Dec 14th Press Release from the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke

Appointment of Quebec negotiator will not address colonial systemic racism at the root of tensions and human rights violations against people of Kanehsatà:ke


December 14, 2020

Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke

Recently, the Municipalité d’Oka passed a unilateral by-law, by-law 2020-223, that declared the Pine Forest as their cultural heritage site. This was done without the free prior and informed consent of the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke.  This unilateral decision is in violation of international human rights norms that support and protect Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination.  

The Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke have tried many peaceful attempts to bring resolution to our land defense but our words have been silenced by the insistence by Canada and its colonial entities that the band council is the only ‘legal’ authority upon unceded Kanien’kehá:ka Homelands.   

The Rotinonhseshá:ka, the traditional governing system, has demanded many times in the last few decades for the federal and provincial governments to place a small moratorium on all development in Kanehsatà:ke.  This would foster improved relations and possibly resolve the three centuries old land struggle of the Kanien’kehá:ka nation.

Quebec has recently moved to assign a negotiator to look into deescalating tensions in Kanehsatà:ke. While this move may have good intentions, it does not address the issue of systemic racism which is the root cause of the plight of Kanehsata’kehró:non (people of Kanehsatà:ke) and increased tensions caused by the mayor of Oka and the head of Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (sic).  As well, Canada and its provinces have refused to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery that promotes persistent Indigenous lands dispossession.

Last week, even as Canada introduced legislation Bill C-15 to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Kanehsatà:ke Land Defenders (KLD) were paternalistically scolded by the Mayor of Oka Pascal Quevillon and the Mohawk Council of Kanehsatà:ke head Serge Simon who claimed that KLD  were making false statements about lands sales at the Oka Golf Club.

In fact, there have been numerous illegal sales of land in Kanehsatà:ke which the Rotinonhseshá:ka have warned are a violation of our rights to self-determination.  The ignorant behavior of Oka and MCK in conjunction of the silence by Canada, Quebec on these serious matters, have created numerous violations of the rights of Kanien’kehá:ka peoples.  

Good governance promotes a democratic solution with all rights holders voices heard and Indigenous forms of traditional governance are respected.

The UN Declaration (UNDRIP) provides a framework of reconciliation. However, unless words are put into action and implemented in the spirit for which they were intended, then Indigenous peoples will be left with nothing but more empty promises. 

Kanehsata’kehró:non have been pushed aside for decades by colonial entities which are more authoritarian than democratic.   Indigenous Traditional governments, which have survived colonialism, are founded on the principals of justice, peace, compassion and courage.  For the Haudenosaunee in Kanehsatà:ke, the title to the land remains vested in the women of its nation.  For centuries, Canada as a colonial state has undertaken a concerted effort, in collaboration with its provinces, to allow and encourage third parties to ignore Indigenous traditional laws.  

It is time for Canada, Quebec and Oka to dispense with colonial praxis and uphold the highest standards of Indigenous human rights and respect the rights of self-determination of Indigenous peoples.  Otherwise, Bill C-15 will be just one more document sitting on the shelf alongside all the important reports and commissions centering around solutions to land dispossession and genocide.

Many Indigenous peoples across Canada were inspired by the stand taken by Kanehsatà:ke in 1990.  In fact, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples stemmed from this major historical event.   The Pines of Kanehsatà:ke are a symbol of Indigenous peoples’ resilience and resistance to the encroachment and land dispossession upon which Canada has systematically conducted since its inception. 

Ending systemic racism will take time, courage, good will and good faith along with a deep understanding of Indigenous laws and international human rights laws.  It is time for a fundamental change in our relationship with settler governments and entities and we as the first peoples of Turtle Island, in Kanehsatà:ke will not tolerate anything less.  As Onkwehón:we, we must remain vigilant of any threat to our territorial integrity and steadfast to our knowledge of our inherent rights to self-determination as a distinct sovereign peoples.

Skén:nen – wishing you all peace

Kanehsatà:ke Land Defenders


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