Kahnawa:ke – Home of the Haudenosaunee
This vintage postcard of the Iroquois village of Kahnawake/Caughnawaga really appeals to me. First, for aesthetic reasons – I love the soft colours, the play of shadows and the way I can pick out architectural details such as the timber siding on the homes. Secondly, I live and teach in the area, so I’ve had friends and students who came from Kahnawake. The last reason is a bitter one, because the Iroquois/Haudenosaunee of Kahnawake and my ancestors are connected in an unhappy way. As I’ve related elsewhere, my Quebec ancestor Andre Mignier dit Lagace came to Quebec in the early 1600s to help in the war against the Iroquois. The Iroquois nations (Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Tuscarora) had sided with the British and were attempting to regain lands which were originally theirs, but were now part of La Nouvelle France. It’s unfortunately the way of the world that my ancestors often seemed to have been displacing others – or were themselves being displaced.
Nowadays, Kahnawake is a modern, thriving community and over the last twenty years it’s witnessed a true renaissance of Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) culture – along with the other Canadian Mohawk settlements of Kanesatake, Akwesasne, Tyendinaga and Watha, as well as the American settlements of Ganienkeh and St-Regis in New York.
This recent electoral map shows the present distribution of land between Chateauguay and Kahnawake. To the north of the map you see part of the island of Montreal. Chateauguay and Kahanawake are both on the south shore but as you can see from both the map and postcard, Kahnawake is nestled next to the waters of the St-Lawrence River. The bridge in the background of the postcard is the CPR train bridge which was built before the Mercier Bridge which now connects us all to the Island of Montreal. The CPR bridge runs roughly parallel to the Mercier (Thanks to Peter Lenihan for extra correction)
As I said, this is the land distribution today – but in fact, an injustice was done because much of the surrounding land (including where my house now sits) should actually have stayed in Mohawk hands. You can read the full story of how the Mohawk lost as much as 2/3 of their land at the Kahnawake Band Council site below.
Land Grant by King Louis (France)