Sunday, November 22, 2009

Everyone Is Somebody

Neil over at Citizen of the Month is again running the Great Interview Experiment.  All you have to do is post a comment on the GIE post.  You interview the person who commented just before you, and the person after you will interview you.  The goal is to help us all suck fresh blood into our blog vortices meet new people who are - hopefully - vastly different from ourselves; think International Singles Mixer plus online speed-dating minus the time limit and illicit bathroom stall sex.  At least, I didn't get any.  But there's always Temerity Jane, who will be interviewing me. No pressure, TJ, we'll go slow.. it's my first time, too.

So my assignment? Monica Peters, from Monica created this website to share information on the events that occur in the Akwesasne Territory.  The Akwesasne (pronounced Ah-kweh-sauce-nee) Territory is a Mohawk Nation: it's western border runs down the St. Lawrence river and around the southern edge of Cornwall Island, ON and includes a chunk of New York and a slice of Quebec.  Monica is also a writer, YouTube wiz, and web app developer.  She is of Onkwehonwe descent and lives on Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island).

How about a little bit of Personal Information?  Married? Kids? Job – as in, which of the many  hats you wear is the one that comes with a paycheck? Hobbies?

I married in 2005, to a strong Onkwehonwe man from Akwesasne.  He is the love of my life.

I pay my bills, by working as a web applications developer since 1996.  I also author books, technology documents, and an upcoming tabloid about life in Akwesasne.  I am a published author (Army of Web Bots by Monica Lamb). I also host Website Launch parties for clients, that I develop websites for.

Some days I develop innovative software and websites.  Other days, I teach my clients how to manage their own Internet business adventures or how to use various Internet technologies.  I am an entrepreneur with 'Oldest Child Syndrome'.  I enjoy serious challenges and tend to 'go after ant hills with an elephant gun', according to my mother.

I'm the 2007 NAAF recipient for technology, because I developed the world's first Endangered Language translators, back in 1997.  More info:

What prompted you to build

A group of women in Akwesasne discussed that we all wanted to have a safe place to share what we are experiencing in Akwesasne. Historically, various governments have taken advantage of their position, by publishing false and damaging stories about Onkwehonwe. We all agreed that we wanted to speak up and share our stories, pictures, and videos with the world, without asking for permission from any government agency.

I invested my own money and resources into starting up the website. Within a few weeks, some of the women, did not like the stories I posted and they wanted me to ask them for permission before I posted
any of my views.  I reminded them that I am a free Onkwehonwe and I do not ask permission to think or speak freely.  So, we parted our ways and they started a new group and a new website for themselves.

I continue to post stories, videos, and pictures that I capture during my normal daily routine, living in Akwesasne.  I am fortunate that women and men from our original group are still helping to discover and share information, so that I can publish stories on our website. We are a small group and we all work very well together (especially during times of crisis).  Some days, we have a handful of videographers working simultaneously to get all angles during crisis situations.

During crisis situations, we are threatened with violence from various border agents, police officers, military groups, and local government agents,  if we try to document the situation, leave or return to our homes or travel freely around our community of Akwesasne. We are currently receiving the most threats, from various governments that want to force every 'Indian' to become fully assimilated citizens of the USA or Canada governments.

Sometimes, police threaten to take our cameras and equipment.  Other days, border agents threaten to arrest Onkwehonwe if they question the agent, when the agent demands that they answer weird questions - or to
step out of their vehicles.

It can be very scary living in Akwesasne.  It seems like a 'police state' out of a science fiction movie on some days.  The past few weeks have been fairly quiet though.  Except for the coast guard boat that runs so close to our shore (in our backyard) that I think it might hit our trees or rocks, while they peer in our house windows and wave their Canadian flag.  Very strange here sometimes.

Before this year, I enjoyed a relatively quiet happy life here in Akwesasne and traveling the world for my career.  I am still relatively happy for the most part, because we have beautiful and brilliant people in Akwesasne that are always happy to support the sharing of knowledge and resources.

Have you always been involved in social activism, or was there one specific incident that affected you deeply enough that you jumped in?

No, in fact, I can't stand politics at all.  I was able to avoid it all my life, right up until this year.  I have been forced into speaking out, because I have literally been under attack and threatened in my own community this year.

I have no criminal record, I don't smoke, I don't drink, and I do my best to follow the Great Law.  I am not armed nor dangerous, because I respect The Great Law and that is a very peaceful way of life.

You are very clear about your dissatisfaction with the way the Onkwehonwe people are treated by the Canadian and US governments.  In a perfect world, what kind of relationship  would you like to see between Akwesasne and the two countries?

Two Row Wampum*.  I don't try to control others, trick others to become my slave, tell others how to believe, behave, and exist.  I demand the same respect in return.  Respect (as I understand it) is the ability
to co-exist with no fear of intimidation, harassment, or harm of any form (mental, physical, spiritual).

