May 27th, a well-manicured Canadian facade shattered when ground-penetrating radar confirmed a suspected mass grave of 215 Onkwehonwe children. Within days the story made its way around the world; temporary memorials popped up throughout the country. Still, as these little makeshift memorials went up, several were removed quickly, including one in the small town of Dunnville, Ontario.
Sammie Ne Hiyawak shared the collective grief like many Onkwehonwe as their late father attended the Shoal Lake residential school for eight years. They are among many families experiencing residual residential school system impacts.
On June 7th, five pairs of small, well-worn shoes were placed on one of the church’s two entrances. Pastor Sunny Sebastian removed them later that evening. Local supporters had initially replaced the shoes the next day. Still, after learning that the shoes and other items were not aesthetically pleasing memorial items for this Church, relocation efforts started.
Grace United stepped up and acknowledged that its time to not only address the residential school systems but to act on the words within those apologies.
For supporters, that meant walking the shoes the four blocks to the nearby Grace United church.
While we don’t know how long this memorial will stay, For some, It has shown an effort that hasn’t always been there.
“It meant a lot to us that they were so welcoming and so intent on doing their job in holding up the words in their apology regarding residential schools but also showing genuine actions. Their words were not just lip service,” said Sammie referring to the gesture by Grace United.
The city of Brantford agreed to rethink its plans for a road extension crossing over a Mohawk Village settled by Tehowagherengaraghkwen in the 1780s. He was recognized as a “War Chief” in the revolutionary war between the Americans and British and again in 1812. The position was not hereditary but one awarded after observable actions in combat.
Another war erupted soon after the war of 1812, fueled by religious organizations driven upon the claim to be the first to bring about the true civilization of Onkwehonwe. Onkwehonwe men presented this history during the last attempts to develop the area.
Allows freedom of thought and expression without compromising one’s core identity and persecution regarding one’s spiritual choices. Onkwehonwe understood that Politics and Religion are separate matters.
Records indicate a school was located on the Mohawk village site referred to as Davisville and was funded through Wesleyan Methodist. An Ojibway missionary Peter Jones provides a short account of an illness that had struck Davisville children, causing his nephew’s death. Although not considered a residential school, the children who attended lived on the same property.
The likelihood of the source of the infection was either Alvin Torry or Jones himself; who recorded feelings of fatigue and fever in the week before symptoms presenting in the children. The circuit preaching missionary undoubtedly came into contact with diseases between his preaching “appointments” in various settlements and villages.
Peter Jones was the son of Augustus Jones. The latter being notable as an American surveyor turned British Crown Surveyor with the endorsement of John Graves Simcoe. Jones is painted as a close friend to another War Chief Thayendinaga while simultaneously participating in land removal strategies that saw large tracts of land removed from the Mohawks and others.
Several denominations were struggling for supreme stewardship over Onkwehonwe during this time with little care or concern for the youngest members of the nations.
The 100,000-year-old ways belonging to the Onkwehonwe civilizations were outdated and were very difficult for the new country to adapt to. They presented significant hurdles according to the colonization schedule; the new Canadian state needed a new and shiny tool that would keep the savages separated from their federal system but would stroke the egos of Onkwehonwe.
Onkwehonwe women are the life-givers keepers of the Nations’ land while men protect it and the women as they live their roles. Men are not superior or inferior, for that matter. It’s about balancing respectfully within the world that gave Onkwehonwe Women the power of absolute freedom, first documented by Jesuits in the 1600s despite these types of balancing displays having existed for thousands of years.
The Canadian strategy targeted this balance by removing women’s voices from political matters for over 116 years. This strategy effectively removed the unbroken matrilineal bloodlines for millions of women and even forced them out of their community by having male members siding with the young nation.
Despite being a common practice amongst some onkwehonwe nations, women took men from other nations as partners for as long as we have been here. It was a means to redistribute the gene pool and avoid inbreeding into oblivion properly.
Onkwehonwe women did not get the right to vote equally until 1985, unlike their non-native counterparts, having earned their right in 1916. Still, many Onkwehonwe do not vote in any federally recognized elections to this day.
The VOTE out of the canoe
Excerpt of Letter signed Nov 2nd, 1896, by Governor-General John Campbell Hamilton Gordon Signed with a simple “X” by three Indian Warriors and two Chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy, witnessed by Seth Newhouse.
We asked Jheri Jamieson, a photographer and graphic designer, and she did not disappoint!
Growing up, I was always surrounded by my immediate family, aunts, uncles, both of my grandma’s and countless cousins. If you were sensitive, you had to toughen up real quick and get a sense of humour. My family events are filled with jokes and laughter that neighbours could hear down the road!
I went to elementary school on-reserve, and all of my friends were from my community; although my family travelled often and did a lot of stuff off the reserve, I still didn’t have any friendships with non-natives.
When I went to Brantford to play softball, I remember being so excited to try out and play ball at a higher level. My mom drove me to the practice, and I had to have been only 11 or so. Before I jumped out of the car to go to the try-out, my mom stopped me and said,
“Just remember these girls aren’t native. They didn’t grow up like you, and they talk differently than you and they sure as heck don’t have the same sense of humour as we do, so keep that in mind.”
I went into that practice with the open mind that an 11-year-old has and made friends with no problem.
