Cheryl Barney of the Stl'Atlimx Nation spoke on Leonard Peltier Awareness Day, October 12, 1994 in Peterborough. The following is a transcript of her talk.
When I came up East here I was only going to come for a couple weeks and just check out the situation and go back home and let my people know what was going on. But once I got into Oka, I couldn't turn my back on the people that really needed my help. That's when I made up my mind that I was there until the end... They really needed all the help that they could get. So I was staying there until the end...
Anyways, it was the best summer of my whole life. At that time in '90, I was thirty years old and it was the best summer in my whole thirty years. It was a learning experience and terrifying at times but a lot of fun at times. They tried to intimidate us and just use downright psychological warfare. Then one day I woke up and thought today is a good day to die. I'm not afraid to die for what I believe in.
From then on it was really easy. Everything just fell into place. The way we were inside, the whole group of us, the men, women and the children that we had in there with us. It was hard to leave because we were all family in there. We all got to know one another and we all became family. We all felt the same way. We were all there to defend that land. There was no way they would take it. So we all had this bond. The day we walked out and the men were told not to resist and not to fight back, and that was hard to see our men thrown on the ground and kicked. So of course the women, we couldn't let that happen, so we fought back. We pushed them around because they were pushing our men around.
We went through the courts and that's when the courts told me that I was not allowed in the province of Quebec any more unless I came back for a trial. Well, you know I didn't want to agree to that but my lawyer was saying, "Come on Cheryl, get this over with, just say yes to the judge," and so I said "O.K., yes, I'll go back home to B.C." But as soon as I walked outside of that courtroom and as soon as I got to Kahnawake, I just said "No way. There's no way they're going to push me, tell me that I can't stay back here." As far as I'm concerned, we have no boundaries. This is our land. I can come and go as I please without anyone telling me what to do.
So I stayed and then it was September, October, November, December, watching, and listening, and seeing what the Mohawk people were going through with the police force back there, the S.Q. We were all getting fed up with this so that the day January 8th happened and they tried to arrest one guy from Kahnawake, we heard so we all came out to make sure...they wanted to move into Kahnawake because they wanted to search for weapons or cigarettes or whatever. But they have no jurisdiction so we wouldn't let them on. So we were all out there and eight of us were arrested.
They had twenty one charges on me and they said that because I was caught in the province of Quebec and I was not allowed to be there and I broke my probation, court order. And then they kept me inside for three months and they denied my bail the first time because they said that I was a threat to the law enforcement and a danger to society. When I was inside, I tried everyting you know, "Get me out of here. I don't belong in here." I was just helping the Mohawks to make sure the S.Q. didn't go onto their land.
They granted me bail finally after three months and they placed me in Oneida. From there I've just been going to court. I went to court for two years, and the January 8th incident I pleaded guilty. They dropped it down to one charge saying "O.K., if you do this, we'll drop it down to one charge". I said "O.K." because all of the other six people, they did not have the money to continue our court case so we all pleaded guilty. Since I'd done three months, that was time served but they all had to do fourteen days.
I've just been, I guess going through hard times since '90 with all the psychological warfare that we went through. Sleeping with the lights on is the only way I can go to seep. Having music playing all the time because of all the helicopters and A.P.C.s that we had around us constantly. And always a lot of noise and bright lights and feeling very claustrophobic like being in a small room with the door closed.
So I went through a really hard time these last few years...My road is finally on track again and this is what I have to do: I have to come out and share my story on what happened and say that I'm on the right road now and there's no stopping me. I have to keep fighting to make sure that our little ones do not have the chance to pick up that gun to defend their land, their rights. I don't ever want to see that. It hurts. And knowing what those little Mohawks, what they went through, seeing those guns day in, day out. Now all they talk about is, all they talked about for a while was, these little ones, playing army and shooting soldiers and, it hurts. It really hurts...
No more! What right do they have to come in and take our land, push us around? I couldn't take it any more. July 12: that's when I made up my mind; no way, Cheryl Barney's not going to sit back any more. Cheryl Barney has to get up and do something to make sure that her grandchildren and her grandchildren's children will never have to go through this. So that's where I am today....Now I can talk about what I went through in 1990, '91. We all as a people, we all have to say "No more! No more pushing us around. We're tired of that." We have to start doing something. And this is the way I can help; by me coming out and talking. And letting the little ones know that yes, there is a woman who's not going to sit back any more. She's going to be there. When she sees people on the front lines, she'll be there. And I will be. Because I won't take any more of this. I don't want to see my people being pushed around any more...
Now in Kanesatake they have a healing process going on and they have that in Kahnawake too for the kids and for the adults -- for all that were in the war community. They had healing workshops going on. I think that the government just set up within the last two years money for the healing process to carry on.
The kids now no longer let anyone push them around. They see an S.Q., they let the S.Q. know that they're not afraid of them. They were the ones who were hit the hardest but they're starting to come back now. It was a fast growing up process for everyone. But we let that happen because we have to let them come out with their fear, their anger, we had to let it come out.
Anti-Colonial Action Alliance
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