Mohawk Nation, Kahnawake Territory It has been five years since the SQ attacked the Mohawk barricades at Kanehsatake on July 11, 1990, starting what became known as the Oka Crisis. An SQ officer died in the bungled assault.
Mohawks marked the anniversary with a procession and other activities at the Pines of Kanehsatake.
We asked Kahnawake traditionalist Kahn-Tineta Horn to give Crees the Mohawk perspective on the events of 1990.
As a result of the 1990 Mohawk/Oka War, Aboriginal people are more aware of who and what our enemies are (even some band councillors found out). Things are not getting better for us, but at least we know what’s going on. And if we don’t know, we’re going to find out. However, the settlers/immigrants have a long way to go in changing the bad things they think about us. As for the Mohawk Nation, our position has never changed.
The so-called Canadian government’s idea is to give us the right to administer their programs and answer to them. They just don’t want to get it! We are separate, sovereign nations, and we want a nation-to-nation relationship. They want to form Indian towns called municipalities and collect taxes from us. (They must be dreaming!) We won’t pay taxes, that’s for sure. No matter what they do. If they insist, we will just get poorer and survive some other way, that’s all! Their idea of “Native self-government” is to make Natives into non-Natives, which is like a sex-change operation (and us Natives don’t like to mess with nature!) Self-determination means parallel governments of the First Nations and the immigrants, but with the Aboriginal governments being the bosses, with a right to say “no” to the non-Natives on anything to do with exploiting nature. That’s our expertise—the land, water and sky.
With parallel governments, the Aboriginal nations would become independent equals, not limited to territories, and our “colour” would not change whether we live on territories or in non-Native communities. Indigenous sovereign nations are a birthright, not given to us by laws made by foreigners and dependent on where we are living on our own vast lands. They should stop trying to fence us in! The Cause of the 1990 Mohawk War Analysts said that the 1990 Mohawk/Oka War was caused by too many demands by “ungovernable people” (that’s us). While the demands on governments grow, the less governments can give. They say that society has become “too democratic,” that there are limits to democracy. Their solution is more laws and more police “to ensure a more balanced existence” (control). (Don’t they know if they make more laws, there is more crime. In Kahnawake when the police try to enforce too much, the people become angry and fight back.) In their society all you see is people being mean to each other because they are following orders. You don’t see this in Indian communities. In 1990 we stuck together even if we did not get along personally.
Genocide In South and Central America the Europeans took the land and made the Indians into slaves. In North America it was colonization which put Indians under the whites, forcing us to adopt European customs, culture, laws, ways and language (assimilation) to get rid of us. (Why don’t they follow the Indian ways? It’s so easy and so right!) In the eastern part of North America my people negotiated the Two Row Wampum Agreement, which was between two equal states, that would relate as equals, side by side, never imposing their will on each other. In exchange the foreigners received the right to live on our land. The two nations were to keep their own laws, constitution and jurisdiction. Neither nation could impose its laws on the other. This is still the legal relationship of the Aboriginal nations and the settlers.
The invasion of the Western Hemisphere caused the greatest genocide in human history. In North America 150 million Indian people were murdered. The results of European imperial actions are—disease, land thefts, missionaries’ becoming a part of the monetary/economic system, increased warfare, which was once a game became an all-out struggle for survival. (Their motto was: “The only good Indian is a dead one.” So now all the good Indians are dead and there are only us mean ones left, and we are going to be meaner. There’s no turning back! It’s time they quit doing those horrible things to us because we are going to fight back!) Land Claims or Their Claims for Our Land We made no treaties with the settlers/immigrants giving up our land and resources, and we were never conquered. We made treaties that gave the Europeans the right to live on our land but we did not give them the land (and we never will). All of this has to be addressed but not as a settlement of their claims for our land. Their idea of a settlement is that we give up our rights in exchange for money. (What’s money? You can burn it and it is burnt!) They want to pay us to say that we are not the original people of this hemisphere. No amount of money can change a fact of nature! We are saying no to this proposition. The Natives always will own the land and we must work out a “mortgage” which will be paid to each Native person by the very fact we are Native. Where does such a fund come from? From reallocating the profits made from the exploitation of our land and natural resources. Perhaps with the possible break-up of Canada, the settlers will be back to square one and will have to sit down with us, the land owners, and renegotiate their lease to live on our land. This time, we will be more than equal and will be supported by international law which supports our ownership of our lands. (If the lease is over, and they can’t produce a receipt for the purchase of our land, we can repossess it. Right!) In Canada what they want to do is download the rights that we have to our land by setting up a system of Indian leadership under their control. They want to transfer the land to their puppets, take away all the legal protections and obligations and then buy the land from these Native leaders. It will be easier for the bankers to steal the land from the Native leaders than from the government because there are too many prying eyes watching the government. But once it goes to the government’s Native leaders, especially if they have been bought off, it is easier for the banks to steal it from them.
Another strategy is for all economic development and businesses to be under the control of these puppet leaders so that only those who behave will have jobs and businesses.
1990 Was Part of a World-Wide Movement Aboriginal people in Canada and Indigenous people all over the world are fighting for recognition of our identity as nations and for rights to control our territories and ways of life. The Crisis of 1990 is the Mohawk version of this world-wide movement.
In power politics, stronger nations use force, leverage, threat, control of resources, rewards, punishments and armed forces to influence or control weaker nations. Thus peoples, cultures, religions, ethnic or political identity groups or private citizens cannot be heard in this system. Maintaining such power requires armed might.
