How Elected Band Council and the Two Row Times are working together to dismantle the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI)

[Authors note: While I have been well aware of the debates and materials going around social media concerning an internal conflict over the role and existence of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute over the past year, I have been very deliberate about not publicly commenting on the matter or promoting the stories put out by one side or the other. As a non-native person with some familiarity with the Two Row Wampum, I know that it is not my place to publicly judge or intervene in a conflict which concerns the internal business of the clan families of the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

But as this conflict has unfolded, an issue has been raised which requires my public comment. I am referring to allegations levelled at the Two Row Times – a media organization and business which I founded, financed, and of which I was the General Manager and Editor for its first 88 issues (until April 2015) and of which I continue to be a 25% owner of.

The Two Row Times has been accused of not only being in collusion with the Men’s Fire for expelling HCCC legal advisor Aaron Detlor from his offices on Tuesday, April 26th 2016, but in working with band council to take out the HCCC and HDI over a much longer time. This is a matter that I have not only a right to comment upon, but a responsibility to do so, as a founder of the Two Row Times and one of its four owners.]

By Tom Keefer

BAND COUNCIL VS. THE HCCC

SIX NATIONS – A very serious political conflict is currently playing itself out at Six Nations. This conflict has been unfolding since the reclamation of Kanonhstaton in 2006, when the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council(HCCC) became the lead group from Six Nations negotiating with the Federal and Provincial governments. The current conflict concerns fundamental issues of political authority within Six Nations and thus ultimately the question of whether an Onkwehon:we political system or a colonial system devised by the British empire should govern the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.

The heightening of the conflict and a “hot controversial summer” in 2016 was predicted by Band Councilor Helen Miller in a letter she wrote to both the Two Row Times and The Turtle Island News back in January of this year. She wrote “according to Aaron Detlor, who is touted as the legal advisor for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC), some Haudenosaunee people are considering a court challenge of the elected council’s and elected system’s authority to govern Six Nations along with the Indian Act. These Haudenosaunee people, he said, want the elected council removed.”

Miller also indicated that “According to the HCCC’s recent newsletter, there’s a move afoot to re-establish some of their own governance structures that existed pre-1924 in preparation for the removal of the elected council.” Miller concluded her letter by offering a compromise, suggesting that it would be more “realistic” and of more “benefit to our people and community if the two councils worked together.“

Miller’s concerns about the HCCC removing herself and the rest of the Band Council leadership are well founded, but it is also fair to say that the Band Council system has sought the elimination of the traditional clan family system ever since the Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy were physically removed from the old Council House by armed RCMP officers in 1924. Soon afterward, an elected council was put in place under Canada’s racist Indian Act with the votes of only 52 people in a community that numbered nearly 5000 at the time.

Though this conflict has ebbed and flowed over the years, the Elected Band Council has felt threatened by the HDI ever since it emerged following the revival of support for the Confederacy after Kanonhstaton. Their chief concern lay not with issues around “transparency” or “accountability” per se, but with the fact that since day one, the Band Council’s whole existence as the primary expression of the Indian Act in Six Nations, has been contingent upon the suppression of the traditional Confederacy.

The two bodies cannot co-exist within the same space. The emergence of the HDI as a proxy institution for the HCCC created to deal with developers and outside governments, and able to provide an independent source of funding for the HCCC, especially once it started pulling in large sums of money after the Samsung deal, is an existential threat to Band Council. If the HCCC could develop and fund an administrative structure to handle relations with outside political and economic interests, the Band Council’s days would be numbered, and they know this very well.

BAND COUNCIL’S “LEAKED” DOCUMENT IGNITES FIGHT IN HCCC

The first serious blow in the recent conflict between Band Council and HCCC was one that seemed to be self-inflicted and internal to the HCCC itself. But in fact, it wasn’t. In May of 2015, Cayuga Chief Sam General and Steve Hill (acting for Onondaga Chief Arnie General) brought up a motion at the monthly HCCC meeting calling for the removal of one of the HCCC’s legal advisors, Aaron Detlor, HDI director Hazel Hill and HDI technocrat Brian Doolittle. In addition, they called for the HCCC to “freeze all activity in regards to HDI and Samsung and any other negotiations taking place until all HDI business has been investigated by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council.”

