The alliance between Mohawk and Wet’suwet’en people has been strengthened with a two day visit by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY – On February 20th and 21st, a delegation of Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en visited Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory to thank the Mohawk people for their actions in support of their cause. 

The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs visit the Wymans Rd. rail crossing February 21 2020

On Thursday, the chiefs had lunch with the warriors who’ve been holding the camps on the front lines. A few speeches offering thanks and friendship were made, and then the chiefs visited both front lines. They sung an honour song for the warriors at Camp 49, and then spent a few hours visiting land defenders at the Wyman Rd. rail crossing. While there, the chiefs autographed the now-famous plow that has been parked near the railway tracks at Wyman road. 

Mohawks & Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Leaders Hold Press Conference & Form Alliance

The next day, a group of over 100 Mohawks met with the Wet’suwet’en chiefs in a Mohawk’s people’s council. The people sat in their Turtle, Bear and Wolf clans, while the Wet’suwet’en chiefs sat on the fourth side. The Wet’suwet’en chiefs all spoke and explained their responsibilities to the land and their people. Following informative and moving speeches about Wet’suwet’en history and the colonial violence and repression they have faced at the hands of Canada, the chiefs explained that the RCMP must leave their territory before they commence any negotiations with Canada.

The chiefs expressed their thanks for the Mohawk support of their cause and said that they were deeply moved by the grassroots response of people across Turtle Island and the world to the RCMP raid. The Mohawks stated they would continue to act in support of the Wet’suwet’en people and that they would stop all trains going through their lands in Tyendinaga until they received word from the chiefs that the RCMP had pulled out from their lands. 

The meeting then discussed issuing a joint press statement, and holding a press conference for the media, who were growing increasingly agitated about the lack of information they had about the meetings and discussions that had been held. The meeting adjourned at 3:30pm to begin a press conference in the basement of the Council House.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and Kanenhariyo address the media February 21 2020

The press conference was packed with local and national media outlets, and immediately followed a press conference held by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  Reading from the joint Mohawk – Wet’suwet’en press statement, Chief Woos stated

“Contrary to the announcement by the BC RCMP on February 20, 2020 that they are withdrawing from Wet’suwet’en territory… [they] have in fact increased harassment, made illegal arrests, increased surveillance and monitoring of Wet’suwet’en people and their invited guests.” 

Woos reminded the people that Wet’suwet’en territory has never been ceded and that it is not in fact part of Canada at all. Furthermore, Canadian aggression against the Wet’suwet’en is an illegal invasion and the RCMP are an illegal occupation force committing genocide. Woos said that the railway shutdowns could have “…ended many days ago if only Canada, BC, CGL, and the RCMP had honoured their own laws as well as respected Wet’suwet’en laws.”

Woos re-stated the Wet’suwet’en’s core demands: 

  • “We demand that the remote detachment (Community Industry Safety Office) established by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory without our consent be immediately removed and that the RCMP are completely removed from our territory and cease patrols from our lands. Out means out.
  • We demand that all CGL activities cease within Wet’suwet’en territory while nation-to-nation talks are ongoing as pursuant to the eviction notice that was delivered to them on January 4th, 2020.
  • We commit to entering into nation to nation discussions with Canada and BC once the above two demands are met and we insist when these discussions occur, that they will be held on Wet’suwet’en territory to ensure inclusivity for our nation’s Dini ze’ and Tsakiy ze’ (Hereditary Chiefs), and the members we are accountable to, in accordance with our law.”

Following the reading of statements, the hereditary chiefs and Kanenhariyo of the Mohawk Bear Clan answered questions from the gathered media. 

Kanenhariyo reminded everyone that, “[s]ince the beginning, the Mohawk people of Tyendinaga have stated their willingness to allow the trains to pass through their territory and remain committed to do so once it is verified by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their appointed legal observers that the BC RCMP are indeed out of their territory.”

In his press conference earlier that day, Trudeau said that the onus was on Indigenous “leadership” to end the blockades.

Though probably not the way Trudeau wanted, Kanenhariyo provided leadership about how the Tyendinaga railway shutdown would end: “Upon confirmation [that the RCMP are out of Wet’suwet’en Territory], the Mohawks have agreed to negotiate the peaceful exit plan as agreed upon between the Mohawks and the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, Marc Miller.”

In a response to Trudeau’s call for dialogue, Chief Woos was very straightforward, harkening back to the golden rules many of us learn as young children: “Respect, trust, comes first. If those two are not around, how can you come up with a dialogue? Simple as that.”  

Chief Kloum Khun also commented on the idea of dialogue: “When you take a look at all the processes that we’ve got in Canada, and take a look at all the regulations they’re putting together, you’re not going to find the Aboriginal voice in there. So when Prime Minister Trudeau is talking about a lopsided dialogue, he better take a look at how they’ve been treating the Aboriginal people ever since Confederation.”Following the press conference, Smogelem, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief from the Fireweed Clan, confirmed their alliance with the Mohawk people during an interview on the CBC’s show The National: “For us, the Mohawks are like our brothers and sisters. We made an alliance with them because we have shared interests and values.”

Where do we go from here?

While leaders of the Canadian government speak out of both sides of their mouth, the Mohawk people at Tyendinaga and the Wet’suwet’en people remain strong, resolute and grounded in their traditional ways. On Friday night, the community gathered to celebrate friendship, healing, peace and optimism and joined together in the evening for a well attended social dance.

Following Trudeau’s incendiary remarks and the obvious clarity and integrity of the Wet’suwet’en leadership during their press conference, Indigenous supporters from many areas are converging on Tyendinaga. Strength and capacity are growing amongst Indigenous people, and they are coming together to protect the land and collective futures and to resist Canadian genocide.  

Non-indigenous support is also on the rise. Allies from far and wide are showing their support through solidarity actions, material and financial contributions to Tyendinaga and to the Unist’ot’en Camp. Speaking of the links between supportive settlers and Indigenous peoples, Chief Woos said “…it’s very simple. I think they have the same vision, the same values, the same concerns for their children and their grandchildren and we really appreciate that.”

In the coming days, (or weeks or months, depending on how things go), Indigenous people and settlers in solidarity will be watching closely to see if the Canadian state and their police forces come around and respect the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary chiefs and their Mohawk allies.

#Alleyesontyendinaga #Alleyesonwetsuweten #ShutDownCanada

When justice fails, block the rails!