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It may seem strange, at this time, that we are here asserting the obvious fact of our continuing existence. For countless centuries the fact of our existence was unquestioned, and for all honest people, it remains unquestioned today. We have existed since time immemorial. we wave always coluucieu vur und wud.rs arom our territories, under our own laws and customs. We have never, under those laws and customs, willingly or fairly surrendered either vur territories or our freedoms. Never, in the history of the Haudenosaunee have the People or the government sworn allegiance to a European sovereign. In that simple fact lies the roots of our oppression as a People, and the purpose of our journey here, before this Committee.
In the beginning we were told that the human beings who walk about the Earth have been provided with all the things necessary for Life. We were instructed to carry, a love for one another, and to show a great respect for all of the beings of the Earth. We were shown that our Life exists with the Tree of Life, that our well being depends on the well being of the Vegetable Life, that we are close relatives of the Four-Legged Beings. In our ways, spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics.
Ours is a Way of Life. We believe that all living things are spiritual beings. Spirits can be expressed as energy forms manifest in matter. A blade of grass is an energy form manifested in matter-grass matter. The spirit of the grass is that unseen force which produces the species of grass, and it is manifest to us in the form of real grass.
All things of the world are real, material things. The Creation is a true, material phenomenon, and the Creation manifests itself to us through reality. The spiritual universe, then, is manifest to the Humans as Creation, the Creation which supports Life. We believe that Humans are real, a part of the Creation, and that their duty is to support Life in conjunction with the other beings. That is why we call ourselves Ongwhewhowhe-Real People.
The original instructions direct that we who walk about on the Earth are to express a great respect, an affection and a gratitude toward all the spirits which create and support Life. We give a greeting and thanksgiving to the many supporters of our lives—the corn, beans, squash, the winds, the water, the sun, all living beings who work together on this land. When people cease to respect and express gratitude for these many things, then all Life will be destroyed, and Human Life on this planet will come to an end.
Our roots are deep in the lands where we live. We have a great love for our country, for our birthplace is there. The soil is rich from the bones of thousands of our generations. Each of us were created in these lands, and it is our duty to take great care of them, because from these lands will spring the future generations of the Ongwhewhowhe. We walk about with a great respect, for the Earth is a very sacred place.
We are not a people who demand or ask anything of the Creators of Life, but instead, we give greetings and thanksgiving that all the forces of Life are still at work. We deeply understand our relationship to all living things. To this day, the territories we still hold are filled with trees, animals and the other gifts of the Creation. In these places we still receive our nourishment from our Mother Earth.
Since the beginning of the invasion, more than 400 years ago, the development and evolution of our civilizations have taken a radical turn for the worst. Since the beginning of the process of the colonization of our lands we cannot look back and identify one year in which we can say that we enjoyed peace and harmony with the settlers.
From the beginning of its existence the United States has conducted a reign of terror in the Haudenosaunee territory. Colonial agents entered our country between 1784 and 1842 and returned to Washington with treaties for cessions of land fraudulently obtained with persons not authorized to make land transfers. The Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee, which is the only legitimate body authorized to conduct land transactions, never signed any agreements surrendering the territories.
The United States entered into solemn treaties with the Haudenosaunee, and each time has ignored virtually each and every provision of the treaties which guarantee our rights as a separate nation. Only the sections of the treaties which refer to land cessions, sections which often were fraudulently obtained, have validity in the eyes of the United States courts or governments.
The mechanism for the colonization of the Haudenosaunee territory is found in legal fiction, in the United States Constitution. That document purports to give Congress power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States, and with Indian tribes.” Congress has expanded that section to an assertion of "plenary power", a doctrine which asserts absolute authority over our territories. This assertion has been repeatedly urged upon our people, although we have never agreed to that relationship, and we have never been conquered in warfare. The Haudenosa unee are vassals to no people-we are a free nation, and we have never surrendered our rights as a free people.
Somehow, the United States takes the position that the Haudenosaunee ceased to exist by the year 1784, although the longhouse has continued to this day. There is ample evidence that all the nations continue to participate in the matters of the Grand Council, the legislative body of the Confederacy. None of the nations of the Confederacy has ever declared themselves separate from the Confederacy. The Oneidas whose reputed allegiance to the United States was based on the existence of Oneida mercenaries, continued to send their delegates to the Council, and the Tuscarora remain firmly attached to the Confederation. The Onondagas, Senecas, Cayugas and Mohawks continue to hold their positions within the Confederation. Although the Haudenosaunee has been severely disrupted by the Westward expansion of the United States, the subsequent surrounding of our lands, and the attempts to devour our people, the Confederacy continues to function. Indeed, today its strength continues to be increasing.
