The Lessons From Oka: A Special Section on Native Issues

By John Bacher

This issue of PEACE has a special section on the struggles of Canadian native people for a land base in which their distinctive cultures can sustain their relationship to the earth. Militarism assaults lands sacred to native people. In Saskatchewan, uranium mining poisons fish and causes birth defects among animals such as moose hunted by the Cree. New Uranium mines, with similar ecological consequences are being planned for the Inuit community of Baker Lake. The Innu's wilderness homeland of Nitassinan in Eastern Quebec and Labrador is being disrupted by Alberta test site for the infamous cruise missile is on native land, for which the military never paid adequate compensation.

One of the largely unknown tragedies of recent years has been the assault since 1988 on the Indian newspaper Akwesasne Notes, by the Mohawk Warrior Society. Since its inception in 1968 this paper has been a vehicle for the convergence of the peace, ecology and native movements in North America. The resource companies pillaging the earth did not physically assault the Notes office, but this has been done by the Warriors on three occasions since 1988, following the dramatic torching of its office in that year. The Warriors came to oppose a free press because of Notes criticism of the gambling and smuggling -activities that funded the arms that were shown in the tragic events of last summer.

Believers in non-violence have always stressed the connection between peace, justice, ecology, and social justice. One of the strongest philosophical basis for this integrated peace message has been the Longhouse religion of the Iroquois, which was protected from the infections of European militarism by the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake. The followers of Handsome Lake today have endured some of the most severe armed assaults in North America. The peace movement can support the brave Iroquois traditionalist victims and oppose the Canadian Government in keeping alive plans for golf courses in Oka or provocative provincial police patrols in Kahnawake.

Special thanks to Brian Willes-Heape for his assistance with this issue.

[Ed note: In mid-February plans were announced to monitor the policing of Kahnawake.]

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1991

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1991, page 16. Some rights reserved.

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