Stepping onto an NFL field as a fan can be a rush but imagine stepping onto that field to play as a 17-year-old Onkwehonwe young man with other Onkwehonwe players? Well, that is exactly how it played out for Torrey Sowden.
A member of the Mohawk Nation, Turtle clan; Torrey was among fifty-one other youth from all over the United States representing their respective nations. Torrey didn’t let the border stop him from participating as the only representative having to travel internationally.
Return of the Giants
The 6’4” and two hundred-thirty-pound players can play offence, defence, Offense tight end, fullback defence, defensive lineman and linebacker. Although last season was a wash Torrey pulled off 2019-2020 Offensive and defensive Most Valuable Player, an impressive feat to say the least
Inspiration to Inspiring: Passing it on
Torrey draws his inspiration from the love and support of his family. “I’ve always wanted to make them proud because they’ve always believed in the athlete and person I can be on and off the field,” says Sowden.
Torrey also brings some very important symbols onto the field with him sporting orange cleats while playing football or lacrosse. He does this to maintain awareness of the residential system that affects all Onkwehonwe across multiple generations and to let people know that we are still here.
Our Nations Team
When the interview turned to a more serious matter of which NFL team is his favourite, Torrey scored no points as he passed over the Buffalo Bills in favour of the fish saying “I know this is going to make some people mad but no, GO FINS”
That’s alright Torrey, There is plenty of time to change your mind.
On Friday, December 10, Heather Winterstein was transported by Ambulance to St Catharine’s General Hospital located halfway between Hamilton and Fort Erie.
According to the family, She collapsed and passed away in the Intensive care unit after two painful days of seeking medical attention had been ignored. Heather was a 24-year-old Onkwehonwe woman
Just the day before her death, Heather sought treatment and visited St Catharine’s General hospital emergency department for complaints of severe back pain. She was sent home with Tylenol.
The following morning, Heather’s condition worsened and her request to be transported to the emergency department for care was met with cynicism and attempts to deter by the EMS. Even offering to transport her to an urgent care facility approximately 35min away in Fort Erie where wait times can be exceedingly long. Time, that Heather didn’t have.
She was eventually transported back to St Catharine’s General Hospital where she was left sitting in the waiting room only to lose consciousness related to the infection that would eventually lead to her death.
A thirty-day average wait time indicates the Emergency Department had not seen critical capacity, so what was it that hindered Heather’s equal access to health care?
She was a Beautiful Anishnaabe Kwe
Her family believes stereotypes and stigmas of indigenous people as possibly mentally ill or “on something” contributed to her untimely death. This sentiment was recently shared by a Coroner in their findings in the Joyce Echaquan case and by a family in the eerily similar case of Brent Sky.
It was the Intensive care unit that alerted Heather’s mother, but by that time CPR had been started. It wasn’t long after her mother arrived that this beautiful young Onkwehonwe woman started her journey to the spirit world. It’s not known how long she sat in the waiting room before being transferred to ICU
Insult to injury
The Go-Fund-Me page started by Heather’s mother states that a Public Health Nurse confirmed the presence of a streptococcus aureus infection. Shockingly public health had called for contact tracing and not to offer condolences or demonstrate compassion for the family.
According to the page, the coroner confirmed for the family that the circumstances surrounding Heather’s death were preventable and the family should follow up with those involved. The family has every intention of doing just that.
A word from the President
“An internal quality care review is underway to fully understand the patient’s experience, and the family will be involved in this process. In addition, I will be speaking with members of the patient’s family and Indigenous leaders in our community to suggest that we work together with an external third party to review this patient’s care. I will also be suggesting that this independent review look more broadly at the healthcare experiences of Indigenous patients and their concerns.”
At this point, what we do know is that the quality of care for Onkwehonwe in Canada can be Deadly. Heather was very sick, but so many opportunities were missed to treat her fairly and without judgement, so her illness could be treated.
She should be alive and preparing to spend the holidays with her family and friends.
Do calls to decolonize the holidays have you uncertain about celebrating the winter seasons, first consider the ancient origins of the winter festivals that are deeply rooted in Onkwehonweneha.
It’s important to know that most ceremonies directly correlate to the moon and stars honouring the natural process of time rather than a specific gregorian calendar date.
Onkwehonwe winter festivals are enduring despite campaigns to convert practitioners to particular religions or, more recently, their capitalization entirely.
Onkwehonwe celebrations have survived these attempts and are still practiced to this day
It all starts with the Seven dancers and the new moon who announce the new year’s arrival. The Midwinter festival begins five days later with the traditional opening, followed by ceremonies that include the excellent feather dance and stirring the ashes amongst the several ceremony days.
The days are rich in symbolism representative of the renewal of our responsibility to the earth. Singing, dancing and feasting are all reoccurring themes during this time.
