Figure 3: The Six Nations Petition to King Edward V Library and Archives Canada, RG 10 Indian Affairs, (Volume 6767, File 452-15, Part 1) Source.
In 1917, the government of the Six Nations of Grand River sent a petition to King Edward V. The clan-mothers of the Six Nations wrote to King Edward V to demand the release and return of a number of Six Nations members who had enlisted voluntarily to fight in the war.
The letter cites the treaty made between the Six Nations and the British nation to defend each other in times of war, but it notes that the King has not requested military assistance from the Six Nations. The petition was dismissed by the British government as a ‘domestic matter’ under the jurisdiction of the Dominion of Canada.
A historical reading of this artifact draws attention to the social and political context in which it was written, notably the divisions within Six Nations on support for the war effort and military service as a site for transformation of the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Canadian federal government. An anthropological reading of the artifact attends to its materiality, focusing on the handwriting of the text, the marks of its signatories, and the inclusion in the letter of two drawings of the Two Row Wampum, the beaded belt containing the Covenant Silver Chain holding the Six Nations and British government in perpetual alliance.