Category Archives: Ancestral lands and Sacred Sites

Ceremonial, Cultural and Sacred Grounds

History: Oka Crisis Ends

When police were forced back in a firefight on July 11, 1990 which left one officer dead, Mohawk used a construction vehicle to crush and pile up the abandoned police vehicles into a formidable barrier blocking highway 344 through their community. Photo Credit: Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

When police were forced back in a firefight on July 11, 1990 which left one officer dead, Mohawk used a construction vehicle to crush and pile up the abandoned police vehicles into a formidable barrier blocking highway 344 through their community. Photo Credit: Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

Radio Canada International | By Marc Montgomery, Sep 26, 2016

It began with argument over land between a Mohawk reserve and the small town of Oka, about 60 kilometres north-west of Montreal.

The small area of land claimed by the Mohawk reserve of Kahnestake had been in dispute for centuries. The original land grant of 1717 by the governor of New France, granted the Catholic church trustee rights to the land for the Mohawk, but the church later modified the agreement giving itself ownership of the land.

In 1868, the Mohawk demanded the land back and when that was refused, they attacked the local Catholic seminary but were forced back by military intervention.

The church sold the land to developers in 1936 and closed the seminary. Later a members-only golf course was built on a portion of the land in spite of Mohawk protests.

In 1986, a Mohawk lawsuit laying claim to the land, a wooded area known as the Pines, and burial ground was rejected by the government on technical grounds.

The situation flared however in 1989, when the mayor of the town announced permission had been given to expand the golf course and develop a residential area on the land.  It should be noted that many Oka residents were opposed to this for environmental reasons, because as it was “member-only” golf club not benefitting townspeople, and because some felt it was indeed Mohawk land and knew the plan would cause tension.

The crisis began on July 11, 1990 when Mohawk in Kahnestake erected barriars blocking the highway north and access to the forest on the edge of Oka. Mohawk in Kahnawake blocked a bridge and highways in sympathy. The crisis ended on Sept 26, unresolved © google-mm

The crisis began on July 11, 1990 when Mohawk in Kahnestake erected barriars blocking the highway north and access to the forest on the edge of Oka. Mohawk in Kahnawake blocked a bridge and highways in sympathy. The crisis ended on Sept 26, unresolved

In any case, the mayor did not feel it necessary to discuss with the Mohawk about the plan. In protest some Mohawk blocked road access to the area.

The tensions blew up on July 11, 1990 when the Oka mayor asked the provincial police to intervene.   The Surete de Quebec (SQ) showed up with a tactical response unit, and dozens of officers. They attempted to break the blockade with tear gas and light explosive noise devices known as “flash-bangs”.

It became a confused fiasco, and instead of chasing the Mohawk away, a shooting battle broke out between police and about 30 armed Mohawk.

To this day no-one knows who fired the first shot, but a 15 minute gunbattle ensued. The shooting left police officer Cpl Marcel Lemay dead of a gunshot wound, although it has never been made clear which side the shot came from or who the shooter was.

Immediately after the fatal first shooting battle, police set up their own barrier down the hill from the Mohawk barrier where the two sides remained in a tense months-long standoff.

Immediately after the fatal first shooting battle, police set up their own barrier down the hill from the Mohawk barrier where the two sides remained in a tense months-long standoff.

The police retreated leaving several police cars and a large front end loader all of which the Mohawk used to reinforce the barricade. The police set up their own barricade near town, about a kilometre away.

As a result of the attack, the group of armed Mohawk swelled quickly to about 100, and then as the standoff continued, grew to several hundred as other aboriginal members arrived from elsewhere in the country and even from the US.

Sept 1, 1990: A Mohawk ’warrior* Ronald *lasagna* Cross, is involved in a stare-down with a Canadian solider of the Royal 22e Regiment. The incident lasted only several seconds, Cross later telling reporters, *I just wanna look at their faces before I kill ’em.*

Sept 1, 1990: A Mohawk ’warrior* Ronald *lasagna* Cross, is involved in a stare-down with a Canadian solider of the Royal 22e Regiment. The incident lasted only several seconds, Cross later telling reporters, *I just wanna look at their faces before I kill ’em.

