Opinion

Charles Kader: Learning some unwritten rules of reservation life






An administration and community building of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York. Photo by P199

Charles Kader is a citizen of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe but didn't grow up on the reservation in New York. But he quickly learned the rules after moving closer to his community later in life:
Being born in Erie, Pennsylvania myself, I grew up in an urban setting almost wholly absent of Native cultural opportunities. So when I graduated college in 1993, the opportunity to change that occurred and a group called Native Americans of Erie County formed with family and friends participating. We produced televised content that appeared on the basic cable television public access channels, spoke to students from kindergarten to university level, and designed attire worn at pow wows. As word spread of the group, I was invited to join a statewide Native organization based in the capital of Harrisburg and developed media contacts that sought our members out for comment on stories. This minor contribution showed some advancement from the way that things had been previously.

On a personal level, for years I had sought membership in the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, which is the only such recognized entity located in the United States for those of the Mohawk heritage. Eventually, I enlisted the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to provide my dormant membership application a reference letter. Possibly this distinction aided my plight, as I became a tribal member in August 1999.

Anything that I could do to align myself with the rank and file tribal membership I did. I was a subscriber to the seminal Native publication called Akwesasne Notes. Additionally, I subscribed to the local newspaper called Indian Time and participated in tribal elections via absentee ballot. Allowing the ink to dry on my membership card, I finally secured employment at the tribal casino in 2005 and relocated my wife and cats to the area.

That was when the rules of the road were made clear to me. Don’t even think of moving a non-Native woman onto the reservation, because that would be the wrong way to introduce myself.

Read More on the Story:
Charles Kader: Latecomers and Early-Goers To Reservation Life (Indian Country Media Network 3/12)