Mohawk Council of Kahnawake commits to Governance Project

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) has this week approved the Kahnawake Governance Project’s charter to transition to traditional government, making a major commitment to accept the project’s recommendations.

“It was a historic day, because we had the band council accepting the fact that they’re going to work themselves out of a job, not just in a rhetorical sense, but accepting a plan on how we’re going to do it,” said the Governance Project’s lead, Taiaiake Gerald Alfred.

The final report of the Kahnawake Governance Project, which was released earlier this month, laid out a way for Kahnawake to return to traditional government, including the MCK taking tangible steps to move towards being an administrative body rather than a political entity, and to recognize the authority of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, as well as the unification of the Longhouses.

“The one thing that’s always been an obstacle to cooperation and rebuilding of a working relationship between the Longhouses and the MCK was the recognition of the authority of the Grand Council,” said Alfred. “The MCK is saying, ‘We’re doing the thing that you said needs to be done, now let’s begin working together.’”

The report was accepted in full, with MCK chiefs agreeing unanimously at a meeting on June 17 to formally accept the charter, which Alfred said puts the Governance Project in a position to facilitate and support the measures they recommended.

“The declaration to accept that principle and make that commitment is something the community has been waiting on for a long time,” Alfred said. “It’s a historic statement that’s unique in the landscape of politics in this country, and long overdue in Kahnawake.”

MCK’s acknowledgement of the report’s findings – which showed that community members strongly support the transition away from a band council and towards a traditional government – show that the organization is listening to its people, Alfred said.

“People have made it consistently known and have been adamant over the years that the Indian Act is not our system, and it’s operating with a hindrance to our unity. It’s preventing us from actualizing our self-determination and realizing the full potential of our nationhood,” Alfred said.

“This signals that people who sit around that table respect the voice of the people and have the best interests of Kahnawa’kehró:non in mind.”

This isn’t the first time that the MCK has committed to pursuing some type of traditional governance. In 1979, then MCK grand chief Andrew Delisle Sr., said that he wanted to get Kahnawake’s governance out of the Indian Act and have government under the Great Law. Though steps were taken to further that commitment in 1982 and in 2000, this commitment differs because it shows the MCK taking a clear, directional move, building on the original idea of moving away from the Indian Act.

“We’ve had 45 years to refine what it means and figure out different approaches. This is based on listening to people in a very detailed way, looking at all of the attempts that have been made in the past to accomplish that 1979 mandate and learning from them,” Alfred said. “This has a mandate coming from the people that’s very direct and accepted wholly by the council as a plan of action.”

The immediate next step for the Governance Project will be engagement with community members on the recommendations and the vision for Kahnawake. It’s expected that a working group of individuals from various political groups and major organizations in the community will be formed to help move forward the process.

Eve Cable, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door