Still Our Land:

Rotinonhsesh:ka Onkwahón:tsa – Kanehsatà:ke

September 30, 2020

On September 29, 2020 I woke early to catch the Sunrise for I knew it would be the last time I would see the manifestation of our small peaceful encampment at the eastern edge of the Piney-wood forest we fought to protect in 1990.  The developer/land speculator, Gregoire Gollin had ordered the Municipality of Oka to remove our Iroquois Confederacy flags and dismantle the encampment.

This is the land of my Kanien’kehá:ka ancestors passed on to this generation to take care of and protect. She is a precious part of our heritage in which I swore and oath to protect in upholding Kaianera’kó:wa/Kaianwera’shera’kó:wa – The Great Shining Peace.

Throughout the 3 years myself and other Longhouse people occupied this site from illegal sales and development, we have sat peacefully, marched through this area peacefully, we always took the time to talk with residents who wanted to know more; we ignored the racist glares and taunts. Kanehsata’kehró:non sang social songs; we occupied the area with Confederacy flags, cedar and ourselves but never staying overnight; we were always respectful and mindful of those who had bought stolen land in good faith. 

I thought that this year with a global pandemic that things could be different; that we could relax and land development would be put on hold.  However I couldn’t have been more wrong since the town of Oka and land speculator Grégoire Gollin of les Collines d’Oka continued to sell land and issue building permits for lands stolen from us.  This in spite of a lawyer’s letter sent to Mr. Gollin in November 2019 saying he should stop selling land of the Rotinonhseshá:ka 

Since we began occupying this site, our Iroquois Confederacy and Unity flags were considered as a threat to some residents’ safety; a racist double standard that defies freedom of expression.  But it was decided by the people that during our peaceful protests, that our flags were important signifier of our peaceful assertion of our sovereign rights to our land.  

Attempts to resolve this conflict peacefully is something which I think government officials of Canada, Quebec and Oka are not interested in. In fact it seemed as if Mayor Quevillon, MCK’s Mayor Simon were trying to instigate a conflict through their disparaging public statements about myself and the Rotinonhseshá:ka protecting the land.  The Federal government remained silent, telling us they could not tell Oka, Quebec nor the Band council what to do.

As the mayor of Oka, Pascal Quevillon told me in our July 12, 2017 encounter, “I want to speak to the Minister of Indian Affairs and I want a million dollars for the lost revenue in taxes I will lose…” because of stopping development!  It’s always been about the money, not the respect for our human rights.

Our many requests for Minister Bennett to meet with the Rotinonhseshá:ka were persistently met  with refusal during the 3 year period of 2017 to 2020.  Pleas to Marc Miller who was the only person in government who took our calls, also had disappointing outcomes.

The fight for justice of Kanien’kehá:ka and Rotinonhseshá:ka land in Kanehsatà:ke has been a struggle of over 300 years.  Just like our ancestors, our voices have been ignored and silenced by every colonial level of government, including the creation and imposition of the colonial band council system.  We have been continually criminalized in our efforts to peacefully protect our lands from theft and fraudulent sales.  There is no one to call to stop these illegal acts of fraud and nothing to end the authoritarian manner in which we are treated: there is in fact no interest by any Crown actors to begin a process of decolonization.  The status quo of taking, stealing land without consideration of Indigenous peoples’ human rights is too pervasive.

(at the time of writing this post, the Rotinonhseshá:ka had a Zoom meeting on September 22, 2020 we asked the federal government to place a moratorium on development. Minister Bennett and Minister Miller both categorically stated that a moratorium is out of the realm of possibility. This taking place on the heels of a dreadful incident at the illegal development site and given the biased and racist media coverage of the incident by Espace Authochtones and Radio Canada, I am compelled to give our side of the story.)

On the afternoon of September 11th, while I was out of town, I was informed by my compatriot Al Harrington that 3 members of the community, were at the occupation site and that they seemed high and intoxicated.  These individuals never supported land protectors’ protest; neither have they ever visited the site until that day.  I believe they came to intimidate land protectors more than anything else as it seems suspicious that they came the day after the Ricochet article by Chris Curtis on the G & R Recyclage toxic waste dump.  And when we did not appear at the site, they turned their gaze upon the residents of Les Collines.   They were never part of the land defenders and do not represent the Rotinonhseshá:ka.  Yet the mayor of Oka Pascal Quevillon and some residents including the Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake persistently accuse the land defenders of being responsible for these individuals’ repulsive actions.  These three individuals’ actions have destroyed land defenders’ 3 years of peaceful efforts at the illegal development site to highlight the illegal development.

As night fell, some of those individuals remained on location in spite of being told to leave by several people.  They were told that what they were doing was not what the people protesting at the development wanted.  That what they were doing was ruining peaceful protest for everyone.  During the early that morning hours, residents were awoke to 4wheelers spinning their tires around their neighborhood.   Some stated that it was the vehicles of these same three individuals who harassed them that preceding afternoon and the poor residents were awaken in the early morning hours only to see in horror that their neighbor’s roof was on fire.

It must be stated that the same evening there were many men working on the roof of this house.  But this fact has been lost in this atmosphere of misdirection and greed.

Finger pointing towards the Rotinonhseshá:ka was automatically done – false accusations by both the owner, the municipality of OKA and Mr Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake:  malicious cruelty,  enacted without the results of the investigation.

As mentioned earlier, it seems a bit coincidental that the appalling acts by these three individuals of harassing residents occurred the day after the Chris Curtis article in Ricochet was released about the toxic waste dump in Kanehsatà:ke.  All the actions by those in decision making authority have threatened the safety in the community.  Given a 30 year permit by Serge Simon of the MCK, G & R has actively allowed dumping at reduced prices to Montreal construction companies.  Questions revolve around this permit, and fear prevents farmers and residents of Kanehsatà:ke from stopping the dumping.   Even the revoking of permits does not hinder the continual dumping by Montreal area construction companies culpable in the creation of this dreadful affront to the environment and its people.

Since that fateful day, Kanien’kehá:ka Land Defenders are being treated like criminals, ostracized and a smear campaign is in full force.  Personally I have had my reputation smeared by Mr Gollin, Serge Simon, Mayor of Oka Pascal Quevillon and an unknown person who has falsely accused me of setting the fire. 

All of this could have been avoided had the Federal Government returned this land to us in 1990, and thereafter.  Meetings with Mr Gollin began in 2017 at a bakery in Oka called La Petit Panier d’Alexie, (now closed because of the pandemic) and it’s important to note that I always had someone with me to witness our talks.  The initial discussions were arranged by Steve Bonspiel of the Eastern Door whose reasoning was that it wouldn’t hurt to talk.  But had Mr. Gollin been forthright, had he been honest and lived up to his promise that he would not do anything without consulting the Longhouse, we may have avoided all this current impasse.  Mr. Gollin spoke of how he was in reconciliation mode and wanted to ‘gift’ the Mohawks of Kanehsatà:ke with the forest and told me any discussions had to include me. 

Mr. Gollin also said he had to continue to sell land as “he has to eat”!

Previously to that, I first met Mr. Gollin 7 years ago at the Kanehsatà:ke Cultural Center, where he approached us to speak about the land; he informed the director from the Cultural Center and myself that “I have read your history book and I’m here to tell you that I am not here to recognize your rights!”.  I responded that we did not need him to recognize our rights, that the land is ours.  The proposal for his land “gift” is the one that is now public meaning that he never was open to anything other than his own agenda: to make money off the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke.  His proposal in the end was if the Rotinonhseshá:ka allowed him to continue selling land, that he would “gift” us with the pine forest and two lots of land.  The Rotinonhseshá:ka rejected his proposals as we did not want more land to be sold.  It was as if Mr. Gollin was holding our land hostage to promote his agenda. Had it been a genuine gift without any conditions, I am certain that we could have come up with creative ways for the land transfer to be directly for the people of Kanehsatà:ke: not held in trust by Canada.

When Mr. Gollin and I and others had our several meetings at La Petit Panier d’Alexie, his talk was always cordial, reassuring that he was on the level; but he kept asking if I would be open to meeting with Serge Simon of which I said yes that I was always open to it.  This meeting never happened however, as Mr. Simon refused. 

Mr. Gollin had spoken of how problematic it was to transfer the land to the community and admitted he knew it would be a challenge on which entity to transfer the land to: either the Longhouse people or to have the band council in charge.

Mr. Gollin is a land speculator, a business man with many land holdings in Kanehsatà:ke (OKA) and surrounding municipalities.

On September 29th, he ordered the municipality of Oka to dismantle our small encampment to take down our Confederacy flags etc.  I had been asked by SQ liaison officer Guillame Belisle the day before what we were going to do.  The SQ has been acting as a mediator between us and Oka – the municipality has asked if they, the SQ thought we would take down our flags.  He replied that it was unlikely but asked me anyways.  I told him that I would have to check with others, but we decided that we would not want to take down our flags.

That morning of the 29th I went early to witness the dismantling and posted it on Facebook Live. Flags or no Flags, it is still our – Rotinonhseshá:ka Lands, no colonial law will change that.

30 years: Is this what We fought for?! 1990 Kanehsatà:ke: insufferable Suffocating Corruption, February 3, 2020, Ellen Gabriel

I feel so sad
So frustrated at seeing my community
Morph into something my grandparents and those
Who fought for our Homelands in 1990
Would not recognize
Kanehsatà:ke once rich in biodiversity
In Resistance fighters
what it’s crusty sand dunes
A place infested, polluted with
False leaders
A benefit to the colonizer
Rather than those who share a story of
Of Courage
Of Love for the land
For what life it gives to those who
Walk upon HER
Whose ancestors’ blood
Still lives in every molecule of
Air we breathe
A generation who fought as hard
As they could
to keep what little the Colonizer
Couldn’t take by their depraved
As a legacy
To following generations

What does it mean now?!
Our beautiful tall Pine trees now diseased
And now being cut down
For cigarette and marijuana shacks
And who knows what else

Contaminated lands
An apathetic population
Comfortable in their

Oppression at its utmost sublime
Where democracy is a thing of the past
And it’s gift for Freedom of voice
threatened by
Who buy and sell it’s Peoples
Who love money and instill
Fear in Those who dare speak out

No more Marches for me
Just a memory I will carry with me
A moment in time
When Kanien’keha:ka were looked up to
Who’s courageous battle against a Golf Course
By rich colonizers who wanted to dig up
Our dead
Our ancestors for
An extension for its parking lot

We won that WAR
BUT sadly not the one
Against the assimilated and the
Of our pain
Who take
Take take
As if it No one else matters
Knowing no one will dare

Our beautiful Pines
Cut down
For …!!!!!!!
30 years
A lot has changed
The good minded people
Afraid to speak
Afraid to lose their jobs from government
At one point in our history
The characteristics of Onkwehón:we Peoples
Was their Love of the land

Today it’s money
And it’s illusion of power
Today it’s machismo chest pounding
For a false economy
A False Identity
A false sense Pride
replaced by band cards
And the chains from the blood sucking
cuffs of
And greed

The colonizer sits back
Laughing at the calamity
They helped create

The media
Blood thirsty for another sensationalized
That justifies what historical
has always
Claimed that “WE” are
Running wild
The Untamed
Needing to be tamed
By Any Means Necessary
Be it
By bullets, guns and tanks
racist threats
coercion to sign funding agreements

That is what we have become

Assimilated, unable to see their reflection
running in their popularity contests
they are the ones Canada emboldens
they are the ones who load the bullets at those who
these false leaders
Who never cross the Real line of
And who’s cowardice
And apathy
Are killing the next generations’
Hope at a fighting chance to continue
Yet again the War
The one the Colonizer began
Over 500 years ago
To take all our resources
Land and People

Peoples once proud
Thoughtful and kind
Thinking of 7 Generations
Shamed into believing the lies they say

Our spirituality
Our pain
Spin it into a Human economy
employment for citizens of the colonizer

Unrelenting in its army
Of marauders it calls civilized
the Authorities
Who thoughtlessly
The good
For there is good
In Kanehsatake
Hidden underneath all the
“Open” Neon
There is good in the elders whose knowledge
Can guide the
To create a society
And more mindful
There is Good in Kanehsatake
release it into the fresh air
It is a possibility

The Marauders
They were always there
They just needed a little shove from government
To embolden them

But the Good
That too has always been there
It just hides for a while

1990 …
30 years later …
Everything has changed
Except for the Colonizers’ wicked genocidal IMGP2345agenda
But that too can change
After all
We are patient
Waiting for over 500 years
For that change
Skén:nen sewanontón:nioht
Let peace be in your mind

Ellen Gabriel

The Bouncing Ball of Colonialism

Imagine a world where women, in particular, Indigenous women are respected, that gender and economic status are irrelevant – turn the coin on its opposite side and you will see what Indigenous peoples’ politics are today.

Marinated in colonial standards, the Assembly of First Nations is a male dominated arena in which a large portion of its’ “members” believe that only a ‘treaty Indian’ and a man can properly represent a national organization.  And as well, that a woman has no business being the head of AFN.  This is a belief held by some, not all but remains in an organization whose original intent was for the defense of ‘its’ rights holders –  Onkwehón:we (Indigenous) peoples.

Consider this: when Pam Palmateer, along with others and myself, entered the AFN election ring in 2012, we encountered this narrow definition of who can be the leader of AFN.  Perhaps we will never be able to shake off the effects of colonization and the paternalistic Indian Act which continues to dominate lives.  And while we may never agree politically on who is right, who has the better solutions to the colonial rooted socio-economic problems that continue to plague us, then maybe, just maybe we should start addressing what we have in common:  the fact that our very existence as a species on Mother Earth is in peril due to the anthropocene of Climate Change.

And so the next elected leader of AFN must therefore put the priorities of the peoples first, not the agenda of Canada and wealthy capitalists.  How much do we love our children to set aside egos and fight the capitalistic colonial monster that has made a mess of our environment?

While we gaze at our navels within the tiny postage stamp size pieces of lands we live on called “reserves”, the global society forges on ever strong in its willingness to forgo human rights, for economic rights. Sadly, some leaders fall for this skewed view of the world where economic and energy security is far more important than the rights of Mother Earth, the environment, and human rights.  It is these status quo proponents that have hindered the success of Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination: our sovereignty.

According to our ancestral teachings, traditional leaders are chosen for their knowledge of their language, their customs, their traditions and they do not make a decision without the approval of the people.  On the opposite side of this spectrum of choosing leaders is the colonial structures in which leaders don’t need have be accountable to anyone except the Minister of Indian (Indigenous) Affairs and to Canada.  This is the nature of Indigenous politics often mired in chaos, innuendo, coercion and secrecy.

Because of that, we often forget that we are not solely battling assimilation policies of Canada, but something more insidious; hidden away in within the structures of government and society: corruption, conspiracies and mobster like actors.  It manifests itself through criminal acts propped up with colonial laws in the name of prosperity, and ‘progress’, However, it is in fact  unrestricted and unabated capitalism at the expense of the human rights of Indigenous peoples and our environment.  Multiple generations have faced off against this authoritarian and archaic form of government propelled by the agenda of the wealthy; slathered in racism, sexism – promoting fear and greed in order to  advance the agenda of the 1% of the 8% .

Consider the so-called racist “land claims process”: while negotiations take place, third parties interests are protected and development continues, with a promissory note by government to compensate Indigenous peoples after negotiations are finished.  Consequently, Indigenous peoples become increasingly dispossessed – because adopting the values of the colonizer means money trumps the real intrinsic value of the land upon which our ancestors’ blood was shed.

We naively, along with the rest of global society, have been hoodwinked into being good little consumers; an Orwellian type of assimilation telling us what we need and controlling in all aspects of our lives through colonial standards and laws.  Thus causing many to be unwilling to defy the colonizers laws lest we be called “radicals”, unreasonable, or trying to “live in the past”.

Yet there are people who remain defiant to the status quo-  those who are the  grassroots warriors:  land and water defenders, who must bear the brunt of assimilation and suffer dehumanization through being called criminals by government and by some of our own people’. While arm chair ‘warriors’ play footsie with government, they betray their own people colluding with government into accepting government’s insistence of ‘confidential’ secret meetings; making public denouncements of those willing to stand against bulldozers, dogs, pepper spray and para-military forces.  And if that’s not enough, those very same arm chair ‘warriors’ will sully the reputation of those who disagree with their agenda.

Indigenous peoples have been given little choice in our self-determination, let alone tolerating the pseudo forms of ‘democracy’ implemented by the Indian Act band councils.  In reality, these councils have little power as it is a broken system designed to continue the oppression of Indigenous peoples, for the prosperity of Canada and its provinces, its municipalities and any third party willing to shell out the cash.

Canada’s bureaucratic culture is really the governing body of society as they make the recommendations to ministers and government.  It is this force in government which tries to seduce Indigenous communities into thinking that progress can only be made by more development – that Indigenous peoples may as well profit from these forms of destructive development as these projects will go ahead anyways.  This form of coercion is the status quo.  It in essence makes all Indigenous peoples human rights accomplishments null and void reducing us to stakeholders, not rights holders.

Reconciliation!  Restitution! They have become another money making fad for institutions and government agencies who have long ignored and neglected the colonial rooted problems of Indigenous peoples.

And while there may be agencies with a genuine spirit of reconciliation, we are far from what this actually means.

We as Indigenous peoples are anxious to be free from the shackles of colonization and are happy to hold out our hands to our allies who try their best to help us overcome the plague of racism in society and its institutionalized racism.

An elder once remarked: We as Onkwehón:we peoples do not now what it is like not to struggle or fight!

What must it be like to feel free?  To live one day without a struggle to exist and push back against colonial assimilation; what is it like not to worry about land dispossession or whether or not our languages will survive; not to have to confront racism, ignorance, or sexism on a daily basis.  To feel real self-determination where the people are making decisions and deciding for ourselves our destiny.

For too long, we’ve been led to believe that REZ democracy is more civilized, more progressive and that we can’t live like our ancestors did…!  We have been fed this malarkey for so long now and assimilation has been so gradual, that in communities like Kanehsatà:ke, there is fierce and violent confrontations against anything to do with tradition and customs.  People live under threat of losing their jobs if they defy band council, and so they remain quiet.  This is the so-called ‘democracy’ we live under.

Over the past 28 years I have watched so many opportunists who pound their chests to say they fought in 1990 when they never lifted a finger to help.  Instead they chose to publicly oppose the grassroots peoples who defend our lands.  They accuse us of trying to start another “1990” but yet outside the community, they call for one!  These are the Indigenous Trumps we have to deal with.

In the communities AFN is viewed as a distant cousin, to haughty to take our calls, to busy to meet with us, treated as undesirables at their functions, unless we can cough up the cash or tow the line.  As rights holders this is unacceptable and while it is the cost of meetings in hotels is understandable, this is not conducive to democracy and we must ask ourselves what are we getting out of it for our money?

With all due respect to AFN and its accomplishments, it must change drastically to keep up with thegrassroots people in the communities doing the actual work of defending our sovereignty.

AFN meetings only allow ‘chiefs’ to speak, to vote to make any decisions that will most certainly affect rights holders lives.   This is contrary to any democracy; so why is this accepted and why does Canada treat it like as if it is a government if the people – the rights holders, are not allowed to speak at AFN public forums?  And why are those who still practice the traditional forms of government excluded from the ‘negotiations’ with government?

As Canada spins its marketing of reconciliation, and a purported rights based framework for reconciliation, in the meantime the status quo remains.  A ‘rights based framework’ should include traditional forms of government like the Haudenosaunee – but Canada continues to ignore traditional forms of governments and considers them illegal.  It makes me doubt that Canada is serious about respecting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples if it cannot even consider traditional governments which have survived colonization, and who are also rights holders.

Canada’s 151 years of existence ignores the human rights abuses against Indigenous families, and their children: a description that fits the definition of a Crime Against Humanity.  Like any abusive relationship, the abuser must not be tolerated anymore.  We need real warriors who understand the preciousness of life and the worth of the land which is priceless.  We need to give the babies, children and youth a fighting chance for the future that will look drastically different than today.

The plundering of Indigenous resources and trampling upon the our economic, social and political rights continues must STOP.

So as band Councillors get ready to vote for their next representative, I ask several questions:

  • How will they make AFN a more open environment at their assemblies for grass roots peoples and community members?
  • What does gender equity look like to them and how can AFN embrace this?
  • How will they deal with the continuation of land fraud and theft that continues each day?
  • How do they see “rebuilding” our nations?
  • How do they see AFN supporting the grassroots Indigenous peoples on the frontlines fighting against pipelines, land fraud and theft, and all forms of development?
  • What are their solutions for a sustainable and environmentally friendly economic and energy base?
  • How can they help communities to achieve this?
  • How do they see AFN helping the revitalization of Indigenous languages?
  • Do they agree that AFN should not take any money for Indigenous languages revitalization so that it can go directly to the Cultural Centers to create the human resources needed to maintain and revitalize our languages?

Our reality as Indigenous peoples today is that we only have rights if the colonizer allows us to.  If we assert our traditional forms of sovereignty, we are always met with the threat of the use of force.  So how on Mother Earth can we achieve peace among all our peoples and the settlers who continue to arrive in droves?

there are many solutions to our problems: it’s deciding which path is best for each nation and what kind of legacy we are going to leave behind abased upon a human rights framework and using the principles of Free Prior and Informed Consent.IMGP2345.JPG

In the meantime, as egos squabble over who gets the biggest piece of the half eaten pie, the babies and youth of today will be the ones trying to survive in this messy, chaotic, and scary world that we leave behind.




Open Letter to PM Trudeau re: Land Theft in “OKA” Kanehsatà:ke: new home being built April 10, 2018 CAVEAT EMPTOR of land purchases in “OKA”.

Open Letter

April 11, 2018

To the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau

Re:  Double standards by government agencies regarding Land Dispute and protection of Indigenous People in Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka Homelands

Shé:kon – Greetings Prime Minister Trudeau;

I write to you today to bring to your attention the long standing historical land dispute in Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka Territory.  Twenty-eight years ago our community began a blockade on a small secondary dirt road to stop the expansion of a 9 hole golf course and condominium development.

Today while the golf course remains a 9 hole course, condominium and land theft continues on Kanien’kehá:ka Traditional Homelands in what you call “OKA”.

Rotinonhseshá:ka of Kaianera’kó:wa of Kanehsatà:ke have written you several letters in the past year, to ask you to put a halt to the land theft in Kanehsatà:ke traditional homelands.  Your response is to pass it along to Minister Carolyn Bennett who is part of the problem as she has been stonewalling our requests that INAC put a halt, a moratorium on the development in the part of our homelands called OKA.  But she has refused to help in any way that would help resolve our long standing historical land dispute.

Minister Bennett spoke with me last November 22, 2017 in Université de Québec á Ouataouis during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  I told her that her refusal to help and her silence on this issue conveys a message to the public that Kanien’kehá:ka lives are unimportant and that the status quo of colonialism will prevail.   After a while, she finally told me angrily, “Well if you don’t like it, take it to the courts!”

We have been a very patient Nation that continues to wait for the settler colonial government of Canada to have a good mind, to be a people that love peace and are honorable.  We have been waiting a very long time, but sadly for this generation, and it seems that once again there is no good will or honorable dealings on the part of Canada to resolve Kanehsatà:ke Homelands disputes.  It is disrespectful and disappointing to see that the racist status quo of colonialism continues.  Prime Minister Trudeau as I hear you speak of equality, of reconciliation, of nation to nation relationship, but given your lack of response to the land theft in Kanehsatà:ke, and in regards to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, what I interpret this to mean is that it does not apply to Indigenous peoples.

Prime Minister, you quote a ‘Rule of Law’, that is flawed, is based upon the racist Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius that allows Canada an assumed sovereignty on sovereign Indigenous lands.

Yesterday I passed by the development site, only to see a new foundation being dug for yet another home on disputed, contested Kanien’kehá:ka Rotinonhseshá:ka Homelands.

Mr. Gregoire Gollin and the Municipalité d’Oka have yet again begun selling and giving permits to build houses on disputed homelands of the Kanien’kehá:ka.  Oka and Mr. Gollin, under the permission and collusion oof Canada are committing land theft and the home buyer who should know better that the expression, “Caveat Emptor” applies to the purchase of all lands in the traditional homelands of the Rotinononseshá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke.

In Kanehsatà:ke and indeed, in all of Canada, Band Councils, which are  a colonial construct created to deepen the divisions in the communities, remains the only “recognized” body Canada will speak to.  This is a conflict of interest as band councils are an arm of the federal government and do what they are told and permitted to do by the Minister of Indian Affairs.

In the meantime, Canada continues to implement a policy and legislation that criminalizes Indigenous traditional governments who have survived colonialism: such as the Rotinonhseshá:ka – (the people of the Longhouse) in Kanehsatà:ke, who have led the public awareness campaigns and demonstrations to create awareness to all that when they buy land in  the Municipality of Oka, they are purchasing disputed land, contested by the Rotinonhseshá:ka Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke.

Minister Bennett has mentioned to her constituents that the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake “chief” agrees with the development.  Thus spinning her own version of the truth to further deprive present and future generations of Kanien’kehá:ka from the use and enjoyment of our homelands.

Excluding the Rotinonhseshá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke from any negotiations on our traditional homelands runs contrary to a democratic process and is also contrary to your statement that  Indigenous peoples are a priority to you, and that Canada will implement  the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Under the Iroquois Confederacy of Kaianera’kó:wa (Great Law of Peace), the women are the title holders of the land.  By Canada’s refusal to deal the Rotinonhseshá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke, Canada violates many of its international obligations especially under the UN Charter where it states in its preamble paragraph, to:

  • “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, …”[1]

I would like to remind you of some of Canada’s international human rights obligations from the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 21, regarding the core obligations of states in the protection of our cultural heritage and resources:

applicable with immediate effect:

(e)        To allow and encourage the participation of persons belonging to minority groups, indigenous peoples or to other communities in the design and implementation of laws and policies that affect them. In particular, States parties should obtain their free and informed prior consent when the preservation of their cultural resources, especially those associated with their way of life and cultural expression, are at risk.[2]




Article ll.2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.



The community of Kanehsatà:ke has never been dealt with fairly or honestly by the government of Canada and the province of Québec, especially in regards to the passing of the legislation Bill S-24 “the interim Kanesatake Land Management Act”.  This was also done fraudulently.

It continues to exacerbate the land dispossession on Kanehsatà:ke Iroquois Confederacy homelands.  I therefore ask you to intervene in this matter immediately, put a halt to any land negotiations and place a moratorium on all development on traditional Kanien’kehá:ka lands as Canada is adding to the problem of our long-standing historical issues in Kanehsatà:ke than we were 28 years ago

I ask respectfully  to intervene quickly and to be on the right side of justice and history; please honor your pledge to honor and respect the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples and put an end to colonial oppression that continues to oppress and perpetuate land and cultural heritage dispossession of the Indigenous peoples.

Skén:nen – in peace

Ellen Gabriel,

Turtle Clan from Kanehsatà:ke, Rotinonhseshá:ka

[1] United Nations Charter, preambular para. 1,

[2] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 21, Right of everyone to take part in cultural life (art. 15, para. 1 (a), of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/21 (21 December 2009):

[3] UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, September 13, 2007

Bill C-262

December 5, 2017

With the public declaration by Canada to implement the UNDRIP, the discussion on Bill C-262 was most revealing that there is no change in the course of Canada’s resistance to respecting the human rights of Indigenous peoples and our right to self-determination. Please bear with me on this train of thought as many may have believed that now we are on the road to ‘reconciliation’.  But let’s not forget that the government has no obligation to ‘Private members’ bills” .

After MP Romeo Saganash finished his eloquent speech on why Bill C-262 was important in beginning the process of reconciliation and respect for Indigenous peoples’ human rights, the shift in the discussion to one of support to one of hesitancy from Canada was evident through the speech of the secretary of INAC and through the statements and questions by the  Member of Parliament from Burnaby, B.C. regarding Free Prior and Informed Consent.  FPIC remains the most controversial part of the UN.DRIP.

And so the same concerns that the Harper regime had in its opposition to the Declaration 10 years ago, remains.  Canadian society’s most powerful could be heard and seen through their advocates: politicians and lobbyists; the third party interests who have for hundreds of years enjoyed the rape, pillaging and plundering of the Turtle Island – the home of Indigenous peoples since time immemorial, of which many have become extinct within the Americas.

Whether they are labelled pioneers, heroes of colonial history, Prime Ministers, through their Doctrines of Superiority their armies and authorities have unhesitatingly committed genocide in the name of the Crown for their economic interests

and while no one wants to deny Canada they have not instilled any trust as they continue to define and control of which Indigenous leaders or institutions are acceptable through whatever process they define as legitimate.

Canada’s hesitancy is insidiously hidden in their qualifiers on how Section 35 is now a full box by placing the UN Declaration within parameters they define.  During Romeo Saganash’s speech on Bill C-262, he warned Canada the Declaration (UNDRIP) must remain within the interpretation of international human rights law.  Something I suspect Canada is already trying to find wiggle room not to do as in tonight’s statements by government Ministers and certain members of Parliament.

As in Canada’s opposition to the support of the Declaration 10 years ago, the current government of Canada continues to agonize over the notion of what it views as a right of “VETO” by Indigenous peoples in regards to development.  Having experienced firsthand the malicious deceptions and deflection from the government bureaucrats  I have a cynical view of what happened in Parliament on December 5th, 2017.  The bureaucratic culture embedded in Canadian politics is one which organizes and creates policies that delay justice for Indigenous peoples until the next election when another government can find more administrative red tape of exhaustive criteria for even just beginning discussions,

So while Canada claims to have consulted Indigenous peoples through the numerous ‘decolonization’ tables on issues such as resource and energy development, Indigenous peoples in the communities have never been informed of the scope and outcome of these discussions.

And while AFN claims it is not a government, it is the only National Aboriginal Organization Canada turns to in any discussion.  Leaving out Indigenous traditional governments, whose existence predates European arrival and is an institution that has survived colonization.

We remain in essence, at a stalemate with the chosen of the colonizer dictating government propaganda to give a semblance of reasonableness, more progressive, more moderate; something Canada has always relies on – divide and conquer.

Those who negotiated and most likely, endured hardship to bring about this first United Nations human rights instrument for Indigenous peoples, the wonderful UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, deserve better than a wishy washy endorsement of the Declaration’s implementation.  Perhaps some will react in horror to these words but there remains very little trust in a government who has yet to deserve our trust.  From its lofty Crown station in which it casts its privileged gaze upon Indigenous peoples’ human rights, patting certain leaders on the back for continuing their collaboration of colonization, the conformity needed to disguise that the agenda has not changed; only its box.  This is the Canada I know.

The hundreds of generations of Indigenous peoples who died for the colonizer’s empire building I’m sure had higher hopes that one day the Crown’s representatives would actually understand what “honor” means and entails.  That one day their descendants could live in peace and carry on those precious teachings that teach us to be kinder to ourselves, to all our relations, to our Mother Earth through our languages and culture.

I am so proud of MP Romeo Saganash for his efforts, his passion and unyielding resilience working in what must be a difficult situation of being one of the few Indigenous members of Parliament.  We as a peoples have been made better for his efforts; who else would have taken on this task of fighting the bureaucratic culture of Canada that has forsaken its allies in every way imaginable.

To Romeo Saganash, I lift him up in spirit as he is most deserving of all our heartfelt thanks, appreciation and love.  I hope for the best in his efforts, that they will come to fruition; that my cynicism can be tossed aside and that Canada really means that it intends to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples…I hope for hope’s sake.

To Canada, I say, when your actions reflect your words and respect with honor, Indigenous peoples human rights and rights to self-determination, then I will welcome you into my heart and life.  In the meantime, I remind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that many Indigenous peoples have never given up their citizenship to their nations.  I am not a Canadian citizen but am Kanien’kehá:ka – a nation, a peoples where women hold title to the lands and a nation, which was once an ally of Canada.  That is where the “nation to nation” relationship begins.

1er août 2017 Territoire Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka RE: Développement de logements illégale et fraude territoriale sur le territoire traditionnel Kanien’kehá:ka à Kanehsatà:ke

Le manque d’intérêt du Canada, d’intervenir à Kanehsatà:ke  dans le différend foncier vieux de 300 ans, favorise des situations de conflit et ne soutient pas l’honneur de la Couronne!

Comme Kanien’kehá:ka de Kanehsatà:ke, nous sommes obligés par notre Constitution Kaianera’shera’kó:wa de protéger nos territoires et notre peuple. Nous revenons à exprimer notre consternation et notre déception envers le manque de bonne volonté du gouvernement du Canada d’intervenir pour arrêter le développement se déroulant sur notre territoire traditionnel de Kanehsatà:ke (également appelé «OKA»). Canada, Québec et Oka poursuivent sciemment leurs efforts de collusion pour frauder dans le présent et l’avenir les futures générations  Kanien’kehá:ka de profiter de leurs terres et de ses ressources.

Nous réitérons également notre opposition au projet de loi S-24, la «Loi provisoire sur la gestion des terres de Kanesatake», qui contribue au conflit territoriale de longue date avec le Canada. S-24 n’a bénéficié qu’à Oka et des tiers parties, approuvant ainsi la dépossession territoriale des Kanien’kehá:ka de Kanehsatà:ke, nous amenant vers des situations de conflit. Cette loi du Parlement a été adoptée frauduleusement et fait en sorte que la Couronne enfreint les droits territoriaux des Kanien’kehá:ka de Kanehsatà:ke.

Malgré les demandes, à travers les années de multiples générations de Kanehsata’kehró:non, pour régler ce long conflit historique permanent, le Canada n’est pas encore intervenu devant cette injustice et donc la fraude territoriale continue. Nous avons été privés de nos terres depuis plus de 300 ans en raison du fait que le Canada fonde sa souveraineté sur la doctrine raciste de la découverte et Terra Nullius, des lois archaïques basées sur la supériorité raciale et des agendas économiques plutôt que le respect des peuples autochtones de ce continent.

Au cours de la crise de 1990 à Kanehsatà:ke, le négociateur fédéral Bernard Roy, a déclaré son engagement à s’occuper de tous les problèmes liés au territoire du peuple de la Maison Longue de Kanehsatà:ke sur notre territoire traditionnel. Le gouvernement fédéral n’a jamais rempli ce devoir de consulter et d’inclure le peuple traditionnel de Kanehsatà:ke dans les négociations territoriales.

Au lieu de cela, après la crise de 1990, le Canada a vendu plus de nos terres dont une partie de notre précieuse pinède, à un promoteur privé plutôt que de retourner la terre aux gens de Kanehsatà:ke. En conséquence, Les Collines d’Oka a vu le développement de maisons de luxe dans les années 90 en dépit de l’opposition Rotinonhseshá:ka – le peuple de la Maison Longue.


Depuis notre dernière rencontre avec le maire Quevillon d’Oka, nous avons demandé à la ministre Bennett de venir à Kanehsatà:ke pour parler avec la communauté. Le 15 juillet, la ministre Bennett a accepté de visiter la communauté mais elle doit encore répondre quand cette visite se fera. La ministre Bennett a également déclaré qu’elle ne savait pas ce ‘’qu’ils pouvaient faire’’! Le silence du Canada indique un manque de bonne volonté et de bonne foi, ignorant son devoir de défendre l’honneur de la Couronne.

Nous sommes unis dans la protection de nos terres, mais nous ne pouvons pas autoriser à la création coloniale qu’est le Conseil de bande de parler en notre nom. Des traités ont été créés avec la nation Onkwehón:we, et les traités originaux restent sous l’autorité de Rotinonhseshá:ka – le peuple de la Maison Longue. Nous savons depuis quelque temps maintenant à travers les bureaucrates d’AINC que le Conseil Mohawk de Kanehsatà:ke a eu des discussions avec la Municipalité d’Oka sans en informer la communauté et sans obtenir le consentement préalable et éclairé de Kanehsata’kehró:non.

Nous demandons donc au Premier ministre du Canada Justin Trudeau, la ministre de la Justice et procureur général du Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould et la ministre Carolyn Bennet, des Affaires Autochtones et du Nord du Canada d’intervenir et de mettre fin à tout développement sur notre territoire traditionnel afin qu’ils puissent défendre l’honneur de la Couronne, qui est leur devoir constitutionnel.

Le Canada doit également dénoncer la Doctrine de découverte qui justifie ses actes de dépossession et de vol de territoires et qui criminalise les défenseurs des territoires autochtones.

Bien qu’il n’y avait pas de téléphones cellulaires et de médias sociaux pour aider notre cause en 1990, aujourd’hui, nous prenons cette occasion d’aider les Canadiens à devenir plus éduqués et conscients de leur histoire colonialiste. C’est l’occasion pour le Canada de démontrer sa sincérité pour la réconciliation et de résoudre ce conflit territoriale vieux de 300 ans.

En attendant, nous, le peuple préoccupé de Kanehsatà:ke:

  • Rejetons toute mesure qui entraînera l’extinction de nos droits territoriaux – comme dans la «Loi sur la gestion des terres provisoires de Kanesatake (Kanehsatà:ke)»
  • Invitons respectueusement le gouvernement du Canada et le Québec à mettre en œuvre la Déclaration des droits des peuples autochtones des Nations Unies dans toutes ses négociations territoriales et intègre Kaianerashera’kó:wa (la Grande paix brillante); et que Rotinonhseshá:ka, le peuple de la Maison Longue, dirige toutes les négociations sur son territoire.
  • Nous nous opposons à toute vente frauduleuse de terrains par Les Collines d’Oka et la Municipalité d’Oka ainsi que toute autre construction de maisons sur territoire traditionnel Kanien’kehá:ka par GBD Construction
  • Exigeons un arrêt de tout développement dans le “Parc Nationale d’Oka” qui est un territoire traditionnel Kanien’kehá:ka et exigeons le retour de nos artefacts culturels retirés du Parc d’Oka
  • Nous rejetons la mise en œuvre du système d’eau d’occasion d’Oka qui prétend fournir de l’eau «propre» [à certains segments de notre communauté]. C’est une ruse dont la véritable intention est de soutenir l’extraction de l’uranium et du niobium, sur notre territoire par les projets de Niocan et autres, qui ont été rejeté plusieurs fois par Kanehsatà:ke. Les dommages qui seront subis par nos sources aquifères affecteront les générations présentes et futures qui seront privé de nos sources d’eau que la majorité de Kanehsatà:ke utilise actuellement dans leurs maisons.

Il incombe maintenant au Canada de respecter ses obligations et les droits de l’homme à l’échelle internationale ainsi que les droits des peuples autochtones à l’autodétermination. Le Canada doit arrêter la fraude foncière qu’il a créée et intervenir sur tous les problèmes mentionnés ci-dessus.


Skén:nen – en paix

Kanien’kehá:ka préoccupés de Kanehsatà:ke

Territoire non-cédé de Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka


What is going on with the National Aboriginal Organizations (NAOs)? By Ellen Gabriel

On July 15, 2017 the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) held their Annual General Assembly (AGA) on Treaty 8 territory in Edmonton, Alberta. It included the election of a new president, a position with a term of three years. I entered my name and ran against the incumbent Francyne Joe, and also Doris Anderson, who was President of the Yukon Native Women’s Association.

