Ganienkeh celebrates 25th anniversary
By: Greg Horn
What started out as an occupation of an abandoned girls camp at Moss Lake, New York on May 13, 1974, by a handful of people has turned into a full-blown community. Now, 25 years later, the people of Ganienkeh are celebrating their Silver Anniversary.
On the weekend of May 15-16 the People of Ganienkeh are holding a celebration which will include a tobacco-burning ceremony, breakfast, a video showing Ganienkeh past and present, an open house to all the businesses on the territory, lunch, children’s games, speakers, a feast and a social.
The second day of the celebration will have a tobacco-burning ceremony, a breakfast and a lacrosse game between the Ganienkeh Gunners and the Tyendinaga Wolf Pack.
Ganienkeh holds a unique status among the various communities of the Iroquois Confederacy.
The community of Ganienkeh does not rely on assistance of any kind from the government of the State of New York, or that of the United States.
"Ganienkeh shall be the home of the traditional Red man. Here, according to the rights accorded everyone else in the world, the Red man shall exercise his proven government and society according to his culture, customs and traditions," stated Louis Hall in the Ganienkeh Manifesto.
"According to the rights of the human, he has the right to operate his state with no interference from any foreign nation or government. Here the people shall live according to the rules of nature. Here the Great Law of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy shall prevail. The people shall live off the land. The co-op system of economy shall prevail. Instead of the people competing with each other, they shall help and co-operate with each other. Here, they shall relearn the superior morality of the ancients."
The community of Ganienkeh was created as a Utopia for traditional Mohawk people where they would be free to practice traditional government and religion as stated within the Kaianarehko:wa.
The Ganienkeh Manifesto goes on to state "…the Mohawk Land was lost in an earlier century by fraud and its possession by New York State and the State of Vermont constitute illegal usurpation. No deed signed by Joseph Brant and the New York State agent can extinguish the rights of the Mohawks to their own country. The Native North Americans not only have the rights, but are duty-bound to correct the wrong committed by Brant and the New York State agents against the Mohawk Nation. No individual Indian nor any individual Nation of the Six Nations Confederacy has the right to sell or give away land without the consent of the Grand Council of the Six Nations Confederacy. This was one of the findings of the N.Y. Senate investigating commission which ended in 1922…"
The idea for Ganienkeh began after eviction notices were sent by the Longhouse people to non-Natives living in Kahnawake in the fall of 1973. These eviction notices gave the non-Natives living in Kahnawake two weeks to leave. At the end of the time period not many of the approximately 1,500 people given eviction notices remained in Kahnawake.
"An incident resulted from the eviction - despite an extension - that involved the Provincial Police. Warriors gathered from other places as far away as Oklahoma," stated Hall in the July 22, 1976 edition of the Lake Placid News. Riots then resulted from the presence of the Provincial Police in Kahnawake.
"Indians rallied to the Longhouse to defend it," continued Hall. "That was when we thought of New York. There we were risking our lives to defend 2.5 acres when we’ve got millions in New York State."
After that winter, on May 13, 1974, Ganienkeh was reborn at the abandoned girls camp at Moss Lake.
"I think that I was there [Moss Lake} against my will. I can honestly say that because I was the last person anybody expected to be there and to stay," stated Judy Delaronde. "My husband [Julian Delaronde] left, it was May 13, 1974, it was Mother’s Day. I didn’t go. I said ‘I’m not going.’ He called me a week later and said, ‘I found a house.’ You think maybe he found a mansion the way he described it. It was just this little cabin."
"He came back and we packed up everything," continued Delaronde. "Well I supported him in it, so I went. My daughter was in a play, she was in grade 5 and we just left everything. We just took off, just like that. I’ve been here ever since."
"I was one of the first people that they thought would leave," confessed Delaronde. "We had no electricity, nothing. I left everything behind, my dryer, my washing machine."
"I think we were pretty happy. We had a big struggle, there was no money, people pulled together, worked together. And that’s where I learned a lot about being traditional, because we used to have meetings at the drop of a hat. I mean, there were all kinds of crises going on at the time."
On November 24, 1974, the Grand Council of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy sent a letter to U. S. President Gerald Ford. This letter states in part "…pursuant to Article VII of the Treaty of 1794, between the United States and the Six Nations Confederacy, the following complaint is hereby made by action of the Grand Council of the Six Nations."
The letter goes on to outline several instances that had happened during the early months of the occupation at Moss Lake between citizens of Ganienkeh and the non-Native residents of Eagle Bay, New York. These incidents saw the non-Natives of Eagle Bay firing shots in the direction of Mohawks of Ganienkeh.
Incidents such as this continued until the people of Ganienkeh fired back on October 28, 1974. Unfor–tunately this retaliation resulted in the injury of two young people, April Madigan, nine, and Stephen Drake, who were in a car when shots were fired on Ganienkeh and the shots were returned in the direction of the car.
Following this incident the New York State Police attempted to assert their jurisdiction in Ganienkeh and investigate the shootings. This act is contrary to the Treaty of 1794, stated the letter.
The letter outlines what the United States should do to ensure that the "peace and friendship" between the Six Nations and the United States continues and is not broken. Some of these points are to make sure that the U. S. government sets the legal machinery in motion with respect to the letter to President Ford dated November 24, 1974, by the Secretary of the Grand Council of the Six Nations, that outlines the complaints by the Six Nations.
Another one of these points is that the United States take the appropriate steps to ensure that further incidents do not occur.
"I’ll tell you one thing, we lost a lot of sleep," stated Pat Maracle, speaking of the early days at Moss Lake.
In 1977 the people of Ganienkeh and the State of New York reached an agreement that saw the Mohawks leave their settlement at Moss Lake and move to a new site near Altona, New York, on Miner Lake.
The people of Ganienkeh began dismantling the buildings and other structures that were built at the Moss Lake settlement and transported them to the new site of Ganienkeh in October 1977. The new site is about an hour’s drive from both Kahnawake and Akwesasne.
Read Part II next week.
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