The traditional leadership on Six Nations of the Grand River wants polling stations off the territory before Monday’s federal election.
“It has been brought to our attention that the Canadian government has placed polling stations on Haudenosaunee Territory,” the chiefs and clan mothers who lead the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council said in a statement released Wednesday.
“We urge those involved to immediately remove the polling stations and elections materials from the territory. This is a violation of not only treaty rights, but our human rights to exist as distinct people.”
The Confederacy also instructed members of Canada’s most populous First Nations reserve not to vote.
“The Confederacy Council has and always will discourage Onkwehonwe from participating in the election of leaders of other governments,” the statement read, using the Mohawk word for “original or first people.”
Chiefs and clan mothers contend Haudenosaunee voting in Canadian elections is “a violation of treaties and commitments our ancestors made,” referencing the Two Row Wampum agreement made between the Haudenosaunee and Dutch settlers more than 400 years ago “to never interfere in one another’s government, laws and ways.”
“We have never relinquished our sovereignty and we view the actions of all involved in Canada’s elections as doing such,” the Confederacy statement said.
Representatives from the Confederacy could not be reached for comment.
The Confederacy is distinct from Six Nations Elected Council, a legislative body led by Chief Mark Hill.
In an emailed statement, elected council spokesperson Katie Montour said band members “have a free choice as to whether or not they decide to vote in any election.”
“Having a polling location in our community is a way of respecting the right of our community members to exercise that free choice if they wish,” Montour said.
Six Nations is part of the riding of Brantford-Brant.
It is unclear how many polling stations are on Six Nations territory and whether the Confederacy has filed a formal request with Elections Canada to move the stations off the reserve.
A spokesperson for Elections Canada did not respond by deadline.
According to data from Elections Canada, 51.8 per cent of Indigenous people nationwide voted in the 2019 federal election, compared to overall voter turnout of 67 per cent.
Six Nations of the Grand River has approximately 27,600 registered band members, of whom nearly 13,000 live on the reserve.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator