by Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk
This article was originally published on April 6, 2007 by Indian Country News.
A generation ago groups of young men approached the Haudenosaunee to find out if there was support in the northeast for the creation of a chapter of the American Indian Movement.
As is true with all serious issues the traditional leadership thought long about this idea.
They knew from hard experience that the energies of their younger people was a formidable power and should ideally be directed in ways which not only brought security to the people but reinforced the formal principles of peace.
For many hundreds of years the Haudenosaunee have sought an end to warfare and its attendant strife through the application of a set of rules called the Great Law of Peace. When the prophet Skennenrahowi brought forth these teachings from the spirit world it was the first time in human history that a group of people would dedicate themselves to the perfection of the good mind while outlawing war as a way of resolving human disputes.
Skennenrahowi taught the warring Iroquois sacred collective rituals meant to bring an end to personal and communal vendettas.
These rituals are central to the Haudenosaunee since they wipe away the grief which clouds the thinking mind.
The leadership knew the young AIM advocates were angry, and rightfully so, at the sad and terrible conditions of Indigenous peoples across Anowarakowa (the Great Turtle).
For far too long the true people, the onkwehonwe, had been cheated, bullied, attacked and humiliated by the Europeans to the point where they were considered as less than human. Something had to be done about this, so taking a page from the black civil rights movement certain aboriginal individuals, gifted speakers with natural leadership abilities, emerged from Native urban centers and prisons to give voice to aboriginal nations.
These young people, primarily men, were willing to do whatever they thought necessary to compel the U.S. and Canada to retreat from their assimilationist tactics.
The Haudenosaunee were concerned this energy, if left unchecked, could be used in a harmful manner, especially by those who were not in a condition of spiritual harmony.
The Haudenosaunee decided the best way of supporting the noble goals of AIM was to assert its ancient alliances with the Lakota and Anishnabe nations, a choice which reaffirmed traditional government and the ancient teachings.
The leaders of the Haudenosaunee also acknowledged their own internal methods of organizing the young men which were used effectively during instances of U.S.-Iroquois conflict at Onondaga, Tuscarora and Akwesasne.
The result was an official AIM chapter did not flourish in Iroquois territory although many Haudenosaunee men and women proudly joined the group in Wounded Knee, at the BIA takeover and elsewhere.
The tensions brought about by the refusal of Native people to concede to the corruption and internal manipulations of U.S. agencies such as the BIA exploded into violence in which people lost their lives, primarily because the federal government sought to infiltrate and neutralize AIM.
But many real humans died and far as can be determined no collective condolence ceremony was held for those who had been taken from this earth in a violent manner.
Without a specific act of release with attendant admissions of responsibility there could be no internal peace within AIM.
As Chief Seattle noted many years ago the spiritual beings are not without their influence on this earth; so it is that the murder of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash (among many others) has not been reconciled with the living.
Bad luck, substance abuse, mysterious accidents and confused minds are directly related to the restless dead.
It is no coincidence that the removal of AIM as an effective organization for all Native people began with the deaths in South Dakota 30 years ago as a series of terrible events overwhelmed supporters in the struggle for Indigenous rights and the restoration of traditional government.
For the movement to regain its place as a respected advocate for Native nations the current leadership of AIM, as fractionalized as it now is, should look into their great heritage to find a way to bring peace through closure.
Casting unfounded accusations and insinuations does nothing but prolong the divisions which have crippled AIM for far too long.
Make your peace with the dead, ask the forgiveness of those families who have endured years of pain and provide them with adequate spiritual compensation.
And do so before the people, for the people, before additional tragedies befall us all.
Published with the author’s permission.
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