By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
OHSWEKEN—Following a statement issued by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) last week urging the removal of polling stations and election material from Six Nations, a group of protesters gathered outside of a voting station in Ohsweken Monday morning to demand the station be moved off of Six Nations.
The peaceful protest worked, with election officials being escorted off the Gathering Place by the Grand grounds in addition to two other Elections Canada locations on First Nations land, which were all relocated to the Oakland Community Centre in Brant County.
“The people showed up here once we got information that federal Elections Canada was down here setting up a polling booth for the election,” said Colin Martin, a member of Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan who was present at the protest. “Being Haudenosaunee people and asserting our sovereignty, we thought that was not a good idea for them to be coming onto our territory, or for our people to be voting in such elections. We have our leadership, which is our Chiefs and our Clan Mothers.”
Martin said that himself and others discussed the situation with the Elections Canada officials, as well as the Six Nations police on site: “Everything remained peaceful. We hand delivered a copy of our statement to them and after some discussion, the federal election officials decided to go to an alternate spot.”
The HCCC statement called the polling stations “a violation of not only treaty rights, but our human rights to exist as distinct people,” and called for Six Nations community members to “remain in our circle where all our laws, rights, ceremonies, language, and identity still lie.”
The basis for these claims dates back to an agreement made between the Haudenosaunee and settlers more than 400 years ago, the basis of which was that the two would “never interfere in one another’s government, laws, and ways,” said the statement. “We have never relinquished our sovereignty and we view actions of all involved in Canada’s elections as doing such.”
The HCCC decree was in opposition to the stance of the Six Nations Elected Council, who stated that band members “have a free choice as to whether or not they decide to vote in any election”, according to a statement released by Elected Council spokesperson Katie Montour.
One unnamed protester at the site on Monday morning stated that they were there “for the children,” referring to the still-unfolding discoveries of mass grave sites at residential schools across Canada.
“The people came and enforced the will of the Confederacy Council and that’s what we’re here doing,” concluded Martin.