Letters asks band members and their non-native spouses to respect marry out, stay out rule
By Salimah Shivji, CBC News Posted: Jun 29, 2016
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has resumed handing out eviction letters to non-natives living in the community on Montreal’s South Shore, asking them to obey the controversial law that bans mixed-marriage couples from staying on the territory.
Twenty letters signed by Grand Chief Joe Norton were sent out starting in mid-June, prompted by complaints the band council said it received from some community members.
The letters ask recipients to “respect the law and the will of the people in the community by leaving the territory.”
The so-called “marry out, stay out” policy has been on the band council’s books since 1981, but it has rarely been enforced.
That changed in 2010 when the band council began sending out eviction letters, and over the past few years, some non-native residents married to Mohawks have been targeted with protests in front of their homes.
“I get complaints regularly,” said Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, the band council member responsible for band membership. “[They] say, ‘You’re Mohawk council. It is your responsibility to uphold and enforce this law, so do something about it.'”
“On the surface it looks racist, it’s easy for people to say that,” Sky-Deer continued.
But she said enforcing the law is more about preserving land for Mohawks and preventing non-natives from benefiting from tax exemptions to which those living on the Mohawk territory are entitled.
“If [living with a non-native] is their choice – fine. You can be with who you want. That’s not what we condemn. We just ask that they don’t live here,” Sky-Deer said.
She said the letters are a better way to inform people in the community about the law, as opposed to protests which bring with them the possibility of violence and tension.
Several of the couples targeted by the eviction letters in the past have launched legal action against the band council, claiming the membership policy infringes on their human rights.
The legal action also alleges the council doesn’t do enough to stop people in mixed relationships from being harassed by others in Kahnawake.
The legal proceedings aren’t expected to get underway until 2017.
In the meantime, Sky-Deer says the council will continue to send out letters and use other means to inform people about the membership rule.