May 21/97: Mohawk proposal for reconciliation


- posted by Allen Gabriel

Date: 97-05-21 13:49:17 EDT

(AKWESASNE MAY 21, 1997) The Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs has completed its analysis of the Trade and Commerce Agreement between the State of New York and the Haudenosaunee. Also released was a summary of Council's vision for the long-term self-sufficiency of the Haudenosaunee.

A review of the document has brought us to the conclusion that the proposed agreement, in its current form, is unacceptable to our Council. While several aspects of the proposal have merit, our sovereignty and our responsibilities to Creation and the future generations have not been adequately addressed.

The current situation is volatile. Tensions are high, emotions are raw and we are beginning to witness needless acts of violence. We need to seek creative solutions that will benefit our people as a whole and it is with that in mind that we present our vision of the future to the public.

Western politicians are often motivated by public opinion. We hope people will support our proposals and pressure their representatives to continue to negotiate towards fair, just and long-term solutions.

We are launching a strategy to get this information to as many people as possible. Council intends to reach out to citizens of the Haudenosaunee, New York State, the United States and other countries around the world to see if there is support for our vision.

The principles at the heart of any agreement should be sound. We believe the following should form the basis of our approach to discussions:

- we have rights and we don't apologize for having them.

- negotiations should be based on true mutual recognition and respect and should affirm the respective sovereignty of the parties.

- negotiations should contribute to the re-establishment of relations between governments. Such a relationship can lead to the resolution of other issues, including land rights, hunting rights, etc.

- a true nation-to-nation agreement would be based on the principles of the Kaswentah. It would involve negotiations between the U.S. (with the State as part of their delegation) and the Haudenosaunee as a whole.

- a good agreement would ensure that the proceeds generated through the exercise of our collective rights go substantially to the communities.

- a good agreement must provide the Haudenosaunee the opportunity to work on a long term transition that will break our dependence on foreign governments and allow us to achieve self-sufficiency (true sovereignty).

- a good agreement should help us avoid confrontations which involve unnecessary risk and possible injury. It should promote the potential to create peace and prosperity and that's what the confederacy is about.

In order to address the issues in an organized manner, we (the Haudenosaunee) have to ask ourselves some basic questions.
- are we able to come together on this issue, or will we continue to participate in the divide and conquer strategies that the colonizers have used against us for years?

- are we ready to deal with the issues as the Kaianerekowa intends -- looking after the interests of the next generations as well as our own?

We look forward to participating in a process where all concerned can adopt a long term vision for the future a vision that we can communicate to the world and which will lead us back to peaceful and respectful relations.

For more information, please contact the Mohawk Nation Council Office: (518) 358-3381.

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Highlights of: the Agreement
Summary of: Community Development in Keeping With our Ways



Prepared by the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs
May 1997


These highlights are presented in order to simplify the contents and implications of the recently released document entitled, Trade and Commerce Agreement Between the State of New York and the Haudenosaunee.

It is important for everyone to engage in an informed public dialogue on this vital issue. We hope our views make a constructive contribution to identifying a process to lead us out of this intolerable situation.

It may well be that there is other information that was unavailable at time of writing and, therefore, was not considered in this exercise. The agreement has been released to the public, however, and reaction will be based on that document.



If all we want is to administer the cigarette and tobacco trade in our communities, the nuts and bolts of this agreement can help us do that.

The licensing, stamping, distribution and compliance clauses are fairly standard. They offer the potential to distribute benefits generated through the exercise of our rights more widely rather than concentrate wealth in the hands of a few individuals.

If the regulation of this industry was the primary focus of this agreement, we would have no need to analyze it further. The negotiators did well with these clauses.

However, there is considerably more at stake with this agreement than trade in tobacco products. It is these clauses which need to be examined more closely.


The preamble opens by stating that this agreement is made in the spirit of the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794, in order to further the mutual respect, peace and friendship that exists between the Haudenosaunee and State of New York.

