Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Thomas King's "The Inconvenient Indian" - A Sometimes Contradictory, But Occasionally Constructive, Rant

Disclaimer: My references to the writings of other people--both native and non-native--do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.   The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my family, friends or associates.

A.        Introduction

I read Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (2012) twice.  This was not because I enjoyed it so much, I just had to read it again.  It was because the terrain that he navigates is all too familiar to me, and I was concerned my initial analysis might be laden too much with personal, rather than objective, reactions.  King and I are from roughly the same era, and I was directly or indirectly connected with quite a few of the people and events that he talks about.  But we come away with remarkably different analyses of the situation.

King chronicles his views on the interactions between native and non-native peoples in North America since contact.  The publisher (Doubleday Canada) describes it as "at once a history and the subversion of history."  However, King acknowledges that it is more an account than a history because he does not follow "the demands of scholarship" (x).  The book has no footnotes or bibliography.  In addition, the index leaves something to be desired; sometimes keywords are listed and other times they are not.

King contends there is no one word that can cover all aboriginals in North America "because there was never a collective to begin with" (xiii).  (The Metis and Inuit get comparatively little attention in the book.)  He decided to use Indian in the title because he considered it "the North American default" (xiii).  I do think The Inconvenient Indian aptly conveys the work's content.

King frequently uses the term "North American," rather than Canadian or American, because he says the border is not as important to aboriginals as it is to whites (xvi).  I cannot find the spot in the book where he provides a definition for what he means by North American, but I am assuming by the context he is referring to a mindset that operates outside of what he considers to be the aboriginal one.

I agree with those commentators who believe some of the book's popularity may be because it came out shortly before the anti-Bill C-45 protests in December 2012 and January 2013.  It remained on the Canadian bestseller lists for 20 weeks after it was released in November 2012, making it to the number one spot for a while.

(Note:  opposition to Bill C-45 has commonly been referred to as the Idle No More (INM) movement.  I prefer, nonetheless, to stay away from this term, since a number of the INM founders stated they did not condone the actions taken by some under this moniker.  In fact, there is still a lot of controversy going on within the native community about INM and what its philosophy should be.)

Although there have been some aboriginal protests since the major activism more than a year ago, they have not been as widespread.  Yet King's book is still attracting readership.  As of February 1, 2014, it was in seventh place out of 10 on the Globe's Canadian Non-Fiction Bestseller List.

I suspect one of the main reasons why the book has remained popular is because King does a very good job of making the reader understand why aboriginal discontent did not just spring up out of nowhere.  He also vividly demonstrates how stereotypes of Indians have led to a lot of misconceptions and ill feelings between the races.  But the downside of the book is that, while he lays out many of the contentious issues (such as the fact that "whites want land"), he offers little in the way of constructive solutions.  In addition, he frequently contradicts himself.  I will elaborate on all these points later in this post.

B.        King - Brief Biography

King was born in 1943 in California.  When he was about five years old, his Cherokee father abandoned his Greek/German mother, brother and him.  He never lived on a reservation, but his mother made sure he kept in touch with his aboriginal relatives.  Outside of a few years in the 1960s working in New Zealand and later Australia, he spent the rest of his early life in the United States.  In 1967, he got involved with native activism when he started attending Chico State University (BA, 1970, MA 1972).  He later taught and did administrative work at Humboldt State University and the University of Utah (PhD 1986).

He has been married twice, having one son by his (presumably non-native) first wife, and a son and daughter with his current, non-native wife, Helen Hoy.  He met Hoy after he moved to Canada in 1980, and started working in the Native Studies Department at the University of Lethbridge.  Hoy and he later taught at the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph, where they both specialized in aboriginal-related courses (they recently retired).

King got into his writing more seriously after moving to Canada.  His works (mainly fiction) explore many facets of aboriginal life, and he often employs humour to get his point across.  Before The Inconvenient Indian's publication, he was best known for his novel Green Grass, Running Water (1993) and for his role on CBC Radio's "Dead Dog Cafe" show (1997-2000).  For further information on his background, please consult the bibliography at the end of this post.

C.        King and I - Similar Terrain But Divergent Paths

My late parents got involved with aboriginal issues in the late 1950s when I was a child, so I grew up with this matter constantly around me.  From 1975 to 1987, I worked primarily in native organizations in Southern and Northern Ontario and the Northwest Territories.  Until around the mid-2000s, I maintained a relatively close connection to the "cause," but since then have been generally keeping my distance, for reasons that I discuss in other posts on this blog.

