Robert Tehonikonrathe, aka Fisher, was smiling.
It’s a million-dollar smile, the smile of a winner.
The gregarious Tehonikonrathe was recently asked: Are the Mohawks arch-capitalists?
“We’re the most capitalistic people in the world,” he told The Toronto Sun, laughing.
Right-leaning economists and Bay St. bigshots alike would quiver with joy if they spent 15 minutes in Mohawk Territory.
As for those who see Indigenous peoples as socialism personified, they would have a stroke at the raw stench of capitalism on display.
On a two-lane stretch of road on Hwy. 2, east of Belleville, the traffic is moving slowly.
It is a sunny, blue-sky bedazzled Wednesday with stunning clouds adding an artistic touch to the flood of commerce taking place below.
There are more than 60 cannabis dispensaries on the territory (some say 100) — toss in cheap cigarettes and cheap gas and that makes Tydeninaga a destination.
And a veritable ATM for its people.
The landscape is speckled with roadside signs offering specials and incentives. It is capitalism writ raw.
And, it is a territory, make no mistake. The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte never signed on the dotted line with the Crown. So do not call it a reserve. Ever.
They are a sovereign people who have figured out the cannabis business better than an army of bureaucrats ever could.
“Those guys,” Tehonikonrathe said, “would just screw everything up here.”
And that’s a sentiment virtually every Canadian can get behind.
Tyendinaga has around 4,000 residents. It runs from the Bay of Quinte to Highway 401, at its heart is Shannonville.
I grew up in Belleville and in those years, while the tumbleweed blowing through the tiny town wasn’t literal, it was certainly figurative.
On a recent roll through the main drag, scores of cannabis dispensaries dot the landscape.
They have names like Best Buds, Pot Shoppe, B’Leaf, L’Eagle Dreams, Smoke on the Water, and Legacy 420.
Outside the stores — some bricks and mortar, others converted trailers or mobile homes — is an American shock attack of the silent salesman, aka roadside signs.
Signs offering $12 THC slushies, deals on grams, customer-reward cards, and specials on an arsenal of pot-smoking paraphernalia.
Outside the scores of dispensaries, everything from BMWs, vintage MGs to SUVs, pickup trucks and Toyota Camrys line the parking lots.
The clientele? Old, young, skinny, fat, white, Black, rich and not so rich.
And their reasons are myriad. Health and mental well-being to a fun escape on Friday night.
Some of the stores even offer drive-thrus, coffee, pizzas and 24/7 hour service.
On display at CannaKure, strains like Sour Patch Kids and Bruce Banner entice a wide array of customers on this Wednesday afternoon.
Jay Quelyn — who like a lot of others in the weed trade doesn’t want her real name or picture out there — is a “Bud Girl”
The Belleville native will roll your joint, chat with you, and steer you in the right direction to reefer gladness.
There are 20 people in the store.
“We get people here from all over on a regular basis — Oshawa, Ottawa and parts even further,” she smiled over a tray of reefer.
“This…,” she said of the cannabis biz, “has brought a lot of money into the community.”