Six Nations Mohawk woman responds to chief’s letter

To the Expositor:

A open letter to Sheguiandah Chief Orville Augounie.

Mr. Chief, sir.

Miigwetch for your letter, (‘Chief responds to criticism by ‘outside’ band member; August 29, page 4) a little condescending, but nothing that I did not expect. Thank you for centering me out and giving me your attention, I appreciate that as well. With that, I will respond to your, um, “professional” thoughts where I am concerned. I apologize for that nerve that I so unabashedly struck and the ego that I unintentionally bruised for you.

There is one thing, (maybe a few) which I myself will define to you, rather than you having to assume about me. I will define who I am, plainly and simply, just for the record. Only I have that right.

I am a Mohawk woman living in Six Nations and presently working at a Native Treatment Centre. Prior to this, I have lived and worked on Manitoulin for over 20 years. I am a community member of Sheguiandah First Nation. I am an Anishinabe woman of the true Ojibwe tradition, and my children are blessed with the best of both nations. May I point out, never once did you attempt to speak to me, in any type of adult conversation whatsoever. There may have been a mumbled hello twice, maybe 3 times, throughout those 20+ years. And an occasional hateful response from you towards me during a council meeting or two a few years back. Your attempted presumptive and vast knowledge you claim to have about me, and how you know me, is minimal at best. But wow, I didn’t realize that I was that important to you and I will take this into consideration. This may really earn my vote, Mr. Chief.

You do not have the opportunity to make any feeble attempt to define who I am, where I live, or what I do! Or who to vote for! Further, you do not have to worry yourself at all about “freeing” me, I am free. But again, miigwetch for your concern. As for Kari Smith’s concern’s: as predicted and expected, you sorely missed the mark on these concerns. What kind of chief does that? Totally blinding yourself to the issues that I am questioning? Did you take this as finger pointing? Are you feeling guilty, so guilty that you put yourself on the defensive? Divert attention off of these issues and “put me in my place” Mr. Chief? Does this type of action justify your letter? Justify your importance? Okay, Mr. Chief, you are important, you are. I do believe this. Every individual is very important, even you. Why don’t you believe this? I think I will just politely decline any comment here. You said it. I didn’t. And I won’t. I do have courtesy, tact and respect for the readership, and you as well, Orville Aguonie.

Nonetheless, you are contradicting yourself when you would rather not talk about any First Nation, and as soon as you say (write) these words, you talk about your sister going to other First Nations and commenting on their homes. So, what is it you want to do? Talk about them or not? Let’s not and just move on, okay?

Yes, I am still talking about suffering and heartache. I am sorry that you blind yourself to this part of being human, unable to recognize it; when it lies right beneath your nose, sorry that you only see housing arrears, and see your fellow community members as pitiful, woebegone individuals and liars. I am sorry that you only see the people as ‘freeloaders.’ I thought it was the government that did these things to us, forced us to live ‘their’ way, under their laws, by their discretion and further the very same way in how they portrayed us, as Anishnabek, in their paternalistic points of view and dire concern. Your story sounds so familiar for some reason. Did I not mention the public apology they made in recent history, for that which they did to our people? With your incessant verbal attacks, you so adamantly and repeatedly voice of how you so stringently follow their guidelines/protocols. And before I forget to request, I am formally requesting the minutes and financials for the past 2.5 years of your reign.

You fool only yourself to think you have any advantage over me. I am actually sorry for you too, that you think you can have any advantage over me, or any one, because you tell on yourself, your tactics, your thinking. Niichki, you tell on yourself.

I am not fighting you—I am listening. It is not me you are struggling with, it is yourself you are struggling with. Kudos to you, though—you’ve lasted this long in your struggle. One question I ask, though, is, “How is that working out for you?”

Trumped charges? You go ahead and vindicate yourself, and have your day in court. You deserve that much anyway. That’s your business, not mine.

Again, for the record, I do not have to talk about Jake (Agoneh) or judge him. I was talking to him. Just asking the councillor of Sheguiandah First Nation to clarify his statements. Trying to have an adult conversation with the man, you know. As I am doing here, with you. As you did with me in your letter, Orville Aguonie.

I don’t know if you realize that a mouth does not have ‘sides’ as you say? And your joke (or innuendo,) was totally lost here, however I feel I must let you know that I do have two ears, and these can account for the ‘both sides’ you are speaking of. One on this side and the other on this side. Because I am using “both” ears to listen, maybe even deeper than you realize or can comprehend. I write and speak with only one heart, one mind and one spirit. This is basic anatomy 101. Which brings me to another point that is much to your concern.

Yes, you were right when you said I have been living here for the past four years. I have to admit this. As you must be aware, I have been attending university for these four years, obtaining my degree. During these four years, I have spent my summers living in (Sheguiandah) the community, working on the Island as a nurse. And I even worked two jobs one of those summers as well. I am surprised that you didn’t see me while I was there in the community.

I cannot argue that you were born and raised in Sheguiandah FN, nor do I care to. It’s not even a concern of mine. I do, however, know this to be true: my children were born and raised there as well. However, I hold the same type of origins as your parents. I was not born and raised there, true, but neither were your parents. They were from different First Nations as well. Nothing to argue about.

The point you make again, and which I question, is that you know everyone in the community. This is hardly true. You don’t know me, my children or any of my family members—who live there and the dynamics we share—so don’t profess that you all inclusively know every one of ‘our’ community. .

A bubble? Really? Is this the best you can muster, Mr. Chief? Yes, you are right again, I am a band member. You state, “You (I) was never part of this community.”

As for your opinion, about my being judgmental, cynical and misleading, I won’t even dignify that with a response, Orville Aguonie. Further, if you’d like to refer to me, along with ‘all the other community (members)’ as liars, feel ‘free’. Actually, it is quite expected and predictable.

In closing, I just like to voice to you that yes, there is more to the community—there most certainly is! Too bad you fail to see it. And I, too, will leave it at that. When you have something important to converse about, I’d be glad to entertain you, until then I will let you thrive in your own mind.

Kari Smith

Sheguiandah First Nation band member