THE IRO­QUOIS PER­SPEC­TIVE

For the Hau­denosaunee Con­fed­er­acy, Mon­tréal 375 is no cause for cel­e­bra­tion.

Canada's History - - MONTRÉAL 375 - — Mark Collin Reid

Imag­ine strangers sud­denly ar­riv­ing at your home and claim­ing it as their own. Pushing you aside, they use vi­o­lence to make you ac­cept this new re­al­ity. And now imag­ine hav­ing this dark mo­ment pub­licly cel­e­brated and com­mem­o­rated.

Such is the re­al­ity for the Hau­denosaunee Con­fed­er­acy when it comes to mark­ing the 375th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of Ville-Marie, now Mon­tréal.

“To me it’s the col­o­niz­ers’ way of cel­e­brat­ing some­thing that is very atro­cious, in what I see as the theft of land, the theft of cul­ture, and dig­nity, and hu­man­ity of the [Hau­denosaunee peoples],” said Hazel King, di­rec­tor of the Hau­denosaunee De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute, the of­fi­cial voice of the con­fed­er­acy on mat­ters of land ju­ris­dic­tion and de­vel­op­ment.

Early his­tory books of­ten por­trayed the Hau­denosaunee, also known as the Iro­quois, as the vil­lains in the story of New France — a con­stant threat to the French colonists and their Huron and Al­go­nquin al­lies. In­deed, one of the first things Sa­muel de Cham­plain did af­ter found­ing Québec in 1608 was to join his new Indige­nous part­ners in 1609 in an at­tack on the Iro­quois at Lake Cham­plain.

King says this stereo­type of “Iro­quois-as-vil­lains” ig­nores the com­plex­ity of the re­la­tion­ships that ex­isted be­tween Indige­nous peoples prior to con­tact with Euro­peans. And it doesn’t ad­dress the ul­te­rior mo­tives of the col­o­niz­ers, who ben­e­fit­ted from pit­ting var­i­ous Indige­nous peoples against each other.

“That’s what the French were af­ter — it was the land and it was the resources,” she said. “It’s al­ways been the land and the resources. And if they can have the In­di­ans fight­ing each other — and if they can in­cite wars be­tween the Hurons and the Iro­quois and so on — to me, the set­tlers have al­ways been able to ma­nip­u­late our peo­ple.”

King en­cour­ages Cana­di­ans to use Mon­tréal 375 as an op­por­tu­nity to learn the his­tory of the Indige­nous peoples who lived in the re­gion be­fore the found­ing of Ville-Marie.

“We know the his­tory of the land in a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive than is be­ing taught in schools,” she said. “There will be many, many chil­dren in schools that will be … look­ing at the his­tory of Mon­tréal for 375 years. But what do they know of the his­tory be­fore that time?”

Hazel King, di­rec­tor of the Hau­denosaunee De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute.

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