Raising the voices and humanising Indigenous change makers from grassroots Indigenous journalists, activists, lawyers, and politicians, to actors, and athletes and Settler Accomplices/Allies
Understanding Identity and Roots
In February of 2020, rather than teaching students the laws and traditions of our people in a classroom I demonstrated what it looked like to exercise your sovereignty as a Kanyen'kehaka person out on the land. At the time I worked for Ohahase Education Centre as the Mohawk Language and Indigenous Studies instructor while running a small consulting business. I would attend different schools and teach the students about who the Mohawk and Haudenosaunee people are. There I would share the creation story, have them make some artwork, try traditional foods and try a social dance.
All of these actions were extremely fulfilling, guiding the students rather than dictating to them; showing them what potential lies in understanding your identity and place on Turtle Island as an Indigenous person. Growing up surrounded by traditional knowledge and role models I was able to have the ability to live in two worlds - although it was extremely difficult. Reclaiming my language along with a diploma in 2010 through Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna language circle (where I later became a board member) and Trent University, it opened the potential for me to use my life skills to help the youth. I began teaching the fall of that year in the high school in Tyendinaga.
As there still is today, there was an absolute drive and determination within me that said these youth needed to know their roots. Where they truly came from and why it was so important became a mission, and a trip to the Mohawk Valley was planned immediately and proposed to the administrators. They accepted the proposal, and I became the first one to take a high school class over the colonial line to visit the Kanatsyohareke where the students had a brief moment where they were able to meet Mohawk Bear Clan Elder Tom Porter.
From then on I knew that the lived experience was exactly how these students would learn, and from then on we did absolutely everything the way our ancestors would have; life experience and listening to our elders. Seeing them run through the woods as if they were at home was emotional, even for the non-indigenous teachers there that witnessed it with me. Almost as if they were ghosts that were finally free. Home.
After a few years of teaching experience I began the consulting business where I was able to make a connection with Young Imaginations in Picton, Ontario. Along with the Executive Director Evva Massey we were able to put together an amazing War of 1812 program for the Ohahase students to perform in front of elementary school children. After more training from Queen's University's Aboriginal Teacher Education Program I continued consulting and teaching up until July of 2020.
For Whom The Train Stops
Pete Fisher of Today's Northumberland was one of the first on the scene after Kanenhariyo and several others built a fire at a safe distance beside the railway line on Wyman Road on what is stolen Mohawk territory. One of the most respectful reporters we spoke to, unfortunately other reporters were not as respectful and a full media ban was put in place for the protection of the people.
It was February 10th, 2020 I told Pete Fisher “we are standing here strong, with Wet’suwet’en" and that when it came to an injunction that it “is just a piece of paper. To us, that’s not our government, that’s not our law. So when they serve it to us – it’s just a piece of paper.”. VIA Rail issued a statement to Today’s Northumberland at 7 p.m. on the same day to "inform its passengers that all departures prior to 2 pm tomorrow February 11 are cancelled
On February 12th, 2020, Hour 2 of Ottawa Now posted on their website "Andrew Brant says Indigenous people are sick of being oppressed" which was the only nice way that it could be said in a time of such tension. Yet remembering who I am as a Mohawk Turtle Clan Man with a name and voice under our laws I was able to keep a calm head and rather than battle their rhetoric I began doing what I did best, teaching. The explanation was lost upon many settlers who just could not fathom that this was happening, and how at every complaint they had about the situation the Indigenous population met them with a "sucks doesn't it".
By the 21st of February the threats of police invasion was constantly looming when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “ barricades need to come down now” directly contradicting his statement about Canadian and Indigenous relationships being the most important. This is when I said to Today's Northumberland that “You can liken it to a declaration of war on a foreign nation, it’s evolved into our right to live, be equal, be sovereign people,"
It was never ending, the press was calling at every turn asking for updates and getting only lessons and teachings. CTV, Global and CBC all tried to get something they could use to deamonize the land defenders but were nothing but accomplices to my determination to have the truth heard at any level I could possibly take it. With stock markets and the so called economy in question journalists from the Globe and Mail and Wall Street Journal were seeking answers, Evan Solomon even left his interview with more Indigenous knowledge than actual answers he was looking for. Rightly so, because this was broadcast live on National radio.
During these months, I did not realise but I was commenting directly against the federal government and they were answering back. Along with one other media company, I was only of the only other consistent voices behind the lines, after mentioning Oka to the Globe and Mail Justin Trudeau comes with a quote "History has taught us how governments can make matters worse if they fail to exhaust all other possible avenues,"
Between meeting with the press and educating the public, I was still going to the high school to teach the classes that needed to be taught. Now, they could actually see it in action. The language that I had been teaching them, along with the way of thinking and application of thousands of years old law into modern experience. It was possible and I was able to show this to them.
A simple assertion of our sovereignty, by saying you cannot pass through our land and the railways subsequently shutting themselves down is proof in front of the eyes of the public that we are independent Nations with the same (probably more) political power as the Canadian settler government or even the United States; because as we observed, when the Indigenous Nations literally stood up together and said "No", the settler state instantly began to crumble.
Recorded, Written, Preserved for Seven Generations
Each lesson we learn is sacred, and every question we have does have an answer somewhere. We all look for answers in different ways, and exploration of the voices of the unheard is what I need to do. Witnessing the blatant ignorance and silence of truth when it came to Indigenous people at a time when we were in direct conflict was nothing short of disgraceful.
The new time is upon us, the one that carries clear and immediate change. A change that is so obvious even the ignorant can see it, and are becoming what some call "woke". This is the path of educating that I have taken on, teaching seems to be something that I do well as a Turtle Clan person, which is why these interviews for Beside the Tracks are of such importance. These are voices of people with a lived experience that the white media will not allow, what the Police Chief of Tyendinaga Police Service would call "write what you want media" as the colonial enforcer he is, with complete disregard for traditional law or people.
From all of the close to 80 related published works that I have already done, along with the interviews from before the podcast will be the foundation for Beside the Tracks Podcast which will become available in a book. Our history needs to be documented from our perspective, from our mouths to our own ears. The conversations need to be had in front of the settlers, and with the allies and accomplices. There is a place that was created by our ancestors within the Two Row Wampum that allows us to do this, and for the people to rise up in power. That power lies within our voices, songs, ceremonies, land, water, and cultures.
Many things were targeted and meant to be stolen from us, but the underestimation of our spirit and the strength of our ancestors allowed for us to still be here to this day. The book will also be named Beside the Tracks, as a written historical record to go along with the audio and visual collections to show the truth for when future generations look back for answers. Now is the time for our voices to be heard, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or someone you know has something they would like to say or something they would like to share.
Nyawen for all of you that have made Credible Mohawk Entertainment work, and for all of the support that you have shown over the past year. I look forward to bringing you more along with Nathan Thomas for a long time. Please share the podcast from whichever platform you choose to listen. Encourage people to follow our Instagram page @thecrediblemohawk as well as Twitter @crediblemohawk
Credible Mohawk Entertainment