Tag Archives: Mohawks

Mohawks take PM to task over unanswered land claims on 30th anniversary of Oka crisis

Mohawks from Kahnawake on Montreal’s South Shore stage a rolling protest on Route 132 to the Mercier Bridge on Saturday, July 11, 2020, to mark the anniversary of the start of 1990 Oka Crisis. JOHN MAHONEY / Mont

Members of the traditional longhouse organized the convoys to commemorate the historical event — a 78-day standoff between Quebec Mohawks and Canadian soldiers over the proposed expansion of a golf course in Oka.

Mohawks from Kanesatake to Kahnawake took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task Saturday for failing to answer their centuries-old land claims on the 30th anniversary of the start of the Oka crisis.

A convoy of about 100 vehicles carrying Kahnawake residents — many of them sporting Mohawk flags — crossed the Mercier Bridge into LaSalle and back Saturday morning as part of a “rolling blockade” to commemorate the event.

Hours later, a second caravan — this time, carrying Kanesatake residents — took over Route 344 northwest of Montreal though a new development in an area used by Mohawk farmers for generations. Many onlookers stood on their front porch and waved.

Members of the traditional longhouse organized the convoys to commemorate the historical event — a 78-day standoff between Quebec Mohawks and Canadian soldiers over the proposed expansion of a golf course in Oka.

Three decades later, the impasse over land rights remains unresolved — despite Trudeau’s numerous pledges to work toward reconciliation and foster a “nation-to-nation” dialogue with Indigenous communities.

“The summer of 1990 serves as a reminder that the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) are willing to defend their land and protect their people, by any means necessary,” Joe Deom, a spokesperson for the Kahnawake longhouse, told a small gathering in the village Saturday. “The same holds true, 30 years later.”

Ellen Gabriel, a member of Kanesatake’s longhouse, later read the same statement in her community.

Organizers chose to hold rolling blockades instead of marches because of the coronavirus pandemic and the contamination risks that would have resulted from demonstrators being in close proximity to each other, Gabriel told reporters.

The demonstrations come as Kanesatake’s Mohawks continue to fight residential developments in nearby Oka they say would encroach on the pine forest they planted nearly 200 years ago.

“Under Canada’s constitution, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could intervene and stop all development that’s taking place here, and he refuses,” Gabriel said. Indigenous relations minister Carolyn Bennett “is part of that problem of refusing and trying to silence the voice” of First Nations peoples, she added.

“We are fighting for our land.”

Gabriel and her fellow citizens were joined in Kanesatake by New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh and one of his MPs, Manitoba’s Leah Gazan. Singh said he came to Kanesatake “as an ally” to listen, fight for justice and ensure contested lands are returned to First Nations peoples.

He also took time to reflect on the events of 1990, saying: “What happened on this land was the beginning of a powerful movement. Future movements were all inspired by the strength and resilience of the people here. Thirty years later, the lessons have not been learned. The same problem continues.”

Gazan was more blunt.

“There will never be reconciliation in Canada in the absence of justice,” she said. “The people of Kanesatake have waited for over 300 years for this justice, and their justice continues to be infringed upon. It is time that this longstanding land dispute be resolved, that it gets the attention that it deserves from the current federal government to act now. The people of the longhouse have waited long enough for justice.”

The message — and the anger — was the same in Kahnawake.

Trudeau “has made a lot of promises,” a Kahnawake resident who identified herself as Kaherihshon told the Montreal Gazette in an interview. “He’s talked a really good talk about all the things he was going to do to settle the issues of the First Nations people. What has he done to make anything right? What has he done to settle these land claims? There’s nothing that has been done that has made a difference so far. If he wants real truth and reconciliation, then he has to really sit down with the people and say: ‘What do we have to do to make this better? How are we going to help the people?’ ”

Asked what it would take for reconciliation to begin, Gabriel answered: “Land back. It’s going to be an uncomfortable discussion, but when are we going to have it?”

The Montreal Gazette, July, 11, 2020.