There are many scenarios in King's book that I am familiar with because of my background.  For instance, in June 1978, I had an article published about a walk by approximately 500 native people from all over North America who were protesting "anti-Indian legislation."  The "longest walk," from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, to Washington, D.C., took place from February to July 1978.  King describes the 19th century Trail of Tears, which was one of the motivations behind the 1978 "longest walk" in the book (88, 123).

Another anecdote that brought back some memories for me was when King related a harrowing experience he had in 1973.  Some other protesters and he were riding in a van heading for Salt Lake City; they were going there to participate in a rally in support of Wounded Knee.  The police pulled the van over at the Wyoming border, and at one point, a gun was aimed directly at him.

My connection to this border incident is far less dramatic: an aboriginal woman from a Southern Ontario reserve and I took a car trip through the Northern United States in the summer of 1978.  When we got to the North Dakota border (en route to Saskatchewan), the border guard asked us where we were from.  I dutifully said I was from London, Ontario, but she repeatedly said she was a "North American Indian," and refused to clarify the reserve where she lived was in Canada.  The guard told us to get out of the vehicle, and then inspected every part of it, presumably looking for something illegal.  We were finally allowed to proceed after an hour.  I doubt it took him that long to search the car; I think he just wanted to delay us, to hammer the point home that my associate's response was not acceptable.

So when King talks about the unrest that has gone on in the United States, I have some idea what he is talking about.  In terms of the Canadian references, there are no personal examples that stand out for me.  However, there are two that, although I do not have direct experience with, I know a fair bit about: the Caledonia, Ontario crisis and Canadian aboriginals' views of property rights.

I discussed my concerns about King's coverage of the Caledonia crisis in my review of the blog "Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) & the Haldimand Tract: Beliefs Versus Facts," February 2, 2014, which can be found here.

King deals fairly extensively with aboriginals' views of property rights on both sides of the border.  I do not know much about what is going on in the United States, but I have read quite a bit about the Canadian situation.  He contends that "Indians, through inclination or treaty, held land in common" (129).  But C.T. (Manny) Jules, who is the First Nations Property Ownership Initiative (FNPO) chief commissioner, and former chief of the Kamloops Indian band in B.C., says historically bands such as his had "governments that financed themselves" and that allowed for "individual property rights."  He asserts that the Indian Act removed his band from the economy, and this needs to be rectified with a "secure property rights system" that protects "title and underlying jurisdiction."

King claims it is erroneous to think that aboriginal people want "individual freedom to pursue economic growth" like their non-aboriginal counterparts (118).  But Shane Gottfriedson, who is chief of the Kamloops band (same band that Jules is from), does not share this view.  He says his band is a proponent of the FNPO because it will help "to break the dependency culture. . ."

Because of my personal background, and because I have done considerable research into many of the topics he covers, I frequently realize when King's assertions are questionable.  What bothers me is about two-thirds of the online reviews are unflinching in their praise for the book; only around a third recognize the book's failings.  For instance, I could only find one reviewer other than myself who recognized that King's account of the Caledonia crisis was lacking in balance: Bob Tarantino mentioned the beating of non-aboriginal builder, Sam Gualtieri, who has been left with permanent brain damage.

D.        Strengths of The Inconvenient Indian

D.1      "North American" View of Aboriginals Has Been Problematic

King deserves praise for showing how some images have been appropriated in a way that demeans native people.  When he mentioned a butter container, which he contends has a sexually-suggestive picture of an Indian maiden on it, I was transported back to early 1970s London, Ontario.  At the time, my white boyfriend and I shared a townhouse with another couple (he was black; she was white).  We went out for the evening, accompanied by an aboriginal female associate of mine, who was attending Western University in London.

Shortly after we arrived at what was then considered to be a fairly respectable tavern, my aboriginal associate started to get propositioned by a white male stranger in the bar.  She quietly declined, but then another white male stranger did the same thing about 10 minutes later.  Our black comrade asked the men why they were doing this.  They said they assumed she was a prostitute, or words to that effect.  This is one of several examples in my life where I have seen aboriginal women viewed in an exploitative fashion.

