St. Regis Mohawk Tribe sets vote on possible name change

AKWESASNE — The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe could be no more by the end of the year.

The tribe and its members aren’t going anywhere. But it may no longer be known as the “St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.”

Tribal members are scheduled to vote Nov. 14 whether to retain the name or to formally change it to the “Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe.”

Tribal leaders had proposed the change more than a year ago in response to some members’ concerns that the name was not reflective of the tribe’s traditions and culture.

The Tribal Council began preparing for a referendum on the name change with community presentations on the history of the tribe’s settlement in Akwesasne at monthly tribal meetings, as well as on CKON radio. Darren Bonaparte, the tribe’s historic preservation director, also published articles in the Indian Time newspaper titled “Is it Time to Change the Name of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe?” and “The Kanienkeha name of Akwesasne in Early Historical Record.”

The council conducted an opinion poll in September of that year to gauge support for a name change. In a second poll, the 15 unique names suggested by community members were voted on in December 2019. The most-selected name was the “Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe,” which the Tribal Council agreed was a good choice for the tribe.

A referendum on the proposed change was scheduled to be held in conjunction with tribal elections in July, but that vote was postponed because the required public meetings could not be held because of restrictions on large group gatherings imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote has now been rescheduled to Nov. 14.

In advance of the referendum, three public meetings will be held using the social meeting platform Zoom. A meeting link will be made available on the Tribal Members Portal at www.srmt-nsn.gov. Those who prefer to dial in by telephone can contact the tribe’s Communications Department for the number.

The first public meeting will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 6 p.m. and will provide background on the name change initiative. Tribal Chief Michael Conners will lead the discussion and present the referendum question for consideration by membership. The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

The second meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 6 p.m. Bonaparte will present on the history of the name “Akwesasne.” He will also recap previous presentations provided in 2019 at two tribal monthly meetings, which were followed by two his articles, which are accessible through the Tribal Members Portal.

The third public meeting will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m. and conclude with a recap of presentations and answers provided to questions posed by tribal members. The Tribal Election Board will share referendum voting information at this session. The possibility of conducting an in-person meeting with limited number of participants is being explored.

Individuals are encouraged to provide questions on the Name Change Initiative in advance of the meetings by emailing communications@srmt-nsn.gov.

Referendum voting will take place on Saturday, Nov. 14. Early voting will be held on Nov. 9 and 10. In-home voting will take place on Nov. 13. Due to COVID-19, absentee ballots will be available for tribal members who do not wish to vote in-person. Absentee ballots can be requested beginning Oct. 5 by calling the Tribal Clerk’s Office. The deadline to request an absentee ballot will be Friday, Nov. 6 at noon.


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