I have always admired the ability of Indigenous women to face great adversity with dignity and honesty. Indigenous women’s fight has always been for the rights of our families and nations, for justice and equality. This pride in the women of our nations is partly the reason I decided to enter my name for president of NWAC. But I also decided to run so that I could try to bring the ‘democratic’ process of NWAC into the 21st century. Like all the other National Aboriginal Organizations (NAOs) in Canada, the NWAC process of elections does not allow all Indigenous rights holders to have a vote. All NAOs follow the criteria of a non-profit organization; an incorporated body that only allows select delegates of their membership to vote.
This is something that has disturbed me since learning about the NAO election process. In 2012 when I ran for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief, I was further disturbed and then jolted from the inside of my body at the meanness of certain chiefs and individuals to discredit other candidates. I was told that “a woman has no place being the head of the AFN,” and that it was the men who were the leaders of their people. While shocked to hear this, I was not intimidated, nor was I swayed from running as I come from a proud and strong matrilineal civilization that is not easily disturbed by sexism. I was, however flabbergasted by the amount of money required to run for AFN national chief, which is an astounding $150,000 or so for travel etc. I could not find such sponsorship, and was limited to a one time trip to Toronto.
NAO campaigns are similar to Canadian elections, but even more problematic when it comes to voting, which is limited to ‘grand chiefs’ only. So really, how representative is this? If AFN campaigns can raise this kind of funding for a one shot deal, then why can we not provide adequate funding for our endangered languages? Where is the money for culture, the funding for post-secondary education, for care for our children and elderly? Why are these such hard sells to those with deep pockets?
It continues to be a challenge to fight the colonial government of Canada and its provinces with their own deep pockets. These governments influence the choice of leadership who must then be comfortable in promoting the colonial imposed hierarchy; a colonial imposed system with no power and which has only benefited Canada and not Indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities have been forced to follow the colonial road of “incorporation” in order to receive funding. We must follow Western forms of governance and decision making, which contradict our traditional laws and teachings. Incorporation may be good for running businesses, but it creates havoc when it comes to the implementation and upholding of Indigenous peoples’ human rights. It is exclusive and dysfunctional and not conducive to a real democracy. This is a major struggle for Indigenous peoples to change as it promotes divisions and causes us to lose more of our rights to self-determination.
INAC has been coercively dictating to NAOs like NWAC on what their priorities will be and it’s been doing this for decades. They like to keep us busy responding to problems that they create while adding more to the roster. Government decides on when it’s time for things like reconciliation or a national inquiry but offering flowery statements of how important Indigenous peoples are to Canada is just smoke and mirrors that belies the truth of the colonial agenda that remains on the table.
Canada remains steadfast in the comfort of colonization, unwilling to relinquish its hold in the goal of assimilation. As the first Minister of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott stated his goal was of ‘getting rid of the Indian problem.’ With the pretense of reconciliation, his goal has the potential of being reality.
As a Kanien’kehá:ka person I thus consciously entered into the AFN process with the knowledge that all Onkwehón:we peoples do not have a voice in decision making processes that affect our lives. I knew that there was very little chance to win because of the heavy handed politics we’ve learned so well from the colonizer. But I wanted to send out a strong public message: as women we know the double challenges we have to gain respect for our perspectives. Many chiefs did help and advise me during this time and I deeply value their precious advice and support.
While the issue of status is very important for our families to achieve justice and equality, I believe that NWAC must evolve with the times we are living in and look at the realities our nations are facing. Restoring the role of Onkwehón:we women in the decision making processes of our nations means that in every conference, event or negotiation, Onwkehón:we women must be sitting at the table dealing with issues like climate change, land rights, health, education and all the issues affecting our realities. In order to do so we must change the mindset of our own people; we must deal openly and honestly on all issues and agree to disagree. We cannot continue to compartmentalize each issue or say that women deal solely with status or violence.
NWAC started out as a representative organization through the blood sweat and tears of our precious pioneer women like Mary Two Axe Early, and they did so without any funding; just a passion and will for justice. Today NAOs face many challenges in their advocacy work. Although this has made headway at the international level we see little change at the community level.
If we look at Idle No More, anti-pipeline work and other activism, it appears that the NAO leaders do not pay serious attention to grassroot movements. Yet while it may not be popular to criticize Government and its links to big business interests, Grassroots activist are breaking through the exclusion barriers with their influence through social media, and are demanding their voices be heard. And the effectiveness of this work means that NAO leaders often ride upon the coat tails of community activists.
We also know that Onkwehón:we women have persevered throughout time, giving of their time, energy, and wisdom without titles, with little funding, in some cases with little support; a true mark of their sincerity for the love of their children, their nations and their gender. It has been Onkwehón:we women who have made the changes to the Indian Act, as they shamed Canada at the international level.
In terms of the NWAC elections, I was deeply moved by the support I received by the delegates and honoured to have Tanya Kappo as my scrutineer. My strength was with the Quebec Native Women
delegation and other regions, whose encouragement and support to continue inspired me, in spite of the long voting process lasting over 27 hours. The wise words by Viviene Michel, Marilyn Buffalo, Tracee Diabo and Bev Jacobs to follow my heart regarding whether or not to continue brought me strength, and helped me to decide what to do.
NWAC’s system of elections, by-laws and the constitution are flawed and are the reason why we had to go nine rounds of votes. The winner had to achieve 60% of the votes to be declared the winner; a change in the by-laws and constitution thanks to Stephen Harper’s legacy that required changes to non-profit organizations.
My decision to withdraw my name was because I watched how the elders and women were getting tired. It was thus an uncomfortable atmosphere of unkindness and disrespect which caused me to withdraw my name from the election, even though they had not yet announced the results of the 9th round. I felt that perhaps my energy should be spent at home fighting our 300 year old land struggle.
I decided that I could not in good conscious be a part of a process that imbued the colonial characteristic of winning at any cost; a quality that has been so engrained in all the NAO organizations that profess to represent us. I withdrew my name with a heavy heart knowing that I disappointed so many women. But their bright love and support has left me with strength and more determination to keep on this path of justice and equality for Onkwehón:we Nations; to them I say niawenkó:wa – a big heartfelt thank you.
I consider that I have won my liberty to speak, to use my freedom to draw from the teachings of my ancestors and continue the fight against colonization and its continued efforts to assimilate and dispossess the First Peoples of Turtle Island. At NWAC and the AFN Assembly I spoke honestly and openly about the changes which we must enact to successfully proceed into the future. I am always guided by those teachings our ancestors fought so hard to pass on to our generation. In my 27 years of activism, I seeing that only the semantics of government has changed and that the status quo remains; dispossession and institutionalized racism. And so, in spite of the many human rights gains we have accomplished internationally, we are no closer to the change we seek as Indigenous nations.
I have no regrets for entering both election processes nor for withdrawing my name at NWAC’s AGA. I wish for strength and respect for Francyne Joe in the job that lies ahead for her. To all the NAO leaders, I ask that they be part of the solution and help break the cycle of colonization; listen to the Onkwehón:we people of our nations and not Canada, for they have shown their true intent to continue assimilation and land theft.

There is no reconciliation if it means Canada’s assertion of its sovereignty over our un-ceded lands and territories continues. Indigenous women must be equal partners in the solutions and the people of our nations must be equal and full participants in all decisions made affecting our human rights.
For the sake of future and present generations,
Skén:nen – Peace to all and I pray that my words do not offend anyone.
Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel

Turtle Clan from the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation in Kanehsatà:ke