Although it is an exaggeration for King to say that the North American view of aboriginals is frozen in time in the 17th or 18th centuries, there is definitely a tendency in that direction.  Some of it is fuelled, as he says, by Hollywood marketing.

D.2        "Whites Want Land"

King believes that asking Indians what they want is not the right question.  It should be asking whites what they want, which is land.  I completely agree that this is the main source of the tension between the races.  In fact, in 1981, I pointed this out in a letter I wrote to some of my former colleagues, after resigning from a native organization:
It has been said that land is the single most important commodity left on this planet, and the fight over land will be the last battlefield.  The government will never, never agree to separate nation status for native people unless they can--directly or indirectly--benefit from the revenue (oil, coal, etc.) under that nation.
At the time I wrote the above, I assumed that "separate nation status for native people" would mean that those nations would remain within the Canadian Constitutional framework.  Since then, the whole nation issue has become much more complex, with some aboriginal reserves wanting to separate totally from Canada.  As I have explained in previous posts on this blog here and here, I am OK with aboriginal communities in this country operating as collectives within the Canadian Constitutional framework, but I disagree with those who advocate operating outside of it.

(There were other points I made in my 1981 letter that I do not feel the same way about now, but I do think the above excerpt still has some validity.)

D.3        North Americans' "Irrational Addiction to Profit"

King believes that an "unexamined confidence in western civilization" is one of the root causes of the tension between non-aboriginals and aboriginals (265).  I believe in maintaining a unifying Canadian culture that respects the rights of the individual and upholds the rule of law.  But I do think there is some validity to his contention that North Americans need to find a way to overcome "their irrational addiction to profit" (220).

E.        Weaknesses of The Inconvenient Indian

E.1       Contradictions

King repeatedly contradicts himself throughout the book.  The most blatant example is when he flip-flops as to whether violence and vandalism are good strategies.  He says the American Indian Movement (AIM)'s 1972 destruction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' files was "stupid," because the folders may have contained material the tribes could have used for land negotiations.  But he admits that, when the media asked for his opinion, he, along with others "mumbled supportive platitudes about Native rights and government deceit. . ." (147-148).

Later, he discusses AIM's growing frustration with the lack of progress they had made in their negotiations with the government, and says that sometimes native concerns have to involve "demonstrations, confrontations, and, on occasion, violence" (157-158).

He proceeds to the Caledonia crisis, where he implies that the "Mohawk" protest was fuelled by the "long-standing Native land claim" (165-166).  It is true that the protest did not just happen, but the validity of the claim involving the south end of Caledonia is under serious dispute.  I go into further detail about this issue in other posts on my blog here and here.

Since I have worked in native organizations involved with land claims negotiations, I have some understanding of the frustration and anger that builds when negotiations do not go as well as the aboriginal side would like.  But I think it is a huge mistake for King to be advocating violence under any circumstances.

E.2       Pre-Contact Aboriginal Society Was Not a Paradise

Although it is true that many post-contact intertribal aboriginal battles were precipitated by European encroachment, the same cannot be said for what happened before Europeans arrived.  King barely touches on this.

When I was working in the native organizations, I regularly heard about how various tribes had fought with each other historically.  So I was pleased to learn that an Inuk fillmmaker and a Cree filmmaker recently released Inuit Cree Reconciliation, a documentary about how the Inuit and Cree are coming to terms with their past and present animosities.

A re-examination of past animosities is also occurring on the other side of the country.  Archaeological research being conducted in B.C.'s Fraser Canyon is confirming what Sto:lo elders have said, that the Coast Salish and Sto:lo peoples fought regularly for thousands of years before contact.

In addition, some aboriginal spokespeople have alleged that all Indian societies traditionally treated their women well.  Yes, some tribes did treat their women with great respect and as equals, but others did not.  For example, polygamy was common in some Athabaskan (Dene) societies.  Chipewyan leader, Matonabbee, had seven wives, and believed women "were meant for labour."

In April 1986, I saw a stage play entitled "Matonabbee" in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (still have the program).  I have a distinct recollection of the actor in the title role (played by a Chipewyan named Francois Paulette) striding across the stage while his wives followed behind, carrying heavy loads strapped to their foreheads.  There was a strong aboriginal component to the cast and crew.  In retrospect, I realize it was quite an enlightened production for the time period.

