Doug George-Kanentiio: The Native roots of Syrian refugee crisis

Refugees take shelter in a train station in Budapest, Hungary. Photo by Rebecca Harms via Flickr

Syrian Refugee Crisis has Native Roots
By Doug George-Kanentiio

Any Native person who knows their history can see the similarities between the massive influx of refugees into Europe from Africa and Syria. They know that the European powers met after World War I to carve up the middle east into areas of self interest based upon the exploitation of natural resources and the fear that a united indigenous people may well stand in the way of their lust for power and oil.

It was Winston Churchill, US President Woodrow Wilson, British Prime Minister Lloyd George and French premier Georges Clemenceau who divided the world, taking away most of the German colonies and opposing, as an example, the rise of a single Arab state. They had lied to individuals such as T.E. Lawrence about their plans for the Middle East when he had promised the native peoples there that if they defeated the Ottomans (Turks) they would have their own state. They created Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

But deception was, and has been, an integral part of European diplomacy.

The Iroquois learned this bitter lesson long before they leaders of the "democracies" met in Paris to dictate terms to a defeated Germany and sow the seeds of other wars.

From left: Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Oren Lyons, PhD; Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief Sidney Hill; Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), guest curator of Nation to Nation; Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian; and Jim Gardner, executive for Legislative Archives, Presidential Programs, and Museum Programs at the National Archives, unveil the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794, on loan to the museum. Photo from NMAI

We had initiated formal treaty relations with France, the Netherlands, the British and the Americans only to have each one of them violate those agreements at the pleasure. Treaties were not rooted in honor or trust but mere acts of convenience for the land and resource hungry colonies. They never had any intent to acknowledge our sovereignty only insofar as it fit their devious plans to steal the land and divide the people.

They did so in America and across the planet. Their policy was to do what they could to frustrate any movement towards indigenous nationality; the Europeans were bound by the capitalists who placed material profit above everything else and in turn exercised complete control over the political leadership.

In America tens of thousands of Natives became refugees when their lands were stolen and the people attacked by militia, vigilantes and the military. The Iroquois Confederacy responded by granting vast areas for these displaced people to live: Esopus, Wappinger, Mahican, Canestoga, Nipmuck, Abenaki, Nippising, Huron and many others rebuilt their homes with some becoming naturalized citizens of the Confederacy.

It is little known, and never acknowledged in European or North American schools, that it was the Iroquois who invented the processes of naturalization now used by those countries and in particular Canada and the US. We took people born of a different nation and devised a set formula as to ow to make them Iroquois and our methods were copied by the western nations without reference.

An aerial view of the Za'atri Refugee Camp in Jordan. Photo by U.S. State Department via Flickr

Now the Europeans are in crisis, not knowing how to respond to those human being felling from a war which is largely supported by Russia and war monger companies who provide the bombs, planes and firearms to the combatants. It is the Europeans who supported dictatorial regimes in the Middle East as long as their lands were open to resource extraction and the Europeans who vigorously opposed human rights movements and the rise of democratic nations.

How will Europe respond to this situation? Will their leaders acknowledge that they are, in part, responsible for the civil war in Syria? Will they close their borders to women and children, the elderly and the oppressed or will they use their police and their administrators to turn them back?

Will Canada and the US hide behind their respective bureaucracies and the all encompassing "fear of terrorism" to deny entry to those in greatest need? Will they forget their own history, when they were the wretched of the earth taken in by the Native peoples and taught the principles of freedom?

As they say, the whole world is watching and so far, the Europeans seems to have learned nothing from their past. We Iroquois are ready to remind them and to give them instruction as to how to embrace the displaced and heal their wounds.

Doug George-Kanentiio is an Akwesasne Mohawk currently residing on Oneida Territory with his wife Joanne Shenandoah.

More from Doug George-Kanentiio:
Doug George-Kanentiio: In the golden era of Iroquois lacrosse (08/12)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Imposters bring harm to Native people (06/17)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Victory with Mohawk land claim in Canada (06/08)
Doug George-Kanentiio: World population sits out of balance (05/06)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Death rituals among the Mohawk people (04/16)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Aboriginal homeland of the Six Nations (03/17)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Native snipers among world's deadliest (03/02)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Mohawk man stands up for his people (02/17)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Bering Strait migration theory a big lie (02/04)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Late governor was no friend to Iroquois (01/09)

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