Mohawks Attend International Congress
of Indigenous People in Venezuela
By Kahentinetha Horn
Kahentinetha Horn of Mohawk Nation News was among the indigenous activists from Canada who went to Venezuela this month to attend the 1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples of America—Abya Yala (See the Declaration of Kumarakapay, on the Socialist Voice website.) The following article and greetings to the congress are reprinted with permission from Mohawk Nation News. A biographical note on the author follows the article.
The Indigenous people and President Hugo Chavez are bringing together 40 Indigenous nations of Venezuela from August 7 to 9, 2007.The Mohawk delegation is made up of two women, Kahentinetha, an elder, and Karenhahes, Bear Clan Mother.
This congress is setting up a broad international movement of indigenous people to reject colonial oppression. During the 20th century, the European states that generated the colonial movement began to understand that they would destroy each other if they kept up the land and resources grab and the ensuing killing of Indigenous peoples. Colonialism was declared illegal. Canada continued to define a “person” as any individual other than an Indian until 1951. Canada still does not respect our sovereignty and presumes that their colonial law is the only law north of the 49th parallel. The U.S. usurps the Indigenous lands, resources and jurisdiction south of the 49th parallel.
Canada refuses to sign the Declaration of Indigenous rights at the United Nations, even though that declaration is a profoundly colonial instrument. International law recognizes that no state can absorb another without the free and fully informed consent of the people concerned in a free vote. The Indigenous peoples and nations never agreed to become part of Canada. Canada is addicted to old destructive models of social and economic relations and medieval ruling class credos. It thinks that social order is based on command and obedience, not agreement between equals, and that there can’t be wealth without poverty. Such nonsense.
The meeting in Venezuela will take place in Mapiricure, an indigenous community in the south. On August 9th President Hugo Chavez will be presented with the Indigenous Feather known as the “Penacho” and a headdress. This will be followed by a ceremony invoking the powers of the natural world. On that day 11 land titles will be turned over to the Indigenous Communal Councils by President Chavez.
The shamen carrying out the ceremony will be joined by shamen from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaraugua, Mexico, Panama and the U.S.
Here is a draft of the words that the Mohawk delegation will be delivering to the International Congress of Indigenous People “In Defence of the Planet,” outlining a new paradigm for human existence.
Nia:wen for your invitation to witness this historic event. From our women, we bring greetings to the women of your country.
From the “Rotiyaner” who are the men of our nation, we bring greetings from our men to your men.
From our elders, those who are the grandmothers and grandfathers, we bring our greetings to you who are the grandmothers and grandfathers of this nation.
From the fathers and mothers of our nation we bring greetings to you who are the mothers and fathers to your nation.
From our young people we bring greetings to your young people of this nation.
From the children of our nation we bring greetings to the children of your nation.
From those who still crawl upon the earth and those who are still on the cradle board, we bring greetings to your children who crawl on the earth and those who are on the cradle board.
From those faces of our future who are still beneath the earth, we bring the greetings to those of your people whose faces are yet beneath the earth.
Now that we have said this, we may begin.
We would like to have had a larger delegation here to day. Due to our struggle to preserve our sovereignty we are oppressed and ignored on our own homeland we call Onowarekeh, also known also as “Turtle Island.” The foreign colonial governments of Canada and the United States limit our movements on our own land. They fail to teach their people about our existence, our philosophy, our laws.
Mr. Chavez, thank you for giving our people an opportunity to establish relations between our governments under our philosophy known as the “Kaianereh’ko:wa”, the Great Law of Peace. We are not under the colonial laws. We continue to adhere to our laws and traditions. We continue to ensure a future for our people as the Kanion’ke:haka/Mohawk.
We are the eyes and ears that will witness this event. This is the beginning of a message to other nations to work towards bringing people back together to form an alliance. We wish to develop a sane and healthy way of life that assures that all people are decently cared for.
We need to renew the solemn blood covenants that have bound all Indigenous Peoples of South America and Onowarekeh, our name for Turtle Island, for thousands of years. We are one blood. When one family member is oppressed the other must aid their covenant partners. Everyone is there to uplift each other. No one goes without.
Our perception is that the material world is to be shared and distributed equally. Our ancestors knew that when a hunter went into the woods and brought back a deer, the entire community shared in that bounty. This is common to all Indigenous peoples of the world. Those who have fallen away from these simple concepts and now practice colonialism must be brought back into the human family and saved from themselves.
We present you with a copy of the Great Law, our constitution, in both Mohawk and English, our Confederacy flag, the Unity flag and several books about us that will be of interest to you.
We, the Onkwehonweh [the original people], are the guardians of Onowarekeh. Recently South America was visited by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada. They both avoided Venezuela because they can’t understand what’s happening here and it frightens them. These are emotionally disturbed people. They don’t know how to exist on a level of equality with their fellow human beings.
They do not represent us or even the people of their countries. They follow habits of thought that have been proven to be ineffective and destructive to the continuation of human life on earth. They represent foreigners who have usurped our resources and deny us any rights to our ancestral heritage.
Our words as the true representatives are binding on Turtle Island. We have always been here. We belong to the land on which we were formed. Mr. Chavez is here with the true owners of the lands of Onowarekeh and South America. What we say between us is binding.
Under natural law and international law everyone has a right to our own government, nationality and land.
As elders of our nation, we are dedicated to work in the best interests of our people. Each of us has power in our lives. We have a duty to spread the Kaianerehkowa throughout the world. The white roots from the Tree of Peace go in the four directions. Those who wish to find shelter may trace its roots to the source. My nation and Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy are in need of this alliance at this time.