Nahnda Garlow, a columnist for the Two Row Times, and the wife of Jonathan Garlow, one of the four owners of the paper, wrote a lengthy article describing what happened at that meeting. At one point she writes “[Speaker for the Onondaga Beaver clan family Steve Hill] “told the council he has been trying to get copies of the Samsung agreements from HDI offices for the last eight months and didn’t receive anything – until leaked documents were delivered to him by a community member.”

What Nahnda Garlow doesn’t say, and what she really should have disclosed if she was following common standards of journalistic integrity, is that she is Steve Hill’s niece, and that the unnamed “community member” who “leaked” the papers to Steve Hill, was none other than herself, via elected Chief Ava Hill. I know this because I was in the Two Row Timesoffice when Nahnda Garlow came back from one of her numerous meetings with elected Band Council Chief Ava Hill with the Samsung deal.

Nahnda Garlow had spoken to me on multiple occasions about these ongoing meetings, and expressed her view that Elected Band Council and the confederacy should merge together since ‘the Confederacy was broken and couldn’t be fixed.’ It was also common knowledge around the office that she was meeting with her uncle Steve Hill to give him these documents and strategize on these matters.

Nahnda and Jonathan Garlow and other members of their family have openly professed to me their belief that the Confederacy’s structure is obsolete, and that they would favour some kind of merger or formal power sharing between Band Council and elements of the Confederacy that would be willing to do so.

And as conflict swirled around the GREAT building over the removal of Aaron Detlor by the Men’s Fire, Band Council took the opportunity to announce that it had made a major land deal with Empire Homes to allow an extremely contentious new development to take place in Caledonia.

Jim Windle, a founder and senior reporter for the Two Row Times concisely summarized the current thinking of the Two Row Times on May 4th 2016, when he wrote an op-ed about HDI governance stating “That is why putting in place an overseeing board of directors who represent all the people of Six Nations and not only those few who attend longhouse, is important for everyone whether you like the action taken by the Men’s Fire or not” [emphasis added].

This line of thinking reveals a crucial dividing line on questions of colonization. Should decision making about Onkwehon:we lands and resources be made by “all” people of Six Nations (i.e. all of those recognized as “Indians” under the Canadian government’s Indian Act), or by those people named and claimed as Onkwehon:we by the 49 clan families under the system of the Kayenere:kowa?

The first approach is based on the electoral democracy of western colonialism – one person, one vote, and rival political parties or interests battling it out in elections to rule “on behalf of” the people. The other approach is rooted in the Onkwehon:we framework devised by the Peacemaker – direct democracy at the clan level, extended matrilineal clan familiesas the basic political unit, and a “Great League of Peace” uniting these families through the carrying out of particular ceremonies and protocols aimed at ensuring the continuity of “peace, power and righteousness.”

This ultimately is what is at stake in this conflict. Governance for and by “the Indians” using the white man’s systems, or governance for and by the Onkwehon:we clan families using the Kayenere:kowa. Regardless of whether the chiefs and clan mothers of the HCCC or their administrators in the HDI could have been more transparent and accountable to the clan families that they serve, what is happening now seems to be a replay of what happened in 1924.

At that time, a group of Six Nations Indians disenchanted by what they viewed as cronyism and favouritism within the traditional Confederacy worked with the department of Indian Affairs to impose an Elected Council through the Indian Act on the Six Nations territory. Today, just as in 1924, very real contradictions and problems within the Haudenosaunee Confederacy are being exploited by forces outside of the longhouse system to ensure what will ultimately be a strengthening of the colonial system.

Perhaps at this point it is worth noting a few basic facts. Neither Jonathan nor Nahnda Garlow are members of a Haudenosaunee clan family, the basic political and economic unit of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Jonathan’s Ojibway mother worked for her entire career as an employee of the Six Nations Band Council, and Jonathan’s family is one of the few that support the elected system by voting for it. Nahnda’s mother is white, and Nahnda has not been formally adopted into a clan belonging to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Add to that the fact that both Jonathan and Nahnda are fundamentalist Protestant Christians, and a certain political dynamic starts to come into focus.

