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Mohawk (U.S. and Canada)

Native American - First Nation

Last modified: 2017-08-22 by rick wyatt
Keywords: mohawk | new york | native american | first nation | canada |
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[Mohawk flag] image by Donald Healy, 17 January 2008

See also:

The Band

[Mohawk - New York map]
map image by Peter Orenski based on input from Don Healy

Mohawk - New York

The Mohawk called themselves the "People of the Place of the Flint". Within the Iroquois League, they were the "Keepers of the Eastern Door" because of their geographic location [see Iroquois Confederacy]. Today's Mohawk Nation spans the border between the United States and Canada. In the United States, the Mohawk are mostly on the St. Regis Reservation, just south of the Quebec-New York border; these St. Regis Mohawks are part of the Akwesasne Band.

In 1974, about 200 St. Regis Mohawks seized a 612-acre parcel of land at Eagle Bay on Moss Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, claiming original title to it. They called this land Kanienkah, which means "Land of the Flint". The dispute was settled in 1977 when the State of New York awarded the Mohawk land along Schuyler and Altoona Lakes in Clinton County.

© Donald Healy 2008

The Flag

From the Kanienkah uprising [1974] came a flag employed by Mohawk in both nations and on all Mohawk lands. As originally reported in The Flag Bulletin (Karoniaktajeh, "Ganienkeh"(sic), The Flag Bulletin, XVI: 4 (Winchester, MA, Flag Research Center, 1977), 108-111) that flag is red, bearing a profile of a Mohawk warrior against a yellow sun. The warrior bears a single feather on his head symbolic of the unity of purpose for the continuation of the Mohawk people, their nation, their race and their heritage. The flag as a whole expresses those aims for not just the Mohawk, but all Native American peoples. Karoniaktajeh was the designer of this flag as well as being a respected elder and teacher within the Mohawk community. Karoniaktajeh has gone on to design a "Unity" flag based upon the Kanienkah banner. The "Unity" flag is similar in design but bears two heads instead of one side by side expressing the unity of the First Nations of Canada and the Native Peoples of the United States.

The Kanienkah flag has become common at protests throughout the lands of the entire Iroquois League. The ideals of the flag have been exemplified by actions taken by the Mohawk. Only the Mohawk issue their people passports from the Mohawk nation. Surprisingly, they have been accepted by many nations border and customs officials. This level o  international acceptance of nationhood is unparalleled by any other Indian tribe..

© Donald Healy 2008
information provided by Peter Orenski, 17 January 2008

The most famous event involving the Mohawk Warrior flag happened in Vancouver in 2007. On 6 March, the Olympic flag was brought down from the Vancouver town hall. The next day, responsibility was claimed by a group self-styled "Native Warriors Society", who released a photo showing both the stolen flag and the Mohawk flag. The stolen flag has not been seen since. - "Straight", 6 March 2012
Ivan Sache, 10 March 2012

Mohawk Warrior Society

[Mohawk Warriors Society flag] image by Maqtewe'kpaqtism

Adaptive Use

A group of Mi'kmaq from Listiguj (formerly known as Ristigouche) in Quebec (Gaspesie region) have been blocking the entrance to a "scierie" (lumber mill) for the last few days.

Strangely, I have not seen any Micmac flag on TV, in fact I don't recall any of the three Micmac communities of Quebec using any of the two known Micmac flags (see Don Healy's Native site).

Even more strange is the fact that the flags I have seen are the American flag and the Mohawk flag. One American flag seemed defaced like the Canadian flag we often see defaced with a Native Canadian/American, though I'm not sure I saw correctly.

Don Healy in his terrific book on Native Americans mentions that the Mohawk flag has become common as a sign of protest throughout the Iroquois League. Though the Micmac are not part of this league (they speak an Algonquian language), perhaps this is also just a sign of protest and a sign of warning to the authorities to remind them of the Oka Mohawk crisis of 1990.
Luc Baronian, 7 August 1998

La Famille / The Family

[The Family flag] image by Ivan Sache, 16 September 2012

La Famille / The Family is a Mohawk association founded in 2005 by Yvan Bombardier "to maintain the four white, red, yellow and black roots for the next seven generations". Through cultural events, ceremonies and reenactions, the association aims "at correcting the errors perpetrated by the governmental and ecclesiastic institutions, respecting Mother Earth and the Great Law of Peace". For instance, the Family organized on 27 February 2010 in Montreal the celebration of the 13 Full Moon ceremonies, with the presence of members of the Mapuche, Maya and Mohawk communities. - Ismène Toussaint's website

The Family flag is white with, in the middle, a green tree with green foliage and a brown trunk. The meaning of the flag is explained as follows:
"The emblem of The Family flag, the Tree with its rediscovered roots and branches stretched out with its foliage is the rallying sign for all families. The Family flag represents the universal family, all the children that Mother Earth supports and nourishes from the unicellular, the plants, the insects, the fish, the birds, the mammals, to the humans. It symbolizes our interrelationship with creation. The roots symbolize the grandmothers and grandfathers. They are the guarantors of the transmission of traditions to the future generations. The trunk is the marriage of the love of the mother and the father, an unalterable law that unites the opposites in their complementarities. The branches represents our children, the next seven generations. If you cut the roots, the branches will dry up and die. They will bear no fruit. Each generation must maintain and protect its roots for the branches to finally blossom and bear fruits in abundance. The foliage is the safe and healthy environment that protects and nourishes the family. The white surrounding the Tree represents the Peace necessary for its growth." - Association's website - Photo of the flag - Demonstration, 22 August 2012
Ivan Sache, 16 September 2012

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