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Governance project findings ready to present 

Taiaiake Alfred at a Governance Project presentation in 2023, where he discussed the role of the wampum belt in treaty negotiations. File photo

Gerald Taiaiake Alfred is hopeful that the upcoming Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) elections will be the last elections of their kind. And he’s ready to tell the community why as he prepares to present the first report from the Kahnawake Governance Project. 

“I have a three-to-five-year timeframe. I know that’s ambitious, but I think that people can come to the point of working together and come into agreement on how to make that transition from the Indian Act system to a traditional government,” said Alfred, the project lead.  

Even if it can’t be done by the next election, Alfred said he’s confident that Kahnawake will move away from the Indian Act system before 2030, in two elections time. That’s what the people want, he said.  

“There is a general consensus, it’s not that there’s opinions all over the map. It’s very clear what the majority of people think and what the majority of people want, and that’s what this report reflects,” he said. “The dialogues that will happen from here on in will hopefully be focused on what the consensus is, that’s the intention.” 

The report will be presented in an open discussion format on Sunday, June 2, at the Golden Age Club from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., where a cornbread and sausage meal will be served by Screaming Chef Cuisine. Attendees should RSVP with Alfred directly via Facebook or email if they wish to reserve a meal. Attendees can come to part or all of the discussion. 

“It’s open to everyone and we’re hoping to get a lot of people to run the draft of the report and the basic ideas so that I can present a summary of the key findings to people,” Alfred said. “I want to make sure that the Advisory Council and people who were actually working on the project with me, and our community engagement people agree with what I’m saying. It’s for me to be held accountable.” 

The report will then be presented to the MCK on Wednesday, June 5, at a Council meeting. After that, a finalized iteration of the report will be presented on Thursday, June 6, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a buffet-style meal also from catered by Screaming Chef Cuisine.  

“That’s where I’ll go through my presentation again but there’ll be the actual full-scale report available for people to read and take away with them,” he said. “We want to give absolute clarity on what was said from the community, what the recommendations are that we drew from those points, and what we’re laying out as a possible pathway for people to take the next step.” 

The governance project is wrapping up its third phase now, following the first phase, which was a needs assessment consulting with community members about what they wanted to talk about regarding traditional government, and the second phase, which was sharing resources and historical research on the topic.  

This phase saw thorough consultation in public spaces like Tóta Ma’s cafe, and in private spaces like community members’ homes, as well as via an online survey answered by 200 individuals.  

The content presented in the report will detail how to move forward but won’t be the end of consultations. Alfred said that community members will have ample opportunity to continue participating in the process – even if they haven’t participated before.  

“It’s about internal reconciliation,” Alfred said. “We need to negotiate internally and accord on how we transition from where we’re at now to the recognition and operationalizing of the jurisdiction and authority of the Longhouse.” 

Alfred also noted that he wants the community to understand the governance project is a community initiative to bring back “true government” and not an MCK-led project. However, he said that he understands why people may be hesitant, given that the governance project was formed to work at arms-length from MCK to fulfil the Council’s mandate of returning to traditional governance.  

“I understand peoples’ skepticism. I understand from doing this work that there’s been multiple attempts in the history of our community to reconcile the role of the Indian Act structure as recently as the 1990s,” he said, adding that what makes this attempt different is the coordinated goal of returning to traditional government. 

“I think previous efforts were more oriented towards adapting traditional principles to the Indian Act system or modifying it to reflect traditional values to get a form of traditional government,” he said. “But I’m distinguishing that objective from a straight-up restoration of traditional government in Kahnawake. That’s a significant shift.” 

Community members are encouraged to attend the upcoming engagement sessions and can reach out to the governance project at any time via their website. They can also expect further engagement sessions and online presentations later in June. 

evedcable@gmail.com 

This article was originally published in print on May 24 in issue 33.21 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.