By pretending that the Haudenosaunee government no longer exists, both the U.S. and Britain illegally took Haudenosaunee territories by simply saying the territories belong to them. The Haudenosaunee territories are not, and have never been part of the U.S. or Canada. The citizens of the Haudenosaunee are a separate people, distinct from either Canada or the U.S. Because of this the Haudenosaunee refuse to recognize a border drawn through our lands by a foreign people.
The policy of the dispossession of North American Native peoples, first by the European kingdoms, and later by their settler heirs, began with the first contact. Dispossession took a number of approaches: the so-called "just warfare" was a strategy by which Native nations were deemed to have offended the Crown and their elimination by fire and sword was justified. That was followed by the Treaty Period in which Native nations were “induced" to sell their lands and move westward. The Treaty Period was in full swing at the beginning of the 19th Century. By 1815, the governor of New York was agitating for the removal of all Native people from the state for “their own good."
While the infamous Trail of Tears was removing Native peoples from the Southeast to Oklahoma, New York State was lobbying for a treaty in 1838, which was intended to remove the Haudenosaunee, who were on lands the state wanted, away to an area of Kansas. The principal victims were to be the Senecas.
Like the Termination Era a century later, the Removal Policy was eventually abandoned due in part to the bad press received from the Cherokee removal of 1832. During the process of their removal thousands of Cherokee men, women, children and elders were subjected to conditions which caused them to die of exposure, starvation and neglect.
In 1871, the U.S. Congress passed an act which included a clause that treaties would no longer be made with "Indian Nations". It was at this time that official U.S. policy toward Native people began to shift to a new strategy. Reports to the Congress began to urge that the Native people be assimilated into U.S. society as quickly as possible. The policy of fire and sword simply became less popular with a significant percentage of the U.S. population. The principal hinderance to the assimilation of the Native peoples, according to its most vocal adherents, was the Indian land base. The Native land base was held in common and this was perceived as an uncivilized and unAmerican practice. The Congressional supporters of assimilation urged that if every Indian family owned its own farmstead, they would more readily acquire "civilized" traits. Thus the Dawes Act of 1866 ordered the Native nations stripped of their land base, resulting in the transfer of millions of acres of European hands.
There was consistent pressure in the New York legislature to "civilize" the Haudenosaunee. To accomplish this, all vestiges of Haudenosa unee nationality needed to be destroyed. This is the 19th Century origin of the policy to "educate" the Indian to be culturally American. It was thought that when the Indian was successfully Americanized, he would no longer be distinct and separate, and that there would no longer be an indigenous people with their own customs and economy. At that point, the Indian could be simply declared to have assimilated into the U.S. or Canadian society. The net effect would dispense with the entire concept of Native nations, and that would extinguish the claims of those nations to their lands. The report of the Whipple Committee to the New York Legislature in 1888 was clear: "Exterminate the Tribe.”
In 1924, the Canadian government "abolished" Haudenosaunee government at the Grand River territory. The Oneida and Akwesasne territories were invaded and occupied by Canadian troops in order to establish neo-colonial “elective systems" in the name of democracy. Also in 1924, the United States government passed illegal legislation declaring all “American Indians” to be U.S. citizens.
The 1924 Citizenship Act was an attempt to deny the existence of Native nations, and the rights of these Native nations to their lands. The denial of the existence of Native nations is a way of legitimizing the United States' claim to our homelands. This concept is furthered by the imposition of non-Native forms o government. This also serves to fulfill the United States' need to destroy any semblance of Native sovereignty. The actual process of taking lands can be accomplished when the Native nation no longer exists in its original contextwhen it is less a nation.
With all semblance of a Native nation's original context destroyed, Canada and the U.S. can rationalize that integration has occurred. With this rationale in hand, both government have set out to enact their final solutions to the "Indian Problem."
The Haudenosaunee vigorously objected to the Citizenship Act and maintains to this day that the People of the Longhouse are not citizens of Canada or the U.S., but are ciitzens of their own nations of the Confederacy. To underline this position our government has issued its own passports to those of our people travelling abroad. To date, we entered 18 countries with our passports.
The Termination Acts of the 1950s were efforts to simply declare that the Native nations no longer exist and to appropriate their lands. The acts were so disastrous that they caused something of a national scandal. "St. Regis”, the European name for Akwesasne, was one of our territories targeted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as "ready for integration".
