Wednesday 3 February 2010

Indian Rights

MONTREAL — Saying there are too many non-natives living in Kahnawake, the local band council has issued eviction notices to 25 residents, giving them 10 days to leave the Indian reserve on Montreal's South Shore.

About 25 non-natives — mostly white people involved in relationships with Mohawks — are being asked to leave the reserve because Mohawk law does not allow them to live there, said Joe Delaronde, spokesman for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.

"They are people with no native ancestry at all," Delaronde said in an interview Tuesday.

According to Mohawk law, non-aboriginals have no residency rights. About 7,500 Mohawks live on the reserve.

Band council chiefs began hand-delivering the strongly worded letter on Monday and continued Tuesday.

"There have been numerous complaints regarding individuals contravening Mohawk law by residing in the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake without a right to do so. You were identified in these complaints," the letter says.

The eviction letter tells non-natives they have 10 days to leave the reserve.

"We trust that you understand the seriousness of this letter and that you will govern yourselves accordingly."

If the non-natives can't move by the deadline, they must contact the band council to make further arrangements, Delaronde said.

"We are not heartless," he added. "We know that not everyone has a brother or a parent in (nearby) Chateauguay they can stay with."

In a news release on the band council's website, Grand Chief Michael Delisle said: "Every single Kahnawake Mohawk knows the law. It is unfortunate that some people have chosen to disregard the community's wishes."

In 1981, the community announced a moratorium on mixed marriages, which meant that non-natives who married Mohawks after that year would no longer have the right to live on the reserve. Any non-native who had married a Mohawk before the moratorium is still permitted to live on the reserve.

In the 1980s, some Mohawks contested the policy before the human rights tribunal, but lost. The courts have ruled that Mohawks can make any membership policy they deem necessary for their survival as a people.

"We are very concerned about protecting our identity because at a certain point, the Canadian government will look at us and say: 'You are not even Indians,'" Delaronde said. "We are very proud of our heritage and protective about it. We don't have a whole hell of a lot of it left. This is part of revitalizing the community."

The band council decided to act after receiving complaints from natives who feel that too many non-natives are living on the reserve.

"We are responding to what the community wants," Delaronde said.

Although Mohawk law says that non-natives can't live on the reserve, they are allowed to visit and stay overnight, he explained.

"Sleeping over or staying for a week is a whole different situation," he said

Delaronde said he hopes that the non-natives accept the wishes of the community and leave peacefully.

If they refuse to move, their names will be "published locally," he said.

"I know that's not a nice thing, but if people refuse, names will be published and then it becomes a peer pressure thing."

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