. Therefore any new Royal Proclamation or treaties will have no jurisdictional authority within our territories or over our peoples.

Passed in Council
Mohawk Territory
December 18, 1996

signed by representatives from the Turtle Clan, Wolf Clan, and Bear Clan.

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