How do we push Kahnawake to the next level, beyond what exists here now?
It’s something we wrote about in last week’s EASTERN DOOR, focusing mostly on the economy, but it is also something that is multi-faceted, extremely complicated, and it goes beyond mere dollars and sense.
We have to make our families stronger, and by doing so, make our kids smarter.
We have more graduates coming out of university now than ever before, more doctors to fix you, lawyers to….well, you know (ha ha), and journalists to tell our story.
We are more successful than ever before in the “white man’s world,” yet our drop out rates are still pretty high, the number of people on social assistance is way too high, and the creativity needed to invent new, innovative businesses here (as we addressed last week) is waning, at best.
It all starts with family.
If we want to have a stronger community, with more Kanien’kehá:ka who care for its well being, and not just their own gain, we have to show them how to care for everyone.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, that doesn’t mean you or your kids are better than anyone else. Far from it.
Along the same lines, even if you are poor, your children’s values will be solid as long as you teach them the right way to treat others – with kindness.
If we are neglecting our youth and providing little guidance, don’t be surprised when they do really stupid things.
They will have already learned that from the ones they desperately look up to, who don’t have the right answers.
But if you take the time to explain the things they need to be better Onkwehón:we; if we sit with them and tell them why it is more important to love and honour people than to make tons of money; if we show them, through our actions, that Mother Earth and everything on it is worthy of our respect, then we can truly call ourselves Onkwehón:we.
If youth deface property when they should be home with their mother, father (or both), Tóta and Bubba, who is really to blame?
When they steal from others, beat innocent people up, bully others, or are in and out of jail; to whom do we point the finger?
Sure, some will grow up to do those things no matter what kind of family they are from, but it doesn’t take a genius to see some lack parental guidance, structure and discipline.
And from that strong nurturing and loving warmth comes positive things that turn into bigger and better things as an adult.
Getting a degree, a good job, building and running a business, all take patience and dedication.
By starting out right, that same child who was cared and provided for has a better chance to bring good things to Kahnawake than the one who was neglected, or who was forced to choose between going hungry and stealing.
When you look around our community, you see plenty of bright spots, success stories and athletic prowess.
But there could be so many more.
Imagine the strength our families, the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy would have if we all started out with a fighting chance at life, born from mutual respect and a genuine longing to be better people.
Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.