The B.I.A. based its recommendation on the fact that many of the Mohawk people had acquired at least some of the material conditions which made their community outwardly indistinguishable from the white communities. In fact, however, Akwesasne was, and is, very different from the small towns in the area surrounding it. We have only recently finished 212 years of armed siege resisting New York State's efforts to destroy the Traditional Mohawk government and their distinctiveness.
Termination submerged as an official policy in the late 1960s. But Termination is simply a means to an end. The objective is the economic exploitation of a people and their lands. The taking of lands and the denial and destruction of Native nations are concrete and undeniable elements in the colonization process as it is applied to Native people. Tools to accomplish this and include guns, disease, revised histories, repressive missionaries, indoctrinating teachers, and these things are often cloaked in codes of law. In the 20th Century, the taking of land and the destruction of cultures and Native economy serve to force Native peoples into roles as industrial workers, just as in the 19th Century the same processes forced Native peoples into roles as landless peasants.
The Haudenosaunee over a period of 375 years met every definition of an oppressed nation. It has been subjected to raids of extermination from France, England and the United States. Its people have been driven from their lands, impoverished, and persecuted for their Haudenosaunee customs. It has been the victim of fraudulent dealings from these European governments which have openly expressed the goal of the extermination of the Haudenosaunee. Our children have been taught to despise their ancestors, their culture, their religion and their traditional economy. Recently it has been a U.S. government sponsored fad to have "bi-lingual/bi-cultural" programs in the schools of the settlers. These programs are not sincere efforts to revitalize the Haudenosaunee, but exist as an integrationist's ploy to imply their "acceptance" of our ways.
Some American historians have cloaked the past in a veil of lies. The national and local governments of the Haudenosaunee have been suppressed and usurped by the U.S. authorities, and have been aided by Indian helpers, to carry out policies of repression in the name of democracy. Generation after generation has seen the Haudenosaunee land base, and therefore its economic base, shrink under the expansionist policies of the U.S. and Canada.
The world is told by the U.S. government's propaganda machines that the Haudenosaunee are simply victims of "civilization and progress". The truth is that we are the victims of a conscious and persistent effort of destruction directed at us by the former European colonizing governments and their heirs in North America. The Haudenosaunee is not suffering a terminal illness of natural causes—it is being deliberately strangled to death by those who would benefit from its death.
Although treaties may often have been bad deals for the Native nations, the U.S. chose not to honor those which exist because to do so would require the return of much of the economic base and sovereignty to the Haudenosaunee. The treaties contain the potential for independent survival of the Native people. The dishonoring of treaties is essential to the goal of the U.S. vested interests which are organized to remove any and all obstacles to their exploitation of the Earth and her peoples.
Today as we sit in this room we clearly see that we continue to be the victims of an unchanged attitude that has prevailed throughout the United States' 206 years. Representative Gary Lee continues to tradition of racism, and demogoguery that has been the hallmarks of the relations between our two nations. Only one American leader has ever been held in esteem by our people-your first president, George Washington. In all of our years it is only from him that we felt we heard words of truth, and now, Representative Lee is working hard to crush those words as they are set in the treaties.
Because of Congress' mistaken belief that you have "plenary power" over our lives, and the irrefutable lessons of history, we have taken our case to the world at large. Since 1924, our leaders have been actively seeking allies and friends amongst the other nations of the world. This work has gained us many supporters in other countries; gained us access to various commissions of the United Nations; and gained us political support, most notably from Western European countries. How Congress chooses to act on this so-called "Ancient Indian Claims Settlement Act” will not be done in isolation.
The very serious questions of our rights to our homelands will not go away with the swipe of a pen. We continue to exist, and the lands that the Creators of Life gave to us continue to exist. As long as this is a reality, and as long as the American government continues to act in a racist and genocidal manner, the problem will never be over.
The Traditional People recognize that the injustices perpetrated upon our people, and indeed many of the peoples of the world, are the major factor destroying the Spirituality of the Human Race.
Peace and unity are the foundations of the Spiritual Way of Life of our peoples. But, peace and unity are not companions to injustice,
We never were, nor are we now, nor ever intend to be "citizens" of the U.S. or Canada. We are Haudenosaunee determined to make a future for our people based on our own constitution, the “Great Law of Peace," our religion, and the message of the Gai wiio.
Edward Everett, of Mass., in The House of Representatives on the 14th and 21st of February, 1831 on the execution of the laws and treaties in favor of Indian Nations.
"The President acquiesces in this course on the part of the State, although it is the sole duty in reference to this matter to enforce the law, of which these treaties are a part:
Congress last winter made express provision against their violation. They are violated. Let us then either make provision to execute, or let us abrogate them avowedly.
It is due to consistency, good faith, and common honesty.
