I Cannot Vote: I Am Ukwehu·wé

Three Part Series: Part I – Tradition; Part II – History and the Law; and Part III – The Future.
Part I – Tradition.

Oh Canada. I can’t stand on guard for thee.

CanfusingAccording to my traditional leadership – which is not acknowledged by the Canadian government – voting in Canadian and American Elections is an affront to Aboriginal Sovereignty. If there weren’t more complex reasons than that reason is reason enough for many traditional Native people whose leadership has given them that lesson for their whole lives.

Every lesson that I am fortunate enough to receive is a lesson that has survived great challenges throughout history to get to me so I see it as my duty to honour those lessens by following them as diligently as possible.

My people, the Onʌyoteˀa·ká· ukwehu·wé people, are part of the oldest standing democracy in the whole world: The Haudenosaunee Confederacy. While the Canadian and American government has dominated the Haudenosaunee at times throughout their combined history our government has never completely disbanded, we have never been defeated openly in the field of battle, we have never been conquered and we have never surrendered. To the contrary we have been allies to settlers in most of the major wars and our traditional leaders even declared war on Germany for World War I and World War II.

We always have been and always will be free people in our hearts. This is the tradition that I am following.

The lack of recognition by Canada is simply a matter of political convenience for them that holds no real authority under either our laws or the laws of nature. Laws are simply human made constructs under which we choose to conduct ourselves. Laws of nature are indisputable and our laws are designed to be in tune with nature and the natural universe and our very small place in that order. Effectively many traditional people believe that since we are a part of something so vast and great that it is more important to hold respect and work to be in tune with the universe than to try to shape it to our needs.

Voting into a brand new system of governance, such as Canada which patriated it’s constitution in 1982, or such as the United States of America which became independent of England in 1776, is an illogical function for a traditional Native person. Our way of life has been fundamentally the same for several thousand years, not a mere matter of decades in the case of Canada or centuries in the case of the US.

Most importantly Onʌyoteˀa·ká· people have not conducted themselves as Canadians. We have held onto our citizenship because some people made great personal sacrifices to allow us to be able to do so. They did that out of a sense of tradition.

It is now my obligation to do everything in my power to honour those sacrifices. I think about the ways to best learn more about my roots and nurture those traditional values. That is my ultimate aim when I consider whether to participate in the mainstream voting system or not. It is not to offend the many people who work hard to continue Canadian and American forms of democracy. It is to respect the foundations laid to properly practice our own democracy. It was hard work to maintain our Great Law and I could not willingly divert resources from restoring it.

It is laid out plainly in the Two Row Wampum Treaty agreement that our lives as Aboriginals and the lives of the Canadian, American and other settlers are to run in two parallel paths that cannot impede one another. Much has transpired since the inception of the Treaty and many settler authorities argue that it is invalid, but like the Confederacy government they claim does not have validity, or the lands they claim to own, this Treaty and the foundation of the lessons of my elders are my responsibility to honour and follow.

My path on the Two Row is not dictated by the actions of the settlers. I may wish that they had not impeded us, but I cannot control that. All I can control is my own destiny and choices I make and I wish to carry forward in the native path. I want to honour natural laws and understand that I am but a humble servant to the this world and it’s needs.

Our Mother the Earth does not need me to get out and have my say to affect her destiny. She needs me to get up every morning and before my feet hit the floor remember the gifts she has given me.

Some might argue: “They are killing her!” They may say and have said to me: “If you do not use your right to vote then the wrong people will get in office and harm things!” They may be right about the people they have agreed to have lead them, but who am I to know that? There are historically significant and legally important ramifications to Native voting but sticking to this reasoning of following tradition all I would say to those people is that the more I can practice the ways of a good On^yote:aka the more I can do to help our mother. Me casting a ballot, even for the most environmentally friendly party in the universe, is me diverting attention away from the path of peace, power and good mindedness that I am required to be following.

The fact that Canada doesn’t honour the Jay Treaty, the Two Row Wampum or follow the principles of the Dish with One Spoon lead me to believe that tradition is to Canada a matter of political convenience regarding these issues. For my people who have fought against the most challenging barriers to maintain their freedom these traditions are everything to us.

I choose tradition over voting. In love and kindness to the Canadians and Americans who are continuing their tradition I hope that you can recognize and support my continuation of tradition by not voting.


3 thoughts on “I Cannot Vote: I Am Ukwehu·wé

  1. Lisa Lynn Devlin

    Thank you Karl for your post, how very true and I too believe what you have said to be true and my beliefs are as you so well stated. I too would never vote for the reasons.

  2. Kate

    I understand and respect your perspective, but I have to vote and I want the lack of recognition for traditional native leadership traditions to end. If I need to help elect the candidate most likely to do that, who would that be?

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