The colonization of solstice celebrations replaced the female medicine woman referred to as the Deer Mother into a male figure. He donned a version of her signature red and white clothing. However, the female deer retain their antlers and would pull her sleigh in the winter months. She was a medicine woman and would distribute her gifts as she travelled from village to village.
Quviasukukvik is the Inuit winter celebration that perfectly aligns with the changing seasons. It is to feed spirits, encourage good hunting and welcome the sun into the new year. The feast, family gatherings and gift exchange are a hallmark of this celebration. When the first settlers observed his festival, it was considered an equal counterpart to the colonized Christmas.
The Zuni observe the winter solstice through a series of dances and ceremonies retelling their creation performed by the mediators between the living and the spirit world referred to as the Shalako.
The ceremonies themselves mark the closing of one year and the rebirth of the sun into the next while honouring the principal deities of the Zuni. The feast and ceremony is a community-wide event and now is strictly for nation members.
Revisiting the Christmas Riots
The same people who sought to purify Onkwehonwe festivals within our territory attempted to undo the version of Christ’s mass they had created. The contempt for merry-making arrived in North America with the Puritans in 1620.
Law until 1681
In Massachusetts, the merry-making reached an intolerable level. Christmas started to resemble ancient frat parties; it signalled to the staunch religious politicians to create laws to stop the celebrations altogether.
“For preventing disorders arising in several places within this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God and offence of others, it is therefore ordered by this Court and the authority thereof, that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon such accountants as aforesaid, every person so offending shall pay of every such offence five shillings, as a fine to the county.”
Drinking and Debauchery
The behaviour that put the law on the books was none other than an almost two-week drunk and disorderly, aggressive begging and all-out lust-filled indulgence sans the inflated pig bladders.
The law remained on the books for some twenty-two years before it was repealed by the crown of England when religious affiliation changed.
Celebrate what exists Naturally.
So perhaps Desupremification is a far more accurate term when considering how to observe the seasonal changes.
Enjoy and celebrate a wonderful solstice and a brilliant Midwinter!
Setting aside the question of land title, When do we begin to recognize the rights of the land itself as a living and breathing organism?
Not an obscure thought.
In April of 2021, a river in Kanata received the same rights as a human. Aside from providing Onkwehonwe with the ability to defend its health within the realm of human rights. It affirms a long-held perspective that the earth is one complete entity unto itself.
Kanata wants treaty observed
In an ironic move, Kanata recently cited a 1977 treaty to continue using a sixty-seven-year-old pipeline owned by Enbridge. Enbridge remains in violation of the easement shutdown order.
It’s not just the resource extraction causing irreparable damage, but the by-products and waste are concerning. For example, the projected waste production at mining sites is thirty times greater than all communities, municipalities and industries combined in Kanata, in addition to the 200-400 years of treatment required to return the land and water to suitable for human use.
The practice is unsustainable, and clearly, Kanata does not recognize the cause-and-effect relationship. The Ideology evidences this in the early 1900s
Evidence exists to support climate change-mediated changes to the land, which directly impacts changes in plant life. However, it begs the question of the influence of climate change and the comparison between genetically modified organisms and food. In addition, the relatively indirect genetic modification reduces the effect of current Onkwehonwe sustainability and preservation practices.
Its clear that protection is required
The crown presumptuously states its Onkwehonwe territory; however, It’s more than evident that it’s for resource extraction and development rather than stewardship.
Therefore Onkwehonwe must fill that role once again and not just talk about it but live it.
She has Rights
The land is a living and breathing entity. It has existed without our influence and will live long after our species develop itself beyond the ability to survive.
The recorded terms of negotiations and common understandings were much different pre-contact; as Onkwehonwe and settler relationship evolved, so did the record keeping. Consequently, communication would have been difficult during those early and quite often misunderstood conversations.
Reliance on the written words, the intent and promises behind historical agreements have become a mainstay in land reclamations coast to coast. However, it’s important to note that frequently, agreements were ratified without any consensus-building, leading to internal disagreements.
Tragic Plight of The Six Nations Iroquois Indians is a compendium of letters, Agreements and complaints launched by some pivotal and influential people in Rotinonhsyonni modern history. It includes text from the originals of The Haldimand Pledge, The Haldimand Proclamation and the Simcoe Deed.
Indian affairs thoroughly involved themselves in our matters. They made every effort to “sever” our nation’s relationship with each other and have led to the ideation of “Private property Ownership” over collective landholdings.
We are not just at the Grand River. We have many distinct Rotinonsyonni communities in Canada and the USA that form our League of Nations, some not formally recognized by Indian Affairs. When we consider the time and effort it took and takes to arrive at Consensus, it makes more sense to see why Canada forced smaller band councils to speak for the Onkwehonwe and continue with land disposal
We are still here, and this is just one document that can lead you to a better understanding of Our History.
We have a responsibility to our collective existence and those of our nations.