April 10, 2015

Venezuelan Ambassador visits Six Nations

Edward Lovo

I witnessed an historic exchange between the peoples of Six Nations and the Venezuelan ambassador to Canada Wilmer Barrientos. We were warmly welcomed into the longhouse, which few outsiders have set foot in. There was some controversy about this as someone had earlier made the quip who will we invite next—the Israeli ambassador? Thankfully, we had enough of their trust. To keep their trust it was enough to exclude media, the RCMP, OPP, and CSIS, and we had the vote of confidence of a trusted community member

As one of the Six Nations spokespersons explained a profound pain of oppression breeds mistrust of outsiders. The speaker then acknowledged that the ambassador paid a visit to the Six Nations before approaching Ottawa, an unprecedented first in recognition of their land. The speaker shared some history of Six Nations with the ambassador, explaining to him the Two Row Wampum which few Canadians are familiar with.

Six nations, he said, came together, burying their weapons of war under the Great Tree of Peace. The colonizers arrived and we welcomed them. The two rows are each of our nations steering our ships without ever crossing, which meant that we would never interfere with each other's affairs. But when the colonizer became strong, things changed as you see them today. In the end, speaking for Six Nations, he opened his arms in friendship to Barrientos for as long as the two abide by their own Two Row Wampum.

And a word of caution: don't trust Ottawa; Ottawa lies.

Barrientos was already familiar with the history of Six Nations, praising their constitution and telling them that he already had a small flag of the Two Row Wampum in his office. He said that the difference between our peoples is that you learned how to live in the cold, us in the hot. The heritage of our first nations courses through my vein. The introduction to our Venezuelan constitution begins with our first nations. Before the Bolivarian revolution, our first nations were invisible to the public eye. Now, education and healthcare meets their demands, instead of the whims of some public official.

He went on. We know the colonizer, as you do. We wonder why they raise their voice when we resist them imposing their will on us. I thought to myself that people yell from far distances to be understood. So, I thought, when the colonizers yell it is because their hearts are so far from ours they can't be understood.

The night concluded with food, an exchange of gifts, and dance. And I muddied my clothes pushing a van out of the mud.

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