In 1990, the Mohawk went outside of Canada. We showed that we are part of the common fight of humanity, fighting for our identity, our survival, to be recognized, to no longer be oppressed by the bullies. Why? Because we want freedom, not to be told what to do and where to go. 1990 just brought this out more. We can never be the way we were before 1990. The so-called Canada/ Quebec government made a mistake. They thought we were going to give up when they scared us with their big weapons and other toys. We weren’t even a big organization but we all got together and the other Indians got behind us. We made everybody know how we felt about our land and they saw that our response was right. (Also, we found our power was inside ourselves and this has grown more and more since then.) The heroic act of self-defence and protection of our homeland, the stand of our people against anti-Indian Canada/Quebec oppression, showed our determination to continue our ancient struggle for our identity.
We have shown Indians and non-Indians throughout the world how we will carry out our original instructions—to care for the land. Rather than giving in to threats and suffering, we stood up and gained the attention of others who also struggle against oppression. International solidarity is very important to all who suffer oppression. We all know about each other now.
Why Aboriginal People Cannot be Controlled Anymore We Natives are the only group the bankers/government/elites cannot handle because we don’t have the banking mind, which the Europeans and Americans have. (The more they have the more they want!) They can repossess property from those who have the banking mind but not from those who love the land and deal with the land as the blood and bones of their forefathers. That is why they need to destroy us, assimilate us, get us out of this mentality of our relationship to the land.
Aboriginal Peoples’ Warning 1990 was a warning to the people of the world. We Native people have always been the eagles that warn of things to come. We are like the animal who smells the gas first and warns the others. If our non-Native supporters do not realize this and come and fight the fight with us, they will miss the signal when their turn comes and there will be no one there to help them. The Aboriginal can survive in a time of crisis because we can find natural foods, overcome a period of difficulty since our experience is with lifelong hardship and struggle which these other people have little experience with. Every day an Indian wakes up and thinks of the struggle that lies ahead. And they never give up the struggle (except those Indians who are on the government’s payroll. Let’s see how they live when the government has no more money to give them. What will they do?) What Can Be Done The Indigenous people of North, South and Central America must work together to make a change.
The key is numbers—and money, of course. We have to work with our non-Aboriginal supporters to create a fairer system, a parallel system, not one that absorbs the other, not self-government meaning power over Aboriginal people.
The Natives know the problems inside out because we have lived them for 500 years. That is one reason why we have to work together and that is why there is so much fear. They are trying to keep us apart.
Civil Disobedience We cannot win as warriors, as the international bankers profit from war and use their media to make themselves look like victims. But we can fight a revolution in a non-violent civil disobedience way. That is what the blacks did in the United States. The Aboriginal people and our supporters must use this method as it is the only salvation. Violence would only play into their hands which is to depopulate. (Although there’s no danger of that here in Kahnawake with our big population explosion taking place, and the white people are not having kids like us.) We must not give them the opportunity to kill our people, but we cannot sit on our hands.
Mainstream Propaganda The mainstream media is their property and not our friend. We sure found this out during the 1990 Mohawk War. They sandwich lies between two truths. They give out just enough truth to tell you what you want to hear and sneak all the propaganda lies that keep us from doing what we should be doing.
Imposing Christianity on us was part of the strategy to take from us what is ours—the land and resources. Religion was used in Native communities to confuse and control us. The churches have always done this for the bankers. (Does their bible tell them to make war and not peace?) Its devastating effect on us here has recently been exposed. Today it is healers, with big Elder and medicine men conferences all over the country. The government is behind them directly or indirectly. This program is meant to pacify the Indians. A real Elder does not tell people what to do, much less pacify them.
The church and the media have the same function—they both propagandize us to cause us to turn the other cheek and to give in to them. It is political Christianity. You go to church on Sunday, pay your way to heaven, be good during the week by not challenging the state and buy your redemption again the next Sunday.
Conclusion The struggle for our liberation is ongoing.
The Post 1990 Wish List 1. That Canada breaks up, then we will get all the land back. We aren’t getting anything out of Con’fraud’eration anyway.
2. That casinos are built on every reserve so that the white people can come and give us their rent money and have fun while doing it.
3. That the government-controlled police force leave our territories forever. We are alright without them. If we have their kind of police, we will have troubles like the white communities. The more police you have the worse the people get because they just make us mad. We wish that they would give people three or four warnings before they arrest somebody for something that is not criminal like a parking ticket or hunting and fishing on our land.
4. That the police and the white population get better training on how to be humane and to get along with each other and the Aboriginal people.
5. That everybody would tell the truth. Everybody knows how to be good. You don’t need a 3,000-page bible to tell you that One page would be enough! 6. That we will win all our cases in the courts. What is the secret of winning a court case in the white man’s judicial system? The secret is that once you know and accept that the court, the police and the government are all corrupt, then you will know how to deal with them and then you will start winning.
7. That the Indian people would not go shopping off the territory and give their money instead to Indian businesses. Then our businesses would grow and grow and when we get rich we should give some of it back to the people.
8. That radio commentator Gilles Proulx, that brainwashéd separatist pawn, go to hell! He keeps saying we are bad. He must be working for the government Anybody who doesn’t like us, let us know why. Why is it that those who spend a little time with us don’t want to leave? 9. That Jacques Parizeau hurries up and separates. The French have sovereignty already, but it is in France. They cannot be sovereign here on our land. So get out! The sooner the better! And all your friends too! 10. That the army who stole our sacred masks as we were leaving the Treatment Centre in Kahnawake on Sept. 26, 1990 and are now having nothing but trouble, keep those masks a little longer. They treated us terribly, nobody believed us and so now it’s coming out how bad they are.
11. That the SQ, also known as the “Psycho Quebec” Cops, get what’s coming to them.
12. That the Indians become even more stubborn so no one can push us around anymore. If they push us, we will push back! That we stay more together. Look at Kahnawake, Kanehsatake and Akwesasne. We might have squabbles but we will still take for each other. And that’s just the way it should be for all of us.