Because I have concerns about some questionable aspects of native society before contact, it follows that I also take issue with how King depicts aboriginal sovereignty.  He does not adequately convey the fact that sovereignty has various interpretations among aboriginal groups.  In 2003, the Harvard Project on Indian Economic Development released a report that contended sovereignty was the process needed for creating stable Indian government structures.  The authors concluded that letting these communities make their own decisions is a good idea as long as the institutions and policies developed are stable; dispute mechanisms are transparent; politics is separated from business; personnel are competent, and the systems developed take into account each tribe's distinct characteristics.

In the 1980s, I did a considerable amount of research into United States tribal government archival systems for my native organization employer.  It seemed to me that work in this area, at least at the time, exemplified an efficient way of looking after the records.  I have absolutely no idea what the situation is like now, but I think it is important to point out that I saw aboriginal governance in action when it came to archival records, and it made sense to me, at least back then.

As I understand it, tribal sovereignty is different in practice in the United States and Canada.  It appears from the limited research I have done that the Canadian version of sovereignty is a mixed bag of everything from ones modelled on the Harvard project, to those reserves that want to break away entirely from Canada.  As mentioned previously, I have no problem with aboriginal communities operating as collectives, as long as they still want to remain part of the Canadian Constitutional framework.

I am concerned that King's approach to sovereignty could result in the borders between Canada and the United States being eliminated, and thousands of separate "nations" operating independently of each other.  This could lead to anarchy and chaos.  Although there are many similarities between Canada and the United States, there are major differences was well, e.g., our legal systems.  Turning back the clock to satisfy some aboriginal demands for independence from federal oversight could end up backfiring on everyone involved.  Since aboriginal societies historically did not often get along with each other, and since these animosities are only starting to be addressed, I do not see how reverting to a pre-contact scenario would be advantageous.

E.3      Lack of Constructive Solutions

King's observations about how non-aboriginals have failed aboriginals do have some merit.  For instance, he says that instead of trying to assimilate natives into the white educational system, whites could have developed partnerships with the individual nations (119).  The Assembly of First Nations recently agreed to the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, so this could be an example of this type of partnership in action (although some native groups and individuals are opposed to the Act).

I totally agree with King's observation that non-aboriginals could have been more accommodating of aboriginals, rather than trying to change them into something they could never be.  I suspect at the core of the condescension is the "whites want land" issue.

But, considering such factors as the intertribal warfare and the disparaging treatment of women that went on pre-contact, I think it is far too simplistic for King to make it sound like returning to the traditional ways would make everything better.

F.       Conclusion

Although many of King's experiences relating to aboriginal issues have come from working on reserves in the U.S. and Canada, and teaching native-oriented material in academic settings, the fact remains that he did not really get involved with the topic until he was about 25.  In addition, he has never lived on a reserve or in a native community.  Plus non-aboriginals, such as his mother and wife, have played very important roles in his thinking and philosophy.

I feel this is important to point out because of what I consider to be the often sarcastic and almost anarchistic approach he takes towards his subject matter.  Despite the fact that his life has been spent in a multiracial, multi-faceted environment, he portrays the native situation as very much an "us and them" situation, when his own biography does not mirror this reality.

In a February 2013 CBC Radio interview with Shelagh Rogers, he revealed there were many times that he wanted to give up on the book, and return the advance to the publisher.  He said it was Hoy who said he had to finish it.  And, as anyone knows who has read it, Hoy's interjections feature prominently throughout.  This is frequently a good thing, since she helps to curtail some of his rants.

I also felt as if Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, whose endorsement appears on the book jacket, was leaning over his shoulder, along with Hoy.  King really tiptoes around any criticism of Canadian aboriginals, and I think this takes away from the book's effectiveness.  When he finds fault with natives, he either does it in a general way, or limits his barbs to U.S. Indian groups.

So I maintain the book, despite its strengths, seems more the work of a committee than an individual.  King admitted in the CBC Radio interview that he really had trouble revisiting some of the material, and it shows.  I also had trouble revisiting some of the material because of my personal connection to it.  I can understand why he said it took him six years to finish it.  It took me six months to complete this blog post.


Berton, Pierre.  "May we only celebrate history's nice guys?"  Toronto Star, November 16, 1991.

Blatchford, Christie.  Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us.  Doubleday Canada, 2010.

