By: Johnny Hawk
“Chief Yellowhead rose up and made a speech and exhibited the great Wampum belt of the Six Nations, and explained the talk contained in it. Yellowhead stated that this Belt was given by the Nahdooways to the Ojibways many years ago about the time the French first came to this country.” – Documented Proceedings of an Anishinabe and Haudenosaunee Council to renew Alliance, January 21, 1840 recorded by Peter Jones
As 2015 marks the 25 years since the Oka Crisis along with the 400 years since French Colonist Samuel De Champlain instigated a devastating intertribal war to access lands of the Wendat, Haudenasaunee and Anishinabek; what ties these commemorative dates together is a historical alliance that often goes unrecognized. It is through the voices of those that also go unrecognized who uphold these alliances in contemporary battles that can share lessons to help our ongoing resurgence as Nations in the spirit of the One Dish with One Spoon Wampum.
Many Indigenous communities and individuals gave support in many ways to the Kanienkehaka during the summer of 1990 through solidarity blockades and the many caravans that delivered donations. As countless people wanted to stand with the People of the Pines, the police and army prevented any attempts for supporters to join them however two Anishinabek who were part of a handful of Warriors from other Indigenous Nations unmask their experience.
Ken an Anishinabe from Chippewa of the Thames who wants to be identified only by his first name tells his story as an armed 19 year old helping the Kanienkehaka protect their ancestral graves.
“One of the Mohawk guys was so hard on us Chippewa and saying things like the Chippewa aren’t even showing support but he didn’t know about the help on the outside because it was like being in a cocoon with no information coming in. I had to keep telling him, I’m Chippewa. He didn’t believe me because I was with the Oneida Warrior Society that came and he would tease me saying, you don’t sound like a Chippewa. ” explains Ken as he chuckles about not speaking soft and slow with what he calls the stereotypical Chippewa accent.
For many the use of being armed for self defense is a controversial issue when invading colonial forces attempt to settle disputes with Indigenous Communities who have valid historical grievances. The Mohawk Warrior Society helped demonstrate the assertion of the Kaneienkehaka as a Nation and the need for trained organized protection for its people just as any Nation would employ when under attack.
“We had red alerts and a buddy system. We would do recon, the women would take care of the men and we had spiritual people where everyone had a role to play. Some of the guys had military training and there was also survival and training camps in the Mohawk communities in the years before that centered on what it meant to be a warrior and all that helped out but I remember a fighter jet that flew by and they could’ve dropped a bomb and just ended it right there and there would’ve not been anything we could’ve done.” Explains Ken
Ken’s community Chippewa of the Thames neighbors Oneida of the Thames where he was just in his teens when he started seeking out his culture where he joined the Oneida Longhouse for spirituality and eventually the Oneida Warriors Society in the late 80’s.
“When the Crisis was over we were like rock stars and there was so much bravado and ego going on. The Grandmothers noticed how we were behaving. I remember a Clan Mother coming to see me and banned me from the Warrior Society and told me I’d have to make amends for my behavior in the Longhouse. She started opening up my eyes to what a warrior really is.” explains Ken.
“Is there a need today for militancy? I don’t know. I still have friends though who were involved that are still very active and militant. For me I think we need to pick up our pipes, go into our lodges and get back to our clan system and become who we really are as Anishinabek. It took me a real long time to get where I’m at today. If that happened again today, would I pick up my AK and march off? No I wouldn’t but if somebody else did, there is always a positive that comes out of anything.” explains Ken who is now a Grandfather and spends his time passing on teachings to his Grandchildren and being involved in and following the Longhouse ways.
Ken along with another warrior from his community were not the only Anishinabek on the frontlines, one of the well known photo’s of the Crisis was of a Warrior known as “Freddy Kruegar” facing off with a Canadian Soldier who was a University of Saskatchewan Student named Brad Larocque an Ojibway from Regina.
An Algonquin Anishinabek from Temiskaming First Nation in Quebec, Kevin Stanger was 20 years old when he participated. Stanger can be seen on the documentary Acts of Defiance at a community celebration in Kanawake for those who made this stand and were released from custody a week after the Crisis was over. Kevin shares some of his experiences from the summer of 1990 and how it shaped him.
“I wasn’t raised with my culture and found spirituality, teachings on nationhood and everything I was looking for behind the barricades. It gave me pride and responsibility in trying to rebuild my own Nation. It also helped launch me being active where I participated in standoffs in the States and Canada where I also became involved with the American Indian Movement and also stopped the Adams Mine in my territory that would have contaminated our water.” explains Stanger.
A major effect that assimilation has on Indigenous people is producing a passive and submissive ideology when it comes to resistance of colonialism and defending territory and rights explains Stanger.
