A specific committee of the Citizens’ Committee coordinates with several Kanien’kehá:ka (“Mohawk”) elders and mothers who are demanding that traditional caretakers authorize any projects executed on the site of the Royal Vic. They want to use the site to house people who are Inuit, an increasing number of whom have died from the winter. The mothers have also expressed concerns around unmarked graves on the hospital site.
The committee’s activities have included a march by candle-light, and a pots and pans rally. Our last rally was met with harsh police aggression.
These elders and mothers are not representatives from their Nation. Nor do they consider themselves to be so. They view themselves as acting according to their responsibility under traditional laws. Nonetheless, this grouping of elders and mothers has several prominent activists and names from Kahnawake within their network.
These kanien’kehá:ka women are Kahnistensera.
According to the Kaia’nere:kowa (great peace), which is the precolonial constitution of the rotino’shonni iroquois confederacy, the Kahnistensera (mothers) are the progenitors of all life on Onowarekeh (turtle island) since the beginning of life on earth. Their duty is to carry out the will of creation, embodied in the original circle of 49 families (Tekentiohkwenhoksta). Their alliance protocol, the Teiohateh (Two Row Wampum), provides that we survive and coexist with all life as siblings with our mother, the earth. All of turtle island is the unceded birthright of the Onkwehonweh (original people) to caretake future generations.
Some people talk big game about being concerned about “Indigenous issues.” Our committee is looking to take action. Returning caretaking to members of the Kaien’kehá:ka Nation recognizes historic debts for wrongdoings, ongoing land theft, the wisdom of traditional laws, and the pressing needs of Indigenous communities. For instance, respecting these traditional laws means using land to provide housing for all, including Milton-Parc’s Inuit.
The heavy need for housing or food security, and the democratic management of spaces, are not met by the governments current designs for the massive site of the old Royal Vic. Their plans focus on giving a third of the site to McGill, a wealthy private entity. Obviously to any thinking person, McGill is less in need of space than many poor people and people who are homeless. Accordingly, the public was not consulted before this land grant occured. The other portions of the government’s plans concern a segmented division of the space for organizations and government bodies that can afford to install themselves there. There are few plans for housing, despite a survey of over 350 people finding that over 84% of people supported or strongly supported a housing related use for the site, including social housing, cooperative housing, and transitional housing or shelter services for people who are homeless. Meanwhile, McGill’s occupancy or government offices were not found to be popular. Community and cooperative governance trumped government or private governance.
As tenants, working people, and students, we share a common struggle with Indigenous communities against the government and private corporations for the protection of the land we live on and the buildings we live in.
We are not forgetting the needs of people in Milton-Parc by showing our solidarity with more oppressed communities. We can’t win on our own. Other people have needs and rights too! This is the meaning of solidarity.
It is only through the strength of diverse coalitions that we can fight for the needs of people in our communities.
For more reading on the matter, check out Mohawk Nation News.