Evictions – Silencing Justice: the threat to Kaianera’kó:wa – the Great Peace

Watching the recent events in Kahnawà:ke regarding the protests on evictions of families with non-Mohawk spouses has been horrific as it reveals the extent to which colonization has been indoctrinated within Indigenous communities. Attacking the family unit has been the centuries old goal of Canada’s colonial policies in order to “beat the Indian out of the Indian”.

As Duncan Campbell Scott stated:
“ I want to get rid of the Indian problem. … Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill. ”

The impacts of colonialism is evident in every aspect of Onkwehón:we communities’ daily lives. From the imposition of the band council structure over traditional Longhouse government; with band council’s authority resting with the Canada’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (MAANDC formerly known as INAC); to access to services, education, dispossession of our lands and resources.
There exists within this dysfunctional form of ‘governance’ a norm of human rights violations founded on racist imperialist doctrines which have crafted the legal fallacies of Indigenous peoples’ land dispossession. For over a hundred years the Indian Act has coercively indoctrinated Indigenous peoples into believing that the colonizers definition of identity was true, causing cultural shame so that our languages are the most threatened in the world . But the indoctrination can only be successful if the colonized adopt it and the coercive prolongation of the number of generations of Onkwehón:we peoples suffering under Canada’s genocidal policies.
Witnessing on social media racism hidden within claims of Indigeneity unwittingly rooted in colonial values is disturbing. Combine this with societal and institutionalized racism in Canada adds to the already monumental challenges we face in rebuilding our nations from colonial genocide. Thus it is important to emphasize Canada’s liability in the unfolding of these events via its practice of colonization through the implementation of the Indian Act.
Like the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women, these problems are rooted in colonization and are a threat to everyone’s security. Canada still practices colonization utilizing tools of economic terrorism and coercion to perpetuate their assimilation ideology.
And so while certain groups of people think they are exercising their ‘sovereign’ right to evict families with a non-Mohawk spouse, they are actually perpetuating colonization. Meanwhile a naive public judges us unaware of how their ignorance of their colonial history has a hand in this tragedy. But they need only educate themselves to realize the manner in which their society, their government’s legislation and policies have contributed to the many social ills of Indigenous peoples which consequently threaten our security and enjoyment of our human rights.
But there is an even stronger uncomfortable silence of those who want and should publicly state their opposition to the evictions. But stating one’s opposition can be dangerous to your health – as colonial history reflects in its criminalization and dehumanization of Indigenous peoples. There are many who disagree with the evictions but who understandably out of fear of reprisals, are not speaking out against this manner of protests. However justice and freedom necessitates that the average person speak out against this injustice as it goes against our traditions, our ancestral teachings. Present and future generations are depending on us to uphold everyone’s right to justice and freedom; something Canada has been and continues to be unwilling to do since its creation. Continue reading


Bill C-51: An Act to Criminalize Indigenous Peoples who are Defenders of the Land

The following is my written submission to the Parliamentary Committee dealing with Bill C-51 which was submitted to the Parliamentary secretary by email on March 23, 2015

Bill C-51
Anti-terrorism Act, 2015
An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

Written submission by Ellen Gabriel of Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Territory
Since I have not been provided with the opportunity to be a witness in person, I write today as a citizen of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) nation from the community of Kanehsatà:ke, whose un-ceded lands continue to be appropriated and stolen through the support of third party interests by Canada.

As a citizen of my nation, I have spent the last 25 years educating the Canadian public on Canada’s history of colonization and genocide. My journey in participating in the protection of Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) lands and resources began before 1990 but became more intense during and after the 1990 Occupation of Kanehsatà:ke, known as the “1990 Oka Crisis”.

During the “1990 Oka Crisis”, myself and other members of the communities of Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawà:ke came under police surveillance in which we were notified of through the mail. In this notice authorities informed me that all my telephone conversations had been recorded and provide me with a photocopy of a page from the Criminal Code of Canada which highlighted in yellow articles that referred to the justification of my surveillance as “threats to public security” and “suspicion of criminal activities”.

I received three of these types of notices up until around 1995, each with the same reason of ‘criminal’ activities highlighted as the justification for their surveillance.

As a person who has been directly affected by the surveillance policing authorities’, I would like to address some of the serious concerns regarding the impact that Bill C-51 will have on the dignity, security, freedom and access to justice of Indigenous peoples’. Of grave concern is the section on “interpretations” whose vagueness of definitions allows for unilateral interpretations of terms by Canada and its policing authorities thus endangering Indigenous peoples enjoyment of their human rights and right to self-determination.
Articles of Bill C-51 which reference terms such as “threats to public security”, in particular, Paragraph 30 which purports to exclude “… lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.” are extremely worrisome considering how colonial laws have historically and are currently being used to oppress Indigenous peoples as tools of dispossession.

The many unresolved and long standing historical grievances of Indigenous peoples in dealing with Canada’s assumed sovereignty over our lands has yet to be dealt with in a fair and just manner. Land rights of Indigenous peoples are often weakened by Canada’s “land claims” process and violated through subversive means for third party interests.

Canada’s assumed sovereignty upon Indigenous peoples, their lands and resources is based upon legal fictions from centuries’ old Doctrine of Discovery, Doctrine of Conquer and Terra Nullius. These doctrines of superiority have been declared by the United Nations as: “…racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and social unjust,” .

The practice of Imperialism through Canadian colonial laws continues to subvert Indigenous Peoples’ right of self-determination. This violation consequently contradicts international rule of law which requires all states to uphold the highest standards of human rights without discrimination and with objectivity.

Many recent media reports have revealed the already existing RCMP surveillance of “First Nations” groups and individuals in regards to protests against resource development. Therefore this Bill does very little to promote reconciliation and existing surveillance usurps Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and violates the Constitution Act, 1982, Sect. 35 which states:
“35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

It has been mentioned by the government of Canada that this Bill is to protect its citizens from those who are a threat to “… the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada” .

However, as previously mentioned, the incessant criminalizing of Indigenous peoples who defend their lands from development perpetuates the historic injustices designed to undermine and devalue the hope for a peaceful co-existence for the sake of economic and energy security. (please see addendum of this submission on the core of international human rights instruments from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights)

Particular attention should be paid as well to ability of government institutions to share information to other agencies. Bill C-51 states that government institutions may not only share private information but they have a right to detain and prosecute individuals who appear to be a threat to “…sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada:
Thus the question remains: Who will be monitoring government institutions on whether or not the information is a) accurate, b) relevant to an investigation c) does not violate domestic and international human rights Act, Conventions, Treaties and Declarations, d) is respectful, e) is non-discriminatory, f) confidential g) if wrongly persecuted, provides an effective mechanism of redress, and many other issues which seriously impact Indigenous peoples’ collective and individual human rights.

It is unfortunate that there remains a lack of political will by Canada and its provinces to acknowledge and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN Declaration should be seen as enriching Canadian society and the Indian Residential School Apology for its ability to provide society with a framework of reconciliation through its elaboration of Indigenous peoples’ human rights. A human rights approach to this bill is paramount to the security of society.
Therefore it is with great urgency that I request this Parliamentary Committee reconsider and revise the flaws of Bill C-51’s “Interpretation” of what constitutes “legal” or “… lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.” Consequently, it must uphold the rule of law and its constitutional duty to consult Indigenous peoples in a fair and democratic way on the language, interpretation and implementation of this Bill.

It has been through the colonial discriminatory lens in which events like the “1990 Oka Crisis” and Ipperwash occurred as consequences of colonial laws and doctrine. In more recent times the use of unwarranted violence by the RCMP in Elsipogtog Mig’ma territory against the defenders of the land who oppose SYNCOR’s gas fracking upon their un-ceded lands.

As development intensifies in Canada and Indigenous peoples, defenders of the land protect their right to self-determination, government and policing authorities alike must become knowledgeable of the universality, indivisibility, non-discriminatory, and inter-dependent of human rights in their efforts to uphold the rule of law. Creating more laws without examining how it impacts human rights, in particular, the collective and individual human rights of Indigenous peoples robs society of the richness of its democracy. Be they civil, political, cultural, linguistic or social rights, the respect and enjoyment of one, is inter-connected to the advancement of the others. Equally, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the enjoyment of other rights.

Bill C-51 ignores the long standing and un-resolved serious issues of land dispossession of Indigenous peoples under the Indian Act. Ignoring this issue continues the unbalanced relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada and is not reflective of reconciliation or upholding the honour of the Crown. Failing to uphold the honour of the Crown as stated by the Supreme Court of Canada in “matters that seriously affecting Aboriginal Peoples’ rights” constitutes a violation of Aboriginal peoples’ inherent rights to self-determination.

Branding Indigenous peoples who are defenders of their lands as ‘terrorists’ and criminals, fails to respect and implement the Indian Residential School apology and its accompanying reconciliation and restitution.

It allows for relentless attack upon the dignity, safety and well-being Indigenous peoples which has occurred for over 500+ years.

In 1990, I and many citizens of the Kanien’kehá:ka nation were labelled criminals and terrorists by the policing authorities and the governments of Quebec and Canada for simply defending our lives and our lands. I am one of countless generations of Indigenous peoples whose human rights have been threatened and violated by the colonial state due to Canada’s assumed sovereignty over our peoples, lands, and resources.

The root causes of the dispossession and oppression of Indigenous peoples are personified in colonial laws and language. What has been deemed ‘legal’ or sometimes ‘criminal’ in Canadian legislation is often to the detriment of Indigenous peoples to control and contain us for the benefit of the prosperity of Canada.

During the summer of 1990 the Canadian Police Association took out an advertisement in many Canadian media outlets entitled, “We Oppose Terrorism” criminalizing all the Mohawk people of Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawà:ke. The CPA’s ad spread the governments’ of Quebec and Canada’s propaganda of misinformation fanning the flames of racism by calling Mohawks terrorists and criminals without any investigation, trial or placing into context the history of Canada’s collusion with churches to defraud and dispossess Mohawks of our lands and resources.

The public outrage against the CPA’s ad provoked the Committee Against Racism to write a public comment denouncing their actions but to no avail. This is one of many examples that continues to this day by policing authorities as evident in Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco)

Indigenous peoples should not have to go to Canada’s court system to have their inherent rights respected or to achieve justice and peace. Yet this kind of ambiguity within Canadian law discounts historical treaties like the Two Row Wampum and Silver Covenant Chain which recognized each nation’s right to self-determination.

Bill C-51 in its current form does not promote good faith, nor does it instil any trust that it will not be used as another colonial law to torment and oppress Indigenous Peoples. It contradicts Canada’s international legal obligations such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination , preamble, para
Considering that all human beings are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the
law against any discrimination and against any incitement to discrimination,

It is with a heavy heart when I consider the realities and treatment of my Onkwehón:we (Indigenous) ancestors in examining Canada’s colonial history; one can conclude that the term “genocide” is appropriate to depict part of Canada’s history. Genocide as “crimes against humanity” includes: “to deal with the persecution and physical extermination of national, ethnic, racial and religious minorities.

While the Prime Minister of Canada may have issued an apology for the Indian Residential School System, they are mere words until sincere reconciliation is implemented along with restitution for the damages to our traditional government and identity; languages, culture, dignity, lands, waters and all our relations and recognition that the IRSS was an act of genocide.

Resisting assimilation is an ongoing occurrence for Indigenous peoples in Canada. We can never rest until Canada upholds and respects the human rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples to our rights to self-determination. As Indigenous peoples who have suffered from historic injustices we must remain vigilant in protecting and promoting our ancestral teachings and customary laws that teach us how to care for the land and all our relations.
We will remain uneasy, concerned and troubled of the impacts of Bill C-51 and all other sources legislation which perpetuate colonization and assimilation.

The UN Declaration, and the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Human Rights system itself, requires the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in all decisions affecting their rights. It is the globally accepted minimum standard for the collective and individual human rights of Indigenous peoples. I hope that this committee will take into serious consideration the implications of this Bill, Canada’s colonial history and how it continues to impact the integrity, security and well-being of Indigenous Peoples today.
Thank you for this opportunity to address this Parliamentary committee. My only regret is that I have not been given the opportunity to be a witness in person to discuss in more depth my concerns and perspective on this issue.

Skén:nen – in peace

Ellen Gabriel
Turtle Clan, Kanien’kehá:ka Nation from Kanehsatà:ke

this post does not include Endnotes which this submission also included to Parliament

Living Beyond The Culture of Silence

In October 2004, Amnesty International Canada and the Native Women’s Association of Canada under the leadership of Alex Neve and Terry Brown shook our world when they revealed the first report on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women entitled: Stolen Sisters.

Stolen Sisters was written in collaboration of these two organizations and was written by Bev Jacobs and Craig Benjamin. It is their hard work and passion for justice that revealed the despicable state of of Indigenous peoples’ human rights due to institutionalized racism in Canada. Rooted in colonial superiority the marginalization of Konón:kwe (Indigenous) women is exhibited in Canadian society through racist attitudes and government apathy with fatal consequences . STOLEN SISTERS 2004 essentially set the groundwork for the advocacy we see today regarding MMIW and we have these two individual organizations and the authors of the report to thank for that. So with honour and respect I want to acknowledge Bev Jacobs, Craig Benjamin, Alex Neve and Terry Brown for their pioneer work for our peoples.
It is evident that there is a lack of political will in Canada’s current fascist government to properly address this issue even though various UN Human Rights agencies have called upon Canada numerous times to develop a National Plan of Action and inquiry into murdered and missing “Aboriginal” women. These include the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) , the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Organization of American States, as well as Canada’s UN Periodical review conducted every 3 years.
Lack of political will by Canada and indeed, its provinces on the serious human rights violations of Indigenous peoples indicates that the war against Indigenous Peoples remains undeterred from its original intentions of the 500+ year old land grab. And the imperialist’s war against an identifiable group of people (Genocide) must continue if it is to continue to justify its support of the theft of Indigenous peoples’ lands and resources for their various pipelines projects like “Energy East”, and Keystone XL.
And while the RCMP have written their own report on the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women (MMIW), the hypocrisy of it leaves a sour taste from the fact that this is one of the agencies mentioned in the Stolen Sisters report of 2004 as being part of the problem. Mr. Harper’s “government” has no intention of dealing adequately with this issue, evident when he granted the research funding of “Sisters in Spirit” of NWAC to the RCMP in November of 2010. Was NWAC’s Sisters in Spirit research getting too close to the truth of a conspiracy between government, its’ agencies and corporations? Fascists need to continue to use their tried and true tools to complete the land grab justifying it with press conferences and press releases that profess to “provide jobs” and energy security using Indigenous peoples’ lands and resources.
The infamous Indian Act 1876 was created to “control” the “Indian “population, and arrogantly/illegally created a colonized definition of who was an “Indian” in order to target the basic foundations and strengths of our identity: the family unit through the role and authority of the women.
Back in 2004 when Stolen Sisters was released the majority of the male leadership didn’t feel this was an issue of priority as they were not fully informed of the complexity of the issue. But I’m glad that most have seen the light and are making concerted efforts with Indigenous women and their organizations to have this problem addressed. After all, violence is not part of our cultural values but is instead an effect of colonial self-hatred stemming from the Indian Residential School system (IRSS) and colonialism.
Murdered and Missing Indigenous women remains a major human rights issue and requires all of society to become educated on how to resolve this violation through education, love, respect and compassion.

The numbers quoted by the RCMP belie the human tragedy found within this modern day catastrophe of human rights violations. The source of the stats, from the culprits whose apathetic attitude allowed the killers of 19 year old Cree student, Helen Betty Osborne in The Pas, Manitoba, to walk free for years until justice was brought forth. It is a firm example of the Culture of Silence that remains in Canada that encourages and perpetuates the erosion of the human rights of Indigenous women and girls.
However, even in our own communities the culture of silence prevails, but there are huge cracks emerging. The IRSS and the oppression embedded within the implementation of the Indian Act by the Indian Agent and clergy, perpetuated this culture of silence that has disrupted the health and well-being of the family unit and attacked the vitality of our languages and cultures, our traditional governments and our lands and resources.  We are all familiar with “don’t tell” in our families and communities, a relic of the genocidal attack upon the daily lives of our ancestors by government, their authorities and their agencies.

The culture of silence was necessary if assimilation was to succeed. It was a major factor in the perpetuation of this problem that found for our nations falling into such disrepair that it took this long to discover that there was a serious catastrophe happening in Canadian society to the mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and nieces of our Nations.  While we know that in the past 3 decades that the number is approximately 1200, it is unfathomable to think how many if we are to include the time period from the start of the IRSS.
Indigenous women have long been at the forefront of efforts to decolonize and promote the rights of our peoples. Starting in 1974 when women like Mary Two-Axe Early of Kahnawà:ke started “Indian Rights for Indian Women” which eventually evolved into the Native Women’s Association of Canada and its provincial and territorial affiliates. Women like Sandra Lovelace and others, who addressed the UN on the gender discrimination embedded in the Indian Act, paved the way for Bill C-31.   Unfortunately, the greatest resistance for equality, has been some of our own people.  Therefore it is no wonder PM Harper chooses to make this an economic issue rather than a human rights issue given the strength and determination of Indigenous women.  PM Harper’s apathy exemplifies the centuries old story of greedy elites and their land grab through attacking the women and the family unit.
But it is going to take more than political will and RCMP reports to deal with this issue.  It is going to take a great deal of education to protect and promote the rights of Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and indeed throughout the Americas.
It’s a sad reflection upon the validity of Indigenous women’s voices and efforts that it takes the RCMP to provided the public and politicians with the justification needed to taking any ‘action,

it is also hard to trust the RCMP’s motivation as being altruistic given the fact that the status quo of colonial paternalism is flourishing instead of a genuine process of “Reconciliation” and recognition and respect for Indigenous peoples’ inherent rights.
Neither the RCMP nor the government of Canada, has yet to implement a plan of action to profoundly address this issue in spite of a 2006 Chiefs of Police Annual General Assembly resolution that called for at least a protocol for authorities to follow regarding MMIQ.
I realize that there must be exceptions within the RCMP of those who want sincere change, but the solution requires major changes in the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada.  It requires education on the true nature and history of colonial Canada and it requires the respect of the government of Canada for the rule of law, and Indigenous peoples right to self-determination and inherent rights. This latest report from the RCMP is like the Indian Residential School Apology of June 11, 2008, words on paper with no action to follow.
Along with the history of the IRSS in the curriculum of schools and post-secondary institutions, there needs be mandatory workshops to educate anyone who wants to becomes a politician in Canada before taking office. 

Children and youth need to be educated and guided  on how to break the cycle of violence.  They need the role models who demonstrate the strength and courage needed to make a significant change in the course of our history.  Otherwise we are setting them up to repeat the past. 


An Injustice Anywhere, is an Injustice Everywhere

STOP ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE including those against Mother Earth and all our relations.

Those who Carry the Burden of Peace

Those who Carry the Burden of PeaceKids 1990

Since the 1990 Kanehsatà:ke Siege or the 1990 “OKA” Crisis, the term “warrior” has been bantered around liberally to refer to those who protest, are protectors of the land, speak out publicly against oppressive colonial laws and in particular, refers to those who are arrested during protests.  However, the term warrior seems to have become an overused word in the Indigenous resistance movement.   There are various connotations to this word within the various Indigenous languages, but it is also important to note the interpretation of this word to the authorities.

