Looking Beyond the First Nation Control of First Nations Education Act

LAST WEEK I WAS interviewed for a CBC program on the topic of Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. The name of the program is immaterial. If you look it up, you won’t find me. That interview was tossed, and another guest was found.

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FNCFNEA: An Interview with Grand Chief Gordon Peters

Grand Chief Gordon Peters

Download entire interview (320 kbps mp3) | Visit The Roundtable on Facebook.

Grand Chief Gordon Peters is a citizen of the Delaware First Nation, near Chatham, Ontario, and the Chair of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians Chiefs Council. The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) is a non-profit organization which advocates for the political interests of its member Nations in Ontario – the Oneida, the Mohawk, the Delaware, the Potawatomi and the Ojibway.

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On Going to the Pow Wow

IN ALL CULTURES, social dance figures. The pow wow has, as is the case with so many things indigenous, both its historic (which is to say “pre-contact”) and contemporary manifestation. Without doubt, the pow wow is today an expression of pan-aboriginalism, being a social festival which looks roughly the same across North America. The seasonal and ceremonial dances of long ago varied widely, from culture to culture, so that it is probably of little help to look back more than a couple decades to discern the roots of a modern pow wow.

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The Richard Smoke Trial

ON DECEMBER 23, 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice the Honourable Alan C. R. Whitten rendered his verdict in the case of a vicious beating in Caledonia of builder Sam Gualtieri, by defendant and Six Nations resident Richard Smoke. The judgement has received only a smattering of press attention, most of it issuing from the National Post. My feeling is that there ought to be more attention paid, but of a sort which begins by acknowledging universal failure and the urgent need to do something constructive before southern Ontario becomes a Gaza strip of AK-47-wielding Warriors, rock throwing children, and the Canadian army. If you think this is a dramatic and paranoid fantasy, then you are simply one of the many sleep-walking Canadians who has forgotten (or never bothered to notice) that such a thing has already happened. There is no reason at present to conclude it can’t happen again.

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Onkwehonwe-Neha: A Guide to Integrating into Turtle Island

Editor’s Note: We have noticed a great deal of controversy following the release of “Énoncé de valeurs: Des clés pour mon intégration à Gatineau.” This strikes us as curious, since documents of this sort have existed for centuries, without causing similar uproar. To cite one well-known example, we present the following English-language translation of the pamphlet, “Onkwehonwe-Neha [Our Ways]: A Guide to Integrating into Turtle Island,” published in 1557 by the Haudenosaunee and given to each new immigrant on arrival to Haudenosaunee territory.

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Commemorating The War of 1812

THERE IS a debate these days in the Canadian media over the Harper Government decision to spend a yet-undetermined sum (I’ve come across an amount of twelve or-so million dollars) commemorating the War of 1812. I expect the Americans will overlook this bit of their history, but I’m unable to imagine any Canadian government ignoring the two-hundred-year anniversary of a war that could have converted Upper and Lower Canada into the coldest states of the Union.

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In Which I Lose My Passport and Very Nearly Also My Mind


I discovered some days ago that my passport wasn’t where I was certain I’d put it. I had just moved one and-a-half miles, crossing the border between Hull, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario. I needed that passport to transfer my life (car registration, driver’s licence, and other various bits of ID) to my new-old place of residence. No ticket, no laundry. Thus begins what is for me a too-familiar recurring scene, in which yours truly is cast into the leading role of the identification theatre’s latest production.

Continue reading “In Which I Lose My Passport and Very Nearly Also My Mind”

The Haudenosaunee | Part Three, That Which Divides Us

The history of the Haudenosaunee (the people who are building a longhouse) is one of unceasing challenges, from without but often also from within. It was no foregone conclusion that the eventual five constituting nations of the “Iroquois League” would accede to the Peacemaker’s vision of unity. Suspicion and hostility posed an enormous impediment to the cause of peace. The impediment obtains to this day.

Continue reading “The Haudenosaunee | Part Three, That Which Divides Us”

The Haudenosaunee | Part Two, Ohentonkariwatehkwen

I suggested in the previous instalment of this series that the improbable unity of the Rotinonsion:ni (Iroquois) arrived as a matter of extraordinary good fortune, in combination with great effort and practical necessity. One is well advised not to take such a thing for granted, and so we arrive at the Ohentonkariwatehkwen, or “the words which come before all others,” also known as the Thanksgiving Address. Continue reading “The Haudenosaunee | Part Two, Ohentonkariwatehkwen”

The Haudenosaunee | Part One, Origins

The image above represents the story of the five founding nations of the Haudenosaunee (pronounced ho-din-oh-show-nay and meaning “the people who are building a longhouse”), in English the “League of Nations.”  This graphic is a stylized digital version of the original Peacemaker belt, a wampum belt made of the purple and white quahog shell, strung onto thread of sinew or plant fibre. There is an enormous amount of information stored in this belt, so let’s begin the story. Continue reading “The Haudenosaunee | Part One, Origins”

The Haudenosaunee

Over the coming weeks, I shall be writing a series of articles concerning the Haudenosaunee, known also by the English renderings, “People of the Longhouse” or the “Six Nations Confederacy,” and by the derogatory Huron term rendered in French as “the Iroquois.” As I am myself a citizen of the Haudenosaunee, I will begin the series with some historical considerations written from my personal point-of-view. Along the way I will present something approaching a narrative of the Haudenosaunee, the intentions of which will be: Continue reading “The Haudenosaunee”

Jake Swamp, A Man of Roots

Jake SwampJake Swamp, 1941-2010


I didn’t know Jake Swamp, but as the saying goes I knew of him. Few are the Kanienkehaka who don’t. Or rather — I must get used to this now — didn’t. This morning I was informed of his passing, in the very early hours of Friday, October 15.

Tekaronianeken, or Jake Swamp as he was commonly known, was born at Akwesasne in 1941. He was of the generation born under the old dispensation of colonial shame but arriving to the 1960s and ’70s with a sense of purpose and a strong, proud voice. As a young man, he had been taught by Christian priests in St. Regis to consider the Longhouse a Pagan menace. So often the case with the Haudenosaunee (“People of the Longhouse”), a woman made short work of that. His wife Judy gradually brought him around, and so one year during Strawberry Festival time he went to the Longhouse and listened, out of curiosity. That decision changed his life. Continue reading “Jake Swamp, A Man of Roots”

Canadian History if Necessary, But Not Necessarily Canadian History

canada-history

THE CHIEF THING that I remember of high school Canadian history is that it was boring. I suspect the same is true in your case. Here is my summary of high school Canadian history, roughly as I recall it: Canada was a pristine land inhabited by some Indians, and discovered by John Cabot in 1497. Jacques Cartier later explored the interior. It’s thought Vikings were in Canada before Europeans, but in any case Samuel de Champlain first colonized the land adjacent to the St. Lawrence (Upper Canada). The French settlers took to fighting the English over control of the resources. A number of alliances with the Indians were made by each side, and trade networks were established. This was the era of the courier de bois, or ‘woods-runner,’ usually a “half-breed” who moved goods from indigenous supplier to white trader. The English gained the upper hand over the French at the Plains of Abraham, in the 1750s or so. The Treaty of Paris ceded North America to Britain. The Yankees then took to fighting the British. In the War of 1812 the Yankees were finally driven back for good. Isaac Brock fought heroically and died beside Chief Tecumseh at Queenston. Troops from Halifax invaded Washington and burnt down buildings, most famously a building which was afterward painted white and called the White House.

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