“After the crisis my community would make fun and ridicule me and call me “Mohawk” and “Oka Boy” because of what I represented when I went there. I was someone willing to stand up and a lot of my people are assimilated. I am like a mirror when they look at me, they see what they are not and see someone who is doing something and then they look at themselves as not doing anything and so they want to break the mirror. Our people have been stereotyped, that they’re peaceful and not like the Mohawks. That’s just an excuse to do nothing.” explains Stanger.
When identifying if there is a need today for Warrior Societies and the need to be armed Stanger says this.
“The way the world is going with the depletion and destruction of natural resources, the droughts, famine, natural disasters and economy falling apart we will see people from the cities coming for our resources, the street gangs and organized crime will still be a reality and we will need to be prepared because of the danger that is coming. People who think we shouldn’t be armed and organized are living in a fantasy world. When our people go and do these one day blockades they need to know the seriousness of what they are doing and that it’s not a game where people can get hurt and we need to strategize and have a plan and be organized, we need our Warrior Societies as Anishinabek.” explains Stanger.
For Kevin being a Warrior is not only about militancy but begins with knowing who you are.
“A lot of people think a Warrior or Warrior Society is about picking up a gun. It’s about knowing who you are, where you come from, your history and ceremonies and being there for the people, listening to your aunties and uncles. It’s about taking care of your family. I go to the Three Fires Midewewiin Lodge of our Anishinabek People and I addressed the lodge that we needed to bring back our Warrior Society and the ceremony after that Eddie Benton brought back the Ogitchida Society.” explains Stanger.
Kevin is also an educator where he published his own grassroots newspaper and delivered it door to door within his community where he wanted to educate is own people on their rights and history but found resistance at times by the Band Council.
“I’ve been asked by the non-native people in my area to come and share my experiences and give talks in the schools and even in the churches but my own people try to do everything to stop me from talking in our own community where they don’t want me to have a voice. I could have a lot to share where we need to be as a Nation but they don’t allow me to.” says Stanger.
“This experience has helped me to become who I am today. The people behind the barricades are like family and the Mohawks treated me good I tip my hat to them” says Stanger.
The Anishinabek who participated on the frontlines during 1990 may not have known they were upholding a historic alliance but nevertheless their support showed the strong unity that exists among Indigenous Communities where Haudenasaunee peoples have supported many Anishinabek communities as well in their stands of resistance throughout the years.
The Anishinabek and Haudenasaunee developed this Alliance after the Beaver Wars in the late 1600’s exemplified in Four Wampum belts, known as the One Dish with One Spoon, The Ojibway Friendship Belt and two others. This alliance serves also as a resource management agreement where each Nation would respect each other’s territory and war no more and if one requires assistance in defense of their lands they would help each other. One of the Belts speaks on Five Territorial Council Fires where each is represented by that territory’s head Clan. These Anishinabek Territorial Council Fires are located in Ste. Sault Marie, Manitoulin Island, Penetanguishene area, The Narrows at Lake Simcoe and Couchiching, and New Credit in what is known as so called Ontario. Recently there has been a grassroots group of Anishinabek established called ACTION who are relighting these territorial council fires and have moved into Awenda Provincial Park in Penetanguishene to reclaim that area for these initiatives and who are seeking guidance from veterans in the movement like Ken and Kevin who have already built strong unity amongst the Haudenasaunee and have a background of resistance.
Mainstream history and media have always emphasized the Mohawk and Sioux as being the fiercest Nations of resistance where the Anishinabek reputation as warriors has experienced a more modest marginalization however it was Anishinabek who defeated Sioux and Haudenasaune aggression, pushing them back into their territories when they wagged war upon Anishinabek. It was Anishinabek through Pontiac’s Campaign that captured Five British Forts and Anishinabek under Chief Yellowhead who assisted and held off American fleets in Lake Ontario during the war of 1812. The most decorated soldiers in WW1/WW2 were Anishinbek, Francis Pegamahgabow and Tommy Prince. It was Anishinabek who founded the American Indian Movement and Native Youth Movement and who made such stands at Anicinabe Park in Kenora, Fishing Wars in Wisconsin, fighting against forestry at Golden Lake, expropriation of lands in Ipperwash and logging in Grassy Narrows. Why we need to recognize these voices like Ken and Kevin is to remind our people who perpetuate a passive ideology that we have a Warrior Spirit too and long history of resistance.
In 2015 as we honor the 25 years since the Mohawk people made their stand it has also been 20 years since Ts’Peten Defenders at Gustufson Lake and the killing of Anishinabek land defender Dudley George by Ontario Provincial Police. As we empower our fighting spirit and organize, we also need to give voice and perspective on some realities.