*a wampum belt containing two parallel rows of purple beads on a white bead background was used by the Haudenosaunee to record their 1613 treaty with the Dutch.  The purple rows signify two vessels traveling in the same river side by side but separate.  One boat never tries to steer the other. (Source: Wikipedia)

I get the impression that you regard the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) as just another Canadian federal agency; it says on your website, and I’m paraphrasing, that the MCA recognize the Government of Canada as their employer and thus are bound to do whatever the Canadian Government  tells them to, even if it is detrimental to Akwesasne.  What, specifically, is the MCA doing or not  doing to give you this viewpoint?

MCA has many good Onkwehonwe working in their system too.  The problem is not the Onkwehonwe.  The problem is the system - it is created and owned by a British corporation that has proved it's intentions for
hundreds of years now.  They intend to fully assimilate every last 'Indian' into becoming citizens of their corporations (by force and trickery).

Onkwehonwe that have knowledge of our origins, our lands, our waterways, will never agree to become citizens of USA nor Canada.  They treat their citizens like slaves and it's very disappointing to witness. Today we witness the governments mistreating their own citizens, in every way imaginable.

With regards to the bridge that runs from Cornwall, Ontario to Cornwall Island, and then to the Massena Border Post, NY, why is there such  conflict between the Canadian Border Services Agency and the people who live on  Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Is.)?

C.B.S.A. has abused Onkwehonwe and travelers to the point of causing death, harm, and much distress on our small island (Kawehno:ke) since they were forced onto us in the 1950s. They continue to abuse their position and they continue to harass, threaten, bully, and even outright lie about their abusive interactions with Onkwehonwe and travelers they encounter.

They have stated in public media, that they view 'Mohawks' as armed, dangerous, and so scary that they (C.B.S.A.) had to leave their building, because they became so emotionally distressed.  Yet, all the
photographers that were present, show the 'scary mohawks' as Children, Elderly, Men, and Women that are most certainly not armed or dangerous.  In the next statement, C.B.S.A. said that they must carry guns.  What kind of person would ever allow an emotionally distressed agent to carry guns?

The public is just learning that C.B.S.A. actually have been planning and orchestrating a massive media campaign to criminalize all 'Indians'.  Many other government agencies are involved.

A common lament among older First Nations people is that the younger generation is not carrying on the old traditions.  Do you see that happening in Akwesasne?  Are you losing your young people to mainstream Canada or the States?

We are actually alot healthier that some of our sisters and brothers communities.  Of course we have our issues, similar to every community on the planet. Onkwehonwe do not stop existing, just because they are not acting or living, in the way that books, movies, or laws claim they should be acting or living as.

If you could change one stereotype that Whites have about Natives, what would it be? Conversely, if you could change one stereotype that Natives have about Whites, what would it be?

I don't refer to myself as 'Native, Indian, Mohawk, First Nation, Aboriginal, Indigenous' or any English language term.

Every single one of us, is part of this Creation. The Great Law, is for all and it's really not about 'white' vs 'black' vs 'red' vs 'yellow'.

When we acknowledge and understand The Great Law or Natural Law, we can understand that everything is temporary and truly start to just appreciate everything and everyone we encounter. We can proudly look in the mirror, even while our hair, eyes, or skin are not what the man-made laws, dictate they should be.

Best advice I can share with anyone, is to find out what 'Natural Law' is, especially compared to man-made laws.

Who has had the greatest influence on your life? Why?

Creator, because I sincerely do appreciate every experience here. What an incredible experience!

What is the one thing that you would love to do but are absolutely terrified to try?

Hmmm, this is really tough to answer,  because I consistently do things that scare me.  Even things that I'm not too keen about. For example, I keep my cameras rolling during scary incidents around Akwesasne.  Sometimes it's scary, because they are often rude and one even asked their followers to shut down my cameras during public gatherings.

Ok, I know what I'm terrified to try, but I would love to be good at. I would love to be a motivational public speaker.  I would love to share my own story of how I am a survivor of child abuse and learned to sincerely forgive all those that abused me as a child.  That is a terrifying thought, because it's hard to talk about a subject that causes listeners to want to become abusers and go harm the adults that harm children. I would like to help others learn to move into and beyond the knee-jerk reactions to painful events.  I am so honored to have learned how to be truly appreciative and peaceful, even in such chaotic and scary times.

A big thank you to Monica for giving thoughtful answers and not calling me out for the clumsy amateur I really am.


  1. What a great thing. I'm heading in!

  2. well, im impressed. You get to the point--no holds barred. the Creator smiles on you but sheds tears on those faces unborn looking at us right now. The Creator gave us the most powerful weapon known on earth, The Great Law. Too bad we don't use it when it comes to the dominant society. The dominant society borrowed our own law and used it against us, we should do the same. nia-weh Hosonogedeh


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