In Kanien’kéha, the word is “Rotiskenrakéh:te” meaning those who carry the burden of peace.  In the younger days of our societies’ existence, Rotiskenrakéh:te were trained in combat using the game of Lacrosse to get “warriors” into shape.  But more importantly, they carried with them the teachings of peace and the customary laws of their peoples.  They underwent ceremonies to prepare them for physical battle, and when they returned they underwent more ceremonies, such as a condolence ceremony to cleanse them spiritually and mentally for what they had endured on the battle field.

Leaders like Clan Mothers and Chiefs were the voice of the people; they listened to what was in the hearts and minds of the people and brought forth issues of what needed to be discussed.  In Haudenosaunee customary laws, the women are the protectors of the land and hold title to the land, while the men were the protectors of the people. During the Kanehsatà:ke Siege, this kind of [governance] democracy was practiced by the people of the Longhouse and our allies.

After Kanehsatà:ke was attacked by the Sureté du Québec in the early morning of July 11th, 1990; the community’s strategy changed from that of a peaceful barricade on a secondary dirt road, to that of a defensive barricade.   For the sake of the safety of their families living in other communities, some men of the Mohawk nation and our allies wore masks.  Most of the community supported this strategy of mask wearing given the kind of torture tactics and violence police were using immediately after the raid.

What is often forgotten in this part of our history it the fact that majority of people behind the barricades did not wear masks and chose instead to continue the search for peace, and emphasizing the issue of our land rights to fight the  propaganda  campaign against the Mohawk people, enlisted by both the Federal and Provincial Governments.

It was in fact the media who automatically labeled us all Warriors, not the community.   In fact, many community members had mixed feelings about the Warrior flag and never identified with the term “warrior” due to some of the negative connotations associated with them during this period of time.  But in the end, many embraced this term as eventually the whole community of Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawà:ke faced the Canadian Army and the Sureté du Québec; totally outgunned and outnumbered.

International and domestic human rights organizations condemned Canada for the thousands of human rights abuses committed by the Canadian Army and policing authorities, but to no avail.  The Mohawk people and our allies were criminalized for the fraud committed by Canada and Quebec, yet the real criminals remained free and instead acted the victim.  Our community has never fully recovered from this event.

I have often heard naïve Indigenous leaders threaten government with statements like: “if government doesn’t negotiate/act, they will have another Oka Crisis on their hands”.  The saying “careful what you wish for” has always sprung to mind when I hear this kind of empty threat,  as this is an extreme situation which no community or peoples should ever have to live through.  I hope and pray that it does not happen again in the future.

The media pounces on the proverbial machismo image associated when someone wearing a mask or a t-shirt emblazoned with symbol “warrior”, or a “warrior” flag, a symbol created by the late Mohawk artist Louis Hall.  Using the English or even French terms for warriors belies the movement of Indigenous peoples and our history of Resistance against colonial imperialism.

It is important to note that in times of war, women have always participated equally with the men on the front lines.

With the resurgence of the term “warrior” in our daily vernacular we must remember that, policing authorities and government have a different interpretation of this word which fuels their propaganda into misleading the public in their assumption that “warriors” carry guns or some kind of weapon and are involved in “illegal” activities.  And so there remains a clash of ideology in our interpretation of warrior from that of carrying the burden of peace, protecting the land, to that of a trained ‘warrior’.

This oversimplification and mis-leading of the public to characterize Indigenous activists and advocates as threats to the prosperity of Canada, has been used throughout history by the State to justify the use of force against Indigenous protestors and protectors of their lands.

For many Canadians and Indigenous peoples, the famous image of the Standoff of a masked warrior versus the Canadian soldier by Shaney Komulainan is the epitome of the “OKA CRISIS OF 1990” or the Kanehsatà:ke Siege of 1990.

The Standoff picture perpetuates a violent stereotype founded in history, a stereotype which has not
yet dissipated from the public conscience.  And while I admire, respect and am eternally thankful to Bradley Laroque, as well as others who put their lives on the line to support Kanehsatà:ke, I remain adamant this image is not reflective of our struggle.  Our struggle includes men, women and sadly, even children of our nations who for hundreds of years, have been forced to fight heartless colonialists for their lustful grab of our lands and resources.

Referencing the “Standoff” photo as an illustration which represents the essence of Indigenous peoples’ resistance delegitimizes our struggle.  It ignores the genocidal nature of the Indian Act; the racism and discrimination Onkwehón:we peoples still face,  and repudiates the historical efforts of resistance made by our ancestors to the theft of our lands and resources is justified.

In 1990, many brave men and women faced the Canadian Army and police without any masks or weapons.  We faced them exposing ourselves to danger as we were outnumbered and out gunned by a para-military force of police and army personnel who fearfully pointed their weapons at us and seemed only too eager to have a reason to use them against us

The truth is that the long standing historical grievances of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas have often resulted in conflicts because Canada, the US and other Colonialists have refused to negotiate in good faith with Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples are forced under duress, to enter into biased colonial courts who often interpret our rights in very narrow manner.  In fact, Canadian private property laws are based upon the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius.  Something the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has stated as “…racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust,”[1]

If any image reflects the reality Onwehón:we peoples’ have endured throughout our history with Britain and Canada, it is the racists burning their nightly effigies  of a Mohawk “Warrior” in Chateauguay.