The President has, with his annual message, sent us a letter from the Superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in which that officer states, that the law of 1802, "is the principle one which governs all our relations with Indian Nations," and recommends its revisal and modification to suit the changes produced by the subsequent treaties and other causes. The same message is accompanied by the letter from the Secretary of War, to which I have already referred; telling us that the provisions of the law are unconstitutional, and the President neglects to enforce them in favor of those Nations, over which the States have extended their laws.
Let us then, the Congress of the United States, if we think this law is constitutional, make provision to execute it; if we think it is defective, let us amend it. If we think it is unconstitutional, let us repeal it. That law, by which all our Indian relations are regulated, ought surely not remain in its present state.
If the treaties are constitutional, let us enforce them. If they are unconstitutional let us abrogate them; let us repeal the proviso of the last session; declare them null and void ; and make what compensation we can to the deluded beings, who, relying upon our faith have, at different periods, ceded to us mighty and fertile regions, as a consideration for the guaranty contained in these compacts.
Sir, this is a dreadful affair. Heaven is my witness, that I would rather palliate than magnify its character; but I can think of nothing so nearly parallel to it, as the conduct of the British Government towards the native inhabitants of St. Vincents. This is a precedent from one of the worst periods of the British Government, that of the Administration which drove America into revolution. It was a transaction on a small scale, in an obscure island, and toward a handful of men. But it left an indelible stigma on those responsible for it; a stigma on an administration, which nothing moderately unjust could disgrace, a stigma which would have been as notorious as it was indelible, but for the overshadowing enormity of the treatment of America, which succeeded. If we proceed in this path, if we now bring this stain on our annals, if we suffer this cold and dark eclipse to cover the bright sun of our national honor, I see not how it could ever pass off ; it will be as eternal as it is total.
Sir, I will not believe that Georgia will persevere. She will not, for this poor corner, scarcely visible on the map of her broad and fertile domains, permit a reproach to be cast upon her and the whole Union, till the end of time.
As for the character of the country to which it is proposed to remove the Indians, I want only light. It was all we asked last session; all I ask now.
I quoted then all the authorities, favorable as well as unfavorable, with which I was acquainted. The friends of the policy refused us the only means of getting authentic information on the subject-a commission of respectable citizens of the United States sent out for the purpose. Since the subject was discussed last session, two more witnesses, not then heard, have spoken. Dr. James, who was appointed to accompany Col. Long on his tour of exploration in this region, has thus expressed himself :
“The region to which Mr. McCoy proposes to remove the Indians would, such is its naked and inhospitable character, soon reduce civilized men who should be confined to it, to barbarism".
In 1827, before this question was controverted, a report was made by the commissioners appointed to lay out a road from the western boundary of Missouri to Santa Fe in New Mexico. These Commissioners report that, in the whole line of their march, extending seven hundred miles, if all the wood which they passed were collected in one forest, it would not exceed a belt of trees three miles in width!
But all this does not change the question. It merely suggests the possibility of an alternative of evil. If all the land were as fertile, as some small part of it probably is; if it were as safe from the wild tribes of the desert, as it is notoriously exposed ; if wood and water were as abundant as they are confessedly scarce; if it were the paradise which it is not, so much worse for the Indians, the miserable victims whom we are going to delude into it. The idea that they can be safe, is perfectly chimerical; and every argument to show that the land is good, is an argument of demonstration that they will soon be driven from it. If all these treaties cannot save them, nothing can. What pledges can we give stronger than we have given ?
It is partly for this reason that I urge the House to settle the question; and the more plainly we meet it, if we settle it against the Indians, the more humane will be our conduct. If we intend to be faithless to all these compacts, let our want of faith be made as a signal and manifest as it can be.
Here, at the center of the Nation, beneath the portals of the capitol, let us solemnly auspicate the new era of violated promises and tarnished faith. Let us kindle a grand council-fire, not of treaties made and ratified, but of treaties annulled and broken. Let us send to our archives for the worthless parchments, and burn them in the face of the day. There will be some yearning of humanity, as we perform the solemn act. They were negotiated for valuable consideration ; we keep the consideration and break the bond. One gave peace to our afflicted frontier; another protected our infant settlements. Many were made under the instruction of Washington, of Adams, and of Jefferson—the Fathers of our Liberty. They are gone, and will not witness the spectacle ; but our present Chief Magistrate, as he lays them, one by one, on the fire, will see his own name subscribed to a godly number of them.
Sir, they ought to be destroyed, as a warning to the Indians to make no more compacts with us. The President tells us that the Choctow treaty is probably the