03/15/2017 05:43 EDT | Updated 03/15/2017 05:53 EDT

Your Celebration Is Still Our Loss


This year marks 150 years of confederation. Canada 150 as it is known, has created year long celebrations throughout the country. There is an overwhelming sense of national unity and jubilation, worthy of endless celebrations that are funded publicly.

While others are taking this opportunity to celebrate the country's history, this landmark year reminds us of unfulfilled promises, and ongoing inequality in the way our people are treated. We will not be partaking in any of the celebratory events. Instead, we will be highlighting grievances that continue to go unresolved and unheard.

We, the Haudenosaunee people, are the oldest participatory democracy on Earth. We are not First Nation or Métis. Through the confederacy, each of the nations of the Haudenosaunee is united by a common goal to live in harmony.

Each nation maintains its own council with Chiefs chosen by the Clan Mother and deals with its own internal affairs but allows the Grand Council to deal with issues affecting the nations within the confederacy. We treat everyone we come across with dignity and respect; we only ask that we are treated the same way in return.

We were self-governing until 1924, when the federal government imposed an elected council system on us. We still operate as a traditional government, but our refusal to cooperate with the federal government's demands has made them unwilling to engage with us on mutually important issues.

The relatively new federal government has pledged to work with all Indigenous groups. The prime minister has mandated each of his ministers to improve relationships between the government and Indigenous peoples. Up until now, we have not heard much from them. By them not reaching out to us or acknowledging our losses, we feel those mandate letters are just platitudes. We're used to that.

Quite frankly, we believe Canada's 150 years of confederation is a milestone based on false pretenses. Much of Canada exists on stolen land. Making mention of our heritage and cultural elements during these celebrations is simply a smokescreen, and ignores the true problem at hand, which is lack of reconciliation.

As Canadians enjoy 150 years of confederation, our situation is evidence that there is still much progress to be made. Operating as a traditional government has left us without official status and recognition from the federal government; we're dealing with the City of Toronto on a treaty rights battle that they have yet to acknowledge.

After months of ongoing negotiations we've had no choice but to conduct a demonstration at the St. Lawrence Market North construction site, which is Haudenosaunee treaty territory. Recently, the government of Ontario appointed an Elders Council to seek advice on justice decisions. Quite frankly, it seems to be an attempt to offer reconciliation to avoid dealing directly with us.

If anything, Canada's 150 years in confederation highlights how far behind we are. It is concerning that after 150 years, we are still dealing with issues such as respect, justice and equality. . We will continue to stand our ground, and protect our people, heritage and treaty rights. We will continue to speak out when necessary. We hope the next 150 years bring more progress.

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