Mr. Chavez holds the same political positions as the Mohawk Nation. We are here to help fan the flames so that the fire grows larger to make a place for all humans to share its warmth and benefits.
No one needs anyone’s permission to promote alliances, unification of our peoples and to spread the peace as prescribed in the Kaianereh’ko:wa. We refuse to live under a dictatorship.
An opportunity came to us to come here. We seized it. Last September some of our people went to New York City, which is on Iroquois land, to hear Mr. Chavez speak. He was inspiring. They told us that they agreed with every word he said.
Our message of peace came to us from our ancestors, Dekanawida and Jigosaseh. They told our people to bring everyone into a covenant of peace, to link arms with all the other peoples of the world. We are continuing the work of our ancestors to bring the message of peace to you today.
South America has the same colonial past as Onowarekeh, Turtle Island. We have occupied our territories since time immemorial. This land is who we are. It is our identity. Mr. Chavez is one of us. His roots go deep into the soil, the jungles, the mountains and fields of Venezuela. From the earth he gets sustenance, vitality and ability to help his people. The people feel safe. His first instinct is to protect the Indigenous people and the visitors who are here.
Venezuela is a beautiful wealthy part of the world. Your resources are now being skillfully used to enhance the best interests of the land and the people who live upon it. You are tapping into the wellspring of ancestral memories that are hidden in the minds of every person living here.
Now all other Indigenous people are seeing that it is possible to take our lives under our own control, not be dominated by foreign forces and to do good.
We feel secure with the Venezuelans. You are competent and sure of who you are. Initially the multinational corporations felt intimidated by the turn of events. They are finding they can work with the original people in the best interests of all. Everyone is benefiting. The only way to achieve harmony and prosperity among us is to bring all our talents and innate abilities together.
Mr. Chavez has found a way to bring this out in all of his people. He represents the forces of a people who are on the move. He has offered a new paradigm. He is showing Indigenous peoples and others that we can take over our own lives and run our own affairs. We can do it so that no one feels intimidated or threatened. It is becoming the natural way to do things.
Dekanawaida and Jigosaseh, the man and woman who helped develop the Great Law of Peace, understood this. They realized that the strength of the Confederation was based on no nation dominating the others. Each, no matter how large or small, had a right to exist and remain who they are.
There was no stifling of the innate abilities of the Onondagas, Senecas, Oneidas, Cayugas, Mohawks or Tuscaroras. Larger nations did not overpower the smaller ones. We were equal. Diverse peoples were brought together to work in harmony for the benefit of everyone. No one could assert themselves over others.
This is the reason why the indigenous government in Venezuela is successful. Mr. Chavez has tapped into the same knowledge that exists in all Indigenous people. The renaissance in Venezuela is going to spread all over the world.
People always feel threatened by a new paradigm. We can expect many attacks from the colonial powers. We do not use guns but they point theirs at us. They don’t know what else to do. The young, the poor and even the middle class in the colonized countries are all suffering from the same insecurity and dislocation that has been imposed on us. They will join us once they understand.
If everyone doesn’t relearn how to look after the earth and each other, there will be nothing left for anyone to eat; no clean water to drink; and no clean air to breathe. The colonial commercial exploitation of the environment has been taken to such extremes that human life itself is in peril. We can work together to clean up the mess we have created as human beings and make the earth healthy again.
The greedy grasping power hungry people who are trying to gain control over all of humanity have lost touch with reality. Just when they think that they have achieved their goal of absolute control and domination, the pyramid of delusion will collapse beneath their feet. Life itself will be gone.
Nobody wants to suffer the consequences of a collapse of this order. Venezuela has a model that is working. People are free and work together to develop everyone to their full potential in whatever area of life they have chosen.
When somebody wants to go from one place to another through forests, jungles, swamps, deserts or mountains, somebody always goes ahead and cuts the trail. The others follow the steps of those who went ahead. They all get to their destination safely. It takes a courageous visionary to see far ahead the dangers that are prowling around. Hugo Chavez is a trailblazer in the realm of the world’s progressives. He helps whole groups of people move forward together. He is setting in motion an act that others will follow.
We have a chance to see how this model is working to its fullest potential so that the good life and good health is shared by all equally. We feel gratified and honored that we are taking part in the dedication of the land to the original people. We need more people like Hugo Chavez all over the world. We hope for the continued good health of Mr. Chavez, who cares to lead in troubled times. Artificial ways will dissolve themselves because they are not real. Humanity must go back to the natural relationships. We salute you, Venezuela, for showing the world how your humanitarian goals are being achieved and are inspiring others to achieve”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kahentinetha Horn is a longtime indigenous rights activist from the Mohawk Nation. She was involved in the 1962 Conference on Indian Poverty in Washington D.C., the blocking of the International Bridge at Akwesasne in 1968, and other indigenous rights campaigns.In the summer of 1990, she was behind the Canadian Army razor wires that surrounded the Mohawk compound in Kanehsatake. This was the historic Mohawk land rights struggle that became known as the “Oka Crisis.” After almost 20 years of service, Kahentinetha was fired by the Department of Indian Affairs for her involvement there.
More recently Kahentinetha has been involved with the Kahnawake Elders Council, and was active at the Six Nations Land reclamation near Caledonia, Ontario, publishing and distributing almost daily accounts of the developments there.
Kahentinetha Horn is an editor for Mohawk Nation News, a daily news service that she founded during the Oka crisis. Recently, Mohawk Nation News came online. It features articles on Mohawk struggles and other issues affecting indigenous people across turtle island and beyond. Check out the site at www.mohawknationnews.com.