Blatchford, Christie.  "Judge finds Six Nations's claim 'exceedingly weak.'"  Globe and Mail, November 22, 2010.

Busby, Brian John.  "King, Thomas"  Canadian Encyclopedia.  Retrieved June 10, 2013.

Cairns, Alan C.  Citizens Plus: Aboriginal People and the Canadian State.  Toronto: UBC Press, 2000.

CBC Radio: Q.  "Thomas King on The Inconvenient Indian."  November 23, 2012.

CBC Radio: The Next Chapter.  "Shelagh's extended conversation with Thomas King."  February 4, 2013.

Cornell, Stephen, and Joseph P. Kalt.  "Sovereignty and Nation-Building: The Development Challenge in Indian Country Today."  American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 2003 (3).

Everett-Green, Robert.  "Inuit Cree Reconciliation: a documentary built on oral history."  Globe and Mail, December 27, 2013.

Gottfriedson, Shane.  "Chief Shane Gottfriedson responds to the Walrus Magazine essay" [letter].  First Nations Property Ownership Initiative, January 30, 2013.  fnpo.ca.

Gruber, Eva, ed.  Thomas King: Works and Impact.  Rochester, New York: Camden House, 2012.

Helin, Calvin.  Dances With Dependency.  Vancouver: Orca Spirit, 2006.

Jules, C.T. (Manny).  "Give us full rights to our home and native land."  Globe and Mail, February 1, 2012.

Lewis, Brian.  "Matonabbee" [stage play program].  Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, April 1986.

Malloy, Kate.  "Bestselling author of The Inconvenient Indian says feds mounting all-out offensive on native lands."  April 15, 2013.  Democracy Gone Astray.  democracyastray.blogspot.ca.

McMillan, Alan D. and Eldon Yellowhorn.  First peoples in Canada.  Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2004.

Native American Authors.  "Thomas King: Native American Writer."  June 10, 2013.  nativeamerican-authors.com.

O'Brien, Jennifer.  "New deal, to be tabled Tuesday, is applauded by many, but doesn't right past wrongs, one critic says."  London Free Press, February 9, 2014.

Peterson, Leith.  "The Longest Walk - is Canada Next?"  Satellite: London's Community Newsmagazine, June 30, 1978.

Pringle, Heather.  "Raiders from the sea."  Canadian Geographic, July/August 2011.

Tammemagi, Hans.  "Better Dead Than Alive? 'The Inconvenient Indian' Takes a Seriously Funny Look at Native History."  Indian Country Today, October 14, 2013.

Tarantino, Bob.  "The Inconvenient Indian."  C2C Journal, June 7, 2013.  c2cjournal.ca.

Wikipedia.  "Thomas King (novelist)."  Retrieved June 10, 2013.  wikipedia.org.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A Review of Some Aspects of the Blog "Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) & The Haldimand Tract: Beliefs Versus Facts"

Disclaimer: My references to the writings of other people--both native and non-native--do not in any way imply that they share my views on this matter.  The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my family, friends or associates.

Background Information Regarding DeYo and His Blog

On October 31, 2013, a resident of Haldimand County in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, started a blog entitled "Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) & the Haldimand Tract: Beliefs Versus Facts" (deyoyonwatheh.blogspot.ca).

I recently became aware of his blog through some online searching, and have read all of his (as of this writing) 80 posts.  He signs each of his entries with "DeYo," so that is what I will call him.  When I quote from or reference his posts, I will put in a notation at the end that will include a key word or words from the post title, the date of the post and the post number in sequence from 1 to 80.  (The post numbers are not included on the blog itself; I have just added them in for my own reference.)

DeYo's "kinship connections include, among others, the people of Haldimand County, the Delaware of Smoothtown, and the Lower Mohawk of the old Mohawk Village and Tyendinaga."  (Although he has aboriginal ancestry, he does not live in an aboriginal community in Haldimand County.)

From his early life onward, he has been aware of "unresolved land disputes" between the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) and the Canadian federal government (as successors to the British Crown).  He "tended to focus on what the evidence would clearly show to be true" ("Genesis," October 31, 2013, #1).

For more than 30 years, he has examined not only "specific relevant documents" related to the Six Nations (SN) land claims, but also "related records, and the diaries and letters of Indian Department officials. . ." ("Surrenders. . .1841-1850," November 8, 2013, #30).

