Article 24 of Kayenere:kowa states: The chiefs of the League of Five Nations shall be mentors of the people for all time. …they shall be proof against anger, offensive action, and criticism. Their hearts shall be full of peace and good will, and their minds filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people of the League. With endless patience, they shall carry out their duty. Their firmness shall be tempered with a tenderness for their people. Neither anger nor fury shall find lodging in their minds and all their words and actions shall be marked by calm deliberation.”
– Akwesasne Notes, 1977
By Kelly Mac Naughton
There are a lot of misconceptions about our Great Peace or Kayenera:koa and what is meant by the instructions embodied within it. People have taken to calling our Great Peace, our Enormous Peace, our Great Good Way, a “Great Law.” When using the terminology of law, the association with the construct of foreign governments and their penalizing control actually suggests the opposite of what our Great Peace represents. This is akin to treason. I may be repeating myself, but this is something that bears repeating concerning the use of the word ‘law’ in association with our Kayenera:koa.
Our Great Peace was put into place to stop us from attacking one another and from further destruction of our Mother Earth. These instructions were meant to be spread and shared in order to provide a balance to our lives in every aspect with everyone. So, it is with great upset that I respond to a recent attack upon the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and my family. I’ll never understand why people feel the need to criticize and attack in the press instead of sitting down face to face with the person they have issue with. After all, that is our way.
The Two Row Times recently published a letter to the editor from Ken Hill, Nahnda Garlow’s dad (whose husband Jonathon Garlow is a partial owner of the Two Row times). His attack and criticisms are unwarranted and full of misleading and false information. In the August 10, 2016 issue of the paper Ken Hill talks about ‘law’ in relation to our Kayenera:koa. This is his first and most egregious mistake.
When one thinks of what the English word ‘law’ encompasses and its relevant interpretations within those boundaries, a whole and completely different set of ideas and values follow. ‘Law,” according to Wikipedia: is “a system of rules that are enforced through social institutions to govern behaviour.” This definition is in no way representative of our Kayenera:koa. Indeed, a greater understanding of our Great Peace is needed.
Our Kayenera:koa, or Great Peace, is a set of instructions left here for us by the Peacemaker, meant to change our warring and destructive behaviour. Instead of violence we were to alter our thinking into one of peaceful coexistence and the protection of our Mother Earth, which in turn, would provide a sustainable environment for the coming faces.
This is a very basic and open interpretation, but it is true of the intrinsic message of our Kayenera:koa. I am recounting what has been told to me by our Elders and my Mother so any fault of interpretation is entirely my own.
I am going to be very brief here because the depth and breadth of the instructions from our Kayenera:koa are extensive and profound. People are misunderstanding their roles and responsibilities, for we all have one, in regards to Our Kayenera:koa and the meaning of Kayenera:koa and consensus. For that reason I am going to deal with the applicable messages which shed light on the misconceptions brought forth by Ken Hill.
- We do not have a translatable word in our Iroquoian languages that connotes ‘law.’’ We have instructions, or if you will, guidelines that we are to share which show us how to live in peace and harmony. These instructions are not laws. They are suggestions which we may or may not choose to follow. Should we decide not to follow the path of the Kayenera:koa we are then outside of our circle of families and the Confederacy. Freedom to choose is one of the greatest assurances of our Kayenera:koa.
- The Peacemaker left protocols within our Great Good Message to help us to deal with internal and external situations as they may arise. Attending Confederacy meetings is a good way to learn the importance of the protocols and why they were put in place, apart from speaking with the Clan Mothers and Chiefs for clarification.
- We have the responsibility to attend clan meetings and to seek them out. Should we choose not to attend, the decisions still go forward. Absence, for whatever reason, unless you send a messenger on your behalf, does not mean decisions will not be made. This would be like asking the world to stand still because you are busy at this particular moment.
- The Clan Mothers are there to help and protect the clan family. The clan family comes together to choose the person who best fits the role put forth in our Kayenera:koa. They must demonstrate through their life a love for their people, a compassion and will to love, instruct and protect the family and an understanding of how to care for the future faces. They must be willing to work for the clan family without recompense or expectations of payment. The woman chosen must then counsel with the clan family and bring forth the issues most concerning to the clan. The Clan Mother then passes these issues on to her Chief where he then, through the Confederacy of Chiefs, links arms with the other Chiefs and councils for the benefit of all the nations as a whole. We do not tell the Chiefs what to do, they take our concerns and decide amongst themselves the best way forward.
