It is my intention to muddy the waters of discussions of factionalism in the modern Mohawk Iroquois community of Kahnawake (Quebec) by dissecting a historic incident that stands at a crossroads of the history of factionalism in the community. The event concerns the arrival of the council government system in Kahnawake in 1889, which is construed by modern Kahnawake factions as resulting from a simple act of imposition of that system on the community by the Canadian state. This assumption of imposition, which is undermined somewhat by the extant records describing the incident and its aftermath, appears to be an important area of agreement between Mohawk (those characterized as traditional) and Mohawk (those deemed to have embraced the council system and thus moved away from tradition). That a single historical event, the 1889 imposition of council government, should be viewed so similarly and yet inform such apparently radically different political visions, hints at the complexity of history and the factionalist activity that it informs and encourages in Kahnawake. It also raises doubts about the oversimplification of Kahnawake factionalism in terms of the event and perception of imposition itself and its putative dichotomization of Kahnawake politics between those Mohawks who accepted council government and their Mohawk brethren who rejected it. It also suggests that the so-called lessons of history may tell us less about the past than about how past events may be shaped to reinforce or challenge a particular view of the future. In this light, "historical facts" may contribute more to an understanding of modern politics than a traditional past.

Ethnohistory
Department of Law and Legal Studies

Dickson-Gilmore, J. (1999). "This is my history, I know who I am": History, factionalist competition, and the assumption of imposition in the Kahnawake Mohawk nation. Ethnohistory (Vol. 46, pp. 428–450).