Akwesasne, a Nation Divided by More Than the St. Lawrence River

Saturday, January 6, 2018
Atrium (Marriott Wardman Park)
Ernest Rugenstein IV, Hudson Valley Community College
The Mohawks of Akwesasne are not only divided by the St. Lawrence River but the border between the US and Canada. This necessitates a are split into two reservations with two governments, the St. Regis Indian Council on the US side and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne on the Canadian side. In addition, the Mohawks must contend with two provincial governments (Ontario and Quebec) and the New York State.

There is also, a traditionalist government of Akwesasne called the Mohawk Nation who choose their leaders by the ancient, hereditary method of the Longhouse religion. The US and Canadian governments have suppressed the traditional tribal governmental system and recognize the imposed elected systems of government on both sides of the border. In the 1980s, the Mohawks began withdrawing children from schools off the Reservation - asserting their sovereignty.

The historical record indicates problems with the border and its crossing. This intensified with the Garrow Supreme Court decision of 1937. Garrow was a full-blooded Mohawk women crossing the border with baskets. She was stopped to pay duty on her wares. The court case went to the Supreme Court and it was decided that she had to pay the duty and had no lawful border crossing rights as a Mohawk. From this time forward, up through the 1950s, there was an increase in conflicts concerning the border at Akwesasne.

During the 1980s unrest was growing over differences of governmental regulations between the two sides of the reservation, over problems crossing the border, regulations on gambling, and the government of New York State. Unrest on the reservation reached a peak in 1990 with an armed uprising. The weight of this prolonged conflict on Mohawk society was evidenced by the destruction of infrastructure, the blockading of roads. and death.

The lack of cooperation between the Canadians and the US lies not only in cultural differences on their general view of Native Americans that caused the violence and death; it was the lack of culturally sensitive communication and efforts at resolution that brought this event to such violence.

By correlating the various treaties, dates of different events with the appropriate historical maps my poster will depict how the Mohawk Nation was divided by invisible borders and the consequences of this division. Further it will show how treaties were ignored or reinterpreted codifying this division and abrogating the Mohawks guarantee of free movement within their territory and across international borders. Additionally, the effect of laws and tariffs will be represented on the poster; how they were enacted without consent or even consultation with the Mohawks. The poster will also show the practical implications it had on their travel.

See more of: Poster Session #2
See more of: AHA Sessions