Who Decides Who is Mohawk?By Doug George-Kanentiio One of the basic rights of any people is to decided who, and who is not, a member. This determination is done among families, religious groups, fellowship lodges, motorcycle clubs and nations. It is one of the most important elements in defining true sovereignty along with culture, jurisdiction, land and history. The Mohawk Nation has long had a rational and methodical way to acknowledge citizenship. It could be a status resulting from being born on Mohawk territory to parents recognized as citizens or it could be secured by following the path to becoming Mohawk. To become a citizen without the benefit of birth an individual entered the territory and was sponsored by a family and/or a clan. The person was given sanctuary, afforded protection, taught the elements of Mohawk culture and began to learn the language and social patterns of the community. They were observed to see if they were contributors to their host family and were of good character. After a time they were brought before the clan and, if endorsed, taken to one of the naming ceremonies where their former name and identity was buried forever. The name they were given by their family and clan was affirmed as they were presented with a strand of wampum to raise before the people. They then spoke to accept their place within the sponsoring clan and as a new citizen of the Mohawk Nation.
Both New York State and the U,S. and Canadian governments need to be told that this is unacceptable as it qualifies the rights of the Mohawk people to self identify. What will follow next is denial of entry into either the US or Canada by those persons who refuse to carry alien forms of identification and even more individual conflicts with the border guards (call them agents if you will by they are guards keeping in and forcing out human beings under their physical control). There is no doubt that none of the current Native ID cards meet international standards. They are easily forged and are missing key data elements like code bars or a computer reading strip. The red card in particular if of very poor quality and in many instances does not even have a laminated cover. It is technically an easy fix. I contacted a company, Linstar, in Buffalo, New York, as is specializes in enhanced, secure ID cards for local, state and federal agencies. It has a unit which costs $25,000 to produce the ID cards with either a computer chip, a strip or a bar code. The photos of the individual are printed on the card itself and cannot be altered. The company can put in place whatever design is made and whatever color is chosen. They can provide formal instruction in operating the machine and since the resulting ID car surpasses New York State driver's licenses their is no need to carry one of those. The U.S. and Canadian customs would have no choice but to accept these new Mohawk Nation ID cards. They may also be used when purchasing products tax free from are merchants as the card may affirm the holder is making delivery of the item to Mohawk territory. The costs of the machine will be covered very quickly since there are thousands of Mohawks willing to pay $10 to be rid of yet another challenge as to who they are. Interested? Then call the Mohawk Nation Office and have your clan leader act to protect this all important right to self determination. Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the vice-president of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge. He has served as a Trustee for the National Museum of the American Indian, is a former land claims negotiator for the Mohawk Nation and is the author of numerous books and articles about the Mohawk people. He may be reached via e-mail at: Kanentiio@aol.com or by calling 315-415-7288.
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