Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois abandoned by British -- again
A couple of weeks ago I gave a lecture at the Nor'wester in Williamstown, Ontario entitled "How the Mohawks Saved Canada".

The presentation was meant to remind Canadians that their very existence as an independent country would not have been possible without the military, economic and political contributions of the Iroquois Confederacy, and, more specifically, the Mohawk Nation.

Our mutual history began in 1664 when England assumed control over the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, renaming it New York. The English authorities knew that if they were to succeed in establishing their own colony they must secure an alliance with the most powerful Native entity in the northeast, the Iroquois Confederacy.

Formed in the 12th century, the Confederacy was a league of united nations, created to resolve disputes, create a society based on the rule of law and promote trade and commerce across national borders.

For the next 119 years the Confederacy protected the English from Native intrusions while acting as a check against the French to the north.

The English, in return, formally acknowledged the Confederacy as an independent state fully capable, under the law of nations, to enter into treaty with other sovereign entities.

The Iroquois saved the English during the Seven Years War by providing them with vital military information as well as providing front line fighters. Our ancestors fought at Ft. Niagara, Quebec, Ft. George and Oswego. Without us, the French would have secured their colony and expanded into the continental interior.

We carried on with our alliance when the Americans decided to rebel against the crown. For this, we were driven from our ancestral lands, had our communities destroyed by George Washington's scorched earth campaign in 1779 and watched in despair as hundreds of our people starved to death in the following winter.

Yet we held our end of the treaties even when the English abandoned us when they conceded to American independence with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Almost all of the Mohawks were forced into exile along the St. Lawrence River but, while we had learned not to trust the English we still maintained our national status and expected the Crown to act accordingly.

In the War of 1812 the Mohawks specifically secured Canada against the invading Americans at the battles of Queenston Heights, Sandy Creek, Beaver Dam, the Chippawa, Cryslers Farm and Chateauguay.

We expected to have our sacrifices formally acknowledged by the English yet once again our desire to have our nation protected against American intrusions were dashed. A border was drawn, without our consent, through the northern part of Mohawk territory, effectively driving us out of the 9 million acres we once called Kanienkeh-the land of the Mohawks.

But we continued to lend aide to the English. In 1884 we sent a group of Mohawks down the Nile to deliver military aid to the British garrison at Khartoum. Our people enlisted in the thousands to fight in the Canadian army during both world wars, during a time when England would have fallen to the Germans without massive external assistance.

And now? The English, those sculptors of history, have once again elected to ignore their treaty obligations to the Iroquois.

They set the conditions for our Iroquois Nationals to participate in the World Lacrosse Championships only to have the US throw a few hurdles in our way. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved the travel of the Iroquois, using their own passports, to go to England (as they have done before) the English went back to form and rejected their allies and imposed new conditions on our entry to their country.

We should have expected this as our backs still ache from the scars of 1783.

Then again, perhaps they were afraid of getting whipped by a bunch of heathens.

Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the former editor of Akwesasne Notes, a co-founder of the Native American Journalists Association as well as a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian. He is the author of "Iroquois on Fire' and resides in Oneida Castle, NY.

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