Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cultures Still Clashing, Indigenous vs. Transnational

Sorry for not posting since earlier this year. A number of different circumstances have kept me from posting but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been noticing things.

Once again the people of the ‘Land Where the Partridge Drums’ are being pressured and squeezed by the majority cultures that surround them. Most would think I would be talking about the government but it’s actually found in the fourth estate too. Recently reading something from the Irish Times I was surprised by how Akwesasne was described. The author of the article, Lorraine Mallinder, states that,“the Mohawk reservation has no living, beating heart, just a series of potholed roads featuring scattered shops with names such as ““Another Damn Cigarette Store,” a glitzy redbrick casino rising surreally from a vast expanse of wasteland and no shortage of mangy stray dogs. Outside law and order are clearly not welcome, judging by a roadside sign proclaiming the border patrol, state police, FBI and others to be “terrorists.””[1] To be fair she does point out the peace and quiet and beauty of the location. However she does spin the wonderful fishing with reeling in AK-47s and cartons of cigarettes.[2] Yes, there are problems on the reservation with drugs and some violence as there is in almost every community in the US to one degree or another. Overall Akwesasne is more peaceful and safer than a number of cities I have stayed at and I doubt it has anything like the murder or robbery rate of any of the major cities, such as New York, Detroit, Miami or the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. It is the above portrayal of the Akwesasne area as a no law, shootem’ up wild-west that colors all of the conversation about the area and ends up hurting the area financially, physically and in a way spiritually. It scares investors away and keeps entrepreneurial endeavors bottled up.

Most will say that smuggling is the problem. That all the ills of this Native society are the cross-border trade of contra-band such as cigarettes, marijuana, and supposed illegal immigrants. First, as for the illegal contraband, I do not know of anybody in or outside of Indian tribal government (traditional or modern) that supports the sale, distribution, or transportation of illegal drugs, or individuals that are deemed dangerous or involved in terrorism in the US or Canada. As for legal products and Native people crossing the imaginary border, strictly speaking, the Mohawks aren’t smuggling at all. The two international states that claim geographic sovereignty over the area refuse to understand the historic and long-term truth. They took the land from Akwesasne, the current reservation and a considerable amount of land outside of the reservation, was originally Mohawk land. There was no border it was their land and they could go wherever they wanted. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 this all changed. The Euro-Americans had made provisions for property deeds so that their possessions were intact, however, when it came to the Mohawks, they were determined to be “citizens” of the territory they found themselves in. So to the Mohawks the idea of smuggling is imposed upon them.

In fact in an article, entitled “Life on the 45th Parallel,” there was a rebuttal article to the original. Charles Kader, the author states the Mohawks’ view of events clearly. Mohawks “do not consider themselves citizens of either the US or Canada, but as free, sovereign people. These are the same people who once were described by British monarch Queen Anne as “the queen’s special forces” due to their prowess and specialized skill set. Recognition does not require subjugation.”[3]

In fact he writes how Mallinder’s article completely misses the uniqueness of the people, the culture, and the surrounding area. In correcting her view of Akwesasne he writes concerning the sovereignty of the nation and what would seem a viable solution, “to break free of both Canada and the US and function as a sovereign border state, à la Grand Duchy of Luxembourg or Swiss Confederation.”[4] It is doubtful that the either the US or Canada would allow such a construct. I could not foresee either of them wanting a Chinese embassy in Hogansburg, NY. However, there could be some form of semi-autonomous entity that would be possible but even that is doubtful considering the present climate.

Akwesasne is plagued by not only the governments that surround and strangle it but the sensationalizing of those who want to write about an area they know little about.

[1] Mallinder, Lorraine. Smuggling trails make for a bustling nightlife on the reservation, Irish Times 2011 [cited April 23, Available from

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kader, Charles. Life on the 45th Parallel. Irish Times 2011 [cited April 29. Available from

[4] Ibid.