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Factionalism, Traditionalism, and Nationalism in a Mohawk Community

Gerald F. Reid

Publication Year: 2004

Today Kahnawà:ke (“at the rapids”) is a community of approximately seventy-two hundred Mohawks, located on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River near Montreal. One of the largest Mohawk communities, it is known in the modern era for its activism—a traditionalist, energetic impulse with a long history. Kahnawà:ke examines the development of traditionalism and nationalism in this Kanien’keká:ka (Mohawk) community from 1870 to 1940.

The core of Kahnawà:ke’s cultural and political revitalization involved efforts to revive and refashion the community’s traditional political institutions, reforge ties to and identification with the Iroquois Confederacy, and reestablish the traditional longhouse within the community. Gerald F. Reid interprets these developments as the result of the community’s efforts to deal with internal ecological, economic, and political pressures and the external pressures for assimilation, particularly as they stemmed from Canadian Indian policy. Factionalism was a consequence of these pressures and an important ingredient in the development of traditionalist and nationalist responses within the community. These responses within Kahnawà:ke also contributed to and were supported by similar processes of revitalization in other Iroquois communities.

Drawing on primary documents and numerous oral histories, Kahnawà:ke provides a detailed ethnohistory of a major Kanien’keká:ka community at a turbulent and transformative time in its history and the history of the Iroquois Confederacy. It not only makes an important contribution to the understanding of this vital but little studied community but also sheds new light on recent Iroquois history and Native political and cultural revitalization.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: The Iroquoians and Their World

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v


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pp. vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Imust, first of all, thank the many people in Kahnawà:ke who have been so generous with their time in helping me understand the events and issues that are the focus of this book. A number of people deserve special mention. They include Presida Stacey, Satekenhatie, June Delisle, Joe Deer, Charlotte Bush...

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pp. xi

In broad terms, this book is a social, political, and cultural history of the Kanien’kehá:ka community of Kahnawà:ke in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.1 Situated just a few miles from Montreal, Quebec, Kahnawà:ke was established in the late seventeenth century and today has a population...

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1. “At the Rapids”

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pp. 1-20

In the sixteenth century the territories of the Rotinonhsiónni stretched across present-day upper New York State from the Hudson River west to the Genesee River. Protecting the eastern flank of the Longhouse nations were the Kanien’kehá:ka, or Mohawks, the Keepers of the Eastern...

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2. “Serious Troubles”

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pp. 21-49

The Kahnawà:ke reserve originated from the Seigneury of Sault St. Louis, which derived from two French Crown grants to the Society of Jesus in 1680 for the purpose of missionizing and ministering to the Rotinonhsiónni. The original grants totaled more than 40,000 acres. Indian...

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3. “For Three Years” or “For Life”

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pp. 50-74

The problems of white encroachment, resource scarcity, and inequality of landownership and the polarization that affected Kahnawà:ke in the 1870s and 1880s were important factors in the community’s division over the council of chiefs and the Indian Act system. These problems also played a part in the eventual establishment of...

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4. “An Ill-Feeling Which Is Yet Burning”

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pp. 75-106

The Department of Indian Affairs initiated preparations for applying the Indian Advancement Act to Kahnawà: ke in early 1888 when it developed a plan to divide the reserve into election districts. A plan developed by the local Indian agent in consultation with...

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5. “Must We Resign Ourselves to Such Injustice?”

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pp. 107-133

During the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth, most Kahnawà:ke schoolchildren were enrolled in the Roman Catholic day schools on the reserve. These included separate boys’ and girls’ schools in the village near the St. Francis Xavier mission and, by the late 1890s...

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6. “We Have Our Own Rights and Religion”

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pp. 134-167

During the 1920s Rotinonhsiónni people persisted in their efforts to regain and protect their cultural and political sovereignty, which continued to be undermined and threatened by Indian policies in Canada and the United States. In 1920 the Indian Act was amended to empower the Canadian government...

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pp. 168-188

By the 1870s, decades of white encroachment had resulted in a significant loss of land to the Kahnawà:ke reserve and caused a severe scarcity of land and resources, exacerbated by considerable inequality in landownership among the residents. These conditions led four of the Kahnawà:ke chiefs to try to sell the reserve...


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pp. 189-218


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pp. 219-226


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pp. 227-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780803204386
E-ISBN-10: 0803204388

Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: The Iroquoians and Their World