SOVEREIGN NATION STATUS
The Sovereign Amonsoquath Band of Cherokee a still a sovereign Nation, comprised of hundreds of individual Powhatan and/or Cherokee citizens and clans spread all across Turtle Island (North America).
The Courts of the United States of America have consistently ruled that federal recognition and eligibility for services from the Secretary of the Interior does not confer sovereign status, and that not all sovereign Indian nations are federally recognized.
Thousands of Cherokees decsendants are "waking up" to their heritage each day, and we are ready to confer dual U.S./Amonsoquath Cherokee citizenship upon them.
You can be sure that if you do not descend from the notoriously counterfeit "Dawes Commision Rolls," you will be discouraged from joining the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, which under Wilma Mankiller's administration has passed non-traditional statutes against admitting anyone with less than 1/64th blood quantum.
Tahlequah cares only for the Ross faction and the spoils of the Civil War. The Ridge Faction of "Southern Cherokees" are still fighting the Civil War and focusing on the treaty of 1866, but should be looking prior to 1700 to put the pieces of the puzzle back together again. The Eastern Band's and its policies are less and less traditional as time progresses. The United Keetoowah Band seems even less interested in keeping sacred what its most recent founder had to say about mixed-blood Cherokees.
We have been in the same place - the Ozarks - since 1652, since before there was a "State of Missouri," and we are striving to keep Tsalagi traditions alive until Creator sees fit to set the Cherokee Nation back in order.
The Amonsoquath or "Bear Clan" led the way west - away from non-traditionalism, and were soon followed by Dragging Canoe's people, and many others. Now, with the other traditionalist Chickamaugan Cherokees, we intend to lead the way back to the Cherokee path.
If you want to join a Cherokee tribe with an ancient heritage of leadership and resistance against alien ways, then this is your home.
Our rolls are open to descendants of Powhatan and Pocahontas, of which there were over 13,000 in 1868, or to persons of Cherokee descent.
If your family says you descend from Pocahontas, or if your family says you have Cherokee Blood, we want to talk to you!
Sovereignty: Does Today's Tribal Government Truly Represent Traditional Native Nations?
An Iroquois Viewpoint...
Prepared for Professor Rebecca Tsosie. Arizona State University Law School. Independent Study. Spring 1997.
Kanatiyosh is a Mohawk 3rd year law student from Akwesasne, NY and Canada.
IV. Traditional Governments
Although each Nation had its own language, religious beliefs, traditions, and their own form of government, there is a common thread that weaves them together. This common thread is an ethic, a philosophy, and a religious belief that views Mother Earth as a living breathing being that needs protection and deserves respect. The goal is to live in harmony with all peoples and other beings. In this section, the traditional government of the Haudenosaunee will be discussed, the religious beliefs of the Hopi of Hotevilla will be explored, and the importance of the survival of these traditional forms of government will be offered.
1. Haudenosaunee Kaianaraseraowa (the Great Law of Peace)
It is important to understand the founding oration and the wampum1 that tells the "story" of the Great Law of Peace, for these accounts contain the Peacemaker's message, the laws, and the beliefs that are imbued in the Haudenosaunee's traditional government.
The founding of the Great Law of Peace is set by the traditional manner, oration and wampum, of record keeping to be between 1000 and 1400 AD; however, many Anglo-Americans tend to set the date at 1450. The Peacemaker also known as Deganawideh was born amongst the Huron and came to the native peoples, before they were known as the Haudenosaunee, during a time of great conflict. As a young man, the Peacemaker always talked about bringing peace to the nations, but his own people rejected his message so he left them.
a. The Peacemaker's Message
The Peacemaker went to each village in turn and called together the war chiefs. The Peacemaker's message was of Kariio (The Good Message), Kashastensera (Power), and Skennen(Peace), and he said that if the people would follow this message, war and bloodshed amongst the people would end and the Kaianaraseraowa (The Great Law of Peace) would be created.
The Peacemaker's message concerning the Kariwiio (The Good Message) taught the people that one must have Unity and Respect. Unity is defined as the coming together of all factions of people no matter what their differences are, one must respect each other as if they were one's own family; thus, the violence would end.
The Peacemaker also spoke about Kashastensera, which concerns Power, Mind, and Reason. The Peacemaker taught the Haudenosaunee that there is power in Unity, for if many Nations came together in unity and reason as a single family they would become one mind and with this acceptance of peace the foundation for the future generations would be laid out.
