Support from all sides building in Kanesatake fight to stop Oka housing development
by Danielle Rochette, APTN National News, August 15, 2017
On Saturday, more than 100 people gathered on the Mohawk Territory of Kanesatake demanding that a housing project on disputed land be stopped.
The development outside the sacred pines was approved by the Town council of Oka that sits down the road from Kanesatake.
Momentum is building to stop this development.
But this time, support is coming from all sides.
“I do respect their territory,” said Oka resident Alexandre Boivin. “It is something that should be respected towards them again just like the 90’s we are going towards a war… that will be a disgrace for both our communities.”
The two communities west of Montreal have a history of conflict.
Oka is six km down the road from Kanesatake.
In 1990, the Mohawks defended their territory against the town of Oka over a proposed golf course.
They fought the town, the province, and eventually the Canadian army.
The land where a developer wants to build a number of houses sits right next to a stand of pines considered sacred to the Mohawks.
And it is well known to Kanesatake resident John Harding.
“I played here as a child in this area,” said Harding. “And my children can’t play here now so that to me as a significant impact.”
150 people attended the rally on Saturday.
They marched to the development site where a number of houses built last year stand.
In one section, a number of pines have been torn from the ground or smashed.
The town of Oka said it was Hydro Québec that caused the damage.
The Longhouse of Kahnawake marched alongside the group as well.
“From 1990, we have a really close relationship with Kanehsatake,” said Kenneth Deer, secretary, People of the Longhouse in Kahnawake. “And we were hoping that the conflict would have solved, the land issue here in Kanehsatake, but it has not so here again we are back again.
“Déjà vu and we have to support the people of Kanehsatake to make sure that we do not repeat what happened in 1990.”
The rally even drew federal politicians.
NDP MP Romeo Saganash joined the march.
But did not want to comment on the dispute between the Mohawks, Oka and the federal government.
Kanesatake Mohawk land protector Ellen Gabriel had plenty to say.
She says she’s fighting the development and she doesn’t recognize her own Indian Act band council.
“The system of the band Council is not empowering it is really the government who decides at the end of the day,” said Gabriel. “A lot of people are saying enough now it is not personal there are good people in there but it is a system that is made for the benefit of Canada.”
John Harding wishes his band council was more transparent.
“As a community member as a resident I am a little shocked and alarmed by the fact that we were told by the Grand Chief that the negotiations are confidential,” he said.
“Because ultimately we are the beneficiaries.
APTN contacted Indigenous Affairs last week asking for a comment about the disputed land.
None was provided.