On 11 October 2019, Al Harrington, a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kanehsatà:ke started a hunger strike to bring to attention to the longstanding historical land dispute which has been ignored by colonial officials for over 300 years, the same dispute at the heart of the 1990 Oka “crisis.”
His demand? That the Government of Canada place a short term moratorium to halt all development on Kanien’kehá:ka Homelands and for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet and enter into meaningful negotiations with the Rotinonhseshá:ka – the People of the Longhouse – of Kanehsatà:ke to end the land dispute once and for all.
As of Friday, 25 October 2019, no one from the Government of Canada has reached out to Al, or the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke. Despite receiving overwhelming support – from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to Amnesty International – Al has decided to call off his hunger strike after 15 days to prioritize and protect his health.
In a press release, the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kanehsatà:ke renewed their call for justice, inviting Trudeau to meet and negotiate an end to the land dispute, which has been going on for 302 years too long.
Canadian Dimension stands with the Kanien’kéha:ka (Mohawk) of Kanehsatà:ke and proudly publishes their full press release below.
Kentén:cha [October] 25th, 2019
Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kéha:ka Homelands
RE: Al Harrington’s Hunger Strike
Today marks the last day of the Hunger Strike by Kanehsatà:ke resident Al Harrington. During these 15 days, we received many kind messages of support and visits during this time. We first would like to thank EVERYONE who has held ceremonies for Al, for this community, those who prayed for him as they contributed to lifting all our spirits up and in amplifying our voices. Al is a precious part of our community and we cannot thank him enough for the sacrifice that he has made for Kanien’kéha:ka Homelands.
We thank Al Harrington for his sacrifice these past 15 days, for he has amplified our voices, and our 3 centuries old land struggle when no one seemed to be listening. However, it is time now for Al to resume his life with his family, to rest now so he may join in good health, us as we continue to stand with us in achieving justice for Kanien’kéha:ka peoples’ Homelands in Kanehsatà:ke, something which has eluded our ancestors, and our elders.
We want to thank all the youth who came here from Montreal to be Fire Keepers. Their contribution was incredibly uplifting, inspirational, strong, and respectful and we are grateful for their contribution to our land struggle. These inspirational youth have given us much hope and love to our community. They have given us faith that the future leaders will be those who will listen and whose words will be followed by action, with courage, love and respect.
We reiterate that Al decided to do a hunger strike because the government of Canada, under Justin Trudeau, has persistently ignored requests for a meeting by the Rotinonhseshá:ka ne – the People of the Longhouse on matters that concern the theft of our Homeland through land fraud and land dispossession. The Kanien’kéha:ka Rotinonhseshá:ka ne of Kanehsatà:ke have lived under oppression for far too long, with our voices being scoffed at and ignored by Canada. Al’s sacrifice has strengthened our determination to continue this multi-generational struggle for the land.
Kanien’kéha:ka Rotinonhseshá:ka ne of Kanehsatà:ke remain steadfast in our public call to Prime Minister Trudeau to declare a Short Term Moratorium on our Homelands. This is a pre-condition to meet in a peaceful atmosphere to begin discussions on halting the land fraud and theft in Kanehsatà:ke (Oka). We caution ALL third parties such as – Domaine des collines d’Oka, G8D Construction, Parc d’Oka, TransCanada, Vegibec, and others, that they do not have the Kanien’kéha:ka of Kanehsatà:ke’s free prior and informed consent in all the past and on-going development that is forging ahead.
The Rotinonhseshá:ka ne of Kanehsatà:ke, as Keepers of the Eastern Door, place a moratorium on all land development by third parties, including the Mohawk Council of Kanehsatà:ke on Kanien’kéha:ka Homelands. Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware.
We hope that we can turn a pace with Canada, and so once again the Rotinonhseshá:ka ne of Kanehsatà:ke extend our invitation to Prime Minister Trudeau to a sacred tobacco burning ceremony to renew our relationship and polish the Silver Covenant Chain that reminds our respective nations of the principles and spirit of the Two Row Wampum Treaty. The date to be determined.
Included in this renewal, is the recognition and respect of how precious Mother Earth and all our relations are as we are all dependent upon them for our existence. That we leave a legacy to future generations in which conflict, colonization and assimilation, will be relics of the past; that future generations will have a chance in surviving Climate Change in this age known as the Anthropocene, the Human Epoch. Hence, our fight is your fight.
Upon re-election he [Trudeau] spoke of “reconciliation” with Indigenous peoples, but we view his trail of broken promises and take this statement cautiously and with trepidation for his second mandate. “Reconciliation” is an on-going process, and it includes reparations involving the return of stolen lands, and respecting Onkwehón:we [Indigenous] peoples’ rights to self-determination.
Upon this his second mandate, Prime Minister Trudeau has a choice to make history’s trajectory different than that of Canada’s current path of shameful oppression of Indigenous peoples’ human rights.
We respectfully ask Prime Minister Trudeau to meet with us in the Kanehsatà:ke Longhouse to begin discussions to resolve our long-standing land dispute: Nation to Nation. The 1990 Kanehsatà:ke Siege (Oka Crisis) caused this community and our sister community of Kahnawà:ke to suffer heinous human rights abuses by the SQ, RCMP, and Canadian Army for which there was no accountability, and condoned by government. We do not want a repeat of the racist indifference and threats to the safety and welfare of the Kanien’kéha:ka Peoples.
We call upon all Canadians to pressure your governments, to uphold your own rule of law to stop the racist disparities of your society that promotes and supports illegal development and perpetuates the land dispossession of Indigenous peoples. We reiterate our demands from our press release of August 21st, 2019.
The Kanien’kéha:ka of Kanehsatà:ke under the Great Law of Peace persistently remain under siege by illegal development through Canada’s silence as well as indifference at resolving this long standing historical land dispute. We have been dealt the most insidious, dysfunctional hand for which justice is seemingly impossible. But it is not, if citizens rise up and pressure their governments to bring justice to Kanien’kéha:ka of Kanehsatà:ke under the Great Law of Peace.
We have always remained peaceful in our protests, welcomed those interested in learning about our realities. Our Peaceful resistance however is vilified, ignored by government; many generations tried to resolve this long-standing historical dispute. Instead, Canada has chosen to silence us through surveillance, coercion and violent means through the state authorities.
Reconciliation can wait. We want Land Reparations and restoration. Nothing less will do. Justice for our lands is Justice for our Nation’s people.
Skén:nen – in peace and friendship
The Kanien’kéha:ka Rotinonhseshá:ka ne of Kanehsatà:ke
Sean Carleton is a coordinating member of Canadian Dimension and a historian of Indigenous-settler relations at Mount Royal University in Calgary, AB, Treaty 7.