A group of about 40 protesters spent Saturday demonstrating in front of Marvin and Terry McComber’s house in Kahnawake, Que.
Marvin’s wife Terri is not Native, so according to Kahnawake’s membership law, the McComber’s are not allowed to live in Kahnawake.
Terri moved to Kahnawake 26 years ago, when she married Marvin, who grew up there and their three children are all Mohawk.
The protesters say the couple is breaking a law that has been on the books in Kahnawake since 1981. It states that any Mohawk resident who marries or lives with a non-native must move away from Kahnawake.
The law also states that people cannot be evicted between Nov. 1 and May 1, which led a grassroots organization in Kahnawake to declare May 1st to be “Moving Day” for non-Native people living in the community.
Nineteen-year-old resident Keisha Goodleaf was among the protesters outside the McComber home.
“Well I am here because I was raised [knowing that] you marry out, you get out. We all knew that. Everyone in town grew up knowing that,” Goodleaf says.
She says she is worried about losing native land, language and culture.
Also taking part were three Mohawk Council of Kahnawake chiefs. Chief Carl Horn said that the law was put in place for the good of the community and to protect Mohawk lineage for generations to come.“We might end up as a municipality. I wanna make sure Kahnawake stays Mohawk land forever,” said Horn.
“I grew up with Marvin,” said Timmy Montour whose brother-in-law was protesting 30 metres away. “Me being here today is going to cause problems for me later on, but I choose to be here because it’s (evictions) wrong. Anytime you’re hurting somebody, you’re doing something wrong.” The McComber’s are being targeted for other reasons are well said protester Ohontsakate Montour .
“The person who is illegally living here (Terri and Marvin McComber) is also in a lawsuit against the community that threatens our rights to self-governance, and threatens to take community funds from all aspects of the community,” said Montour.
Seven mixed-race couples, including the McCombers, are taking the band council to court over the membership law, in a case that is not expected to be settled until 2017.
But as the May 1st deadline passed, what had been billed as a peaceful protest outside the McComber’s home was overshadowed by vandalism that occurred overnight.
The McComber’s woke up Saturday morning to spray-painted graffiti on the front of their two-storey yellow house, and on their daughter’s car.
Around 11 p.m. Saturday night, Terri McComber said two young boys attempted to throw a Molotov cocktail at her home.
“You can only imagine the pain and the tears,” McComber, whose children, age 24, 18 and 8, also live in the house.
However, Waneek Horn-Miller, who is part of the group that launched legal action against the council to strike down the residency law, said the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake isn’t backing up its words.
“I’m calling out the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake for not doing their job of creating a harassment-free, bullying-free environment,” said Horn-Miller, who is currently living in Ottawa, where her non-native partner, Keith Morgan, is finishing a medical residency. “They failed because this is not the first time it happened that someone vandalizes or leaves signs on property.”
Horn-Miller said while she was building a house in Kahnawake, someone left a sign on the property saying: “Go back to LaSalle, white man” — directed at her partner.
The anonymous nature of the acts of intimidation, such as the vandalism at the McCombers’ home on the weekend, creates an environment of terror, Horn-Miller said.
“Freedom of speech is really important,” she said, “but anonymous terrorizing is not freedom of speech.”
Band council spokesman Joe Delaronde says he does not condone the vandalism, but the protesters have a right to demand the law be respected.