In 1991, a year after the 1990 Mohawk Oka Crisis, a reporter from the Montreal Mirror met with some Rotiskenrakete at the Mohawk Nation Office in Kahnawake. He had information about the death of Surete du Quebec Corporal Marcel Lemay during the para-military attack on the Mohawks of Kanehsatake on July 11, 1990. Lemay was in charge of the internal investigation of police corruption and was about to report his findings which could’ve brought down some high officials in the force and government in regards to the Mohawk “Civil War” in Akwesasne. Corporal Lemay worked behind the desk investigating police misconduct. On July 11, 1990 he was ordered to suit up with a bullet-proof vest, helmet and M-16 to take part in a military style attack on Mohawk men, women and children, minutes after the attack, Lemay lay dead. Immediately following the attack SQ Internal Affairs descended on Lemay’s home and seized all his documents. Mrs. Lemay told the media, “I don’t hold the Mohawks responsible for the death of my husband”
During the Ipperwash Inquiry of events leading to the death of Dudley George at the hands of the OPP, three Ontario Provincial Police were killed in automotive accidents before their scheduled testimony in the inquiry. The incident commander the night Dudley was killed, Insp. Dale Linton, died in a vehicle accident as well as Sgt. Deane the one who shot Dudley was also killed in a vehicle accident as well as another officer all who died in separate incidents before they were to testify in a judicial probe. The George family has always sought to seek information on who gave the orders to go in that night. I am not saying the Government killed their own but only that these “coincidental incidents” were convenient for those who gave orders. If you are an agent of the State reading this, remember that you too may be just an expendable asset that coincidentally may have an “accident” after your government orders you in to kill people defending their rights and lands.
As I talked with these Uncles and others who were legitimately at the Oka Crisis and can back it up, I’ve found out that two people that I’ve had encounters with who boast about being at the Oka Crisis were actually not. One of whom makes such claims among our grassroots circles where many relatives are misled and hold this person up with “warrior cred”. This other person who has more Anglo features then Mohawk which he claims to be and resides near our territory is never seen at functions within Indigenous communities. This person claims also he was at Kanehstaton/Caledonia in 2006 where I participated yet never saw him there. He invited me to his home once where he claims to be unemployed but has two very expensive vehicles, a three door garage attached to a beautiful big house in a very privileged white neighborhood. I am not attempting to cause paranoia, out to slander, create divisions, nor am I going to name names however there are some people in our circles who claim to be things they are not which is the point I am trying to make. I myself am no warrior or role model where I struggle with my own demons and go against what I preach at times but my family, clan, community and nation help me to help myself where organizing within our own territories and community helps with security issues within our movement where everybody knows who’s who.
The reality in our communities is there are many of our own people out of ego that self identify and play medicine person claiming to have gifts, who claim to be warriors, traditional clan leaders not acknowledged by their own people where personal bias’, clique’s, nepotism, hierarchy and other forms of colonial behaviors are being perpetuated in our “decolonization” and resurgence movements.
At the same time the other side of this issue is the real threat of having our own people and non-natives as informants for government agencies. As we try our best to give a voice to the voiceless such as Warriors like Annie Mae Pictou Aquash who was killed by her own people within the American Indian Movement as a result of the FBI’s COINTELPRO we must acknowledge and learn from these mistakes and not allow government tactics to affect our unity.
With the explosion of Idle No More which has introduced many of our people to “activism” and with some of our resistance circles there is a loose collective of grassroots people across our territories that come and go and which leaves this kind of organizing open to infiltration and manipulation where people can be misled and hurt by people with personal agenda’s. This type of free for all is also seen in spiritual movements. How we can avoid tragedies of the past is by evolving our resistance movement. A merging of our resurgence of Traditional Territorial Councils, our Clan Governance, Medicine Societies, empowering the Women as true title holders who connect us to our community and territory, reviving our own justice systems and knowing who belongs to what community and who has certain roles and responsibilities. These solutions can combat some of the major issues we see today. This is what I have learned from these Uncles as the role of a Warrior. It all begins with reviving and picking up our own institutions, culture, spirituality and ways of governance.
Before we get to concerned with alliances in the Two Row maybe we can rebuild what as already been here on Turtle Island.
In the spirit of the One Dish with One Spoon.
“The council fire was then struck with flint and steel, and the pipe of peace having been filled, it was lighted with the new fire, and the Mezhinuway (Aide-de- camp) presented it to each of the chiefs of the Six Nations, then to the Ojebway chiefs, and afterwards to the warriors present. John S. Johnson, one of the Mohawk chiefs, informed the council that the Onondaga chief, who kept the council fire or “ talk “ of the Six Nations, would then speak in their behalf […] The Onondaga chief, John Buck, made a speech and exhibited the wampum belts, the memorials of the old treaties, and explained the talks contained in them. There were four belts.” – Peter Jones, 1861. History of the Ojebway Indians