A real warrior, uses peaceful means first; is one who honours, respects and practices peace in their daily lives; but has the ability to protect the people and the land when threats to their safety is imminent.

My hope is that any reference using the term “warrior” will be rooted in the compassion, honesty, and knowledge of what this term truly means in our Onkwehón:we languages; those in our nations who carry the burden of peace.  It should be used by those with the teachings of our ancestors and how serious and important it is to be the ones entrusted with carrying the burden of PEACE.

Skén:nen  tánon Shakwenien’tshera – in peace and respect
Ellen Gabriel

[1] United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, preamble para, 4

Letter to Canada and All Crown Actors re: development on Traditional Kanehsatà:ke Territory

August 13, 2013

OPEN LETTER To: the Municipalité d’Oka and surrounding municipalities

RE:  Declaration of a Moratorium on  All Development in Oka, Parc Nationale d’Oka, and surrounding municipalities on the traditional territory of Kanehsatà:ke: including Enbridge Pipeline, Gazoduc, GDB Constrution, Archeological digs and all

To the Government of Canada and Québec and All Municipalities on the traditional Mohawk territory of Kanehsatà:ke

This letter is to remind all Crown Actors within Canada that the Kanien’kehà:ka Nation, of which the Mohawks of Kanehsatà:ke are part of, have never sold nor ceded any of our lands and resources by treaty or by any forms of agreement to the Government of Canada, its provinces and municipalities.  For many years now the Longhouse people of Kanehsatà:ke have stated that they do not recognize the “Kanesatake Land Management Act” also known as Bill S-24 and therefore do not recognize any part of this agreement that may cede our rights to any part or parcel of our  traditional territory.

Therefore, it must be reiterated to Canada and all Crown Actors to Cease all development on the traditional Territory of Kanehsatà:ke and to stop the fraudulent sales of our lands and resources to third party interests.   The Mohawk people of Kanehsatà:ke have protested for years, the exceedingly large number of development on our traditional territory which has been conducted without the Free Prior and Informed Consent of the Kanien’kehà:ke Nation.  No municipality has the authority to grant permits to any developers on traditional Kanien’kehà:ka – Mohawk Territory in Kanehsatà:ke which include the following areas:

1.       All of Kanehsatà:ke also known as Oka and the Oka Parrish

2.       Parc Nationale d’Oka/National Park of Oka

5.       Pointe-Calumet

6.       Pointe-aux-Anglais

7.       Ste. Marthe-sur-le-lac

8.       Lac des Deux-Montagnes

9.       St. Joseph du lac

10   Mirabel and others

Great advancements in the recognition and affirmation of Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights have been accomplished which include: the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and many other international human rights law.  Consequently, all Municipalities on traditional Kanien’kehàka – Mohawk Territory, must adhere to their own rule of law, the Constitution Act of Canada, 1982 which under Section 35 recognizes and affirms Aboriginal peoples’ inherent and treaty right.  All Crown Actors of Canada, including the Federal, Provincial and municipal levels of government must legally uphold the Honour of the Crown and in the respect, protection and promotion of Indigenous peoples collective and individual rights.

Canada bases its sovereignty on 3 legal fictions meant to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands and resources.  These include the Doctrine of Discovery, the Doctrine of Terra Nullius, the Doctrine of Conquer.  These are the fallacies and foundations upon which all municipalities, especially the Municipalité d’Oka have defrauded the Mohawks of Kanehsatà:ke and other Indigenous peoples of their lands and resources.

Doctrines of superiority have been declared by the UN as the following in the UNDRIP Preamble, Para. 4, which states the following:  “Affirming further that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust,”

As a member state of the United Nations Canada and its provinces, territories and municipalities have legal obligations to uphold the UN Charter.  Canada  must uphold its legal obligation to promote and protect the human rights enshrined under international law, which includes treaties, conventions and indeed, declarations.

It behooves the Mohawks of Kanehsatà:ke to inform you under our own Constitutional law of Kaianera’kó:wa – The Great Law of Peace, as well as under international and domestic law, that all permits granted to any third party for development or archeological digs, must obtain the Free Prior and Informed Consent of the Mohawk people of Kanehsatà:ke before they can proceed. The Municipalité d’Oka does not have the authority to grant permits to developers like GDB Construction, Enbridge or any other corporations, including mining corporations like NIOCAN.

This fraudulent use of traditional Mohawk lands works against the promotion of a peaceful coexistence, disgraces the Honour of the Crown, as has caused the further dispossession of the Kanehsatà:ke Mohawks from our lands and resources.