In sympathy, other armed Mohawk from the Kawnewake reserve just across the river to the south of Montreal immediately blocked Montreal’s Mercier Bridge and two highways which serve many communities to the south east of Montreal such as Chateauguay. This caused huge traffic congestion and further inflamed the situation and caused bitter resentment among area non-natives. The RCMP federal force was called in but were ordered not to use force and ended up involved in riots as angry area residents demanded action to open the roads. Ten officers were injured.

Then Quebec premier Robert Bourassa requested military assistance and over 2,000 Quebec-based military personnel moved into the area.

They pushed the authorities barricade from 1.5 km from the Mohawk barricade, up to within metres. Eventually they pushed through all Mohawk barriers and surrounded the last holdout on Mohawk land.

Although there were several very tense moments and some scuffles during the weeks and months of standoff, no further gunfire was exchanged after the initial battle.

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The most famous photo of the crisis, a Saskatchewan native, Brad Larocque, and Pte Patrick Cloutier. (the *warrior* is often mis-identified as Ronald *Lasagna* Cross, who later was charged and spent time in jail for his part in the crisis. Shaney Komulainen/Canadian Press

On August 29, negotiations between the army and the Mohawk on the Mercier bridge ended that blockade and thereby ending a major bargaining chip in negotiations at Oka for the group occupying “the Pines” at Oka..

On September 26, after a very tense summer standoff , the last of the Mohawk “warriors”  surrendered, apparently burning some of their weapons.

The police took 26 men, and 22 women and children into custody.

In the following years, the federal government spent millions of dollars to buy land from non-natives to give a contiguous area to the Mohawk and years later bought another parcel of land so the Mohawk could expand their cemetery.

In one sense, the Mohawk did prevent development on their land.    However, the members-only golf course and “Pines” are still owned by Oka, although the current mayor says no development will take place there as long as he is mayor. The forest and golf course however is still part of an ongoing land-claims negotiation involving 673 sq.km.

The 78-day Oka crisis resulted in several books written by politicians, journalists, Mohawk, and others, as well as a number of documentary films.

Additional information- sources

http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2016/09/26/history-oka-crisis-ends/

North Dakota Pipeline Protest Turns Violent After Tribe’s Sacred Sites Destroyed

A Native American protester holds up his arms as he and other protesters are threatened by private security guards and guard dogs, at a work site for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline, near Cannonball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016. Hundreds of Native American protestors and their supporters, who fear the Dakota Access Pipeline will polluted their water, forced construction workers and security forces to retreat and work to stop. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECKROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images ROBYN BECK / AFP - Getty Images

A Native American protester holds up his arms as he and other protesters are threatened by private security guards and guard dogs, at a work site for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline, near Cannonball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECKROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images ROBYN BECK / AFP – Getty Images

The Associated Press, Sept. 4, 2016

Standing Rock protesters confronted construction crews working on the Dakota Access pipeline on Saturday, after the demolition of American Indian burial and cultural sites.

BISMARCK, N.D. — A protest of a four-state, $3.8 billion oil pipeline turned violent after tribal officials say construction crews destroyed American Indian burial and cultural sites on private land in southern North Dakota.

Morton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Donnell Preskey said four private security guards and two guard dogs were injured after several hundred protesters confronted construction crews Saturday afternoon at the site just outside the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. One of the security officers was taken to a Bismarck hospital for undisclosed injuries. The two guard dogs were taken to a Bismarck veterinary clinic, Preskey said.

Tribe spokesman Steve Sitting Bear said protesters reported that six people had been bitten by security dogs, including a young child. At least 30 people were pepper-sprayed, he said. Preskey said law enforcement authorities had no reports of protesters being injured.

There were no law enforcement personnel at the site when the incident occurred, Preskey said. The crowd dispersed when officers arrived and no one was arrested, she said.

The incident occurred within half a mile of an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest of the oil pipeline that is slated to cross the Missouri River nearby.

The tribe is challenging the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access pipeline, which crosses the Dakotas and Iowa to Illinois, including near the reservation in southern North Dakota. A federal judge will rule before Sept. 9 whether construction can be halted on the Dakota Access pipeline.

Energy Transfer Partners did not return phone calls and emails from The Associated Press on Saturday seeking comment.

The tribe fears the project will disturb sacred sites and impact drinking water for thousands of tribal members on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and millions farther downstream.

