Exactly 27 years and one day after the militarized standoff in Oka, Quebec between the Mohawk nation of Kanesatake and the Quebec provincial police, Mohawk activists are squaring off against the Oka municipality yet again.
On Wednesday, a group of protesters led by Mohawk rights activist Ellen Gabriel confronted Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon.
Almost three decades prior, Indigenous activists protested a golf course that was set to be constructed on the group’s land — today they are protesting a real estate development of residential homes on that very same land.
“We’re here to say 'not anymore,'” Gabriel told CTV news. “Twenty-seven years ago they didn’t listen to us. They never settled the problem and it still continues today. So we’re asking is: if the federal government really thinks, if Prime Minister Trudeau really is sincere, about the First Nations being his most important relationship, then he has to intervene here today.”
Trees for the residential project have already been cut down to make way for hydro lines that are set to power the neighborhood.
It was the expansion of the golf course into the forests of Mohawk land, known as The Pines, that first triggered the standoff in 1990.
As part of the resolution to the 1990 crisis, the golf course expansion was canceled and the municipality of Oka and the Kanesatake Mohawk Council signed a deal to prevent development in the forest.
Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon pressed that the scale of the new residential project violates the terms of this agreement with Quevillon, destroying large swathes of land belonging to the Mohawk.
This day in BASHING History: 7/11/1990, The Mohawk Tribe lead an uprising against their white settler occupiers in Oka, Quebec, Canada. pic.twitter.com/JdBxLw2Jhk— FULL COMMUNISM (@LaterCapitalism) July 11, 2017
And while the mayor has claimed there have been thorough consultations made with the Kanesatake’s band council since at least 2003, Simon alleges that the developer, Gregoire Gollin, never met with his council about the construction project.
“(Quevillon) is acting in bad faith, it’s plain and simple,” Simon told the Montreal Gazette. “We were never consulted about this. Maybe an older council was back in 2003, but not us. We have a legal right to be consulted here.”
In 1990 during the 78-day armed standoff, Mohawks defended the land they had been fighting to have recognized as their own for almost 300 years.
The Mohawk’s resistance galvanized Indigenous peoples from across the continent, who engaged in a number of solidarity actions, including many blockades. While the golf expansion was ultimately canceled, the land was purchased by the federal government, but it was never transferred to the Kanesatake community.
“This is not going to go away,” Gabriel pressed. “We’ve been stomped on for centuries and generations have had to pick up the struggle. We want peace, that’s all we want … We are not going to allow any more development on our traditional territory.”