The Peacemaker taught that Skennen (peace), good health, and calmness of mind and body would be created when the Nations came together as one United Family. After the Peacemaker delivered his message, he told the War Chiefs, who had agreed to allow their minds to become one and sane by accepting the message of the Kaianeraserakowa (Great Law of Peace), that everyone would now be united.
At the time of the founding of the Five Nations and the acceptance of the principles of the Great Law of Peace, also known as the Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy, Hiawatha introduced wampum to the people :
He taught the Five Nations that wampum should bring and bind peace and take the place of blood. ... Deganawidah, used the wampum to console or wipe away the tears of Hiawatha whose heart was heavy because of the loss of his daughters. This was the first Condolence Ceremony and has existed without change down to the present day.
Wampum is used for ceremonial reasons, and is also used by the Haudenosaunee to record the events of the people through the creation of wampum belts using various symbols to represent the events.
b. Peacemaker's Message and Formation of Government
As the Peacemaker went from Nation to Nation, different numbers of chiefs, fifty chiefs in all, agreed to the Great Law of Peace. These fifty chiefs together compose the Grand Council of Chiefs.
The 11th WAMPUM of the Great Law of Peace explains the duties and responsibilities of the Council of the Mohawk. The Mohawk are divided into three clans, Wolf, Turtle, and Bear with three chiefs for each clan, for a total of nine chiefs.
The decision making and duties of the Life-Chiefs is very interesting. The Turtle Clan chiefs are responsible for hearing the matters of the people first. If the matter is of importance, then the issue will be deliberated and a solution sought before sending it to the chiefs of the Wolf clan. The Wolf Clan then deliberates and if the solution is accepted, then the matter gets returned to the Turtle Clan. The Turtle Clan then turns the issue over to the Bear clan who have been listening to the debate between the Turtle and Wolf and if they agree, they will sanction the solution. "When everyone is of one mind and in accordance with the Kaianerekowa (Great Law), the Bear Sachems will announce the decision.
The 12th WAMPUM states that the Mohawks are the foundation of the government of the Great Law of Peace Therefore, if the Mohawks "disallow any proposition or protest the legislative body, it cannot be passed."
Each of the Nations have their own duties, responsibilities and set number of chiefs. For example, the 14th WAMPUM, illustrates that the Onondaga have 14 chiefs representing 5 different clans, and they are known as the Firekeepers of the Confederacy, and as such, it is their duty to record all matters discussed concerning the Haudenosaunee. The 18th WAMPUM states that the Firekeepers shall officially open and close the Council of the League and confirm and sanction the final decision of the Council.
Faithkeepers are very important to the Haudenosaunee, for they are respected men and women who know the Thanksgiving Address and Great Law very well, and they have proven themselves by the good lives they have lived. They are the teachers, for they are well respected for their knowledge and their ability to live peacefully with all peoples.
c. Women of the Nation
Women have an important role within the government of the Haudenosaunee. Jikonsaseh (Mother of the Nations) was the first person to accept the Peacemaker's message of peace and harmony. As a result, the Peacemaker gave her an important role in securing and keeping the peace, for he gave the women the responsibility of "raising up the chiefs who would come from a matrilineal descent."1
The women select the chiefs (give them horns) and empower them to act, if a chief is not living according to the Great Law of Peace, the women will give him a warning and if he continues to act badly the clan mothers will remove his horns. "The mother's clan determines the clan of her children, and so we have a clan mother. She must perpetuate the ways of our people; she must be able to teach the ways of our people to the young."
One of the most important aspects of the Great Law of Peace is that this type of traditional government requires that everyone and everything be in balance. Religion and state are united as one, and they are kept in check. It is a way of life that requires the society to maintain a balance between the responsibilities of the women, the men, the chiefs, and the Faithkeepers. It is the responsibility of all people within the society to do their jobs to make sure that nobody has more power than anyone else, for balance and unity must be retained to have peace.6
2. Relationship With United States
The Haudenosaunee's inherent sovereignty had been respected and acknowledged by the United States until the State of New York imposed elective systems on the reservations. These elective tribal councils then were seen as the legitimate governments by the United States and New York State. The dilemma is that the traditional government were and are still functioning whether they are recognized or not. However, the tide may be changing, for recently the State of New York has been negotiating with the delegates from the Haudenosaunee, who are the traditional government, and not the tribal council. The Trade and Commerce agreement "affirms the sovereign status of the Haudenosaunee, and recognizes its exclusive right to regulate economic activities upon its territories," and if one reads between the lines, it implies that the tribal government is not the legitimate authority in Haudenosaunee Country. At least in the eyes of New York State, it remains to be seen whether the United States will follow suit.
a. The Mohawk Governments
At Akwesasne (land of the Drumming Partridge) also known as the Saint Regis Mohawk reservation, the Kahnia'kehaka (Mohawk) Nation Council of Chiefs is the traditional form of government. At Akwesasne there are also two other forms of government; the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, which is a state imposed elective system form of government; and, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Tribal Council, which is the elected government on the Canadian side of the reservation. These imposed forms of government have caused a jurisdictional nightmare between Canada, New York State, and the federal government, for invisible lines have been drawn through Haudenosaunee Country.
