Oka 1990 with one fatality. The dispute

Oka Crisis The Oka Crisis was a land dispute between the Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada. It began on July 11th, 1990 and lasted 78 days until September 26th, 1990 with one fatality. The dispute was first well-publicized violent conflict between First Nations and the Canadian government in the late 20th century. Mohawk people first settled in the Montreal area in the early 18th century, moving north from their homeland in the Hudson River valley. They relocated the Wyandot people native to the area whom the Haudenosaunee had long been in conflict, and who had been weakened through prolonged contact with French settlers. Mohawk settlement in the St Lawrence River valley was influenced to a great extent by French missionaries who required changes from among the Mohawk and who established Jesuit missionary villages for them at Kahnawake and Kahnesatake. As a protest against the court decision to allow the golf course construction to proceed, some members of the Mohawk community erected a barricade blocking access to the area.

Mayor Ouellette demanded compliance with the court order, but the protesters refused. Quebec’s minister of Native Affairs, John Ciaccia wrote a letter of support for the natives, stating that “these people have seen their lands disappear without having been consulted or compensated, and that, in my opinion, is unfair and unjust, especially over a golf course.” On July 11, the mayor asked the Surete du Quebec, Quebec’s provincial police force, to intervene with the Mohawk protest, naming suspected criminal activity at the barricade.

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The Mohawk people, in agreement with the Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy, asked the women, the caretakers of the land, whether or not the arsenal which the Warriors had united should remain. The SQ deployed an emergency response unit, which responded to the barricade by throwing tear gas canisters and concussion grenades in an attempt to force the Mohawks to back off. In response, gunfire started from both sides, and after the gun battle, the police fell back, abandoning six cruisers and a bulldozer. Although the first reported that 31-year-old SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay had been shot in the face during the gunfire. Before the raid, there were approximately 30 armed Warriors in and around the barricade, following the gun battle, this number grew to 60-70, and would grow to 600. The Mohawks seized six vehicles, including four police cars, and commandeered the front-end loader to crush the vehicles and use them to form a barricade across the main highway. The Warriors established a network where they can communicate between the Mohawk villages Akwesasne, Kanesatake and Kahnawake, that used hand-held radios, cell phones, air raid sirens and fire hall bells, as well as local radio stations and human patrols. The situation escalated as the local Mohawks were joined by natives from acorss the country and the United States.

Having so much pressure to destroy their barricade, the barricade was not dismantled. The Sq made their own blockades on highway 344 to minimize access to Oka and Kanesatake. Another group of Mohawks at the nearby location of Kahnawake, blocked the Mercier Bridge at the point where it passed their territory, sealing off a major access point between the Island of Montreal and Montreal’s heavily populated South Shore suburbs. On august 29, the Mohawks at the Mercier Bridge negotiated an end to their protest blockade with Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Gagnon, the commander who had been responsible for the south shore of the St. Lawrence River during the crisis. This stand-down eventually contributed to the resolution of the original barrier on the Kahnawake reserve, and on September 26 the Mohawks dismantled and burned some of their guns and returned to the reserve after celebrating by burning tobacco. The Mohawks at Oka felt they have been betrayed at the loss of their most effective bargaining chip in the Mercier Bridge. Once traffic began flowing, the Quebec government rejected further negotiations about the original disagreement concerning the golf course.

No true positive experience came out of the dispute for either side, other than the fact that the golf course wasn’t built and they still have their land. Since the crisis, the progress has been made. New treaties have been negotiated throughout several provinces. The crisis helped to create a series of protests by Native people for more land and rights.

The fight for land and equal rights in 1990 shaped Canadian views regarding aboriginal people. The Oka crisis effected many people throughout North America. Although the Mohawk had to go to extreme lengths in order to be recognised, they did so in hopes of greater goals. Since the Oka crisis, there have been many settlements on land and treaty power claims between provincial and federal governments and the aboriginal people. The Mohawk have become well known from their attempts to protect their land.

Although there are still disputes over land ownership, respect for aboriginals has improved greatly. The Oka crisis underscored the lengths to which both sides would go, and a result has changed the way they approach negotiations and resulting settlements.


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