His research into the SN claims primarily took place over a 20-year period "between the mid 1970s and mid 1990s."  He reviewed records at Library and Archives Canada, the Archives of Ontario, The Library of the Woodland Cultural Centre, the Brant County Library, and the Haldimand County Museum and Archives.  In addition, he has scrutinized the 29 claims listed on the SN Lands and Resources website ("Examination. . .29 claims," December 21, 2013, #57).

Some of the Main Reasons Why DeYo Started His Blog

1.   The Caledonia, Ontario crisis, which started on February 28, 2006.  He says SN has no legal right to be claiming the land at the "south end of Caledonia," and he has the historical documentation to prove it.  He notes that "2006. . .was to see my world and that of those around me change forever. . .among other things, I realized there was a huge psychological gap between many of the Six Nations residents and the 'townsfolk' in for example nearby Hagersville, Caledonia and Brantford."

2.   Fallout from the Ipperwash "incident."  He observes that because of this "incident," the Ontario Provincial Police [OPP] "went from elite to effete, and their leadership became enablers. . .the rule of law vanished as the area degenerated into anarchy."  He suggests if people want to learn more about the suffering of the local non-aboriginal residents that they read Christie Blatchford's Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us (2010). 

3.   Blockade of Highway 6, by some SN protesters, October 17, 2013.  DeYo got stuck in this blockade, and it became one of two triggers that led to the creation of his blog.

4.   McKenzie Meadows Project article in "local Native paper," October 30, 2013.  After he read this article, he feared the "whole problem (questionable land claims and fallout) would never go away," so this became his second trigger ("Genesis," October 31, 2013, #1).

DeYo and Gary McHale: Six Nations are Not Indigenous to the Haldimand Tract 

The conclusion DeYo has come to is that many of SN's 29 claims are based on "unsupported, unvalidated and patently false" information.  Two key documents that he says prove his assertion are a 2009 report prepared for the City of Brantford (the "Holmes report"), and a 2010 Ontario Supreme Court ruling by Justice Harrison Arrell ('Recent," December 24, 2013, #64; "False," January 18, 2014, #77).

DeYo is not implying in any way that claims put forward by other Canadian aboriginals are lacking in merit; that is beyond the scope of his research.  He says there are problems with the SN claims because the SN are not indigenous to the Haldimand Tract.  He explains how the Crown purchased the land the Six Nations are currently on from the Mississauga:
The Five Nations did exterminate the Huron/Wyandot, Petun, Attiwandaronk, Erie and other peoples of Southwestern Ontario. . .in the mid 1600s.  Thus they removed by conquest all of the former occupants of Southwestern Ontario, leaving it a human desert for a number of years.  However, Mississauga (Ojibway/Chippewa) peoples soon began to move into the area and establish settlements or at least territorial rights. . .By 1696, the Three Fires Confederation had destroyed all but three settlements of the First Nations and they had no presence at all there by 1700.  The Three Fires Confederacy was composed of the Mississauga, Ojibway and Pottawatomi. . .In the end, the land was left to the Mississauga who were the acknowledged "owners" of Southwestern Ontario, and from whom Governor General Sir Frederick Haldimand purchased the Haldimand Tract for Six Nations occupancy in 1784.
Hence when the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 was signed by 20 representatives of the Five Nations (the Sixth Nation, the Tuscarora, were not incorporated until about 1714), they were yielding their "beaver hunting grounds" in Southwestern Ontario to the British - however, they had no claim to Southwestern Ontario because they had been totally defeated by the Mississauga and their allies ("Treaty," January 17, 2014, #75).
He explains that the Six Nations:
. . .were dispossessed Loyalist refugees looking for a suitable place to settle.  When Captain Joseph Brant chose the Grand River lands, it was necessary for the Crown to purchase the lands from the rightful owners - the Mississauga.  It was widely known that the only claimants to these lands at that time were the Mississauga. . .

. . .When Governor Haldimand was faced with the task of accommodating the thousands of Six Nations and other Native peoples who had fought for the Crown, and whose aboriginal properties in NY had been utterly destroyed by the depredations of the American General Sullivan, he obtained a deed of sale from the Mississauga who owned the entire region by right of conquest dating to the closing years of the 1600s. . .