Grand chief of Kanesatake Mohawks says he’s at an impasse with Oka mayor over proposed land deal

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon, right, says he will agree to meet with Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon if he apologizes for comments he made about property values dropping if Oka becomes ‘surrounded’ by Mohawks. (Ivanoh Demers/ Radio-Canada)

Serge Simon brushed off planned meeting with Oka, Que., Mayor Pascal Quevillon on Friday

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon passed on an opportunity to meet Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon Friday, after the mayor refused to apologize for inflammatory comments he made about his Mohawk neighbours earlier this month.

Simon said he would meet face-to-face with Quevillon if he apologized for saying property values would drop in Oka, Que., if a proposed parcel of land in the municipality is formally transferred to Kanesatake, leaving Oka residents “surrounded” by Mohawks.

On Friday morning, Quevillon refused to do so — telling Radio-Canada that he would only be apologizing “for telling the truth.”

Speaking after a meeting with representatives of the federal and provincial governments to discuss the proposed land deal Friday, Simon said with no apology forthcoming, he’s “cutting off communication” with Quevillon.

Quevillon is opposed to an offer from a local developer to transfer 60 hectares of land to the Kanesatake Mohawks through the federal government’s Ecological Gifts Program and sell them an additional 150 hectares.

The deal would see Kanesatake take ownership of more of the area Mohawks refer to as The Pines — the same contentious undeveloped property that became the focus of international attention 29 years ago, when a 78-day armed standoff was sparked by the town of Oka’s plan to expand its municipal golf course.

Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon said Friday morning that he does not intend to apologize for his comments. (Charles Contant/CBC)

In an interview with La Presse earlier this month outlining his opposition to the proposed land transfer, Quevillon said that Kanesatake is plagued by illegal dumps, cannabis and cigarette merchants, and contaminated water.

He said if the day comes that Oka loses jurisdiction over the disputed land to the Mohawks, there could be another Oka crisis — but this time it would be the people of Oka rising up against the Mohawks.

Simon called those remarks “hate-filled” and “racist.”

Treading carefully

Representatives of both the federal and provincial governments are treading carefully, promising to listen to the concerns of all sides in the dispute.

Simon met with Quebec’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Sylvie D’Amours, Montreal Liberal MP Marc Miller and Ghislain Picard, the regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec, in Montreal at 9 a.m. ET on Friday.

A separate meeting between those federal and provincial government officials and the Oka mayor was set for 11 a.m.

Simon had said he was prepared to meet with Quevillon in between those two meetings to discuss their differences, if by then he’d received the apology he’s seeking.

Emerging from the meeting at 11 a.m., Simon doubled down on his refusal to meet Quevillon, saying the two are at an “impasse.”

“My council and I decided that we’re not going to give this mayor any more importance than he’s looking for,” Simon said. “He made it clear this morning he’s not going to apologize.”

Simon said that he’s not planning on cutting ties with any other mayors in the Regional County Municipality (MRC) of Deux-Montagnes, a wide swath of territory that includes Oka, all of which is part of the Kanesatake Mohawks’ unsettled land claim. He said other mayors in the MRC are more “respectful.”

Seven of those MRC mayors, including Quevillon, held a meeting by telephone conference Thursday, passing a resolution in support of the town of Oka. They called on all levels of government, including the community of Kanesatake, “to work in close collaboration in order to plan for the land use and development of the territory in a harmonious, reconcilable and coherent fashion.”

Grand Chief Serge Simon met provincial and federal politicians, along with the Quebec regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ghislain Picard, in Montreal on Friday. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

No place at table for Oka, says AFN chief

After Friday’s meeting, Picard said questions around the proposed land transfer should only be a matter of discussion between the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and the federal and Quebec governments.

The municipality of Oka has no place in those talks, Picard told reporters.

“Municipalities in Quebec are governments of proximity, and they’re not in a position to interfere.”

As for the mayor of Oka’s suggestion that the land transfer could trigger another crisis, Picard called that misinformation that’s simply exacerbating tensions.