Later in the preamble, though, it is clearly stated that "the fact that the State of New York has signed this Agreement should not be interpreted as any indication that the State is ratifying the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty...".

Further, this agreement is not based on the nation-to-nation principle articulated in the Kaswentah which we've always held to. It is an administrative agreement between the New York State and a few federally-recognized tribes. The Haudenosaunee is not being recognized as a whole.

The relationship recognized here is not balanced.

Article II (B) states: "This Agreement shall not constitute a waiver or relinquishment of any sovereign or statutory powers or immunities now possessed by the State of New York, and the State of New York shall retain all the jurisdiction it currently possesses, nor shall it constitute a waiver or relinquishment of any of the rights privileges or immunities afforded to citizens of New York or the United States of America."

For its part, "The State agrees not to interfere with the Haudenosaunee Nations' exercise of its jurisdiction."

The state's statutory power is recognized but not the Haudenosaunee's.

As well, this agreement allows the State of New York to erode the Haudenosaunee Confederacy by referring to "each Haudenosaunee Nation", while meaning only the federally-recognized tribes.

There is also an explicit distinction made between New York State and U.S. citizens and "members" of the Haudenosaunee nations. A refusal to use the term 'citizen' when referring to the Haudenosaunee further diminishes our status according to the Kaswentah.

For the purposes of this agreement, parity is intended to establish the mythical "level playing field" with off-territory convenience stores in terms of tobacco products. It ignores that the larger economic playing field among the territories is far from level.

In exchange for our getting the lion's share of the responsibilities and obligations, we lose an important source of revenue (gasoline). These revenues could have been channeled back into the communities and invested towards the future growth and self-sufficiency of our people.

We will be responsible for the cost and burden of the administration of licensing and regulatory approvals, and the reporting and accounting to the State. It seems unlikely that licensing fees and the .25¢ per carton fee will be able to cover the cost of that administration.

The concession on fuel also eliminates the opportunity for the Haudenosaunee to explore environmentally safer options such as ethanol and methane fuels and better storage technologies. It also prevents someone who wants to operate according to stringent environmental standards (gas/service station/convenience store).

Any dispute between the Haudenosaunee and State of New York that have gone unresolved for more than sixty days will be sent to the United States Federal Court for final resolution.

This part of the clause is very damaging. The federally-recognized tribes agree to submit themselves to U.S. law rather than to finding international remedies.

This is inconsistent with our historically-held position on our nationhood. It may also undermine the years of hard work that has been done in Geneva to have our nationhood recognized by the international community.

If one or more of the clauses (except Section VII, the one on parity) are successfully invalidated in any court, the agreement lives on. If, however, any part of Section VII is invalidated in any court, the agreement dies.

If the agreement dies, and the parties cannot renegotiate the agreement within six (6) months, the federally-recognized tribes agree that New York State's tax regulations will apply in Haudenosaunee territories.

We will have accepted a foreign government's right to tax us, so that our money will again be going into their pockets. What was presented as a trade and commerce agreement becomes a tax compact.

The question here is whether any federally-recognized tribes can legally enter into this agreement without the participation of the Mohawk and Cayuga Nation leadership and still be called Haudenosaunee.



Prepared by the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs
May 1997


The Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs believes that our communities can become self-sustaining and healthy only by promoting growth and development in a culturally-appropriate manner.


Our communities have been dragged and beaten over the centuries into unwilling submission to the American and Canadian economies. These systems promote and reward consumption and exploitation. They encourage greed. They encourage the destruction of the environment. They advocate a throw-away lifestyle which includes people as well as things.

Our people, even those who have adopted the American and Canadian value system as their own, are among those who are disposable. We are all achingly familiar with the results: diabetes, heart attacks, suicide, addictions, family violence, unemployment, underemployment, polluted lands and water, substandard housing -- emotional and financial poverty.

Americans and Canadians have learned to consume life without living it well. The strong influences of their societies have caused many of our people to adopt their ways. In essence, our communities have been dragged across the three beads of the Kaswentah and into their boat.

