Hypocrisy, urbanization, colonization and gentrification and the Six Nations community


By Tehawennahkwa Miller, Onondaga Nation, Beaver Clan

 I was raised in the community of Ohsweken which is situated in the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. There have always been religious and political divisions in our community, however the hypocrisy as of late has been exceptionally apparent. Our community is currently embarking on an infrastructure expansion project, which will see our community become more urbanized. The new multimillion dollar water treatment plant in our community will be extended, as well as the natural gas pipelines that serve our community. Our streets are being widened, and sidewalks are being extended. On top of all this, a brand new Tim Hortons franchise is being opened in the heart of our community.

There has been a lot of turmoil in our community over the 10-year-old organization known as the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) which was created to protect Six Nations interests on the development of disputed lands. The Men’s Fire as well as a number of other community members have embarked on a witch hunt to have the employees of the HDI removed, and have the entire HDI organization disbanded.

Their argument is that the HDI is operating under a corporate umbrella, utilizing a corporate framework as well as creating a corporation in order to conduct business with other corporations, and municipal, provincial and federal governments (which are corporations themselves). Another argument concerns documents “leaked” to the Two Row Times by current elected chief Ava Hill claiming that HDI has signed away our “sovereign immunity” over to the Samsung Corporation. My question is, why is the Elected council so intent on creating disunity and distrust among the traditional longhouse people of this territory? The Men’s Fire has even gone as far as filing a class action lawsuit against HDI. Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy?

As a well-educated member of this community, I understand how the world works. I was raised traditional and I am an adamant supporter of our traditional government and the Kayenere:kowa. However, in order to conduct business, we must create corporations. I’ve worked in language revitalization for years and I know that in order for our grassroots organizations to write proposals, acquire grants, and hire staff, we must utilize a corporation in order to be able to legally sign cheques.

Is this how it should be? Probably not, but that’s how it is, and in order to do business this is what we have to do. We can’t hire people on good faith and honorariums, there are families that need to feed their children and this cannot be done on tips and under the table paycheques.

Some people have said that by utilizing corporations we subject ourselves to future taxation and further assimilation. My question is, how can you function in this community, feed your families, educate your kids, see doctors etc., without having a provincial health card, provincial driver’s license, a social insurance card/number and a status card/number?

Is this how it should be? Probably not, but realistically this is the world we live in now. In an ideal world, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy would issue our health cards, drivers licenses, birth certificates, Haudenosaunee membership ID etc. However, that is not the world we currently live in.

My next question is, if there are so many people against corporations, colonization and assimilation, then why are our people not fighting to stop the mega-corporation of Tim Hortons from operating in our community? The only protest I’ve seen from people in the community was against the cutting of trees on the plot of land that Tim Hortons is currently being built. Why is one corporation ok but another is not? Is that not hypocritical? Or is one corporation ok because it will contribute to further exasperate our addiction to sugar and diabetes epidemic within our community?

I’ve lived with addiction my whole life, from myself and my family members and I understand how the addicts mind works by trying to justify the addiction. The reason I am against Tim Hortons opening up here, is that there are hardworking Haudenosaunee citizens who have worked hard to create home grown businesses within our community without utilizing western franchises. People have worked hard to maintain the integrity of our community, and over the course of one summer, our community is going to start looking like any other small town in Canada. What’s next? McDonalds? Walmart?

The hypocrisy in my community is astonishing. One and a half years ago, the community voted against the creation of a brewery and legalization of alcohol sales within the territory. My next question is, why is one addiction ok, but another is not? We have huge diabetes, addiction and obesity epidemics in our community. Last year, our community voted against opening a methadone clinic. A number of years ago, Six Nation’s White Pine Health Centre began operating a dialysis service for those who suffer from severe kidney problems which stem from diabetes.

This leads me to my next question, why is help for one addiction ok, but not for another? Addiction comes in many forms, but our people appear to be turning a blind eye to sugar and food addiction while stigmatizing chemical dependency and alcoholism. Gambling addiction also runs rampant in our community; remember when our council opted out of profit sharing for the Brantford Charity Casino because of issues of morality? Yet our community runs a multimillion dollar bingo hall and benefits from the profits which go into the community trust fund.

The last time I went into the Brantford Casino, I saw a large number of Six Nations people there gambling. It is not a secret that a number of successful entrepreneurs in our community have ran their businesses into the ground because of their gambling addiction. When the question of “Should Six Nations open its own casino?” arose, many Longhouse and Christian community members were vehemently against it. Am I the only one who see’s all the hypocrisy in our community?

Now, our community is expanding the village. Creating wider lanes, installing advanced green and pedestrian signals. This will probably be safer for the community in the long run, considering that there are no walk signals in Ohsweken for kids who walk to school. However, alongside this infrastructure expansion, they are also expanding the natural gas lines, water lines, and sewer system. We are the Haudenosaunee, we’re the caretakers of mother earth.

Yet, our peoples’ constant drive to be like or as “advanced” as the white man contradicts that. I recently saw the Six Nations Band Council issue a statement to those at Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota in support of their efforts to stop a pipeline from being installed throughout their traditional territory. Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy?

A lot of Haudenosaunee citizens profit from the oil industry, considering a high percentage of gas sales on our territory are from non-native customers. Six Nations natural gas runs lines underground throughout the community to supply the village with heat. There are also a lot of underground sewer lines in the village that are outdated and at risk of contaminating our groundwater. So this leads me to my next question, why do Six Nations people claim to be caretakers of the earth, yet duplicate the potentially harmful practices that our non-native brothers and sisters are doing?

My friend Fran Doxtator recently had an Earthship home built this summer. A home which utilizes rainwater, recycles grey water, is powered by solar energy, is completely off the grid and is built from recycled materials which otherwise would have gone to our overflowing landfills. My other friend Serasera has been utilizing solar power and other eco-friendly resources for decades.

This all leads me to my next question, why is Six Nations not putting more time and resources into more eco-friendly utilities and recycling? We currently have a crisis with our landfill being over filled, and less than 10% of our people recycle because of lack of resources and education about recycling. Our people are being gouged by hydro one, despite us allowing them to run huge power lines down the middle of our territory. We do not see any benefits from allowing Hydro One to run those lines down the middle of our territory. In one month, an average Six Nations family can expect to pay $200 dollars for hydro.

So why is Six Nations not adopting the “off-the-grid” model for every home in Six Nations? Why is Six Nations not creating more education on recycling? Why is Six Nations not putting funding into making this community more self-sufficient, more self-reliant, and essentially, more sovereign? We are the Haudenosaunee, we’re the caretakers of the earth. It’s time to stop the hypocrisy and put our money where our mouth is.

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