As 2010 approaches, the United States has a large task at hand, counting its citizens. But as far as the Onondaga Nation is concerned, there won’t be any counting here.
For a very long time in United States history, natives were not considered a part of its citizenry. For some native peoples who lost their lands and traditional ways of governing themselves, not being a US citizen left them without a voice in government. But for the Haudenosaunee that wasn’t the case. The Council of Chiefs continued to perform their duties of watching out for the welfare of the people guided by the Great Law.
When the United States President Calvin Coolidge signed the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act stating that all natives are now citizens of the United States, some native peoples welcomed the opportunity to become US citizens, the Onondaga Nation did not.
The Onondaga council immediately sent delegates to Washington DC. There the chiefs stated that the Citizenship Act infringed on the Two Row Wampum Belt and the Canandaigua Treaty which firmly establishes that the Haudenosaunee and the United States are separate nations. The Two Row Wampum Belt states (in part) that we shall live side by side; neither imposing on the other as we travel down the river of life together. The delegates also reminded US officials that the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty is still in effect. This treaty recognizes and affirms the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee to govern its people, live in peace, and to be treated as equals.
Therefore the Onondaga council did not ratify the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act. Since that time, when census officials come to Onondaga every 10 years, they are reminded that there are no United States citizens here. The new census officials then learn about the Two Row Wampum Belt and the Canandaigua Treaty and how we are not citizens of the United States. They are grateful for the lesson and then move on.
The Onondaga Nation will have to move on also and get ready to explain to the next group of United States census officials why we are not United States citizens … in 2020.