Our intention is to promote the peace between our peoples; to protect our lands for present and future generations; and to remind Canada and its various levels of government, that development can only proceed under a peaceful, transparent and respectful relationship.   Our identity as Kanien’kehàka people is inextricably linked to our lands and under our own customary law of Kaianera’kó:wa, we must protect our lands, our peoples quality of life, and all our relations for present and future generations.

The community of Kanehsatà:ke existed long before the arrival of Europeans in North America and is the oldest Mohawk community in existence.  We have waited for centuries for justice which has been denied to us due to the illegal doctrines of superiority designed to dispossess us of our lands.  Instead the Kanien’kehà:ka – Mohawk people are confronted by coercive methods by Government and its authorities, justified under blatant institutionalized racism through the Indian Act.  We must put an end to “land claims” negotiations which requires all Indigenous nations to “extinguish” title to their lands and resources; allows third party interests to continue during negotiations and is founded solely on Canadian law,  policy and standards.

On July 11th of this year, we marked the 23rd anniversary of the “Oka Crisis, 1990” through a peaceful protest at Parc Nationale d’Oka, a place where our ancestors lived and occupied for many millenniums.  It is sad that after 23 years, the Mohawk people of Kanehsatà:ke are no closer to achieving justice to our long standing historical land rights grievances: a struggle has been going on for several centuries now and desperately requires some sort of peaceful resolution.

We must sit and discuss solutions based upon mutual respect, Kaianera’kó:wa – the Great Law of Peace, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  All future negotiations must be based upon these standards.

It is therefore important that all municipalities within the traditional territory of the Mohawks of Kanehsatà:ke cease all development and agree to participate at a meeting  to discuss these urgent land rights matters at the earliest possible date.

Ellen Gabriel

Bill 101 and impacts upon Indigenous languages: letter to Premier Marois

February 20, 2013

Re: Follow-up of letter of request for a meeting dated October 22, 2012

To: Premier Pauline Marois


Dear Premier Marois;

This letter is a follow-up to a letter dated last October 22, 2012, requesting a meeting with you and your Ministers regarding the impact of Bill 101 on Indigenous languages.  While I have called your office several times and received confirmation of the receipt of  my letter, I have yet to receive a response to my request for a meeting.

I am therefore compelled once again to write you to request a meeting in order to discuss the impact of Bill 101 on Indigenous languages.  I would also like to respectfully request that several of your Ministers whose files are relevant to language and education, be included in this meeting.

The major concern we have is in regards to your statement following your election in September in which you stated that you would be amending Bill 101 to have an even stricter enforcement of the French language.  While we empathize with the need of Francophone Quebecers to protect French within the province, it is necessary to inform you that language laws in Canada, have long had a negative impact on Indigenous languages since the onset of the Indian Residential Schools system. 

It is important to stress that Indigenous peoples have a right to provide education to their children and youth in their own languages.  This right also includes the teaching of our history and cultures and is reinforced in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The UN Declaration is one which the Parti Québeçois endorsed in a 2009  press conference which included myself as then president of Femmes Autochtones du Québec and Ghislain Picard of the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador.  It is hoped that you as Premier of Québec continue to endorse this historic international human rights instrument for Indigenous peoples’ rights.

Education, language and culture are amongst the many articles of the UNDRIP which promote and protect the self-determining rights of Indigenous peoples and which constitute the minimum human rights standards for Indigenous Peoples.  The support of the UN Declaration by the Parti Quebeçois is deeply appreciated, but the next step is its implementation and this requires that all state actors, including provincial and territorial governments to participate in its realization.  The implementation of the Declaration requires dialogue and political will based upon trust and fairness.  The UN Declaration is the framework for reconciliation based upon an equal partnership for the peace and progressive evolution of society.

It is important to stress that Indigenous peoples are not minorities as we do not share the same history of the Indian Residential School system and of colonization, with that of minorities. 

Indigenous peoples have the right to  self-determination and as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states in Article 13:

“1.  Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and person.”

UNESCO has stated that Indigenous languages in Canada are the most endangered in the world.  As the First Peoples of this land, our languages have consistently been marginalized in the education curriculum and been forced aside in order for our community members to work within Québeçois and Canadian society.

As Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO, stated that  “.. languages are key to cultural identity.. linguistic diversity is closely linked to cultural diversity, and languages play an important role in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease.”  Indigenous languages in particular, he says, are crucial to preserving indigenous knowledge.

I believe we share a common passion for the protection of our respective languages.  It is time to change the status quo of colonialism that has attacked the identity of Indigenous peoples for centuries and instead, work together for the enrichment and well-being of society.  Indigenous peoples collective human rights and freedoms are important in our survival, dignity and well being.  I hope that this vision of justice is one that can be shared by the Government of Québec and that we can discuss this important issue in the near future.

I look forward to your response and trust that our meeting may be arranged within the next month at your office in Montreal.