- The Chiefs are put in place by the clan family, and it is only the business of that clan family to decide upon their best representative whose attributes demonstrate his ability to love and protect the interests of the clan family. There are many safeguards put in place to help and protect the Chief. The nieces and nephews, the aunts and uncles are there to act as aid to the Chief and to ensure that he is able to do his job with a mind to the clan family. The Clan Mother counsels with her Chief to carry the message of the clan forward. The Chief then has the responsibility of hearing that message and counseling with the other Chiefs to ensure they have a way forward that will, by consensus, benefit all.
- Consensus, by definition, is decision making as a group wherein the group agrees to support a decision in the best interest of the group. When the Chiefs counsel together the “Well” or “Older Brothers” (which are the Mohawks and Senecas) pass across the fire issues that have been brought forth on an agreed upon agenda. The ‘Well’ puts forth the concern and that bench’s thoughts and wait for the “Younger” brothers (which are the Cayugas, Oneidas and Tuscaroras) to counsel amongst themselves and pass across the fire their concerns and thoughts. This process continues until a consensus is reached and then passed across the fire to the Onondaga bench to take the discourse of the two sides of the fire and agree or state whatever concerns they see as necessary to address. The discourse of the three sides of the fire will continue until consensus amongst all sides of the fire is reached. Again, council does not stop because all are not present, to take that attitude is highly arrogant and egocentric. As long as the three sides of the fire are represented, counselling and decision making will continue.
- We are never to interfere in the clan business of another clan family, especially that of a different nation. There are no excuses for an intrusion into the business of another clan or nation just as there are no excuses for spreading falsehoods or gossip.
The letter by Ken Hill which the Two Row Times chose to publish is a defilement of Confederacy Council principles and is highly irresponsible when one considers the audience to whom he is playing. Many of our people have not had the benefit of growing up and being taught our old ways and the thinking that follows and shapes our future generations. It is a travesty to have access to an elder and not learn the old ways from him or her.
There is parallel of irony at work in Ken’s letter when he speaks of the heritage of Howard Elijah, “a man with an Anishnabec mother [who] was condoled as an Oneida Chief” in contradiction to the protocol that nationhood is determined through the mother’s lineage. I cannot speak to the nature of Elijah’s heritage as he is not my clan and I can only speak to the heritage of my clan.
I think that there must be some kind of unconscious connection that Ken is making concerning the fact that he is criticizing the heritage of someone whilst his own children are not Haudenosaunee and yet his daughter Nahnda is claiming a voice within our Confederacy and actively directing and publishing attacks on the Confederacy through the Two Row Times while actively claiming the contrary.
I will speak no more on this subject for we are never to interfere in the clan business of another clan family and they are quite obviously not my clan family much less nation. I only wished to point out the contradiction within Ken’s statement concerning heritage.
The next mistake Ken makes in his letter is attacking my family, which is due to a lack of diligence in searching out the facts. This attack is not something he would have done were my mother still alive, and this speaks volumes concerning the character of Ken Hill. He states that my brother Allen MacNaughton, (please note the correct spelling of his name) is not a “legitimate Mohawk Chief” who he claims was never condoled. On the contrary, Allen is very much a legitimate and condoled Chief of the Confederacy Council. Ken has not done his due diligence, along with a slew of other people, and has failed to investigate the context of this letter which is dated before my brother was condoled to council.
The letter in question was written years ago, when Mel Squires was the Dekariho:ken title holder and my mother was his Clan Mother. Mr. Squires made a backdoor deal with the Ontario government without consulting the clan family, his Clan Mother or the other Chiefs of the Confederacy Council. When the Council got wind of what had taken place they wrote a letter to my Mother stating that Mr. Squires was to be stripped of the Dekariho:ken title and dehorned.
My Mother dehorned Mr. Squires. In his place, my brother, Allen MacNaughton was stood up and condoled at the age of 5, earning him the moniker “baby Chief”. With the recent death of Pete Skye, there is only one person on Confederacy Council who was condoled before my brother became condoled. Confederacy Council would never have allowed my brother a seat on the bench if they had cause for concern.
Incidentally Ken, my brother is not a spokesperson for the HDI. He is a Confederacy Chief who, along with the other Clan Mothers and Chiefs, directs the matters at issue concerning our lands in relation to HDI. Moreover, my brother does not receive honoraria, ask him yourself.
I do counsel with my brother, and with as much of our clan family as I can to keep the traffic flowing on our roads of communication. Why is this a problem? I am doing the job of a Clan Mother until I am condoled or another person more suited is found and condoled; the job still needs to be done. Again, I do not understand the reason for the criticism unless it stems from a more personal issue concerning the Two Row Times and their illegitimacy.
