Home Editorial The year of little progress

The year of little progress

Megan Kanerahtenha:wi Whyte The Eastern Door

When we first started writing about the year that was, 2023, we read over the recaps (see pages 6, 9, 21) of the top stories of the year.

Usually around this time, we do two things: we try to sum up the ones that we think are most interesting, and we coin the name for the year. This time around, let’s do it a little differently.

Sure, the Hunter Montour and Derek White case, which The Eastern Door has been following from the very beginning, with all the ups and downs and court appearances we attended – virtually and in-person – is easily the story of the year.

You know it well already, two guys said no to the government’s idea of legal, and fought a tobacco case and won – twice so far – with the feds’ appeal launched in December and another long trial ahead.

It was unprecedented and set jurisprudence for many cases to come. We can’t express strongly enough how important this case was, and how it is essentially the will of the two men, but especially White, to fight like a Mohawk against the powers that be.

However, kind of along the same lines, we also need to talk about an ongoing problem with our leadership, both in Kanesatake and Kahnawake.

This will get ugly, but please bear with us.

It’s important to note at this time, very strongly, that we represent the people – all of them, even the ones who don’t read the paper or who disagree with us. We will fight for them and their rights as well, because that’s what a collective is all about.

So, when we call either of the two MCKs and request comment, well, we expect answers promptly. Not because of any individual reporter or even for The Eastern Door as a newspaper, but for the public record, as the historical paper of record, and for the people’s right to know the truth.

But we are, at times, stonewalled by the elected officials in both communities, and we will continue to speak out against any control of the media because it is wrong – and you should speak out against it too, because that means they are hiding things from you.

This is an issue we deal with on a weekly basis, but to give a bit more context of how tough it is to just be a community member, well let’s start with the ugly.

Kanesatake is in a world of hurt when it comes to leaders. In maybe the most politically-divided community in Indian Country – and that’s saying a lot – the ones who make the decisions are failing everyone en masse, no matter who they are or if you ally yourself with them, whether you like or hate them, or anywhere in between. Kanesatake deserves better.

An anonymous group felt the need to blow things open and go to the outside media to try to make changes, but that fizzled, and why? Because people are scared of speaking up, and it has been like that for too long to remember.

So, when the grand chief decides not to call us back on certain stories, he’s not just ignoring us, he’s ignoring the people. He serves them all, even the ones who don’t like him, and he has to start leading like that or get out of the way.

Sadly, though, Serge Otsi Simon had his day and he’s not the answer, so who is?

In a community of roughly 2,200, your pickings are slim, but when you can only pick the head honcho from a list of those who have been chiefs before, thanks to an amendment a few years ago, well, you have almost no choice. And that is also failing the people.

Closer to home in Kahnawake, where are all the key issues the MCK has been clamouring about for years?

Land claims are number one on the list, but what about proper housing? Fighting hard for, at the very least, the lands that fall under the Seigneury, of which Kahnawake sits on roughly 1/3 of the original protected tract?

Why do they wait for the feds to lead negotiations on land they stole? If someone steals your house and changes the locks, you have every right to bust that door down and take it back with everything you have, instead of living on the street, begging.

Is anyone going to put their balls before their paycheck and do something about it, either by digging a hole on a vacant lot in St. Constant, calling the media, and blowing this out of the water by building a Kahnawake home or by suing the feds (in their own courts, yes) for dragging this out while allowing more and more houses to be built on Mohawk land?

The answer is the current situation is doing a grand total of nothing for the community and the one proposed would at least show the MCK is trying something.

Where is the fight in this Council for the bigger issues? Even something like the cannabis issue is wrought full of mistakes, delays, and so much bureaucracy. It’s a law that will have to be adapted to today’s reality, because it’s allowing weed shops to pop up, but limiting them to three. 

Do we see this as a business to make the community prosperous, or are we just paying lip service to it, and trying to limit backlash over, say, 25 stores opening?

Where does the MCK really stand on weed?

You can’t have both, folks, and taking the heat is part of your job.

Those are just a couple issues that need tweaking, in a long list of important items for Kahnawake now and in 100 years from now, when we are long gone.

So, in 2024, we want to see better leadership and a lot less of what we saw in 2023. Our wish is for all chiefs to put the community ahead of their own needs and really start fighting for what could be such an awesome 2024.

This editorial was originally published in print on Friday, January 5, in issue 33.01 of The Eastern Door.

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.

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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.