With sincerity and respect



Ellen Gabriel


Kontinonhstats – Mohawk Language Custodians Association



 cc.  Minister Élizabeth Larouche, Secrétariat des Affaires Autochtones

       Minister Maka Kotto,  Ministère de la Culture et des Communications

       Minister Marie Malavoy, Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport

lettre en francais à Première Ministre, Pauline Marois et la loi 101

20 février 2013


Madame la Première Ministre Marois;

Cette lettre fait suite à une lettre datée du 22 octobre dernier, laquelle demandait une rencontre avec vous et vos ministres relativement à l’impact de la loi 101 sur les langues autochtones.   J’ai appelé votre bureau à plusieurs reprises et ai été informée de la réception de ma lettre.  Néanmoins, je n’ai toujours pas reçu de réponse à ma demande de rencontre.

En conséquence, je réitère ma demande de rencontre afin de discuter de l’impact de la loi 101 sur les langues autochtones. Je vous demande également respectueusement d’inviter lors de cette réunion, plusieurs de vos ministres dont les dossiers sont en lien avec la langue et l’éducation.

Notre préoccupation majeure concerne votre déclaration suite à votre élection en septembre lors de laquelle vous avez annoncé vouloir modifier la loi 101 de manière à renforcer l’usage de la langue française dans la province. Bien que nous comprenions la nécessité de protéger la langue française, il est nécessaire de rappeler au gouvernement du Québec que les Peuples autochtones ont, eux aussi, le droit d’assurer l’éducation de leurs enfants et des jeunes dans leurs propres langues.

 Ce droit comprend également l’enseignement de notre histoire et de nos cultures; droit qui est renforcé par la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les droits des peuples autochtones. Le Parti Québécois a d’ailleurs appuyé cette déclaration des Nations Unies lors d’une conférence de presse en 2010 au cours de laquelle j’étais moi-même présente à l’époque en tant que Présidente de Femmes autochtones du Québec et ainsi que Ghislain Picard, Chef de l’Assemblée des Premières Nations du Québec et du Labrador.

L’éducation, la langue et la culture font partie des articles de la Déclaration des Nations Unies qui promeuvent et protègent les droits à l’autodétermination des Peuples autochtones et qui constituent les normes minimales en matière de droits humains pour les peuples autochtones. L’appui manifesté par le Parti Québécois à la Déclaration des Nations Unies est très apprécié, cependant la prochaine étape est sa mise en œuvre, ce qui exige que tous les acteurs étatiques, y compris les gouvernements provinciaux et territoriaux, participent à sa réalisation. La mise en œuvre de la Déclaration exige un dialogue et une volonté politique fondée sur la confiance et l’équité. La Déclaration des Nations Unies s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une réconciliation fondée sur un partenariat égalitaire pour la paix et le progrès de la société.

Il est important de souligner que les peuples autochtones ne sont pas des minorités dans la mesure où nous ne partageons pas la même histoire du système des pensionnats indiens, ni de la colonisation, que celle des minorités. Les peuples autochtones ont le droit à l’autodétermination telle que le stipule l’article 13 de la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les droits des Peuples autochtones:


“1. Les peuples autochtones ont le droit de revivifier, d’utiliser, de développer et de transmettre aux générations futures leur histoire, leur langue, leurs traditions orales, leur philosophie, leur système d’écriture et leur littérature, ainsi que de choisir et de conserver leurs propres noms pour les communautés, les lieux et les personnes.”

L’UNESCO a déclaré que les langues autochtones au Canada sont les plus menacées au monde. En tant que premiers peuples de cette terre, nos langues ont toujours été marginalisées dans les programmes éducatifs et ont été mises de côté pour forcer les membres de notre communauté à travailler au sein de la société canadienne et québécois.

Comme M. Koïchiro Matsuura, Directeur général de l’UNESCO, a déclaré : “… les langues sont essentielles à l’identité culturelle. La diversité linguistique est étroitement liée à la diversité culturelle et les langues jouent un rôle important dans la lutte contre la pauvreté, la faim et la maladie.” Les langues autochtones en particulier, dit-il, sont indispensables pour préserver les savoirs autochtones.

Je crois que nous partageons une passion commune pour nos langues respectives. Il est donc temps de changer le statu quo du colonialisme ayant attaqué l’identité des Peuples autochtones depuis des siècles et, à la place, de travailler ensemble pour le bien commun. Droits des Peuples autochtones et liberté sont des éléments fondamentaux pour notre survie, notre dignité et notre bien-être. J’espère que cette vision de la justice sera partagée par le gouvernement du Québec et que nous pourrons discuter de cette importante question dans un avenir proche.

Je demeure dans l’attente de votre réponse et garde confiance qu’une réunion puisse être organisée le mois prochain dans votre bureau à Montréal.


Avec sincérité et respect,


Ellen Gabriel



Kontinonhstats – Mohawk Language Custodians Association




 cc.  Minister Élizabeth Larouche, Secrétariat des Affaires Autochtones

       Minister Maka Kotto,  Ministère de la Culture et des Communications

       Minister Marie Malavoy, Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport