Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Border Issue Is Not Just About Guns
Amid a growing concern that a Tyendinaga style ambush may be lurking in the future for the People of Akwesasne, the commitment of the People to not just resist these latest attempts by US and Canadian forces to violate the freedom and sovereignty of the Mohawk People, but to assert those rights and freedoms that have been under attack for generations remains as strong as ever.
The use of the 911 debacle to justify a more aggressive stance against our community and our People is pathetic. Both the US and Canada have spent billions of dollars and many decades manipulating, separating and criminalizing our People. When we speak of the "American Holocaust", we aren't speaking of some unspeakable acts 5 centuries ago or even 5 decades ago. We speak of an ongoing effort, 500 years long.
Diseased blankets, mass executions, military massacres and the outright murder of women and babies may seem like the actions of a time long since gone by, but for many of us the actions of today keep our entire history fresh on our minds. Everyday more comes out about the atrocities committed to our young People at the residential schools. Land claims, land use, tax compacts, gaming compacts, trade compacts, Homeland Security, the "war on terror", securing the borders and, most (or worst) of all, trying to make us into them; these aren't just issues of the past. These are the tools and justifications they use everyday to complete their work started since the first days they looked with envy and greed upon our lands.
When efforts to wipe out our belief systems failed to reduce our People those that would "lick the hand that smites them" (a quote from L. Frank Baum, the author of the "Wizard of Oz"), it became clear that a stronger effort was needed to eliminate our systems of governance, family and culture. Borders and federal recognition became powerful tools to this effort. By dissecting our communities and recognizing separated pockets of people as bands or tribes rather than the unified People they had been for thousands of years, the US and Canada created subordinate and subservient oppressors within our communities. Neither the US or Canada will today acknowledge the Mohawk People as a distinct and sovereign people. On the Canadian side a half dozen or so bands of Indians of Mohawk descent are "recognized", while none are recognized on the US side. The Saint Regis Indians, now know as the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, were ruled against in a federal court proceeding where the court rejected the tribe's claim to being Mohawks and part of the Six Nations.
By no means does this suggest that the Kanienkehaka (Mohawk People) or any of the People of the Six Nations truly cease to exist, but it shows the current state of the genocide being perpetrated against us. Band councils and tribal councils are propped up to negotiate a whole host of settlements that effect everything from land use, to commerce, to border crossing.
Missing in all the debate over armed border guards are the new standards that are being implemented at the border to limit, monitor and scrutinize the travel of Native People to and from our communities. Akwesasne is in the limelight on this issue because it was bisected with imaginary lines by the US and Canada and has always been a hot bed of resistance and controversy as a result.
For all of the propaganda associated with "Homeland Security" the US is forcing a breach of their precious border by closing access to the bridge to Akwesasne's Cornwall Island. The New York State Police blockade of motor vehicle access to the Island is forcing traffic to the river. By boat our People enjoy the unfettered access they have always had and completely disregard the imaginary line, intentionally drawn to separate our People. Issues raised to Janet Napolitano over the safety of our children being forced to boat to and from school or transporting food or other necessities to loved ones is obviously as little concern to her as the "breach of security". 70% of the border crossings here are Native People just carrying on their lives. With plenty of police on either side of the Island, there is absolutely no need for armed guards on the Island. The armed presence serves one reason and one reason only and that is to intimidate Native People or worse. As the US and Canada try to raise the standards for our travel within our own communities, the plan appears to be to heighten the pressure on us and cause more conflict.
Seaway security is another excuse for more policing. Throwing millions of dollars at band and tribal councils to yield more to Canadian and US law and control is another in this long line of encroachments. Vital economic interests have never created as much anti-Indian sentiment as it does now, at least not is recent times. Creating us as scapegoats for lost tax revenue and dwindling commerce has produced a daily drumbeat in the non-native communities and in the press. The blockade of Akwesasne is hurting the economies of Massena, NY and Cornwall, ON far more than it is hurting us. At some point when the stir of resentment towards our People reaches a fevered pitch, US and Canadian forces will claim they simply had to act; the people demanded it.
There is little question that there is much more at stake here than whether a dozen Canadian border guards can carry guns in our community. The armed presence is just a small piece of a much bigger plan that usually involves small quiet steps that we are expected not to notice until it is too late. The line is drawn now and not even the tribal and band councils will have a very easy time erasing this one.