The protest Saturday came one day after the tribe filed court papers saying it found several sites of “significant cultural and historic value” along the path of the proposed pipeline.

Tribal preservation officer Tim Mentz said in court documents that the tribe was only recently allowed to survey private land north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Mentz said researchers found burials rock piles called cairns and other sites of historic significance to Native Americans.

Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II said in a statement that construction crews removed topsoil across an area about 150 feet wide stretching for 2 miles.

Image: US-ENVIRONMENT-PROTEST

Protesters march toward private security guards and works as they retreat, on a work site for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline, near Cannonball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016. ROBYN BECK / AFP – Getty Images

“This demolition is devastating,” Archambault said. “These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”

Preskey said the company filmed the confrontation by helicopter and turned the video over to authorities. Protesters also have posted some of the confrontation on social media.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said in a statement that “individuals crossed onto private property and accosted private security officers with wooden posts and flag poles.”

“Any suggestion that today’s event was a peaceful protest, is false,” his statement said.

[SOURCE]

Tribe: Cultural Sites Found In Path Of Proposed Oil Pipeline

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies protest construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies protest construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Associated Press, Sep 2, 2016

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says it has found several sites of “significant cultural and historic value” along the path of a proposed oil pipeline.

The tribe is challenging the Army Corps of Engineers‘ decision to grant permits for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which crosses the Dakotas and Iowa to Illinois, including near the reservation in southern North Dakota.

A federal judge will rule before Sept. 9 whether construction can be halted on the Dakota Access pipeline.

Tribal preservation officer Tim Mentz says in court documents filed Friday that the tribe was only recently allowed to survey private land north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

Mentz says researches found cairns, burials and other sites of historic significance to Native Americans.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/tribe-cultural-sites-found-path-proposed-oil-pipeline-41833582

Pokemon No Go? Indigenous Woman Wants Burial Ground Pokestop Gone

Prince George Pokemon Go players gather at the entrance to the Lheidli T'enneh burial ground, a designated Pokestop. (Facebook/Kym Gouchie)

Prince George Pokemon Go players gather at the entrance to the Lheidli T’enneh burial ground, a designated Pokestop. (Facebook/Kym Gouchie)

‘This is sacred ground. There should not be any Pokemon Go inside a burial site’

By Betsy Trumpener, CBC News: Jul 25, 2016

A traditional burial ground should be a No Go for Pokemon Go — so says a Lheidli T’enneh woman who wants to shut down a poke stop in an Indigenous graveyard in Prince George, B.C.

Kym Gouchie was visiting her father’s grave Sunday, when she encountered dozens of Pokemon players traipsing through her First Nation’s burial ground.

“To have a poke stop there and to have people searching around in the burial grounds is absolutely absurd … and very disrespectful– Kym Gouchie, Lheidli T’enneh 

Sacred burial ground is Pokestop

“It’s sacred there,”said Gouchie. “This land was once my ancestral land. This is the only little piece of land inside Prince George that is ours, and you are disrespecting it.”

“My dad, my uncles, my cousin, my great grandmother are all buried there,” she said.

The traditional graveyard  is located in a popular riverside park, where the Lheidli T’enneh once lived, before their village was burned to the ground in 1913 and their community forcibly relocated to reserve land.

Kym Gouchie spoke to dozens of people who came to a Pokestop in the Lheidli T'enneh Indigenous burial grounds as she was visiting her father's grave. (Facebook/Kym Gouchie )

Kym Gouchie spoke to dozens of people who came to a Pokestop in the Lheidli T’enneh Indigenous burial grounds as she was visiting her father’s grave. (Facebook/Kym Gouchie )

The traditional Lheidli burial ground is now open to the public, but it’s gated and enclosed by hedges within the Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park.

But this weekend, said Gouchie, she confronted a young man in the graveyard who pointed at the outdoor altar and Indigenous clan carvings and he told her it was a Pokestop.

‘Absolutely absurd and very disrespectful’

“To have a Pokestop there and to have people searching around in the burial grounds is absolutely absurd in my mind and very disrespectful,” said Gouchie.

A Pokestop is an in-game checkpoint, a location where players enter and click on their device to collect prizes and items available at that stop

A Lheidli T’enneh singer and artist, Gouchie said her adult children gamers who enjoy Pokemon Go.