3. Kahnia'kehaka (Mohawk) Nation
The traditional form of government at Akwesasne is the Kahnia'kehaka (Mohawk) Nation Council of Chiefs (MNCC). They are the designated representatives of the sovereign Mohawk Nation, and they are sanctioned by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The MNCC is composed of the following Chiefs: Teharioniakarenrons - Edward Gray, Turtle Clan, Tekanatsiasere - Brian Skidders, Wolf Clan, Teharonianeken - Jake Swamp, Wolf Clan, Arihote - Curtis Nelson, Bear Clan, and Otistsakenra - Charles Patton, Bear Clan. The MNCC is actively working towards preserving the language, history, and culture of the Kahnia'kehaka. For example, the MNCC operates funds and licenses the Akwesasne Freedom School, Indian Time (newspaper), CKON radio Station, and the Akwesasne Notes Magazine.
The Akwesasne Freedom School teaches grades 1-8 and uses only the Mohawk language. The children are taught their way of life. The Akwesasne Freedom School is considered to be the leader in Native language immersion teaching. To raise money for the school, the community comes out to support the Akwesasne Freedom School by either donating there time, expertise, or by participating in the annual dinner and quilt auction.
The MNCC is active in negotiations with New York State to recover lands, sue for past damages, and they are currently negotiating with the state concerning tax issues. The MNCC performs many governmental services, for they issue birth certificates, marriage certificates, Confederacy passports, and they issue Haudenosaunee Passports for international travel.
It has not been an easy job for the traditionalists to keep with the tenets of the Great Law of Peace, but they have! The traditional leaders hold the Peacemaker's message deep within their hearts and are desperately trying to maintain the balance of peace for the future generations to come. The traditionalists were taught by the Peacemaker that the people should unite and become one mind in the peace of the Great law. However, the dilemma the traditionalists are faced with today is how to deal with the tribal council members whose minds are not in sync with the Peacemaker's teachings.
Perhaps the answer can be found in the story of Tadodaho. Maybe the traditionalists need to go after the tribal council members and those who have strayed and bring them back to the Peacemaker's message and traditional way of life. Perhaps as Jikonsaseh suggested, the people should sing to the tribal council and soothe their minds and comb the snakes from their hair so that they will also have the best interests of all the people in mind, instead of greed.
The traditionalists recognize that this factionalism is not beneficial to the best interests of the people, and recently the three groups of government have become of one mind in order to deal with the environmental issues that plague Akwesasne. The Traditional Haudenosaunee know that the continuation of this world as we know it, depends on the continuation of the ceremonies, and not on the tribal government's short-sighted greediness.
4. Hopi of Hotevilla
Sitting on a mesa top in Arizona, in the tiny village of Hotevilla there are a handful of traditional people. These people feel as the Haudenosaunee do that the continuation of the world as we know it depends on following the traditional ways of life (Ceremonies). The traditional Hopis face the same dilemma as the Haudenosaunee, for they too have had tribal councils imposed upon them.
The imposed Hopi form of government is an IRA tribal government and was forced upon the Hopi when they abstained from voting in the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs conducted election. The Hopi did not want to reorganize, for they wanted to keep their traditional form of government that they had been practicing for well over a thousand years.
The Hopi, like the Haudenosaunee, experienced and still do experience great internal stress, for the United States government officials have used "divide-and-conquer tactics" to separate the native peoples. The Hopis who were willing to accept the government's policies were labeled "friendlies", while those who fought against the policies were labeled "hostiles". Today "the labels, 'Hostiles' and 'Friendlies' would be replaced by the labels 'Traditonals' and 'Progressives.'"
