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Sharing our stories: Gun to gun

Story told by: Mitch Deer
Edited by: Aaron McComber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Translated by: Karonhí:io Delaronde

Around the first of July, 1990, we went to Kanesatake. We set up patrols and camped out right there in the Pines.

We didn’t expect the police to come the way they did. We thought the town workers from Oka were going to come up with chainsaws and bulldozers to start cutting down the trees and bulldoze the graves. That’s not what happened.

 

Mohawk protestors rest in a sleeping bag at their camp in the Pines PHOTO Robert Galbraith Kanienkeháka Onkwawénna Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center

 

The mayor of the town of Oka, Jean Ouellette, called the SQ and maybe 150 cops showed up on July 11th. We were in the Pines the morning it happened.

The people heading to work, early in the morning, were going down to the town and then running back up saying, “There’s SQ in the village!”

Around five in the morning, I was through the woods on the main roadside when I saw a SWAT team coming up.

We had a big log across the road and we got behind it with our rifles out screaming, “You have no business coming here. Get the fuck off our land.”

 

Mohawk Warriors keep watch over the log barricade at the top of the hill PHOTO Robert Galbraith Kanienkeháka Onkwawénna Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center

 

We were gun-to-gun.

At the first crack of light, the SQ came in on both sides of us. They came with all their trucks and police cars, vans, everything. So I left the area I was in and made my way to the front, that’s when I seen our women standing in the front against the cops.

The women were chanting and yelling, “You have no jurisdiction here, you have no business here.” All that kind of stuff. The SQ didn’t want to talk to them and said, “We want to talk to the men or chief or whoever was in charge.”

The women stood their ground and said, “We have just as much authority as the men and we have just as much power as them.”

And they do. Sometimes they have more power than we have.

 

Jean Ouellette attends the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples RCAP hearings in Montreal Quebec in 1993 PHOTO Audrey Mitchell Library and Archives Canada

 

Because in reality, we are only just tools of the nation, that’s all we are. But these cops weren’t used to dealing with women.

At about six in the morning, they started throwing tear gas.

 

Tear gas canister picked up by Mitch Deer on July 11 1990 and preserved by him since PHOTO Emma McLaughlin

 

The way the breeze moved off the top of the hills and through the forest, the wind would push the gas back onto them. I never got to smell any tear gas but the women did because they were right at the front. That went on for hours.

They threw so much tear gas that they actually ran out. We didn’t budge. It was tear gas, tear gas then all of a sudden we heard shooting when they ran out of gas. More and more shots were heard and then we all started shooting back and forth. This was only for like 10 or 12 seconds, but there were like 1,000 shots in that time…

 

A Mohawk Warrior stands behind a log blockade on July 11 1990 PHOTO Robert Galbraith Kanienkeháka Onkwawénna Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center

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