Monday, September 22, 2014
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200 threatened with eviction from Kahnawake

BY GEOFFREY VENDEVILLE, THE GAZETTE

For more than 30 years in Kahnawake, the rule has been: you marry out, you get out.

 

About 200 residents are threatened with eviction from the Mohawk territory on Montreal’s South Shore for breaking the law against marrying or living with a non-native.

A community meeting on the issue was held Wednesday night at Maddie’s Place Restaurant on Highway 138 in Kahnawake, but it was closed to journalists.

Of all the couples on an unofficial eviction list, Waneek Horn-Miller and her partner, Keith Morgan, are second.

Working out-of-province, Horn-Miller wasn’t able to defend herself at a crowded community meeting held in Kahnawake’s United Church Hall on Tuesday night, but she was represented by her sister, Kahente.

“What’s going on here isn’t making us a viable community,” she said. “It’s tearing our people apart. It’s tearing our families apart.”

Kahente, a visiting professor of aboriginal studies at Carleton University, explained that, in Mohawk history, membership wasn’t focused on race. “This whole idea of measuring how much blood we have is so foreign to us,” she said. “Our ancestors brought people to replenish the community, not the blood. They brought people into our communities and we’re all descendants of them.”

The eviction list includes several young families and a few community elders who are more than 60 years old, Kahente told The Gazette. No plans have been made so far to help anyone move if they are eventually kicked out.

“What happens when they leave?” she asked. “Will we pay to help them re-establish themselves in another community? What about providing them with family support that they’re going to lose? Are we going to show them where to go when they need help?”

Many at the meeting were concerned that non-natives are moving into the community to take advantage of aboriginal rights and benefits, such as tax exemptions and land allotments. Kahente noted that this isn’t the case with her brother-in-law, Morgan, who is completing his medical residency at a hospital in Ottawa and plans to practise in Kahnawake.

This is the second time in five years that her sister Waneek’s family has been told to leave the territory. She and Morgan, both former Olympians, have been living in Kahnawake on-and-off for 12 years and have two children, age one and four.

In 2010, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake mailed eviction letters to 30 households. This time, the MCK is planning to send letters to remind certain people of the law, council press attaché Joe Delaronde said. The MCK is even weighing the possibility of holding a referendum to settle the issue, he added.

Since 1981, there has been a moratorium barring Kahnawake residents from marrying or living with a non-native. Those who break the rule could be scratched off the Mohawk Registry and stripped of their privileges. The moratorium has been difficult to enforce over the years, but that may soon change when the Kahnawake Justice System Act comes into effect. In the works since 2009, the act would give Kahnawake’s court the ability to hear eviction cases.

The latest dispute erupted after a local high school gym teacher, Krissy Goodleaf, and her non-native husband of 15 years started construction on a house near the Pentecostal United Church in the heart of Kahnawake. Protests held at the site of their soon-to-be-built home led them to halt construction.

The couple has lived on the territory for eight years. “When I lived out, I never felt like I belonged there,” she recently told Mohawk TV. “I wanted to be here and I wanted my children to grow up here. That’s still what I want, but I don’t want any trouble.”

Goodleaf didn’t reply to an interview request from The Gazette.

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