The Mohawk Resistance 30 Years On

I, Corey Hamilton, acknowledge Treaty 6 territory—the ancestral and traditional territory of the Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, as well as the Métis. I acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit whose footsteps have marked these lands for generations. I am grateful for the traditional Knowledge Keepers and Elders who are still with us today and those who have gone before us. We recognize the land as an act of reconciliation and gratitude to those whose territory we reside on or are visiting.

So on the morning of either Wednesday July 11th, 1990 or Thursday July 12th, 1990 my headspace was terrible. I came into work sad, upset, disturbed and embarrassed. Why? I had a good paying job in a warehouse (roughly $16 an hour for 40 hours a week with benefits) I had my teeth fixed, including all of my wisdom teeth yanked paid for by my benefits plan. I bought my first car, I was seeing upwards of 8 live bands a week and I was living on my own.

Why was I in such a bad state you may ask? Simple. I was the youngest and only left leaning person in the whole Edmonton branch and being white too meant that I had to listen to all of the other white (EVERYONE was white at this location) people from the branch manager bully, the warehouse manager bully and everyone else spew their racist crap concerning the media branded “Oka Crisis” in Quebec. Though it was known by supporters as “The Mohawk Resistance.”

Now normally my big mouth would have opened and barked back. In this case I didn’t because changing everyone’s (or anyone else’s minds for that matter) was a fool’s errand. An example was when I brought up the internment of Japanese Canadians in World War 2 one of my coworkers stated that all is fair in love and war. I told him on no uncertain terms that there was no war in Canada and these people were Canadians too. That did not go over well. So again, I shut my yap.

If you’re not familiar with the 78 day standoff that started on July 11, 1990 ending on September 26, 1990 then here’s the abridged version. Back in March of 1989 a bunch of white politicians and white businessmen thought that it was a good idea to expand the Club de golf d’Oka over top of a centuries old Mohawk Tribe’s burial ground.

Some people (indigenous and white) protested to the white politicians (municipal, provincial and federal) but their protests fell on deaf ears. In late June of 1990 blockades were erected by the Mohawks and other indigenous peoples from Canada and the USA but on July 11th, 1990 the mayor asked the Quebec Provincial Police Force and the RCMP to intervene. The Mohawks stood their ground and gunfire erupted after the authorities deployed tear gas and concussion grenades. The Police fell back leaving 6 police cruisers and a bulldozer behind while several people were injured and one police officer was shot and killed.

After the dust settled, the white bully on the left amounted to nothing.

On August 8th the white Quebec premier requested military support but it was denied. Again on August 14th the RCMP were overwhelmed and they backed down. On August 20th the military were sent in. On August 29th a stand down was negotiated and on September 26th the remaining Mohawk protesters dismantled the blockades and returned to their reserve after burning some of their guns and a ceremonial tobacco burning. Some of the Mohawks felt betrayed even though the plans to expand the golf course were cancelled. I can’t say as I blame them for feeling betrayed. I’ll clarify this later.

So all of this culminated in me keeping my yap shut and listening to every damn one of my white coworkers give their racist play by play of the whole event. They all read that terrible right wing tabloid rag, The Edmonton Sun, which by the way, promoted my coworker’s racist views and banter with their bullshit take on a sad, upsetting, disturbing and embarrassing piece of Canadian history.

78 days after it had started the bigots at work found another person or persons to blame for their current woes. I went back to work with my yap shut tight and disillusioned that nothing on either side had changed. Their side, my side or for that matter the Mohawks and the politicians too. Except that the golf course expansion was scuttled.

Like I just stated, the Canadian municipal, provincial and federal governments didn’t change one iota. Our current Prime Minister talks a good talk but reconciliation with the indigenous population is far from becoming a reality. With most, if not all, reserves lacking the basics like clean drinking water, sanitation and in some cases even electricity. Things that almost every other Canadian takes for granted.

Waneek Horn-Miller clutching her 4 year old sister after being stabbed by a military officer’s bayonet.

As of the date that I published this the blockades continue as well as all levels of government continuing to harass, arrest the protesters or shut the blockades down all together. Just look up Wetʼsuwetʼen protests or any other indigenous protests across Canada and you will find that many of them are still ongoing even though all levels of Canadian government has shut them down. Sometimes even regular citizens like truckers, people who work in the oil and gas sector or outright racists like the Canadian Yellow Vest movement (which by the way is not even close to what the original Yellow Vest movement in by the way is not even close to what the original Yellow Vest movement in France is) or Sons of Odin or Proud Boys. Regular citizens? Nope. Regular racist colonizers? Yup.

That’s the exact reason why I went into work 30 years ago in such a foul mood. Something inside told me that 30 years later this anniversary would drudge up the same emotions again. Being sad, upset, disturbed and embarrassed. Something told me that 30 years later on this anniversary my hopes for reconciliation would be dashed. I’m sure the Mohawk tribe and all other tribes across Canada would feel the gamut as well as betrayed too that after 30 years they’re still fighting the same damn fight.

Now ask yourself, if someone didn’t give you clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, took your land away and to top it all off, decided to build a stupid golf course on your ancestor’s cemetery then how would you feel and what would you do? If your answer is anything less than put up a blockade or riot or even just a peaceful protest then you are an entitled, lying, hypocrite with zero empathy and compassion for the marginalized indigenous population. Not only that, you are also part of the problem and will eventually end up on the wrong side of history.

Oh, and if you think that I’m in a bad mood after nothing changing 30 years after The Mohawk Resistance, then try being a Canadian Indigenous person when nothing has changed in the 300 years after being colonized and see how you’d like it.