Longest Railway Shutdown in Canadian History Entering its 8th day

Tyendinaga Mohawks Seek Peaceful Resolution

TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY – The Royal Canadian Mounted Police invaded Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia on February 5th, 2020 to enforce a court injunction to remove the Wet’suwet’en from their own land. The injunction was obtained by the Coastal GasLink corporation (CGL) in order to force their 670-kilometer long natural gas pipeline project through traditional unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. This development poses deep and significant threats to human and non-human life in a culturally and environmentally important region, and goes against the Canadian government’s supposed process of “Peace and Reconciliation” with First Nations peoples.

In response to this colonial aggression against the Wet’suwet’en, Tyendinaga Mohawks have set-up an encampment alongside the CN railway and issued their demand: no trains should pass the tracks until the RCMP has left Wet’suwet’en territory. As a result, all train traffic along the Toronto-Montreal corridor passing through Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, has come to a halt with the economic toll to Canada steadily rising. Within a few days of the beginning of the railway stoppage, CN rail succeeded in getting a court-ordered injunction, and the Ontario Provincial Police delivered the injunction demanding the Tyendinaga land defenders to leave and allow rail traffic to resume. The response from the people of Tyendinaga is unwavering:

“In regards to the “Injunction” served on the people of Tyendinaga, We the people refuse to have the laws of the Canadian nation-state imposed upon us. We have, and have always had our own laws and customs, prior to, during and after Canada’s attempts at genocide and assimilation. A paper ordering us to vacate our own land, and or allow passage of foreign goods through our territory is meaningless. We will stand our ground, and as stated, not leave until the RCMP pull out of Wet’suwet’en traditional territories.” 

A second site next to the track in Tyendinaga February 12, 2020

The Ontario Provincial Police have sent a small number of vehicles to monitor the blockade and sent “liaison officers” to intermittently approach land defenders for ‘negotiations’. OPP liaison officers have continued to arrive at the rail shutdown armed despite agreeing to not bring loaded weapons to parlay in doing so the OPP violated the spirit of peace and reconciliation and the traditional protocols for a respectful nation-to-nation relationship. 

Under this threat of injunction, with heavily armed OPP officers nearby, the possibility of a violent police raid feels imminent. However, a clear path forward to a peaceful resolution to the railway shutdown exists. There is as Kanenhariyo put it a teaching to the OPP officers on the train tracks.

“We have an obligation like you do to be bound to one another in a respectful relationship, and you have a responsibility like we do to be peaceful and sit down and polish our chain.” 

Kanenhariyo gives a teaching to the OPP at the tracks on February 11, 2020

“We have a relationship with your Sovereign,” Kanenhariyo explained, “a direct one, and the last time she was here in 2010, she came and re-affirmed that relationship with us. She brought these hand bells and inscribed on them she described our 300 year relationship.” He went on to say that the two links of the Silver Covenant Chain symbolize the British and the Mohawk peoples, the centre link representing their joint relationship with one another. If the silver were ever to become tarnished, either side could pull on the chain to bring the two sides back together so they could together polish the chain, thus addressing the issues that had led to the “tarnishing” of the relationship between them.

Until a peaceful resolution is achieved, the Tyendinaga land defenders are determined to maintain the railway stoppage. In this, they are joined by Indigenous communities, youth and settler allies engaged in acts of economic disruption from coast to coast. In contrast to the racist caricature of Indigenous land defenders as irrational and unreasonable, the Mohawks of Tyendinaga have offered a historically-consistent and just peace if only the government of Canada and its constituent police forces stop their aggression against Indigenous nations and the land, and return to their responsibilities to the Two Row wampum and the Silver Covenant Chain. 

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