Ghislain Picard said called the suggestion that the land transfer could trigger another Oka Crisis ‘misinformation’ and ‘propaganda’ that’s simply increasing tensions. (Charles Contant/CBC)

“I think the only ones speaking about another crisis [are] the mayor of Oka and yourselves, as media,” the AFN chief said.

“We haven’t given that impression or that perception on the part of our communities.”

Picard said the proposed land transfer is being made as a gesture of reconciliation and would be a way to “level the playing field” between Oka and the neighbouring Mohawk community.

“The economic opportunities are not the same, and that has to change,” he said.

Oka seeking compensation

For his part, the mayor of Oka is asking the provincial and federal government for compensation in return for a moratorium on development of the disputed land in order to put an end to tensions over unresolved land claims.

Speaking to reporters before his own meeting with government officials Friday, Quevillon conceded that his choice of words had caused some people to become upset but said he didn’t intend to make amends.

“I maybe didn’t use the words that some people would have liked me to use,” he said.

He seemed unaware of exactly which comments had left Simon feeling hurt and insulted.

With files from Radio-Canada, CBC’s Kate McKenna

CBC News · Posted: Jul 26, 2019


Tensions rise in Oka as mayor speaks of being ‘surrounded’ by Mohawks

Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon says the village is at risk of disappearing if Kanesatake territory continues to grow. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

Local developer plans to gift land to Mohawks of Kanesatake through federal program

The grand chief of the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, northwest of Montreal, is demanding the mayor of the neighbouring town of Oka apologize for what he’s calling “hate-filled” and “racist” remarks over a contentious land transfer proposal.

Oka’s municipal council held an information session Wednesday evening to discuss a local developer’s intention to gift 60 hectares of land to the Kanesatake Mohawks and sell them another 150 hectares through a federal program.

The village wants to be consulted on Grégoire Gollin’s proposed land transfer.

While the gesture was made in the spirit of reconciliation, it has also enflamed tensions between Oka and Kanesatake, 29 years after the armed standoff that began over Oka’s plan to turn some of that land in question, known as The Pines, into an expanded golf course.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon says recent comments by Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon will not help the two parties reach a compromise.

Speaking with La Presse columnist Isabelle Hachey, Quevillon said that he was concerned that the village would become “surrounded” by Kanesatake territory.

He said the Mohawk land is plagued with illegal dumps, cannabis and cigarette merchants and contaminated water.

“The day that enters the village, it’s certain that no one will want to come live in Oka. Our homes will lose value. [Mohawks] will buy them at a discount,” he told La Presse.

He said that if that day comes, there may be another Oka Crisis — but this time it would be the people of Oka rising up against the Mohawks.

Speaking on Radio-Canada’s Le 15-18, the mayor repeated his criticisms and said that Simon did not have control over the people of Kanesatake.

He said what citizens of Oka see does not match the picture that Simon paints of the community.

Members of the Mohawk community sing outside the church where the Oka municipal council information session took place. (Radio-Canada)

Mayor says he wants to avoid another Oka Crisis

Members of the Mohawk community drummed and sang outside the church where the meeting was held, and others, including longtime activist and artist Ellen Gabriel, sat inside and listened.

Quevillon told the audience he wants to meet federal and provincial representatives right away, and that he, too, wants to avoid another Oka Crisis.

In a show of displeasure, three Oka councillors walked offstage during the meeting, saying they don’t agree with Quevillon’s rhetoric.

Before the meeting, Simon said the mayor was spreading hatred by saying properties will lose value if more Mohawks move in and that the community has no intention of erasing Oka from the map.

Simon said development projects would benefit everyone, but as the rhetoric escalates, potential investors will be scared off.

And now, he says, he’s concerned about the safety of his people.

“What if a mob shows up there tonight and decides that they’re going to take it out on them?” he told reporters, pointing to a nearby home where Mohawk elders live.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon says the mayor’s recent comments are ‘hate-filled’ and racist. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

He said some people are considering making a criminal complaint against Quevillon, describing his recent comments as hate crimes.

