August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mohawk John Kane 'Servants of the People'

“Servants of the People”

By John Kane, Mohawk
Published with permission at Censored News
First published at Two Row Times

Servants of the People

Traditionally, this title was an honor bestowed on those distinguished both by willingness to serve and effectiveness in doing so.  This was our concept — unique throughout the world but one with such a strong sense of rightness that many would claim it for their own. Of course, claims and reality are not necessarily the same.

The crazy part of this story is that we don’t use this concept or even the expression anymore. Americans never quite got the concept but to this day they refer to those elected or appointed to office as belonging to the public service — to be sure, these are only words. But what happened to us?

Those now getting themselves an “office” or “title” call themselves “tribal leaders.” They claim authority from nowhere, earn ridiculously fat paychecks, and leave policy, diplomacy and defense of sovereignty to lawyers, consultants and lobbyists, most of whom are non-Native. Even worse, they claim this illegitimate authority and empower “professionals” to do their work while stripping power from the people and trampling their birthright.

Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The lazy, “pass the buck” attitude of the people enables all this to happen. The very name “Idle No More” is an acknowledgment that the people have been far too idle for far too long.

To be clear, this isn’t just a commentary about “elected governments.” Anyone suggesting the virtue of the “chief system” that some would claim exists today, or speaking romantically of its performance in the past already proves my point. The Kaianerehkowa of the Haudenosaunee NEVER called for a “chief system.” The process laid out meticulously and represented by the Haiwentha Belt, the Circle Wampum and scores of other images is a “clan system.” This slow and deliberate process empowered the people, laid out the shared responsibilities of both men and women, and clearly defined the roles of those men and women who would be placed in the service of their people.

Today, Chiefs, Presidents, Chairmen, Trustees, Councilors, and even Faithkeepers and Clan Mothers are selected through whatever process by  small fractions of the populations they claim to “lead.” They become “federally recognized” through the BIA in the U.S. or Indian Affairs in Canada and in the absence of their own “constitutional authority” rely on this “recognition” as their authority to act not as servants but as “leaders.”

Some of these “leaders” are paid more in a single day than most of their people earn in a week, with no accountability for their time or requirement to show they actually did anything. They spend more time in securing their leadership spot than on performing the job at hand.

Servants of the people? As I have said before, when winning an election or an appointment becomes tantamount to winning the lottery, we need to ask who is serving who. When was the last time your “tribal leader” reached out to ask how you felt about an issue or even how you were doing? I suspect unless it was your family member on council, probably never. When was the last time you ever heard them refer to themselves as servants of the people? And when was the last time they actually served?

I was told recently that people need leaders and that they want to be led. I beg to differ. I find that people want to be encouraged and to be empowered. They want to know that they matter and that there is a place for them in the decision-making process. They want to fight for their sovereignty and be the force behind the diplomacy of their “servants”; they do not want to be the last to know what their “leaders’” lawyers and lobbyists lost in the latest negotiation or court battle.

I have seen what the powerful “leaders” do. While they get rich, get famous and get praised by non-Native governments and institutions, dependence on gaming or government programs grows, sovereignty is encroached upon, and inch by inch the process of assimilation by the dominant societies around us continues.

Though many have indeed become complacent as to how things are, brief glimpses of an empowered people do show themselves on occasion. The people need to be the power every day.

We don’t need leadership. We need participation!

– John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk, a national commentator on Native American issues, hosts “Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane,” WWKB-AM 1520 in Buffalo, Sundays, 9-11 p.m. He is a frequent guest on WGRZ-TV’s (NBC/Buffalo) “2 Sides” and “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter” in Albany.

By John Kane

More from radio host John Kane, Mohawk, at Let's Talk Native Pride:

Tewa Women United 'Gathering for Mother Earth'

Tewa Women United & community organizations of concern welcome all communities to bring their families and friends to the 17th Annual Gathering for Mother Earth. Let us all celebrate cultural ways of giving love and gratitude for our Earth Mother. Her life givers need loving care to support us on our life journeys. It is beyond critical time to stabilize energy with wisdom to unite for eco-systemic survival. Time is now to awaken PEACE and stop the violent use of Mother Earth’s life giving energy. We encourage all cultures, all ages, schools, communities and families to bring intergenerational thinking to this wholistic event. Activities will include: youthful activities, healing arts, ecological safety information, drumming circles, Tsankawi Relay Run, health related information sharing, raffle prizes, solar cooking & produce, arts and crafts and solar energy. All with emphasis on Healing Mother Earth to bring sacredness back into our homes of earth-based living. We as humans need to protect the Rights of Natural laws of relationships.
The RE Member ing ” wisdom is being joined by many other community-based organizations who are experiencing the effects of living around nuclear production cycle sites. Afternoon mini-gathering circles will allow participants to spend more intimate time with wisdom keepers, generational midwives, grandmothers, and inspirational singers/drummers such as: the Pacific Curls from New Zealand; Beverly Doxtator of Native Lifeways, Inc. (Canada), Yolanda Teran & Jose Males- Ecuador, Katia Delgado and others from Peru.
The Saturday communal meal entrees include the traditional “sister” foods of beans, corn and squash with buffalo, salmon plus more. Come prepared to revitalize beloved community energy to nurture all relations with water and sky with supported solar energy .
A wide variety of natural healing and conventional practitioners to come: herbalists, cuaranderas, massage, therapists, reflexologists as well as Healing Touch, acupuncturists, energy work, polarity work, reiki, and others. Local Native dance groups & others : Tewa Suns,The Danza Mexika dancers, Tash Terry and Elena music from Indigie Femme . Community Leadership is Sober, Truth seeking, Responsible and Healthy Alcohol and drugs NOT allowed – give love & thanks for healing Spirits of Waters and wildlife from the fires.

Apache Survival Coalition's Mount Graham Memorial Tribute

Clara Curtiss Photos Long Walk 4 Marshall, Missouri

Photos by Clara Curtiss
By Brenda Norrell
Photos by Long walker Clara Curtiss
Censored News

Join the Longest Walk 4 Return to Alcatraz on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, as they walk through Kansas City! Contact the walkers at or at their cell: 202-436-6576.
Thanks to Long Walker Clara Curtiss for sharing her photos with Censored News of Long Walk 4 Return to Alcatraz in Marshall, Missouri this week. Clara was on Long Walk 2 northern route in 2008. 
"Long walkers made it 25 miles, running and walking, was nice to get out and pray," Clara said after joining Long Walk 4 walkers this week.
Michael Lane said on Tuesday, "We are indeed staying in Marshall at a farm with some nice people named Dan and Rebecca. We walked 24 miles today." Lane said today, Friday, was a rest day and camp was moved to near Independence. 
Late Wednesday, Lane said on Day 59 the walkers covered 33 miles. "We had six children and babies out there today in a mixed walking and running day, with special recognition to Gordo, who is seven, and ran two miles with the Sovereignty Staff."
Lane asked for more people to write about their own sovereignty issues as well.
Native youth walkers and runners are always appreciated when they join the walk.
Supporters of the walk in Kansas, Colorado and Utah are asked to arrange camping or sleeping places for the walkers. Hot meals and good quality camping gear for fall and winter are also appreciated.
Donate at Longest Walk 4 PayPal at:

If you can host the walkers in your area, or provide meals, please contact the walk at: or at their cell: 202-436-6576.

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