VIDEO: Tyendinaga Police punched Mohawk elder after he requested War Chief’s presence at traffic stop
Constable Markus Bardy refused to follow the appropriate protocols in dealing with traditional people, and instead inflicted a concussion on the elder and endangered the community by instigating a high-speed chase that ended up at the War Chief’s house.
TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY – On the morning of Thursday, January 7th, Tyendinaga Police Service constables Travis Brant and Markus Bardy stopped Tehonikonrathe Robert Fisher, a 66 year Mohawk man and member of the Bear Clan who was travelling down York Rd. in the middle of the Territory. The police claimed that the plates attached to Tehonikonrathe’s car did not match the make and color of his vehicle, and they said that this is why they were pulling him over.
When Constable Bardy asked Tehonikonrathe for his driver’s license and insurance papers, he told them that he was not required to have such documents while driving on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, and told Bardy to call the local Tyendinaga War Chief, who under traditional protocols is the local Mohawk interface with colonial police forces in the Territory.
In an interview with Real People’s Media, Tehonikonrathe gave the following account of what happened to him:
When I pulled over, [Constable] Bardy said, “We pulled you over because your plate has expired. Can I have your license and insurance?” I said, “I don’t need a license and insurance in Tyendinaga. I’ve done nothing wrong, call the War Chief.” And he [Constable Bardy] said, “That’s not happening. License and insurance.” I said, “Call the War Chief.” He says “License and insurance.” I said “call the War Chief.” He said, do you have a license”. I said, “not an Ontario license, no.” And he says, you’re going to have to come with me. I said “no thanks,” and I went to put it [the car] in drive. He grabs me and punches me like this. I said “goodbye” and drove away. That’s what happened, exactly what happened. I’m not pulling back over, he just punched me in the head, I brought him here where I am. I came right fucking here [to the War Chief’s house].”
As a Rotiskenrahketeh, Tehonikonrathe followed proper protocols in asking for the War Chief to be contacted at the time of the incident. According to the Silver Covenant Chain agreement, when there is an issue with a Kanyen’kehaka, the other side is to bring the issue to the Nation through the War Chief. The people must then decide if the Kanyen’kehaka individual has done wrong in accordance with Kayanerehkowa (The Great Peace).
The key is that as Kanyen’kehaka, we govern ourselves with our own laws, not through the imposition of laws from anyone else. Likewise, if there is an issue with a non-Indigenous person, we follow the same process and speak with the representatives of their nation to state our issue. In this instance, although Tyendinaga Police Services Constable Markus Bardy is of Mohawk descent, he is operating in his job capacity as an OPP member. Tyendinaga Police Services officers conduct their official businesses with email addresses ending in opp.ca. As a Constable, he represents and enforces laws that differ from Kayanerehkowa. Furthermore, Kanenhariyo also followed protocol by later meeting with Police Chief Jason Brant on the matter. With respect to this incident, when Tehonikonrathe asked to contact the War Chief, Tyendinaga Police Services should have obliged, as the result would have been very different.
Police Escalation at the War Chief’s House
Instead, constables Bardy and Brant chased after Tehonikonrathe after he pulled away, and followed him to the home of Kanenhariyo, a Bear Clan Mohawk who was appointed to the position of War Chief in the wake of the February 2020 action taken to refuse CN rail access to Mohawk Territory after the RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory.
Kanenhariyo was in the shower when the constables arrived, and came to the drama on his front door dripping wet and wearing only a towel. Constable Bardy kept mis-identifying Tehonikonrathe, calling him “William” – his nephew’s name – and insisted that he was under arrest for “flight from police,” reckless driving, and claiming that he had “almost dragged him down the road.”
Tehonikonrathe replied, “This is full harassment, 100%. I’ve done nothing wrong in Tyendinaga. I am not in Canada, you can’t arrest me.”
According to a 2019 Provincial Court decision in Alberta, reserve roads on Indian lands can be considered private roads. In this case, the judge dismissed criminal charges laid against Terrance Adams of the Paul First Nation who was arrested for driving on reserve after being prohibited from driving on a “street, road, highway, or any other public place in Canada.”
The Judge ruled that “There is no presumption that roads on First Nations land constitute a “public place” because such lands were set “aside … for the benefit of” Indigenous people.” The judge said that the First Nation needed “to clearly define for police, and the police need to respect, the expectations of Indigenous people regarding the use of their own roads on the First Nation.” The judge added that this process of “establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship, is at the root of reconciliation.”
Constable Bardy kept demanding that Tehonikonrathe step outside of Kanenhariyo’s house, and admitted to having punched the elder in the head, claiming that this occurred as he was “almost” being dragged along by the car. Constable Bardy was visibly agitated as he paced outside the building, asking him “why are you hiding behind the War Chief?” and called for Tehonikonrathe to step outside when the elder asked him if he wanted to fight.
When Tehonikonrathe told Constable Bardy that he didn’t have the authority to impose Provincial traffic laws on Mohawk Territory, the constable replied in a condescending tone, “Right, because you’re Sovereign, right, so you’re not following rules, ok.”
Constable Travis Brant kept a calmer outlook than Constable Bardy. War Chief Kanenhariyo de-escalated the situation, by saying, “This is not about us. I have a responsibility. Let’s talk this out, let’s find a solution. The solution right at the moment is de-escalation, so things are calm. Cause really it’s about being peaceful and making sure our community is safe. It’s not about our egos or conflicts or any sort of stuff like that, or who’s going to take care of the community, what are the rules, what’s sovereignty, what isn’t. We don’t need to have that debate right now. We’ve all got different opinions and understandings about how those mechanisms work, but [right now] I’m here in my towel.”
After the constables left his property, Kanenhariyo went to the Police Station on the Territory and met with Police Chief Jason Brant. Kanenhariyo raised two issues with Brant: the incident that had happened that morning, and the issue of developing a better protocol for addressing such issues in the future. Kanenhariyo reminded Jason Brant that the Simcoe Deed and the Mohawks’ treaty relationship with the Crown still remained in effect.
Kanenhariyo said that he told Chief Brant that, “This is a fellow that has his red card and his passport and he’s asking for his War Chief to be present. And because you wouldn’t listen, we ended up with an altercation with a police officer and a big escalation and charges on it. If we have enough common sense, we can set some sort of protocol so we can navigate these issues so that nobody’s in danger. We can come up with a logical way to move forward, and a peaceful way so that it’s calm.”
Chief Brant agreed with Kanenhariyo that such a protocol should be followed, and also agreed to meet with Kanenhariyo to discuss the matter at a future date. He said that the laying of charges was due to his constable’s discretion, but that he would prepare the paperwork in such a way that Tehonikonrathe could just show up at his first court date without needing to have further interaction with the Tyendinaga Police. Brant informed Kanenhariyo that he could come back and pick up that paperwork later in the day.
Following 24 hours of suffering from headache and nausea, Tehonikonrathe was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a mild concussion from the punch.