The heart of the social dispute in Northern Ireland is the division between the Protestant
majority and the Roman Catholic minority. The former are largely the descendants of Scotsmen who were
encouraged by the British government to settle in Ulster long ago. The latter are the indigenous Irish
people who had been converted to Roman Catholicism centuries earlier. At the time of partition and the
establishment of Northern Ireland as a state, the Protestants became the majority.
On August 24, 1990, I was summoned to the office of then state police superintendent Tom Constantine at the headquarters building for a meeting. A delegation of Mohawk Indians from the St. Regis Reservation have been appointed by the Tribal Council as a law enforcement services committee. This was their first overture to the state police since a meeting earlier that year in Canada with a representative of Governor Mario Cuomo, Canadian and provincial officials and the St. Regis Tribal Council had produced an agreement to move forward on a number of issues, including the establishment of an indigenous Mohawk law enforcement service.
From that day on, I was involved in a two year effort to negotiate a framework within which to effect this goal. With a colleague from the Ontario Native Affairs Directorate, Mr. Yan Lazore, I began a series of semi-monthly meetings in which participated no fewer than three Mohawk governments, five police agencies, five Indian affairs agencies and frequent guest appearances by everyone from Superintendent Constantine's representative to community residents with often very specific grievances against one or another of the police agencies with jurisdiction over some aspect of the place collectively known as Akwesasne -- Land Where the Partridge Drums.
At one meeting, I had an epiphany that I voiced and that startled everyone present. Looking around the table, I saw traditional Mohawks who feared assimilation by progress and the dominant culture, progressive Mohawks who were frustrated by their inability to make economic gains and establish self-sufficiency by the intra-tribal conflict, French-speaking Canadians who feared assimilation by English-speaking Canadians, English-speaking Canadians who feared assimilation by the United States and so on and so forth. Really, every major conflict in North America was present in that room. It helped to imbue our effort with a lot of meaning for all the particpants to put this observation on the table.
We had a simple goal -- to end up hiring a police chief, create a legal and administrative framework for operating a police service, find resources to suppport it and select and hire the police officers. We did it, eventually.
It took two years. It was on a summer day in 1992 that we had a press conference. The Chiefs introduced their Chief, a retired NYSP Senior Investigator. Col. Ned Minahan said some words. I said some words. And the task was complete.
As the press conference broke up, I handed the newly-minted police chief a pamphlet from Tom Constantine's campaign for the Fifth Vice Presidency of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, solicited his vote and welcomed him into the club. And there you go.
Even within a context of cultural, linguistic, jurisdictional and religious conflict, ways can be found to create institutions to maintain continuity and order.
Long after this happened, once again, a little story presented itself to me that may be helpful now that we arise to complete another task.
"The Two Foxes" story.
Questions? E-mail Us!
CONSTANTINE'S CIRCUS, INC.
PO Box 7223
Albany, NY 12224-0223