The Police Attack on Stoney Pointers: September 11 / 95
Sep 11/95 - Mohawks march against Ontario police killings Sep 11/95 - Report on Mohawk action
- by M-J Milloy Published in the September 11 issue of the "McGill Daily" From the bed of the pick-up truck, David Beauvais could easily see the reminders of the last time his nation had to defend their land. "See where the road has been patched up, there and there?" he asked, pointing to two large patches of asphalt, one on each side of the road. "That's where we dug holes with the back-hoe to slow down the tanks from reaching the barricades at Kahnawake," he said. Flying over Beauvais' head was the red flag of the Mohawk Nation, and the blue flag of the Haudenosaunee, the traditional longhouse society. Those two symbols of Mohawk sovereignty led a long procession of cars and marchers from the Mohawk Nation. They were marching in a peaceful demonstration to support the native peoples at Ipperwash, Ontario, and Gustafsen Lake, British Columbia, who, like the Mohawks in 1990, have had to take decisive action to protect their land from the encroachment of Canadian authorities. Last Thursday at Ipperwash, three unarmed native people, including a 15 year-old boy, were shot dead by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) while defending their territory. Meanwhile, in BC, a group of lightly armed native people have been besieged for the last three weeks by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at the sacred site of their Sundance Ceremonies. Starting at the Kahnawake Sports Complex, over 300 men and women, elders and children blocked traffic on the highway from the Mercier Bridge to the non-native community of Chateauguay, on the South Shore of Montreal. They represented a diverse cross-section of the Mohawk community. Grandmothers rode in cars with children, whole families came out to march and to drive. At the head of the column, just behind the two lead trucks carrying the flags, there were always approximately 30 women, with strollers and children, carrying placards, marching in peace. Although there were many different faces from Kahnawake, they spoke with one voice about the recent actions of Canadian police forces against native people in both BC and Ontario. All condemned the police actions, and all demanded that continued aggression against native people on native land cease immediately. Despite the seriousness of the issues and the sadness of the events, the marchers held a peaceful and powerful demonstration Chateauguay residents, annoyed by the inconvenience to their Saturday drive, responded with obscenities and threats. Many drove past, glaring at the proud display of Mohawk independence and native solidarity, and some gave the finger to Mohawk children carrying signs demanding justice and peace. "Do you know why we're going this way, towards Chateauguay?" S asked Lester, the driver of the lead truck. "It's because they don't understand, they just don't understand who we are," he said. "Their people came here, gave us diseases, polluted our waters, took native land, and in 50 years, there won't be anything fucking left," he said. "You've killed us for too many years, and now a 15 year-old kid is dead," he continued, "and now it's time to do something." Stand-off in Ontario The march came only two days after the Ontario Provincial Police raided the native camp at Ipperwash Provincial Park, killing three native people. The encampment at Ipperwash -- over 300 native men, women and children, as well as some non-native supporters -- had recently re- established control over land that was taken over 50 years ago. In 1942 the Canadian government, under the War Measures Act, took 2000 acres of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation land to build an army barracks. At the time, the government promised to eventually return the land. For 54 years the land remained in military hands, while the local native community grew more overcrowded. The 22 families moved TtemporarilyU from their land were forced to find permanent homes in the remaining territory. Two years ago, members of the Kettle and Stoney Point Band re- occupied a portion of the land. Since the area had been expropriated under the War Measures Act, they had no legal avenue to pursue to regain their stolen land. Even worse, the ground -- a traditional burial site -- had been desecrated by the army cadets, who used the area as a target range. One month ago, the situation escalated when another group of Stoney Pointers occupied all of the land, as well as part of an adjoining Provincial Park. The army withdrew. That temporary peace was shattered Thursday evening when new Ontario Premier Mike Harris sent in the OPP to clear out the unarmed native people. When the provincial police had finished shooting, three people were dead or dying, including Nicholas Cottrell, a 15 year-old boy. The police moved into the provincial park just