“What he’s doing here could have an impact across the country,” Simon said.

At a public band council meeting earlier Tuesday, Simon shared the memorandum of understanding signed between the council and Gollin, whose wooded tract includes part of the Pines — the land at the heart of the dispute in the Mohawks’ unresolved centuries-old land claim.

In 2017, Mohawks protested against the clearing of land at the edge of The Pines for Gollin’s Domaine des Collines d’Oka housing development.

Gollin has since said he would freeze land sales, preferring to transfer the land to the Mohawks.

“As a citizen, I don’t have to wait for the government to do my contribution to reconciliation,” Gollin said.

‘We are not the thieves’

Simon said the agreement for the 60-hectare land transfer is not legally binding and that he would consult the people of Kanesatake before any deal is made, through Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program.

The additional 150 hectares of land that Gollin wants to sell to the federal government could be purchased with settlement money being negotiated between Kanesatake and the federal government, Simon said.

The Oka Church was packed with people on both sides of the debate when Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon took the stage Wednesday evening. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

However, Quevillon said that if that settlement money is paid out, the town of Oka, population 4,000, isn’t big enough to survive.

“We are not the thieves,” he said after the meeting. “For 300 years, you have allowed residents of Oka to live here.”

“We are not being listened to, it’s as if we don’t exist.”

At the heart of that dispute was Kanesatake’s still-unresolved land claim, which includes the municipality of Oka and much of the surrounding land.

With files from Matt D’Amours and Radio-Canada

By: CBC News · Posted: Jul 18, 2019


Mohawks Block Trains Carrying Oil From Passing Through Kahnawake

A group of Mohawks from Kahnawake is preventing freight trains carrying oil or other dangerous materials from passing through the territory for 24 hours in solidarity with those protesting a pipeline project in North Dakota. (Steve Rukavina/CBC)

A group of Mohawks from Kahnawake is preventing freight trains carrying oil or other dangerous materials from passing through the territory for 24 hours in solidarity with those protesting a pipeline project in North Dakota. (Steve Rukavina/CBC)

Unclear how many trains will be affected, commuter trains will be allowed to pass

CBC News | Dec 01, 2016

A group of Mohawks from Kahnawake is preventing freight trains carrying oil or other dangerous materials from passing through the territory on a Canadian Pacific Railway line for 24 hours.

The protest is in solidarity with Indigenous groups protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota.

The blockade began Thursday at midnight. Commuter trains that use the rail line are being allowed to pass.

The AMT is warning commuters who use its Candiac line that the protest may cause delays.

Its trains are authorized to travel on the tracks but will have to do so at reduced speed near the Saint-Laurent train bridge where the protest is taking place.

The bridge connects Montreal and the South Shore.

A spokesperson for CP was not immediately available to comment.

Protecting the earth a ‘duty,’ protesters say

A spokeswoman for the group, Kahionwinehshon Phillips, read a statement Thursday morning to a group of reporters gathered at a small encampment the group has been maintaining at the foot of the Mercier Bridge for the past few weeks.

“We as the Mohawk people have a duty to protect mother earth, and we will continue to defend our mother earth for the coming generations as our ancestors did,” Phillips said.

It’s not clear how many trains will be affected. Phillips thought it could be more than a dozen, but she wasn’t sure.

Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers are on site to ensure everyone’s safety.

Two weeks ago, AMT train service was also suspended for a day due to the Mohawk protest.


Standing United Against Pipeline

A group shot of different representatives of the Haudenosaunee camp. Seneca , Cayuga, Onondaga , Oneida , and Mohawks all standing together in defense of the water at Standing Rock. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network

A group shot of different representatives of the Haudenosaunee camp. Seneca , Cayuga, Onondaga , Oneida , and Mohawks all standing together in defense of the water at Standing Rock. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network

Reader Submission:

Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

The protest in Standing Rock is having a far reaching impact.

