Liberal MP Marc Miller said politicians like himself need to go beyond the surface of communities to engage on issues that effect Indigenous communities. He met with members of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake at the 207 Longhouse last Sunday. (courtesy Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake)
“People have been advising us to meet with him for some time now and we decided we’d like to meet him now,” said longhouse secretary Kenneth Deer. “There are issues that need attention and the primary reason was to discuss the passport and border issues.”
“It was a formal meeting with him in following with our protocols and procedures when meeting with any official from a foreign government. We discussed a range of different topics that are affecting the Mohawk nation and confederacy,” said Kanen’tó:kon Hemlock.
Border issues are well-known in the community of Kahnawake and in other Indigenous communities.
Stories range from harassment to racist remarks, to even being blacklisted. There are multiple issues, as some border patrol officers are ignorant of the rights of Onkwehón:we.
“It was an opportunity that came up a while back after I visited the Mohawk Trail Longhouse a few months ago, and there was some members from the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake Longhouse that showed up and offered that I go visit them. The idea dragged on for a while and it finally crystallized on Sunday,” said Miller.
“There was a number of things they wanted to discuss, like opening ceremonies and traditional greetings and such. We talked about the history of the longhouse and I presented myself as an outsider, and I was there to listen,” said Miller.
Miller further explained that one of the main issues stemmed from the border and recognition of Haudenosaunee documents.
The main issue discussed was the incident at the World Lacrosse Championship in Israel, with the Haudenosaunee team attending.
The team could not leave Canada due to issues with the “red card” and were delayed in getting to Israel to play.
The issue went viral over the summer and caused outrage from many Indigenous people.
“Canada has had a history of being implicit in the destruction of the longhouse,” said Miller. “It’s thrived and resisted for years and as a result, you can’t but recognize that there are different leadership views and that happens all over First Nations territories.
“We need to recognize that we need to engage and I have a role with the minster of Indigenous relations, I’m the parliament secretary, so I do have an official role.”
Miller explained a scenario where political or government officials go to an Indigenous community and meet with the council grand chief and automatically assume all is well and that they know everything; when in reality, that isn’t the case.
“It’s important because as a representative of the federal government, he needs to be made aware that the confederacy speaks for itself and that the issues we have are within the jurisdiction of the Haudenosaunee,” said Hemlock.
“This is the first time meeting him in the longhouse, some of us have met him before at many places and we’ve known him for years,” said Deer.
“Almost everyone has met him. He’s eager to learn about us,” Deer said.
“I try not to lecture anyone on my language journey, I try to be respectful and not use it as a political weapon. I think everyone who isn’t exposed to Indigenous people, they believe it’s like in the movies, it’s all in the present tense, it’s kind of stereotypical,” said Miller, who speaks Kanien’kéha.
Miller elaborated that the issue is not about him learning the language, but it’s about the younger generation learning it and passing it on for generations to come.
“I have some work to do. I’ve got involved with border issues and the challenges and I’m now aware of the way people get treated,” he said.
“Anytime you talk about the border, people always use extreme protocol and I find that frustrating. There may be administrative reasons for requiring a passport, but there are not administrative reasons for treating someone with disrespect.”
There is no set date for a follow-up meeting, but Hemlock mentioned there would be more meetings forthcoming to continue positive discussions and the resolutions on the issues that affect Indigenous nations.