"25 years ago, shots rang out on the Mohawk territory of Kanehsatake..."
July 12, 2015 5:11 PM   Subscribe

"...and Indigenous resistance in Canada would never be the same."
"In 1961, the municipality of Oka built the first nine holes of the contentious golf course, despite protests from the Mohawks. In the 1970s the Mohawks pushed forward a land claim and lost.

What started as a peaceful blockade of a minor access road to the cemetery and pine forest took on huge proportions.
The Mayor of Oka, in what seems now to be an incredibly boneheaded move, then got injunctions demanding the Mohawks remove their blockade. The Mohawks refused to budge. The Mayor then asked the Surêté du Québec (SQ) to enforce the injunctions and move the peaceful protesters off.

The SQ, a police force founded by Maurice Duplessis to keep the RCMP out of Québec, moved in with tear gas and concussion grenades on the morning of July 11, 1990. The wind blew the tear gas back into the faces of the police, and live rounds were fired. In the confusion, 31-year-old SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was killed.

The SQ then erected its own blockades. More First Nations people converged on the disputed site. They blocked the regional highway, 344, through Oka with overturned police vehicles and construction materials. Tempers flared in other First Nations communities across Canada."
Then-premier of Québec Robert Bourassa called in the Canadian military, and the 78-day standoff would become widely known as the Oka Crisis.

On August 28, 1990, "a white mob in LaSalle stoned a convoy of Mohawks, mostly women, children and seniors leaving Kahnawake for what they had hoped would be safety, amid rumours of an impending army operation."

Alanis Obamsawin (previously) chronicled events at Oka in her 1993 documentary Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance and the stoning incident specifically in her 2000 film Rocks at Whiskey Trench.

During the crisis, a photo of a standoff between Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and Brad Laroque was published widely across Canada and around the world.

The photo was taken by Canadian Press photographer Shaney Komulainen, who would later be accused of a series of offences by four Canadian soldiers, for which she would face trial but later be acquitted of:
"Threatening with a weapon, possession of weapon — a machete and a magnum 357, participation in a riot, obstruction of a peace officer. More than some of the Mohawks that were there! I was acquitted. It went to trial. We had over a dozen witnesses and one of them was an army photographer, which was amazing."
Canadian media were quick to call Cloutier a "hero" while simultaneously mistaking Laroque for a Mohawk warrior nicknamed "Lasagna":
Cloutier and Larocque, who was first misidentified as another warrior named Lasagna, became famous overnight. At the time, Cloutier was heralded as a Canadian hero and promoted to master corporal. The Globe and Mail went as so far as comparing him to “the man who stared down a Red Army tank in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last year.”

Quebec media were also quick to emphasize Cloutier’s Quebecois roots with La Presse describing him as “the little soldier staring unblinkingly at the angry Warrior.”

But the hero constructed by the press would be quick to fall. Cloutier was caught with cocaine in 1992 and discharged from the army a year later after being found guilty of impaired driving and leaving the scene of an accident. In 1995, he starred in a pornographic film, Quebec Sexy Girls II: The Confrontation, which parodied the events at Oka.
Waneek Horn-Miller, who was 14 at the time of the Oka crisis, was "carrying her 4-year-old sister, Kaniehtiio, when she was stabbed close to the heart by a soldier carrying a bayonet" on the day an end to the crisis was negotiated. She is currently serving as the assistant chef de mission for the Canadian team at the Toronto 2015 Pan-Am Games.

Kanehsatake Grand Chief Serge Simon has said "maybe the lasting legacy of the Oka crisis is that we're taken just a little bit more seriously."

25 years later, "The disputed territory remains an unsettled issue, however, and was never officially ceded by the Mohawks or handed over to the Kanesatake by federal or provincial governments."

Video: In the pines: Going back 25 years to the Mohawk resistance at Kanehsatake

Video: Kanehsatake remembers the Mohawk resistance a quarter century ago
posted by mandolin conspiracy (23 comments total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
 
wow...
posted by supermedusa at 5:11 PM on July 12, 2015


Fantastic post, MC.
posted by saturday_morning at 5:38 PM on July 12, 2015


Great post. Going to be reading the links for awhile. I was 13 and visiting Quebec when this happened and it was the first time I realized how utterly racist my family was.
posted by kanata at 6:10 PM on July 12, 2015


I remember when this was happening, but it was just a puzzling item in the news from the other side of the world.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:22 PM on July 12, 2015


Awesome post.
Oka remains one of the most shameful events of our country.
posted by chococat at 6:40 PM on July 12, 2015


three things about Oka.

