A review of Louis Karoniaktajeh Hill, The Mohawk Warrior Society: A Handbook on Sovereignty and Survival (Oakland: PM Press, 2023).

I have written about why I like to read new releases on Native resistance in North America in another review on this blog, so there is no need to repeat this here. If you can be bothered to read the entire review, you’ll learn something about a great recent release on the subject. And here is another one (great release, that is)…

Louis Karoniaktajeh Hill (1918–1933) was a Kanien’kehá:ka painter and writer from Kahnawà:ke and a prominent defender of indigenous sovereignty. He was a key figure in the reconstitution of the Rotihsken’rakéhte’, more widely known as the “Mohawk Warrior Society”. The book The Mohawk Warrior Society: A Handbook on Sovereignty and Survival, edited by a group of activists and academics in collaboration with the Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall Foundation, is dedicated to his memory and legacy.

Even if many readers might have never heard of Louis Karoniaktajeh Hill, anyone with an inkling of interest in Native resistance (and, perhaps, the right age), will remember the ”Oka crisis” of 1990, when Mohawk protesters held barricades in a land dispute with the town of Oka in Quebec for 78 days before regular assaults by Canadian police and military forced their retreat. It was during this conflict that the Mohawk Warrior Society gained prominence, although, as the book documents, its roots reach back much further in the history of indigenous resistance.

The Mohawk Warrior Society includes three texts by Louis Karoniaktajeh Hill – “The Ganienkeh Manifesto”, “Warrior’s Handbook”, and “Rebuilding the Iroquois Confederacy” – and plenty of great artwork, including his most famous creation, the “Mohawk Warrior/Unity Flag”. Karoniaktajeh’s writing and art is framed by testimonies of four companions in the struggle (“oral history”) and scholarly tidbits that prove very useful in this context: a timeline, a glossary, an index, and even a pronunciation guide.

This is a great release with exemplary editing work, recommended to anyone with an interest in these matters (and, yes, you should have an interest). Final words by Louis Karoniaktajeh Hill, some of his “definitions” from “Warrior’s Handbook”:

  • Democracy: a government of, by and for the people under majority rule directed by a rich clever minority.
  • Government: a system of ruling or misruling, directing or misdirecting, a country so the mighty may prevail.
  • Indian reserve: (new definition) land set aside for use by Indians and surrounded by thieves.
  • Indian treaties: paper tigers that eat up both the Indians and their land.
  • Policeman: a caveman with a club.

Gabriel Kuhn

(January 31, 2023)