Even the terminology used here is problematic: we do not know for a fact that the residents of Caledonia are all non-Aboriginal, as some may well be members of Canada's "non-status" Indian majority, that is, descendants of those who married non-Aboriginal men and lost the right to live on their reserves. As for the Six Nations side, not all the protesters come from the Six Nations reserve, with some notable protesters traveling from areas well outside of the disputed land in the Haldimand Tract in Ontario. It is not even clear to what extent the protesters legitimately speak for the members of the Six Nations reserve, since the number of protesters, even when swollen by those visiting from other reservations in Canada and the US, has always been a fraction of the total population of the reserve. Finally, it has not been established what the actual goals of the protest group are, and here one can hear many voices speaking within that camp, and even some individuals speak with many voices. This is the only a fragment of the many problems that lurk beneath the surface of this protest.
The Barricade as a Mirror
Where Canadians are perceived to be racist, the reaction is to treat all Canadians as usurpers, invaders, exploiters and in essence, enemies. At worst, Canadians are cast, to only slightly paraphrase, as "homogenized scum," who have "risen to the top of the pot" holding a boiled mixture. Canadians are perceived as rootless, wandering and lost, without even the slightest attempt made by these critics to fathom how Canada has become home to millions, and has been so for many generations in most parts of the country. This is an example of historical obfuscation of the contemporary, which happens when one's vision is entirely occupied by a selective reading of events that transpired two centuries ago or more.
Where Canadians are seen as demanding indigenous peoples to demonstrate their indigenous-ness in terms of a static continuity of cultural traits from pre-colonial times, the reaction is to engage Canadians in revisiting antique documents and colonial relationships. We are told by some of the protesters, members of one or another Mohawk Warior Society, that the band councils which rule their reserves are creations of the Canadian government and rule without legitimacy--they are non-traditional. Yet, these non-traditional entities have been in existence for the better part of a century, and one would expect that the novelty might have worn off by now, that invention has become convention.
Where Canadians are cast as lusting for power and profit, we are presented with ambiguous long-term goals of reclaiming Toronto and Montreal as Mohawk territory, and where lands cannot be returned, rents must be paid. Hence we have another layer of prospective proprietors, living off of usury, establishing themselves at the top of a landlord-tenant relationship, without any regard for the class position of those who will be called upon to pay these rents.
Where Canadians are described as greedy individualists who turn land into a commodity, we are presented with Aboriginal claimants to land as private property, no longer owned by no one (as might have been the Aboriginal perspective) but rather owned by some and never others.
Where Canadians have tried to instill shame in Aboriginals, the reverse is to instill guilt in Canadians, including those who own nothing and rent everything. I sense an attempt to turn the tables, rather than a critique of inequality. Given that there are some super-profitable corporations in the Six Nations reserve, such as Grand River Enterprises (see this page from the Hamilton Spectator), one senses the possibility that profits are not distributed equitably among community members, and the politics of some members of the Mohawk Warriors Society may be of the invidious sort, seeking their own financial resources to sustain and propel their activities.
One of the many facets that remains murky is the relationship between the Mohawk Warriors Society and the reserves in which they are based. The Haudenosaunee Home Page, which presents itself as the official source of news and information from the Haudenosaunee, comprised of the traditional leadership of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora Nations, presents the Mohawk Warriors Society as itself a threat to Aboriginal sovereignty:
"The Great Law of Peace is very clear that the purpose of human life is to promote peace. As the Haudenosaunee, we are to be the people who build a long house of peace. We were to bury the weapons of war and not shed blood among one another. The Warrior Societies within our communities have subverted the Great law and have sought noting short of the total destruction of the Haudenosaunee Council of Chiefs for the mere purpose of making money for themselves. It is this perversion of the Great Law and the use of violence against their own people that casts each and every 'warrior' outside of the circle of the Great Law of Peace." [click here to read more]
Quite aside from this is the question of tact and consistency. It seems like a difficult line for a Mohawk Warrior to maintain a denunciation of colonialism while at the same time recalling with pride how the Mohawks were allies of the British in the fight against the Hurons and the French. To proclaim "we won" when condemning the principle of "might makes right," and then to do so in Quebec where even the licence plates are inscribed with the words "Je me souviens" (I remember), might be viewed by some as a potentially self-defeating provocation. Likewise, to condemn the "white man's courts," while praising the successful Noongar land claim in Western Australia, or to bask in the words of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or to denounce colonization while making appeals to the authority of Queen Elizabeth II, all strike me as a confused and chaotic script that is still "under construction." It's as if the aim were to produce a discourse that deconstructs itself, that falls apart in the very act of being articulated, that evaporates in open air.
We also come to the question of the "nation-to-nation" relationship that is especially advocated by members of the Mohawk Warrior Society. In practice, this is cast as an argument for sovereignty, for nationhood qua nation-state status (internalizing European notions of sovereignty and re-presenting them to Canada as Aboriginal), conflicting with the obvious reality that they are not such entities under international law and have no such recognition in the United Nations. That's actually not the most significant problem in my view. The more significant issue is whether such proponents have understood the ramifications of their quest. To be viewed, respected, and treated as separate nations means that they become foreigners with respect to Canada. In such a situation, rights to employment within Canada would be eliminated. In order to move from one corner of Canada to another, they would need passports, thereby reintroducing the same pass laws that were treated (and rejected) as an abomination of internal colonialism. Access to social services, such as health, education, and public works would also be terminated. In order to sustain a quality of life which most residents of their communities desire as evidenced by current practice, they would now have to pay to import "specialists" from Canada or elsewhere, which could cancel out any benefits to be derived from any rents to be paid by Canada for use of reclaimed Aboriginal lands. It's possible that this arrangement could even place them in a relationship of debt and dependency with the rest of Canada. Worse yet, it would sever many urban, non-status Natives from their homes of origin.
Land Rights...and Urban Natives?
For those who wish to investigate some of the issues raised above in a little more depth, one may visit the following pages:
While I certainly wish for an outcome that satisfies all parties and brings real justice, I suspect that divisions on both sides of the barricade will continue to deepen until this protest reaches a climax. Already it seems that what began as a reclamation has bow begun to feel like a state of siege for those involved. In the meantime, the best thing that I can do is to disengage myself from writing any further on this topic. I would still appreciate any commentaries from visitors, and I encourage ideas from all perspectives to be expressed, including if not especially those that are severely critical of anything that I have written.