I will briefly speak to the topic of honoraria and the Chiefs and Clan Mothers. Most people do not realize that the majority of our Clan Mothers and Chiefs live in poverty, without hydro and running water. We are at fault for failing to look after our Elderly and in particular our Clan Mothers and Chiefs. The honoraria that has been meted out has in the majority of cases been gifted to the language programs and our schools. The few that have kept the honoraria have done so in order to be able to travel back and forth to council otherwise they would not be able to make the monthly trip. All these concerns can be investigated if one is truly interested in finding out the truths of the situations.
Concerning condoling more Chiefs and Clan Mothers, this must be done by the specific families themselves. Again, we are back to the problem of interfering in another clan family’s business. The Confederacy Council may make mention of the urgency in having the missing Clan Mothers and Chiefs put in place, but only the families themselves can take the action to stand up those individuals. It is not the job of Confederacy Council to fill missing seats, that responsibility lies solely with the clan families.
Ken’s ‘bastardized version of consensus’ is not without some merit, but once again the facts need to be given correctly. Decisions are meant to include all the Clan Mothers and Chiefs that attend to the meetings scheduled at the HDI offices. The Clan Mothers and Chiefs that do attend, return to their families and counsel about the matters presented at the meetings. All Clan Mothers and Chiefs are invited, but should they choose not to attend, decision making continues. Proper protocol does need to be followed, through all aspects and not just the ones we find the most convenient to use for our own justification. I myself have issue with decisions made that our Mohawk bench has given the answer “No” to. This issue needs to be addressed but not in this letter.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council has a legal advisor and his name is Aaron Detlor. He is not the lawyer for the Confederacy nor HDI, he is merely a consultant. In my opinion, he does overstep his bounds from time to time and this is upsetting to the Clan Mothers and Chiefs. This is an issue that needs addressing but not through physical violence and I will not get into this matter in this letter.
The HDI was created to deal with the issues of land and protecting our environment and archaeological integrity. HDI works as an administrative arm to the Confederacy, dealing with the contractors and businesses that wish to consult with our People and lease land for limited periods of time. Land dealings alone would occupy the floor at every Confederacy meeting. Council would drown in the details and never move forward if it had to deal with the tide of land issues at every Grand Council for the issues are debilitating and extensive.
HDI has created a financial basis to support the People, which in turn is the Confederacy. The monies created by the land leases established have been given to an assortment of language programs and schools for various matters. No personal monies have been assigned or given to anyone. The financial statements are clear on the allocations of monies. Salaries are paid but are not indicative of the personal time and sacrifice invested in the job positions.
[For more information about the HDI you can listen to this Podcast that Tom Keefer and I did with Hazel Hill, where she explains her involvement in the HDI and how it came to be.]
The erroneous belief that the money collected by HDI should personally benefit each individual is contrary to our Kayenera:koa and in no way insures the protection of the coming faces. Perpetuating our languages and culture aids immensely in constructing a foundation upon which our children can build. Our Kayenera:koa serves us all, lifts us up to support each other as we are meant to do.
Our Confederacy has never been incorporated. A company was set up to allow payment from an Ontario subsidiary as they refused to pay unless it was to a corporation. At no time was the Confederacy a part of the incorporation. The corporation was allowed in order to receive a payment and nothing more. As soon as the payment was received the corporation was then dissolved.
I personally understand the issues at the forefront of the criticisms and can see the mistaken notions being put forward. One doesn’t have to like the answers being given but they do need to understand them. Valid criticisms are being presented, but a full on investigation of the matters at hand needs to be done by those doing the accusing before pointing that finger.
Our Great Good Message does lay out a protocol for all to be involved that are Haudenosaunee and those wishing to live by the instructions left to us, who may then be adopted in. Seek out those answers and what the message encompasses for it is a life long learning experience.
I have sought to answer the concerns and accusations brought forward in Ken’s article and followed along with his presentation of issues. I sincerely hope this clarifies the mistaken ideas that were claimed within his ‘letter’.
I first and foremost mean no harm to anyone, only to help people who do not have the proper context to understand what is happening. I have had my family’s integrity impugned without just cause for the want of information. This is hurtful and not the way we are to be, we are to lift each other up and hold their hands when they need us.
I hope I have helped lift up those that were confused and in need of enlightenment. We all have voices to speak and ears to hear, we need to start using them and start helping each other and in that way we will all be lifted up. I also hope I have helped to provide a little bit more of an understanding of our Great Peace.