The Mohawks of Kahnawá:ke (Kahnawákeró:non) are an ancient people with a vibrant culture and rich history. We are one of the eight communities that make up the Mohawk (Kanien:keha’ka) Nation and have historic, political and cultural ties based on Honor, Trust and Respect to the Oneida, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga and Tuscarora Nations of the Northeastern part of North America.
Many significant events and poignant moments mark our history. During the 17th and 18th centuries, when the British and French were establishing themselves and fighting each other for control of North America, the Kanien’keha’ka found themselves wedged between these two colonial rivals. Their traditional territory was situated between the fur trading posts established at Quebec City by the French and at Albany by the British. Independent and military strong, the Kanien’keha’ka used the colonial rivalry, their geographic location and their exceptional diplomatic skills to their political and economic advantage.
sssDuring that same period of time, the present day site of Kahnawá:ke, located approximately 10 kilometers from the city of Montreal, proved to be another strategic location politically, economically and militarily. A group of Kanien’kehaka that were established near what is now Montreal, called on their brothers from the south to reinforce their numbers so as to better provide for the requirements of the expanding fur trade. Politically, they organized the community in accordance with the Great Law and maintained kinship ties to the community near Albany. The resettlement proved to be advantageous economically as the Kahnawakehró:non opened up the trade route for furs and other goods to Albany.
After the War of 1812, our independent and self-sustaining life would change dramatically. Within less than a hundred years, repressive government legislation, such as the 1876 Indian Act, would ravage a thousand years of our political growth, social development and economic prosperity. The Indian Act and subsequent government policies suppressed our Traditional government, attempted to “civilize” and assimilate us into mainstream society, prohibited the use of our language and the practice of our culture, diminished our land base, determined who is eligible to be an “Indian” based on a legal definition, and removed our authority to determine our own affairs and placed it in the hands of the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs.