Internal and external conflicts at Six Nations

Barricade at Kanonhstaton.

By Wes Elliott


Here at Six Nations, we have both internal and external problems. The external being anything outside our Circle Wampum (Band Council, Ontario, Canada, Developers). The internal being that which is inside of our Circle Wapum (HDI, Protocol, Men’s Fire etc).

On February 28, 2006, 19 people came forward to say no to a development of some 350 homes. Then on April 20, 2006, Six Nations people came together and stopped the internal fighting that had existed for some 200 years to collectively fight our external battle: development in Ontario and Canada.

Now fast forward ten years to 2016. Instead of 350 homes, it is now 3500. The battles are internal (HDI) and external (developers in Caledonia, Ontario, Canada, and Band Council). Now I include Band Council as external, since all Haudenosaunee people know, they are in the boat and not in our canoe.

Concerning Band Council, let us remember they are a creation of the Indian Act. Now being a creation of that, they have no treaties, no ceremonies, no language, no culture and they are in direct violation of our Great Law. They exist outside our Circle Wampum in a void. Only 5% of the community supports by voting for them. That 5% is the lowest percent in all of Canada’s over 600 band councils. And being outside our Circle Wampum, means they are an external problem. The real problem is the Crown and how we deal with them.

When traveling around this country, one of the first questions I ask people in different communities is, “What percentage of your people vote?” I’ll get answers of seventy, eighty, and over ninety percent. This is the first sign that indicates how much they have lost and how much they have succumbed to colonization.

Now this band council employs over 600 people who need paychecks. The employees will turn on you in a minute if they think they might not get paid. Keep food on their tables and clothes on their backs and a transition away from Band Council is possible.

Our Band Council has been trying to meet with our Confederacy Council for years with no success. That is because they don’t understand the reality of who they are and what the Silver Covenant Chain Wampum means. They are not in the canoe; they are in the boat. They are Canada’s colonial creation, not our own. The Silver Covenant Chain comes into play because they are in the boat. They merely have to tug on the chain and the Confederacy Council has a responsibility to respond. Our Silver Covenant Chain is not rocket science. Band Council only needs to remember and acknowledge who they are.

The seriousness of Band Council negotiating anything for us is off the charts. It is a wonder that the revolt has not started. Remember it is people in the canoe who have the voice. When it comes to land, our Haudenosaunee women have the loudest voice.

I remember back in 2006 a few days before the injunction went through, our Confederacy Council passed through three sides of the fire a resolution telling us at the Caledonia blockade protest site to leave. It did that so that the Confederacy Council would not be dragged through their courts. Those of us at the site were at a loss at what to do. That Monday morning after talking to people, one woman came back in tears and another woman had consulted the clan mothers who told her to tell us to stay. In other words, the women overrode the decision of the chiefs. Can anyone tell me when that last happened?

There are those who say, “Why can’t Band Council act as administrators reporting back to our Confederacy Council?” That seems simple, but it violates our Great Law. Voting is not our way. Neither is voting for people who are not Haudenosaunee and who do not understand our ways because they were created by a foreign government.

There are viable solutions to consider. At February’s Confederacy Council two committees were formed. One being the “Moving Forward” Committee that was given the mandate to develop a plan for the transition to HCCC governance. The second is the “Strengthen the House” Committee whose mandate is to revitalize Haudenosaunee systems to support the transition. Both have been meeting on a regular basis, but more on that next week. This is enough to consider for this week. Which side are you on? Next week, the internal problems.



Now our internal problems should not be of a public matter since they only concern Haudenosaunee but so much has been made public, that I will try to put some clarity to the matters.

Understanding the basics of our Great Law is essential. No person that pledges an allegiance or votes for any foreign government, are inside our Circle Wampum. They have taken themselves outside our Circle. There is a process to come back, but that’s for another day to explain. For example, lawyers take such an oath. All lawyers are in the boat and not our canoe. As such. They are not Haudenosaunee. Being outside, they cannot speak on our behalf, sign any paper, be a trustee, or write anything on our behalf etc.

I have seen our council give a few lawyers permission to speak and work on our behalf which is their decision. In their capacity as a lawyer, they can only advise or consult. As such, their role should be that of a resource person. A very important role indeed and one we need. Our Confederacy Council needs resource people.

The whole HDI matter should have been resolved 5 years ago. One may remember gathering maybe 120 to the Community Hall one Saturday. The purpose was to rewrite the HDI mandate. We were divided into maybe 7 groups and given all a copy of the HDI papers to recommend changes. The group I was in was fantastic. We worked page by page and had a consensus on everything we recommended to change. The problem was time, we didn’t have enough to finish. We only completed maybe 40%, other groups less.

Everyone dropped the ball. We the people there, didn’t take the initiative to finish on our own. HDI did not insist we finish with follow up meetings. So what happened at our Confederacy Council both last year and this year should never have happened if we would have completed the rewrite. The ordeal at Great would never have happened. We need another meeting and this time finish. It won’t be easy now, but it has to be done.

Protocol is very simple. When our Confederacy Council meets, it’s for our Chiefs. In order to be heard or bring a topic forward, it must be on the agenda. That’s why one of the first things our Council does after the meeting is opened, is approve the agenda. Any additions are put to the 3 sides of the fire for a yes or no. After the agenda is approved, that’s it. Also no one speaks at our Council unless the 3 sides agree. As Haudenosaunee people we are only there to listen and show respect. And respect is not cat calls, booing, shouting out opinions, or walking out en-mass. This also applies to the speakers from each side. When they speak, it’s from the consensus of their side, not their opinion.

Another item in protocol. When a problem arises within a clan, it’s their responsibility to find a solution. If they cannot reach consensus, it goes to a nation meeting. If still no consensus, they can choose to bring it to Council. If our Council agrees to hear it (it gets on the agenda), when they make a decision, it is final.

Our Men’s Fire, in reality, hasn’t met for about 4 years. In order to meet, we need 3 sides of the fire and our Fire Wampum. Currently the Younger Brothers are very sparse and no firekeepers or wampum come or is present. The Confederacy Council gave the use and care of the Old Council House to the men. Those that still meet, while not meeting at the Old Council House and not a true Men’s Fire, have done a tremendous job helping within our territory. They receive a lot of calls for help.

Opinions changed with their recent actions at Great. We all know the story. And those that still meet have become exclusive by escorting out of their meetings Haudenosaunee men who do not believe what they believe on HDI matters. The simple solution here is for the men firekeepers to call a men’s meeting at the Old Council House. This meeting will be very tough but we as men need to come back together again.

Internal and external problems are all around us. Can we learn to multitask and work on resolving these concerns at the same time? Or do we work on one and leave the other for later? Like in 2006 many people are watching to see what we do. Let’s give them something positive to see.

Wes Elliott is a Haudenosaunee man who was closely involved the 2006 reclamation at Kanonhstaton and its aftermath.

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