Fast forward to going to post-secondary, I made the varsity softball team, and up until then, I still had no problem making friends, regardless of their race, gender, age, religion etc. Being on this team was my first experience truly understanding what my mom meant all those years ago.
The other girls on the team were predominately white, and I came into this team like any other team. I participated and chatted, trying to make some sort of friendship with at least one person on the team, but I couldn’t seem to do that. I couldn’t hold a conversation for the life of me, my jokes heard crickets, and I sat by myself on the bus. I did my best, I came in with an open mind and a smile, and I still couldn’t create a friendship or bond.
I stopped making jokes so that I wouldn’t hurt any feelings, and I stopped telling stories because either nobody wanted to listen or they just didn’t understand. They weren’t leaving me out to be mean; they just couldn’t connect with me either. I have always embraced where I come from, my heritage, my family; I’ve never been ashamed of any of it. Instead of pretending to be something that I’m not to make friends with, I went back to my community, where my stories and my jokes are appreciated, I went home. I still completed my year at school and am currently in the fourth and final year of my bachelor’s program at Humber College.
My program has taught me so much in the digital communications field, and every chance that I got, I did my project either about a First Nations issue or about Beyonce. Creating these Valentine cards was something I’ve been thinking about since I started my program, but I never had to tools to do it; finally, I taught myself how to make illustrations and designed them with my friends and family in mind.
Having Kraft dinner and hotdogs for dinner is a classic rez meal that we all had. Some people who are not from our community might think the meal is sad and cheap, but to a couple of rez kids, they wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’ve ever been to a Healers’s dance, you know that the song ‘Come And Get Your Love’ is where you find someone you want to end off your night.
These jokes are for our community, and I think it’s vital that we embrace them. Sure other people won’t get it; they might wonder why we believe hot-dog’s and Kraft dinner are the perfect combination, but it’s a part of us, it’s a part of our childhood, adulthood, and it’s something that we all have in common.
During COVID, every family feels that sense of loneliness, not being able to gather with family and friends. I think that’s why, now more than ever, we need to find our sense of humour and connect with not just our families but with our community as well. I hope to keep designing and creating with all of my experiences in mind and hopefully bring laughter and smiles to my community.
Contributor: Jheri Jamieson is a Kanyenke: haka, Wolf clan member. Her home community is Six Nations of the Grand River. She is a full-time student at Humber College in the digital communication program and somehow finds the time to share her gift of humour in the formats mentioned above. I found her on her Facebook, but she has Instagram; follow her here for her work @jjamiesoncreative .
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The simple and most obvious answer may appear to be a resounding “No,” however, for many Onkwehonwe… The answer is, “yes.”… Sort of.
While you might be thinking, How is that even a possibility? The answers lie within what we simply refer to as “Onkwehonwe:neha”; Unfortunately, it can only be loosely translated to “Our way of life,” but includes the language, the beliefs, our matrilineal structure within family and clan and nation, amongst many other influences. There really does need to be a genetic connection to be able to understand.
The elected system was an ill-conceived attempt to remove any remnants of a distinct people finally so that we won’t discuss that much further, but rather the model of governance viewed as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is poorly understood. In large part, which in part because we have no literal concept translation, in Kanyenkahaka anyway for a singular entity. So what is commonly referred to as the traditional system or Confederacy is more of a colonial translation or perhaps more appropriately and likely a colonial interpretation of what our way was. Throw in the Indian act expectations and colonial demands for concepts to their understanding birthed what we see today.
It’s was way more comfortable for the Canadian government not to have to deal with multiple entities while also reducing the length of time that we took to make our decisions. Twelve chiefs are more manageable than 50, and 50 is more manageable than 99 chiefs and clan mothers and so on. Who wouldn’t want to make things easier for themselves and reduce “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” a saying that is direct evidence of their interpretation that it was only chiefs who made the decisions? Having to deal with only one person or speaker made it very easy to accomplish goals and act under the directives of the Indian act. In hindsight, ensuring that many nations completely understand and make decisions is a foreign concept to them. So much so that it continues to this day.
They are dealing with one entity rather than disclosing that unlike their governance, Ours has multiple arms belonging to separate and distinct nations. All of which have an equal say within our Wisk Niyonwenstake.
As distinct and autonomous nations, we have our own language within the same language family that allows us to communicate within the Nations, we have our own leadership within individual nations.
It is not to say everyone has forgotten Onkwehonweneha but perhaps it has been pushed aside for palatable alternatives, albeit with less responsibilities that ultimately result in fewer rights.
Their system is purely hierarchical.
It is understood as a representative democracy where individuals are elected to represent groups of people. It is also called Indirect democracy, where the participants are never a party to full freedom as democratic people.
After voting, there is rarely ever another option to participate in the day to day choices that directly affect them with any real or significant impact. It’s not because citizens in that ship are too irresponsible or are unable to articulate on a professional political level, as seen here during a debate in the house of commons, but rather by design, the citizens are only benefactors of the laws that made for them.
Perhaps I am overthinking of a foreign system to me and one that I will never fully understand. I still respect the two-row and the ship’s right to form a government of their own.
I can only understand as an Onkwehonwe who is Pro-Wisk Neyonwenstake and anti-forced foreign government.