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Oka Crisis

Standoff At Oka: Summer 1990


In the summer of 1990 a small band of Mohawks announced that they had had enough. The town council of Oka, Quebec, wished to expand the golf course. They land they wanted was the ancestral burial grounds considered sacred by the Mohawk people. The courts had rejectedthe Mohawks' claim of the land. The Mohawks decided not to stand by and allow the land to be taken. They erected a barricade across the road and a 78-day armed standoff began.

On 10 July, 1990, about 100 Quebec provincial police officers attempted to break through the barricades which was guarded mostly by woman and children. Mohawk men, armed with rifiles, were off to the side in the woods. Ploice wore gas masks and carried assult rifiles. Overhead a police helicopter hovered, attempting to spot the Mohawks in the brush. A few minutes before 9:00am, an armed confict began. Hundreds of rounds were fired, from both sides. A 31-year old police officer was shot, and later died.

Thirty kilometers to the south the Kahnawake Reserve were outraged by the actions of the police. In their support they blocked off all roads to into the reserve.These included two major hiways, and the southern tip of the Mercier bridge. The Mercier bridge was a vital link to the Island of Montreal and several heavily populated suberbs. The Kahnawake Mohawks issued this warning; "We'll bring down the bridge if there is another police assault at Oka."

Over a 100 chiefs from accross Canada met at Kahnawake to solidarity between Mohawks. They said that they would not stand by and watch the Mohawks be assualted. The chiefs called international leaders to condem Canada for it's handiling of the crisis, and asked the U.N. to investigate.

Meanwhile, no progress was made towards negotiations. Early in August Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced that the Canadian Military would be sent to Oka and Kahnawake. They would replace the Quebec police. The decision to send in the army came at the request of Quebec Premier Bourassa.

Approximetly 4400 Canadian soldiers were moved into Oka and Kahnawake. The troops were backed by armoured personel carriers and heavy weapons. Military officials said that the mission was to peacfully remove the barricades. After tense negoctiations the barricades came down on the Mercier brisge, and during the following weeks negotiations continued. On 26 September, the 11-weeks standoff ended.

The Mohawks vied the standoff as a success for them. They had stoped the expansion of the golf course. However, they warned Canada that unless Canada respected their land there would be more Okas.
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