No “Oka 2.0 crisis”
The Mohawks of Kanesatake have no intention of reliving a crisis. We are not for war. We seek peace and harmonious cohabitation. It seems to me necessary to make this statement publicly in the light of recent media coverage that tends to portray the current situation as precursory to a new conflict similar to that experienced in 1990. I want to be clear: as far as I am concerned, there is no question of “Oka Crisis 2.0”.
JI know that issues related to Aboriginal land rights are complex. I also know that it is difficult for some to understand that governments must repair the mistakes of the past and come to an agreement to correct the long history of Canadian colonialism and to allay the wounds left by this history. Ignorance and ignorance, however, do not justify inaction or racist statements. Since 1990, many things have changed. These included the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There was also recognition by the federal government of breaching its fiduciary duties and setting up a bargaining table. We should not talk about a new crisis nearly 30 years later. But, there is indeed a problem.
The current problem is at two levels. The first can be summarized by the negligence of governments, particularly Canada. Several have said in recent days that the question of the status of the Kanesatake territories should be settled for a long time. I agree with them. The second level of the problem is the general ignorance of our reality, our history and our rights. This lack of knowledge is particularly evident in the words of the mayor of Oka who dares to use colonialist language to oppose the necessary retrocession of our lands. In defending our rights and our territories, my people have shown great courage. It has also suffered great damage. The events of 1990 were particularly traumatic and left deep wounds. Rather than rekindle these wounds, the mayor should look to the future and understand that the interest of his community is in social peace, not confrontation.
Kanesatake means “where there is sand” in my language. In the beginning of our relationship, when the wind was blowing, the territory at the bottom of the hill, now the municipality of Oka, was subject to sandstorms. Around 1870, French settlers and Mohawks united to plant white pines on the hill, a tree capable of holding sand during periods of high winds. These are the trees of peace. Whether it’s 1870 or 1990, history teaches us lessons. I hope that everyone will remember them so that we can recognize our rights while taking the path of peace and harmonious cohabitation.