If indigenous identity is determined not by what you say you are, but by who claims you, then in practical political terms Jonathan and Nahnda Garlow are claimed by Band Council, the Indian Act system and their fellow brethren in Christ. So given that Jonathan and Nahdna’s own interests and identity coincides with those running Canada’s Indian Act Band Council, is it really all that surprising that they are acting together to dismantle the HDI?

THE ATTEMPTED REMOVAL OF AARON DETLOR

On April 26th, the conflict reached a boiling point as a group of about 30 men led by Bill Monture of the Men’s Fire showed up to expel Aaron Detlor, one of the HCCC’s legal advisors (and one of the biggest thorns in the side of the Band Council) from his law office in the GREAT building.

Hazel Hill, the HDI’s director, appears on a video filmed by Donna Duric of the Turtle Island News after Detlor was forced out of his office. Hill walks right up to Jonathan Garlow who was filming the whole affair with a big smile on his face, and said “Of course, it was all staged Jonathan, wasn’t it? Nice stage production, very good.”

For their part, Jonathan Garlow and David Laforce, two of the four owners of The Two Row Times have insisted that they are simply journalists doing their job. “We were just following a tip” said Garlow, and co-owner David Laforce adds “we did not stage anything.” But the facts tell a different story. If you look at the video produced by Jonathan Garlow from his filming on the day of Detlor’s expulsion, you will see that what is being filmed is not a journalistic news video, but a targeted surveillance video of an unsuspecting man being confronted in a very tense and volatile situation.

Jonathan’s camera is focused unerringly upon Detlor – in fact, Detlor’s face never escapes the frame. We get to see very little of the general context, and there’s no panning around to capture the scene as a whole. Instead, Jonathan captured Detlor’s every move, getting on tape his every flinch and humiliation in being expelled from his office. According to sources, Jonathan was filming the whole time the event was going on, but only released two short videos of the event.

The first one minute and forty five second video is heavily edited. In this first video to be released, I counted seven separate edits where the filming is cut to remove context and information that might go against the narrative being crafted. All of Detlor’s interventions are cut off and incomplete. Apparently video showing Detlor physically lifted up and carried out was briefly posted online, received a few hundred views and was then deleted — presumably because it provided incriminating evidence that could lead to criminal charges against the men involved.

Regardless of my personal feelings towards Detlor, or my own judgements on the quality of his work or his accountability in relationship to the HCCC or the larger collective of Onkwehon:we people, it is clear to me that the video Jonathan Garlow shot is not journalism. It is, instead, character assassination and targeted humiliation. Actions speak louder than words, and Jonathan’s actions reveal an underhanded editorial and political strategy behind a supposedly fair minded media organization.

I have very clear and factual evidence that the expulsion of Aaron Detlor was a plan long in the making, and one in which the Garlow’s were long involved. On February 7th, 2015, Nahnda Garlow went to the monthly HCCC meeting. That afternoon I received a text message from Nahnda stating that “Aaron Detlor tried to shame me in front of all the Chiefs.” Why? Because she was surreptitiously taking pictures of the text of the Draft Tobacco Law being considered by HCCC. At that stage, this document wasn’t for release to the media, but was a private document for Clan families only.

Outraged by her treatment at the hands of Detlor, and claiming that “He fucking threw down a war club at me today,” Nahnda Garlow sent me a string of text messages outlining how she would take Detlor out. “We go through the Onondaga Beavers and GRE, attacking on both sides and we execute him socially. He is now marked for death. My uncle went to him for evidence on where the money goes and he refused.” When I replied “Whoa. Ease up there. Lol.” Nahnda replied “Well not dead death. Expulsion.”

nahnda_detlor_text

So how did we get to the point that a supposedly pro-Haudenosaunee Confederacy newspaper, the Two Row Times, with a set of founding principles supporting the Two Row Wampum and the Kayenere:kowa, is actively working to make the news by working with Band Council behind the scenes to aid in the dismantling of the HDI and taking an active part in the expulsion of the HCCC’s legal advisors from the territory?

