Linked with our presentation of KENNETH DEER – Mohawk Nation, Canada.
Linked also with our presentation of an Indigenous Approach on Bridging the Digital Divide.
(See this site) – They thought it would never happen. The colonizers that is. They thought that we would fade away, assimilate or just die out before the end of the last century. But we fooled them. We’re still here, as feisty as ever.
When the Indian Advancement Act was written in 1873, there was no intention to have ‘Indians’ around for another 100 years. We were supposed to have advanced into average Canadians. We didn’t think that was much of an advancement so we tried our best to remain who we are.
Now that we’ve survived this long, we have to look at how we will continue to survive into the future.
As long as we are a minority in numbers, we will always be threatened with assimilation into the larger society. Assimilation is the greatest threat to our existence. Unlike ethnic groups in Canada who can replenish their culture and language by importing more of their people from their home country, we do not have that luxury. This is our homeland and we are all that there is.
As we look back at our situation one hundred years ago and beyond, we have shown that we are a very adaptable people. We have managed to take from the colonizers what we needed (sometimes things that we didn’t really need either and which were detrimental to our existence) and, from the time of the fur trade, used our strategic location, knowledge of the rivers and forests, strength of organization, pragmatic diplomacy and, at times, sheer force and intimidation, to ensure our continued survival.
In the future, many of these assets, and more, will be needed to continue our existence.
In no particular order, we have to be wary about the following issues that impact our existence and draw us toward assimilation in the new century:
• Ongoing government policies that intend to achieve the ultimate goals of the Indian Advancement Act; the Canadian governments self-government policy and other policies intended to terminate our nation to nation relationship.
• The loss of our language. The foundation of the Mohawk culture must survive at all costs. We can’t allow the attitude that the Mohawk language is not important and will not help anyone get a job.
• The loss of culture and language through intermarriage. Laws against intermarriage are not enforceable so we must continue to raise our children to understand their responsibility to the continued existence of our language and culture.
• The loss of our connection to the land. A fundamental principle of our existence has been and will continue to be our close attachment to the land. We must not relinquish that attachment. We need to continue and nourish this connection.
• The erosion of our teachings. We need to protect our intellectual property; our songs, stories, plants, medicines, philosophies and other important parts of our culture.
• The loss of our identity. We must remain Mohawk or Kanien’keha:ka which is the real word which describes us. We must maintain our uniqueness through our family, education system and community.
• The inundation of outside culture through media. We must re-evaluate our attachment to TV, movies, electronic games, internet, and other devices which threatens to assimilate, not only us but the rest of the world, into one homogenized culture dominated by the United States.
• The loss of the extended family. We must keep family and clan ties that have carried us though the centuries. We must maintain our human relationships and not drift into imaginary, virtual realties.
• Overwhelming use of modern technology. We must use modern technology to secure our own survival, not the survival of the dominant society.
• The fragmentation of the Mohawk Nation. We must reunite as a People again.
• The loss of respect and dignity. We must regain the values of respect for one another, to really listen to what others have to say, to be unselfish, to look out for the good of the whole, and to always carry the dignity of your ancestors where ever you go.
There are other elements that can be added to this list, but it is a good place to start.
Add your own, apply them all and there will still be Kanien’keha:ka at the next millennium.
Kenneth Deer is the editor of The Eastern Door, Copyright © 2001 Kenneth Deer/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.01.