Charlie Smoke: With or without a country?
By Kenneth Deer

It was bound to happen, sooner or later, that an Indigenous person born in North America would be denied residency by the colonial governments that have stolen the continent from the indigenous Peoples of this land.

It seems unimaginable that the millions of people who escaped discrimination, oppression, dictatorship, famine, desolation and so many other forms of misery by emigrating to Canada and the United States would treat the original inhabitants as foreigners in their own land.

But it is true. The plight of Charlie Smoke symbolizes so much of what is wrong with the Americas.

It is not that long ago that Native people in Canada were not considered Canadian citizens. It is only in the 1960s that legislation was passed to make all Native people citizens of Canada. Not that all Native people wanted to be citizens. Many Native people still believe that they belong to their own nations; with their own language, culture, laws, political system, lands and resources.

After all, who gave the immigrant Europeans the right to declare themselves sovereign over the Indigenous nations in the first place? Who said that we had to be citizens of their countries? Why are we forced to accept their citizenship at the expense of our own?

Canadians cannot answer these questions easily. There is no moral or legitimate argument to justify their attempt to destroy our own nationalities. It is purely a power play, using brute force when all else fails.

If you don't have a birth certificate, you can't get a Medicare card or a social insurance number. If you don't have these, you can't get health care or a job. If you don't register for a band number, you are not considered an "Indian" under the Indian Act. The government decides who you are.

If you stand by your principles, have your baby in your own home, name your baby in a traditional ceremony, give the baby a single Indigenous name, raise the child in the language and culture of his or her ancestors, educate the child so he/she can survive in a modern world, groom the child to carry on as an adult with all the skills needed to pass our heritage on to the next generation, would this child be a citizen of your nation or a Canadian? Of course this child would be a citizen of the nation that raised him or her.

Canada and the United States, however, think differently. They force you to become their citizens and are insulted if you think otherwise.

Charlie Smoke has insulted Canada by not declaring himself a Canadian citizen, so now Canada wants to deport him. Poor Canada. In all its millions of acres of stolen land, they don't have a spot for Charlie. They want to export ungrateful Charlie to the United States -- which does not have a spot for Charlie in its millions of acres of stolen land either.

We can just imagine Charlie Smoke, a man with no country, spending the rest of his days in no man's land between Saskatchewan and North Dakota. Perhaps he should ask for asylum in Europe?

While Canada accepts so many stateless people from other continents, but will not accept a stateless person born right on this continent, it is for us to show them our compassion, solidarity and wisdom by accepting Charlie Smoke as one of our own.

Charlie Smoke does have a country. According to his story, he is of the Haudenosaunee; his mother comes from the Six Nations territory in Ontario. That alone should be enough for our people to claim him. Let us do our own research into his heritage while he is under our protection.

Canada should be embarrassed by its spiteful and mean-spirited behaviour.

Mr. Deer is editor of The Eastern Door, a weekly newspaper serving the Mohawks of Kahnawake in which this appeared as an editorial. To subscribe, write to Box 1170, Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, QC J0L 1B0.