. . .The Six Nations are aboriginal to the area between the mouth of the Mohawk River to the Finger Lakes and beyond towards Lake Erie.  However, these lands do not belong to the Crown any longer, and so the Six Nations are no more aboriginal to the Haldimand Tract than their fellow Loyalists and military comrades. . .("Six Nations are NOT Aboriginal," November 2, 2013, #6).
Caledonia activist, Gary McHale, covers some of the same ground as DeYo in his book Victory in the No-Go Zone: Winning the Fight Against Two-Tier Policing (2013; 186-187).  For instance, he says ". . .despite the impression given by the OPP, government and media, Six Nations are not First Nations.  They have no signed treaties with the Canadian government, and no basis under which to make a property claim" (187).

Thomas King's Questionable Comments on the Caledonia Crisis in The Inconvenient Indian

The information provided by DeYo, McHale and Blatchford makes me question even more some statements made by Cherokee/Greek author, Thomas King, in his book The Inconvenient Indian (2012).  King describes Blatchford's Helpless as a "sloughing off of history. . .style of scholarship."  He also contends that the Canadian and Ontario governments have "ignored and dismissed. . .the long-standing native land claims dating back to the 1700s," and implies this contributed to the Caledonia crisis (165-166).

In addition, King takes aim at the Ontario government for settling a $20 million lawsuit with some non-aboriginal Caledonia residents in 2011.  He implies this compensation may have been politically motivated, since a provincial Liberal election occurred a few months after the settlement.  There is ample justification for concluding that it was indeed politically motivated.  But I am shocked that he then claims this settlement shows that "[t]he concerns of the Mohawk and the land claim itself were shoved into a closet. . ." (175-176).

It seems to me that, since historical evidence demonstrates that SN have no right to be claiming certain areas, including land at the south end of Caledonia, then Ottawa and the Ontario government would be in a difficult position to resolve the matter.  It also seems to me that, if anything, the Ontario government, in particular, has gone overboard to appease SN regarding certain claims.


DeYo summarizes his concerns as follows:
To expect meaningful change to happen without resistance is unrealistic.  What I do hope is that those with the power to act, will show some respect for the data and the facts - and respond accordingly with some backbone.  My greatest trust is in the Courts.  It is here where we can find true justice in Ontario, free of the taint of politics ("Recent," December 24, 2013, #64).
If DeYo is wrong in his assertions, then the parties in question need to provide the necessary data to prove this is the case.


I agree with many of the statements DeYo makes in his 80 blog posts, but I feel he sometimes generalizes too much.  I believe this is because most of his interactions with aboriginals have involved Six Nations, and have ended up being negative.

I have also had some negative interactions with aboriginals, as explained in some of my previous posts on this blog.  However, I have also had some positive experiences, and am optimistic that things are getting better in certain areas.

For instance, I have been heartened by many of the aboriginal success stories that have been presented on the Sun News Network by commentators such as Ezra Levant.  Although Levant is one of the aboriginal communities' biggest critics (and has a tendency to exaggerate), I hope he continues to provide coverage of when aboriginals do well. 

A growing number of native reserves thrive as collectives because they have shaken off the cloak of dependency on government funding, have taken personal responsibility for their actions, and have moved forward with viable and self-sustaining action plans.

As I explained in my "Canadian Aboriginal Integration. . ." post, "I remain firmly on the side of those aboriginals who agree that maintaining their Canadian citizenship is a good thing."  I do not have a problem with aboriginal rights that have resulted from Canadian Constitutional provisions, as long as these rights do not harm aboriginals or non-aboriginals, e.g., traditional practices among some tribes that condoned violence and disparaged women.  I favour an aboriginal governance model that allows for integration with the Canadian government system.  In other words, I do not agree with natives creating separate nation states outside of the Canadian Constitution.

(In addition, I totally support those aboriginals who do not want to remain as part of collectives on reserves or in urban areas, and who wish to become part of mainstream Canada.  There are thousands who have chosen this route.)

I believe the Six Nations are lagging behind other communities in terms of effective governance because of their complex history and community dynamics.  As DeYo has pointed out, and as I have read elsewhere, there are some Six Nations members who realize the reserve situation could use some improvement.  For those who feel this way, I highly recommend Tsimshian author/entrepreneur/lawyer, Calvin Helin's, The Empowerment Mindset (2012).  The sub-section of Chapter 2, entitled "Community- and Group-Conditioned Negativity" (38-41), is particularly relevant.