Before they could use the Two Row Times go after the HCCC, Nahnda and Jonathan Garlow had to marginalize the two other owners of the Two Row Times – Kelly MacNaughton and myself – who wouldn’t go along with their pro Band Council politics. Kelly is the daughter of Anne MacNaughton, a Mohawk Clan mother with the HCCC.

Kelly MacNaughton was marginalized from her position as an owner of the Two Row Times by being put on “temporary health leave” in June of 2014 after she was routinely disrespected and bullied by Nahnda and Jonathan. The way that Nanhda and Jonathan were able to push Kelly out was by provoking a crisis within the Two Row Times by collecting anonymous complaints against Kelly and bringing them up at staff meeting that Kelly was unable to attend, instead of addressing these issues at one of our weekly owners meeting where these matters should have been resolved. For a more in-depth account of these matters, please read this.

In marginalizing Kelly from the paper Jonathan and David Laforce (the fourth owner) have effectively robbed her of the tens of thousands of dollars that she put into the paper, and continue to do her harm by not letting her access the asset that she paid and worked hard to create. Nonetheless, Kelly kept her silence on what had happened until Jonathan claimed in a December 9th 2015 Two Row Times editorial that he had “formed the news organization known to us as the Two Row Times as a sole proprietor.” Kelly was not willing to let this statement stand unopposed, and wrote a response in two letters (here) and (here) which were published in the Turtle Island News newspaper at Six Nations in January of 2016. As a result of daring to break her silence and write these two letters, Jonathan Garlow has recently filed a lawsuit against Kelly claiming $150,000 in damages for her words.

For my own part, I was pushed out once the Two Row Timeswas moved to Jonathan’s father’s house on the reserve, and the roots of the conflict stem from the fact that I wasn’t going to abandon the politics on which the paper was founded, or go along with having the paper become the personal property of the Garlow family. At one point I was physically assaulted by Nahnda Garlow – slapped across the face and whipped with an iPhone cable – as Nahnda and Jonathan sought to retain editorial control of the investigation the paper was doing of HDI finances. Later, I was pushed out of my positions at the paper by Nahnda and Jonathan using the same underhanded techniques they used against Kelly – anonymous and unproved allegations and a forced “leave of absence” from my official duties so they could take full control. All of this was done in total violation of the protocols of our business and all norms of due process and natural law.

I have written extensively detailing my side of the story in these matters in a document called Good Minds Stand Up. If you’d rather listen to a podcast about the matter, then you can listen to Rhonda Martin, Kelly MacNaughton, Heather Gingerich and myself discussing the dynamics of our marginalization from the Two Row Times in the summer of 2015.

Jonathan and Nahnda Garlow caused great financial damage and personal stress to both Kelly and myself and they have refused all offers of mediation and third party resolution to the conflict. Theirs is not a small act of fraud or theft, but one measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Once they forced me out of my position as editor at the Two Row Times, Jonathan and Nahnda then proceeded to “expose” the HDI and the HCCC’s and worked closely with Band Council to do so. Whatever use the Two Row Times may have been to Haudenosaunee clan families dissatisfied with the operation of the HDI is undermined by the fact that the documents, strategy, and political framework for this “dismantle HDI” operation is coming from people who are not putting the best interests of Onkwehon:we clan people first. To take Nahnda and Jonathan at their word, and to ignore the shadowy influences setting the agenda and moving these matters forward, would be a grave mistake.

I am open to discussing any of these matters further with anyone concerned. I wish all the clan families of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy the best of success in straightening out their internal affairs, and regardless of what they choose to do in relation to Aaron Detlor and the HDI, I hope that all Onkwehon:we clan families emerge from this crisis united and better able to advance the best interests of their people.

In the spirit of peace, friendship and respect,

Tom Keefer is one of the four owners of the Two Row Times and a writer, publisher and editor who has been active in support of Onkwehonwe freedom struggles over the past decade. His personal website can be found at www.tomkeefer.net. He currently produces media with Real People’s MediaHe can be reached at tomkeefer@gmail.com.