BRANTFORD – A member of the Kanienkehaka (Mohawk Nation), living within the city of Brantford has begun a neighbourhood association. On its agenda is clearing up a number of assumptions on the part of Mayor Chris Friel and his council as well as Conservative MP Phil McColeman and Liberal MPP Dave Levac.
“During the last municipal election Ward 5 councillor David Neuman came to my door and introduced himself as my representative at city hall,” recalls Benjamin Doolittle. “I said, ‘before I shake your hand, I need to ask you a question. Do you represent me as a Kanienkehaka?’”
When his answer was no, Doolittle posed the question, “How can you come here and claim that you represent me then?”
The second question he is asking is, “as Kanienkehaka, do I qualify to vote in a Canadian election?”
Doolittle has sent letters to city hall seeking an answer to these same questions but has never gotten any kind of response to date, nor even an acknowledgement of the letters being received.
According to Doolittle, “For us ‘urban and migrant’ Onkwehon:we people, it is not commonly known how we are represented, since we are not Canadians, and the Elected Band Council do not qualify to represent us. These questions if answered will show the conflict of representation. Its essential for all parties to understand the nature and the limits of any claims to representation.”
Doolittle would like to organize Brantford’s urban Native population who, like himself, are living in the city, into a recognized association to be better represented from an Onkwehon:we perspective without being assumed to be Canadian citizens.
“We need to reconcile our political individuality with that of others, and be able to organize and govern ourselves with stability,” says Doolittle. “If that means developing an independent demographic in Brantford, and if we agree we are not common Canadians and that these people do not qualify to represent us, the tax money that may or may not be taken from us should be recovered and go back to a proper representational framework.”
He believes Onkwehon:we people are in some kind of legal purgatory until they declare themselves Canadian citizens or allow Canada to assume that all natives are somehow qualified by inviting them to participate within their political and judicial system.
Doolittle’s neighborhood association includes non-Native, Canadian citizens as well as Haudenosaunee. He describes those non-Natives as guest-friends, or peoples who have recognized the benefits of mutual coexistence under the virtues of hospitality and the principles of peace and friendship.
“These are known guests and friends who are standing with us to pressure their government to answer our questions,” he explains. “As an organization, we carry more weight than individuals, who can be easily ignored, as records will show.”
Doolittle published an open letter in the Two Row Times, directed towards Brantford’s City Hall and every councillor got a copy of it. He is also concerned about when the Canadian government does its census all Onkwehon:we people being grouped together under the title of ‘Aboriginal’ and not recognizing the Kanienkehaka and other individual Nations as distinct.
“The way they see it, there are no actual ‘Kanienkahaka’ living in Brantford at all, only Aboriginal Canadians,” says Doolittle. “They don’t answer my letters because they would have to admit to the possibilities of the representational conflict.”
Anyone seeking more information or who would like to join the Haudenosaunee & Raseron:ni Neighbourhood of Brantford, can call Ben Doolittle at 519-720-0677. www.hrnabrantford.com
Originally published in the Two Row Times