1. my dad grew up across the river, so we followed it rather closely

2. Oka cheese was world class until the Trappist monks sold the rights

3. viewing the crisis from the far side of the country, the thing that struck me most was not who was right, wrong, good, bad or ugly, but that it was resolved with only one death, and that happened on the first day (a Quebec police officer accidentally shot by one of his own, I'm pretty sure). Try to imagine the same thing happening in the US of A.
posted by philip-random at 7:03 PM on July 12, 2015




it was the first time I realized how utterly racist my family was.

Yeah, it's pretty amazing how quickly the veneer mild-mannered openness and politeness most people associate with Canadians evaporates when the topic turns to Native-Canadians.
posted by dry white toast at 7:21 PM on July 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


I remember being on vacation in Nova Scotia when this happened. It was all over the news, but as soon as we got back to the US, there was no mention of it anywhere. I was 8 at the time and the events have been lingering in the back on my head, half remembered, for ages. Thank you, this was fascinating.
posted by Hactar at 7:44 PM on July 12, 2015


great post! What was the impact on Federal-Quebec relations?
posted by Bwithh at 8:05 PM on July 12, 2015


Fantastic post. Waneek Horn-Miller is such an interesting woman - from such an accomplished family.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:11 PM on July 12, 2015


Outstanding post. Thank you!
posted by Dhertiiboi at 8:14 PM on July 12, 2015


great post! What was the impact on Federal-Quebec relations?


It energized First Nations communities across the country, which in turn contributed to the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:25 PM on July 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Fantastic post about an important event that I knew nothing about.
posted by stet at 9:43 PM on July 12, 2015


It was a real wake up call to my awareness of how we treat First Nations peoples (badly) and how we are still really living to this day in a segregated society that we pretend doesn't exist.
posted by kanata at 10:12 PM on July 12, 2015


In 1995, he starred in a pornographic film, Quebec Sexy Girls II: The Confrontation, which parodied the events at Oka

What the hell
posted by benzenedream at 11:31 PM on July 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I remember being on vacation in Nova Scotia when this happened. It was all over the news, but as soon as we got back to the US, there was no mention of it anywhere."

I was going to say the same thing. I was at my wife's family's home in Ontario when it started, and we were following it on the news every day. Halfway through it we went to my family's home in Vermont (about a 3 hour drive from Oka). It was like it wasn't even happening. Weird.
posted by crazylegs at 3:49 AM on July 13, 2015


> Yeah, it's pretty amazing how quickly the veneer mild-mannered openness and politeness most people associate with Canadians evaporates when the topic turns to Native-Canadians.

That's always been the "acceptable" racism in Canada. I grew up in Sarnia, Ontario and while I'm sure there was tons of racism, (white) people generally weren't vocal about it. Unless, of course, you were talking about natives.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:15 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's always been the "acceptable" racism in Canada. I grew up in Sarnia, Ontario and while I'm sure there was tons of racism, (white) people generally weren't vocal about it. Unless, of course, you were talking about natives.

I grew up in the same town and can vouch for The Card Cheat's anecdata.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:12 AM on July 13, 2015


I grew up in Vancouver and it was/is the same. Same pretty much anywhere I've been in Canada.

A lot of times I find the people really don't get that what they're saying is racist. 'It's about policy! No it's true because I knew/know an X and they say/did. This happened once so extrapolate to anything native or natives forever more.'

So many would never say these sorts of things about any other group and would be horrified at others doing it but when it comes to anything native the blinders go up. Many times it's coupled with this really creepy paternalistic morality/mindset that I don't experience in the same way with other sort of racism I've come across.
posted by Jalliah at 7:08 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


> 'It's about policy!'

Yeah, that's usually the excuse; "They don't have to pay taxes or university tuition! Must be nice, how much more can we give them, etc.!" The only effective comeback I've come up with is asking people like this if they'd like to trade places with someone on a reserve, since it's such a sweet deal and all.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:34 AM on July 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Great post. Thanks.
posted by Cyrie at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2015


Try to imagine the same thing happening in the US of A.

Only if you change the skin tones.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 2:31 PM on July 15, 2015


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