Mohawk Council of Akwesasne District Chief Troy Thompson and Cornwall Island resident Kaylee Jacco both went to North Dakota to stand with other First Nations communities in protest against the pipeline which they believe is endangering the water supply.

Thompson said he wanted to assess the situation and see for himself what exactly was happening.

“We met a gentleman in the Red Warrior Camp,” said Thompson. “The members of this camp were very involved with the people on the front lines. They are the ones getting arrested.”

Thompson said by the time he got there in September, there had been over 22 arrests. He said the National Guard and local police forces were both on the scene.

“And that’s when it became really aggressive towards the protesters,” he said. “The people being arrested were also being harassed, they were being bullied and threatened. Just a lot of silly stuff.”

Thompson said the charges kept getting increased, as did the fines and the price of bail. Thompson said the Red Warrior Camp was getting a lot of financial support from outside the reservation and he said it seemed like the authorities wanted to drain their bank accounts.

“When we first drove in, the National Guard set up check posts at both sides before you enter Standing Rock and they were seizing supplies that were going to the camp,” he said. “That was really discouraging to see and hear about.”

Thompson said there are still some members of the Akwesasne community in Standing Rock showing their support for the protesters.

“We are very much in support of what they are doing down there,” he said. “In light of what has been happening locally, in Montreal they dumped five billion liters of raw sewage into the river and in Gatineau they just dumped 20 million liters of raw sewage in the river. We are very, very disappointed this is happening and very frustrated and worried. If we keep going down this road, there is going to be damage that is irreversible.”

Thompson said it isn’t only natives who were concerned with the quality of water.

“We all need to do our part to protect the water sources,” he said. “The water source that is the nature of the Dakota access pipeline feeds to one million people, native and non-native. It’s not just for native people.”

Thompson said when he was a boy, he heard two adults talking about a war over water in the future and he thought that it could never happen because there was so much water.

“It was a prophecy,” he said. “Because right now we are fighting for clean water. We are living among the war for water. I find it mind-boggling how corporate America stages people against protesters who are protectors of the water. There are so many injustices going on down there.”

Thompson said if the pipeline wins and goes through Standing Rock Reservation, there will be a protest across the country.

“Being with my Lakota brothers and sisters in Standing Rock, North Dakota, fighting the same fight our ancestors did changed my life,” said Jacco. “I only meant to stay at camp for one week fighting DAPL, but after I became witness to the injustice against my people and experienced the unity among hundreds of nations I couldn’t find it in me to come home as planned.”

Jacco said in standing up against security officers of an oil pipeline unarmed, there wasn’t enough time to be afraid even though she was staring into faces behind SWAT shields, with people holding mace and guns loaded with bean bags and rubber bullets.

“I don’t understand how they can do the things they do,” she said. “I am still in disbelief of what is happening.”

Jacco said they were told to remain peaceful and in prayer, but at times this was not easy.

“The people were beaten down and tired, but still stood tall,” she said.

Jacco said the camp she stayed at was a community with a place for every need, including medical and legal services.

“I was trained in direct action training before being allowed on the front line,” she said. “(I was taught) basic knowledge on how to remain non-violent in the face of violence.”

Jacco said she saw an underaged boy with a number written on his arm from a mass arrest. His number was over 150.

“He told me they put people in dog kennels,” she said. Jacco added being in the camp was tough. The nights were cold and many were sleeping on the ground. She said on two occasions the protestors were in the cold water protesting to be allowed access to sacred burial sites to pray for their ancestors whose graves were desecrated.

Jacco herself was tear-gassed while protesting the pipeline.

“This pipeline will hurt our future generations,” said Jacco. “We need to stop corporations from destroying our mother earth. If I wasn’t the mother of a beautiful two year old I’d still be in Standing Rock. This isn’t just a native issue. It’s so beautiful to see every race joining our fight.”

The Article; Standing United Against Pipeline by Lois Ann Baker, was posted in Cornwall Standard-Freeholder on Nov 16, 2016