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Mohawk (U.S. and Canada)

Native American - First Nation

Last modified: 2013-05-15 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 came a flag used by Mohawk in Canada and the United States and on all Mohawk lands. It was originally described by its designer, Karoniaktajeh (Louis Hall), Secretary of the Ganienkeh Council Fire: "The field of the flag is red, a warm color and one highly favored by Native Americans. The yellow disk in the center symbolizes the sun with its rays reaching the edge. The Indian head [Mohawk warrior] in the center wears a single feather, indicating oneness or unity of purpose in our drive to national and racial survival. The face is represented in brown and orange, the hair and feather in black with highlights of blue. The flag is a symbol of the unity of purpose toward economic, political, and spiritual sovereignty by Native Indians, such as are enjoyed by all the peoples of the world." (Karoniaktajeh, "Ganienkeh", The Flag Bulletin, XVI:4, July/Aug. 1977, cover & 108-111).

The Kanienkah flag has become common at protests throughout the lands of the entire Iroquois Confederacy. The ideals of the flag have been exemplified by other actions taken by the Mohawk. The Mohawk Nation issues its people passports, which, surprisingly, have been accepted by many border officials. This level of international acceptance of nationhood is unparalleled in other tribes, and may reflect heightened awareness stemming from wide use of the Mohawk flag.

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

Mohawk Warrior Society

[Mohawk Warriors Society flag]
image by Maqtewe'kpaqtism

Adaptive Use

A group Micmacs 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