after 11 o'clock at night. "There were lots of cops in riot gear, black uniforms and plastic shields, lined up from side to side in two rows," said Bernard George, an eyewitness to the shootings. "We waited for them to ask us to leave, but nothing was said. They did not even try and serve any kind of papers on us. We told them to get the fuck off our land," he said. At this, the OPP retreated to about 50 feet away from the park entrance. "The cops started hitting their shields with metal riot sticks. We heard Tattack". "They attacked us," George said. The police then grabbed some people and started kicking and beating them. It was then that George heard someone suggest that they should run the police over with a school bus. The bus had just started up when the police opened fire. "I looked back and saw the flash from the guns pointed at us. Holy fuck, they were shooting at us. Next thing I heard, Dudley George, my brother had been hit. We carried him back to the park." At first the police refused to allow Dudley George to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance, according to Claude Douglas, another witness to the shooting. When Dudley George was finally allowed medical treatment, he was taken to the local hospital and dumped onto an operating room floor. As he bled to death from an OPP bullet-wound, his sister was not allowed to see him, and was handcuffed in a waiting room. "Dudley George was unarmed, shot in the back," said Douglas. Pragmatic brutality by the premiers The shootings of the three Ipperwash native people, as well as the continuing siege at Gustafsen Lake in British Columbia, have been denounced by native groups across the country. Five years after Oka, native people are again being harassed, beaten, and killed as they attempt to protect their lands. For the Mohawks who marched on Saturday, the time to remain silent has passed. "We will not stand idly by while you continue to brutalise our people," said the Haudenosaunee, in a letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien released before the march. Previous silence, the society reminded Chretien, has only resulted in "more guns, more bullets, more violence [towards native people] all at the expense of justice for our people." The letter demands that the murderers of Dudley George and Nicholas Cottrell "be identified and held accountable." It warns that further violence "will be answered in kind." But violence was certainly not the intent of the marchers in Kahnawake. They gathered together in a spirit of resistance and solidarity. Most importantly, they demanded a political solution to the problems, and an end to further violence from Canadian police forces. "This is a matter that the politicians of this country must deal with, not the police," said Kahn-Tineta Horn, a Mohawk leader. "They would not have sent the police against any other protesting group in this country. It is obvious the police throughout this country are racist. The politicians must deal with our demands." It is questionable, though, whether provincial and federal leaders have the political will, or even desire, to come to a peaceful and just solution. BC Premier Mike Harcourt has won political points in his province for his "tough handling" of the Gustafsen Lake crisis. After a summer of native blockades and fishing disputes, he has unscrupulously capitalised on public discontent. In a telling statement, Harcourt praised Ontario Premier Harris for his handling of Ipperwash, calling it a "good example" for Gustafsen Lake. Like Harcourt, Harris has shown a pragmatic brutality in native issues. In doing so, they have outlined how the growing neo-conservative climate in Canada might affect Canada's relations with native nations. Gone is any sense of justice, or historic obligation. All that remains in this new environment are politicians who see "native problems" as a convenient way to convince the non-native electorate that they are pragmatic and quick-acting leaders, committed to "common sense" against the excesses of the past. Leading the pack ideologically in this race is the federal Reform Party. Reform leader Preston Manning is on record as saying he opposes any form of native self-government, while his caucus MPs have made a habit of racist and derogatory statements about native people. Myron Thompson, a Reform MP from Alberta, recently compared native people to spoiled children, "who have to learn to live in the real world." Native people at Kahnawake, and across the country, see the "real world" in a fundamentally different way, one deeply influenced by the actions of the Canadian state. "We are supporting our allies against the terrorism of the Canadian state in Ontario and BC," said one marcher, who refused to be identified. "We oppose their illegal acts against our land and people, which they call enforcing the law. They are breaking the law by not honouring and respecting our treaties. We will not forget."
:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:Right to reprint granted provided source is quoted. Copyright retained by the Daily Publications Society. The McGill Daily For more information contact: M-J Milloy co-ordinating editor, McGill Daily 514.398.6784 (phone) 514.398.8318 (fax) 3480 McTavish Room B.03 Montreal, PQ H3A 1X9
Published in the September 11 issue of the "McGill Daily" It was about three hours into the peaceful demonstration at Kahnawake when we learned that we had closed the Mercier Bridge and set fire to buildings along the highway. The news on the radio came as quite a shock to the people I was riding with in the lead truck -- "the only thing we had successfully lit were cigarettes", and everyone knew that it was the Surete du Quebec who had closed the roads to traffic. In light of the general Canadian reaction to the events at Gustafsen Lake and Ipperwash, though, the radio story is not surprising. At Kahnawake, instead of exploring the reason why over 300 Mohawk men, women and children marched, the media portrayed the marchers as an inconvenience to non-native drivers. They also made it quite clear that the Indians were on the warpath again, torching property and overturning cars. In BC and Ontario, the reaction has been the same. Two heavily armed paramilitary forces besiege an encampment of lightly armed native people. Instead of commenting on the "heavy-handedness of the police response " or, God forbid, "the obscenity of police shooting unarmed men and children in the back " the media has labeled the natives "terrorists" and "thugs". This automatic reaction stands in direct contrast to the validity of the native claims in BC and Ontario. In both BC and Ontario, the legal arguments are easy enough for even Harcourt and Harris to follow. Not one square inch of British Columbia was ever transferred, by treaty, from native nations to the Crown. In Ontario, the land was stolen and never returned. When the validity of the demands are considered in relation to the Canadian reaction " police, guns, violence " two things are revealed. Not only are non-Native Canadians deeply influenced by racist images of native people as "lawbreakers" or "warriors", but we are still incapable of coming to a new conception of Canada's past or present. The history of the relationship between Canada and native nations casts a long and terrible shadow across this land. For almost 100 years, until the mid-1970s, the stated intent of this country was to obliterate native cultures and communities. We called it "civilising", mind you, and dressed up the genocidal tendency in humanitarian robes. For their culture, we proposed evangelists. For their children, we prescribed the murderous camps called residential "schools". For their political institutions, the subtle colonisation of band councils, the outright attack of guns and repression. This is the inheritance of every non-native Canadian, but it is not in our past. The continuing effects of our colonisation of native peoples, communities and cultures is on full display every day in every "reserve", in every jail, in every alcohol treatment centre, in every big city, in the life of every native person. Alongside this wholesale attack by generations of non-native politicians, bureaucrats and evangelists is a sustained native resistance. Since the first days of the native discovery of Christopher Columbus, native people have adapted, subverted, rebelled and resisted. But when this resistance dares rise beyond the level of individuals to mass protest, as it has done in Gustafsen Lake and Ipperwash, a shameful side of Canadian culture is again exposed to the sun. Non-native Canadians may glibly dismiss the men and women in BC and Ontario as terrorists, or even as radicals, unwanted by their own people. But what we cannot dismiss is the reality of current and past colonisation and oppression. It is too easy to call these people terrorists, when our police forces fire on unarmed people. It is too easy to call these people lawbreakers, when we flagrantly disregard our own constitutional law. It seems that the only Indian that non-native Canadians really want to hear speak is a cartoon princess, complete with singing raccoon. The only native history we want to see is when it is preserved under glass in a museum or caricatured on the shirts of sports teams. We definitely do not want to hear the words of native men and women across the nation, for fear of recognising the powerful validity and honesty of those words. Non-native Canadians, though, will have to listen to the words of these men and women, in full understanding of their place in the legacy of Canadian-native relations. We must give up the notion that we "treat our natives well" in this country, or that state violence only happens in far-off lands of the "Third World". Only when we give up our racist images and silenced histories, will there be a measure of peace and justice between the many nations in this land.
DEMONSTRATION AT KAHNAWAKE- by M-J Milloy