Common Ancestry Binds Two Nations

Common Ancestry Binds Two Nations

Reprinted with permission from Greg Horn, Iorì:wase "B.C First Nation Asks for MCK Support." 

Originally published in the Kahnawake News, VOL 3, ISSUE 30


Photo: Members of the As’in’i’wa’chi Ni’yaw Nation at the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake offices this week (February 25, 2016). Greg Horn/Iorì:wase.


Original Story

A British Columbia First Nation with links to Kahnawake dating back more than 215 years visited Kahnawake this week to seek the community’s support in its long-standing land grievance with the Canadian government.

The As’in’I’wa’chi Ni’yaw Nation (ANN) of Kelly Lake, B.C., also known as the Kelly Lake Cree Nation, are currently locked in a legal battle with the federal government over their territory, which includes a portion of Jasper National Park.

“It is known that our ancestors were not included in the treaty process and therefore never entered into the existing Treaties 6 or 8,” Chief Kwarakwante Cliff Calliou wrote in a letter to the MCK.

“As a result, the Government of Canada has refused to recognize Kelly Lake Cree Nation members as ‘Indians’ under the Indian Act of 1876. In response, KLCN has completed extensive genealogy and historical research for the past 15 years to disprove the government’s claim that ‘we are not Indians.’”

The people of Kelly Lake launched legal action in 1996 in Federal Court claiming Aboriginal Title and Rights of the Kelly Lake Cree Nation for its traditional lands in northern B.C. and Alberta.

“After more than 19 years in court, our Nation is still struggling,” Calliou wrote. “Our people’s way of life is being destroyed by various provincial and federal processes, and by industry following government’s direction in ignoring and destroying our traditional lands.”

The people of the ANN are the descendants of the Mohawks who travelled west more than 215 years ago as a part of the Fur Trade. In 1799, 110 people from Kahnawake travelled west during the Fur Trade and arrived in Jasper House, Alberta sometime around 1805.

The diaries of Belgian Roman Catholic priest and missionary Pierre De Smet describes meeting an Iroquois man named Louis Kwarakwante and his family of 36. Kwarakwante had travelled from Kahnawake some 40 years before.

Calliou explained that many of the community’s names have reverted to French or English names, but have origins in Mohawk, including Karrhio (Callihoo), Karonhí:io (Delaronde), L’Hirondele, Giasson, Kwarakwante (Calliou), Kaniatariio, Karacontie, Tekonwakwenni and Kanakonme.

Throughout the centuries, the original travellers from Kahnawake absorbed many other peoples into their culture and community. Today the ANN speaks the Cree language and has more than 1,000 citizens. Their traditional territory comprises more than 40,000 square kilometres in B.C. and Alberta.

Calliou explained that his community has never been given the opportunity to sit down with the Canadian government to discuss its land grievance.

“We ask for your support and assistance in bringing our grievance to the attention of Canada’s political leaders and to hold them accountable for their campaign promises,” Calliou wrote to the MCK.

“As a Nation of Indigenous Peoples, we are determined to preserve our natural place in Canadian history as the rightful stewards, custodians and decision-makers of our traditional territory. My Nation continues to grow impatient and frustrated with current industry encroachment, deliberate trespass and flagrant disregard for our lands, while the government condones this action against our existence.”

Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton said that he has known about this community for some time. He said over 20 years ago he was in contact with people from ANN, but lost touch until recently. Norton said the MCK received a request from Calliou around Christmas to come to Kahnawake to meet to discuss their land grievance.

On December 8, the Assembly of First Nations passed a special resolution formalizing its support of the people of Kelly Lake in the advancement of their land grievance against Canada. This resolution calls for an urgent meeting between the ANN and the federal government.