The traditional Hopi have suffered from a self serving tribal council who "speaks of prophecy and taking care of our spiritual laws, but seem to only have empty words and no action or power to bring about change that we all know must happen at this time to protect the life of our Earth Mother." It is amazing how similar the Haudenosaunee and the Hopi beliefs are, for both of their traditional ways are dependent on spreading the message of peace and harmony with all peoples of the world.
a. The Prophecy
The Hopi Elders believe that they must communicate the message of the prophecy to the entire world. This is no easy task, for the Hopi Elders have tried to convey the message for almost eighty years. Part of the Prophecy is:
The glowing red core of the message, first given to their [Hopi] ancestors nearly a thousand years ago, is that when the close of the present Fourth Cycle and the opening of a new Fifth Cycle of the world is at hand, the number of survivors and the manner of its transition from one cycle to the other will be determined by two things: first, by what the Hopi Elders and their supporters are able to continue doing during the change, and second, by how the world's citizens respond.
One may wonder why, considering the seriousness of the prophecy, government officials, the tribal councils, corporations and others have impeded the Elders in conveying this message and continuing their ceremonial traditional ways. These are traditional ways of life that reaches out to teach all people in an attempt to retain harmony.
b. Covenant with Maasaw
Before the Hopi came to live in this world, they lived in a beautiful world beneath this one. However, the Hopi became careless and spoiled the underworld because they did not follow their original laws. They were driven by selfish desires, lost respect for women, and they lost respect for their leaders. As a result, the underworld was not fit to live in, so the Hopi sent a messenger bird to the guardian, Maasaw, of this world to ask him permission for the Hopi to come up to live in his world. Maasaw allowed the people to come up but only if they would live simply like he did, for all he had was his planting stick and seeds. The people agreed to this and they emerged through a hollow reed at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
This covenant with Maasaw is the foundational principle of the Hopi traditional way of life. They were told by Maasaw to migrate in all directions, break their pottery as they leave, to leave markings on the rocks as their land claim, and to build sacred shrines, for in this way "the earth will receive spiritual roots and you will hold the land together in balance."
c. Destroying Harmony & Maintaining Hope
The Hopi call the United States and the Progressives (those who have abandoned the traditional way like the Tribal people) the Two-Hearted. Two-Hearteds are "those who have succumbed to temptation and stepped off the narrow blade." The Two-Hearted people claim to speak for the One Hearted (Traditional), but they do not and have caused disharmony. The Progressives have adopted the Bahanna (white) traditions and Christian religion and have forgotten their traditional Hopi language and ceremonies.
The traditional Hopi (One Hearted) maintain hope, for they live by the covenant struck with Massaw, and they continue to practice the ceremonies by living by the laws that were given to them by the Creator and by Maasaw. These laws taught that materialistic wants were wrong, for it goes directly against the covenant made with Maasaw to live a simple life. This is the number one principle that the Progressives disregard, for they have sacrificed their traditional ways for quick cash and a promise of a better tomorrow. They do not realize that they are throwing off the harmony that the traditionalists are trying so hard to preserve.
5. The Haudenosaunee and the Hopi,
The Haudenosaunee and the Hopi are two traditional forms of government that have retained their inherent sovereignty through great hardship. The hardship that they have encountered has been at the hands of an ever changing federal Indian policy. The traditional governments have retained their languages, their ceremonies, and their original instructions given to them by the Creator. The Haudenosaunee and the Hopi have within their original instructions from the Creator, a message of peace, which is important to the continuity of Mother Earth and the native peoples.
The dilemma is in what legal protections are there for these traditional forms of government within the judicial framework of the United States? There is a circular argument here as the Faithkeeper for the Haudenosaunee, Oren Lyons, articulated when he said that sovereignty is something you have and you do not need to ask other governments to accept or define it. While, what Lyons' says is true, you do not need confirmation from the other; when the other government has invaded your sovereignty and imposed artificial white constructs of government within your territory, something needs to be done. Within Indian law, one talks about the shifting attitudes of federal Indian policy; however, one often takes only a sterile look at the devastating effects on the native peoples never really seeing the faces of those who have suffered. The United States government and the State of New York needs to own up to the devastation and factionalism that they have caused amongst the native peoples by constructing artificial tribal governments that have conveniently been labeled the legitimate authority in power. The United States government and the State of New York needs to provide a remedy for the traditional peoples who continue to operate their traditional governments parallel to the artificial tribal governments who do not truly represent the traditional native Nations.
This paper set out to explore whether today's tribal government truly represents traditional native Nations and has successfully proven that tribal governments do not represent the traditional native Nations. It is impossible for the United States and the New York State's artificially constructed tribal governments to contain the traditional philosophy, ethics, and religious ceremonies of the traditional peoples. Although tribal governments claim to use tribal customary law, one can not pick and chose parts of their traditions, for the traditional way is not just the laws, it is steeped within the traditional prayers and way of life; and, therefore, cannot be separated.
Kanatiyosh E-Mail to:GrayDeer@aol.com
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