But she is angry.

“I was being sort of a defender of the land. I was thinking, I need our K’san [traditional] drummers out here so we can block both these gates and … stop this,” she said.

Defender of the land

“This has to stop,” said Gouchie. “This game has only been live in Canada for one week. It’s only a matter of time before that burial site is filled with Pokemon Go people.”

Gouchie says she spoke with many players on Sunday and tried to educate them about the place they were entering.

She said many agreed a graveyard Pokestop was “creepy” and preferred to stay outside the burial ground’s gate while they played.

‘It should not happen’

But she said others told her they weren’t hurting anything by playing in the burial ground.

She doesn’t blame the players, but Niantic, the game’s creator, said Gouchie .

Gouchie has submitted an automated request to have the Pokestop removed.

She’s also reported it to her chief and council.

“It should not happen. It should not be on their map,” she said. “They didn’t consult us. They didn’t ask permission,” said Gouchie.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/poke-stop-in-indigenous-burial-ground-angers-lheidli-t-enneh-woman-1.3694224?cmp=abfb

Tsilhqot’in First Nation To Use Blockades If Needed To Protect Ancient Burial Site

Cecil Grinder, puts purification smoke over Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman Tsilhqot'in Nation prior to the start of a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of six first nation chiefs being hung to death in Quesnel, B.C., on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Cecil Grinder, puts purification smoke over Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman Tsilhqot’in Nation prior to the start of a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of six first nation chiefs being hung to death in Quesnel, B.C., on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

By The Canadian Press, July 18, 2016

VANCOUVER — Members of a British Columbia First Nation are remembering a warrior chief who was wrongfully hanged 151 years ago and say they won’t allow another injustice to be done to their ancestor.

The First Nation says a service was held Monday at the site of a high school in New Westminster, B.C., which was built atop a former cemetery where the remains of Tsilhqot’in war Chief Ahan may have been buried after he was executed on July 18, 1865.

Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in national government, said four of six chiefs attended the ceremony and that members smudged the grounds, made a tobacco offering and drummed songs to pay tribute to Ahan.

Alphonse said there are no records to indicate that the warrior’s remains were taken to the cemetery after originally being buried at a courthouse square in the city.

However, he said the First Nation will fight to preserve Ahan’s remains even if there is “a one-per cent chance” that they’re at the school site.

Construction to replace the run-down school built in 1949 is slated to begin next year elsewhere on the same property, and the Education Ministry said an archeologist will ensure that any artifacts are appropriately recorded.

Education Minister Mike Bernier has said the school was built “in the wrong place” and that constructing a new school will fix that problem.

Alphonse wants protocols in place about the proper handling of any bones that could be found and warned the First Nation would mount blockades or file a court challenge to stop construction if necessary.

“All we’ve ever asked for from the New Westminster School Board is, in the event that you run into some bones do the honourable thing. Do a DNA sample and let us know if that’s him. They refused to do that so we’re not going to run that risk. So we’ll shut it down. We’ll use every means we can.”

The board couldn’t be reached for comment, but says on its website that it plans to use non-intrusive means, such as ground penetrating radar, to find out more about the school property before soil investigations that are scheduled for next month.

“Those activities are important for proper project planning and respecting the heritage of the site,” it says.

Premier Christy Clark apologized nearly two years ago for the hanging of Ahan and five other chiefs in Quesnel in 1864 during a bloody dispute known as the Chilcotin War.

The chiefs were hanged after 19 people were killed in a dispute over the construction of a road through Tsilhqot’in territory. The government militia couldn’t capture the chiefs, but they were lured out of hiding when they received overtures to speak with the government.

They were arrested and tried for murder. The road was never built.

Clark also signed an agreement with the Tsilhqot’in to work together on social and economic initiatives.

Last June, the First Nation, whose members live in the Cariboo-Chilcoton plateau area west of Williams Lake, won a historic Supreme Court of Canada land rights case that gave them title to 1,700 square kilometres of land in the remote Nemiah Valley. The landmark ruling meant they became the first aboriginal band in Canada to win title to their territory.

The cemetery at the school site was also the final resting place for Chinese pioneers, and members of the Chinese community in New Westminster joined First Nations groups against the construction of a new school on the same spot.

[SOURCE]