We must choose whether to stay in their boat, as our band councils have done, build a boat just like theirs, as many of our business people have done, or make the journey back across the three beads to our canoe. It may well be that the canoe is now made of cedar or fiberglass because the trees we used for bark are all but gone, but it is still a canoe and it is ours.

The Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs has a vision and plan for beginning the process of reclaiming our economy and providing for the development, growth and viability of Rotinonsionni communities that are truly healthy, self-sufficient and autonomous.


- Our ECONOMY must be self-sustaining and developed in a culturally appropriate manner. We must promote the idea that a good quality of life is based on much more than just earning a salary.

- EDUCATION is more than churning out people who know how to make a living in corporate North America. We must promote broad bases of expertise in our communities in the areas which will provide the best foundation for independence from foreign governments. Individuals will know their place in the community, their rights and responsibilities as Rotinonsionni. They will be valued for their skills and gifts.

- A healthy ENVIRONMENT means having a healthy and secure place to live and raise our children. It means we have control over our lands, waters and resources. In order to achieve this, our activities must be driven by our desire to heal the extended family of our communities. It is essential that we focus our energy on restoring the institutions that once allowed our communities to flourish.


1. Economic activities based on the co-operative model are an effective tool for:

- increasing the viability of operations that promote the health of the community over a large profit margin;

- instilling a sense of community involvement and ownership in community businesses;

- developing a broader base of skills among the population.

POTENTIAL CO-OPERATIVE VENTURES: organic farming, dairy farming, cheese and yogurt-making, aquaculture, meat farming, sheep farming (including wool gathering, processing and weaving)

2. Apprenticeships are a vital way for the community to acquire knowledge, not just services. They can be a driving force behind changing how our people are educated by:

- making apprenticeships a necessary condition for our purchase of outside services until we develop our own "experts". For example, if we hire an outside construction firm to build on our community, we insist that they take on some of our carpentry and welding students as apprentices during the construction; if we are using outside lawyers to process our land claims, we insist they use our law students and paralegal students to help them with their research and in negotiations;

- encouraging those of us who already have skills to take on apprenticeships from within our community for a few months of each year

- using the "co-op" model in our high schools, allowing senior students to get credits for working with members of the community

APPRENTICESHIP AREAS: skilled trades, licensing people and inspectors, health and nutrition fields, legal workers, communications and telecommunications, environmental assessment and remediation, alternative housing, cooking and preserving, agribusiness, finance and accounting, eco-tourism.

3. There is a pressing need for Kanienkehaka-owned, operated and controlled communications industries. The mainstream media have proven that they are primarily concerned with promoting instant gratification over value. We are bombarded with powerful advertising promoting the consumption of junk food, Nintendo, Air Jordans, infant formula, and lipstick. The corporate owners of the various media have their own agenda -- and it conflicts directly with our goals and aspirations. We can:

- add to our already-working print media and radio stations by promoting the profile of role models (past and present) in our communities-these would be along the lines of the vignettes Bob Johnstone does on CBC radio. We can involve our students in researching and producing these vignettes, and expand them to other media as we progress;

- look at the establishment of our own television production facilities or cable programs. Television is a powerful and effective medium which we must begin to use to promote our own culture and vision;

- we can look at developing our own electronic superhighway, and using the Internet to educate others and exchange ideas with other Aboriginal communities.


The foregoing are discussion points, and highlights, from a more comprehensive vision document. We recognize that there will be a long period of transition back across to our side of the Kaswentah.

Our communities will need to determine what they need to have quality of life, and what they can do without. We need to look at financing our drive for healthy self-sufficiency. But we must also recognize that, with community support, this is a plan that is viable. It can empower our people.

There is a major difference between getting people off welfare and promoting growth and development in keeping with our culture and values. It's like the adage, "Give a man a fish and he'll feed himself once. But teach him how to fish, and he'll feed himself and his family for the rest of his life."

Community and nation development is not only about infrastructure and profit. It's about people, and it's about restoring healthy families and a strong Confederacy.

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