KANESATAKE, July 11 /CNW Telbec/ - For the 20 years of the 1990 crisis, the Grand Chief of Kanesatake, Sohenrise Paul Nicholas, makes the following statement:
THE OKA CRISIS IS PART OF HISTORY; THE FUTURE OF KANESATAKE SHALL BE
The events of the summer of 1990 were traumatic for the people of Quebec. Recent news reports and commentaries confirm this. On the other hand, very few people are aware of the scale of the trauma endured by the Mohawk nation. For Quebecers and their media, the summer of 1990 was an historic event: it was the "Oka crisis" or the "Indian summer." For us Mohawks, it was something we have to live with every day. In fact, the issues that sparked the 1990 crisis are alive and well and still pose an enduring obstacle to our development.
At the heart of the problem lies the territory of the Seigneury of Lake of Two-Mountains, first conceded by the King of France in 1718 to the Sulpicians for the exclusive use of the Mohawks.
In 1759, during conquest, the British Crown reaffirmed our rights to this land both for our exclusive use and hunting activities through the Treaty of Oswegatchie. And again, in 1763, the Royal Proclamation reaffirmed these lands for our use and benefit.
In spite of this, the Sulpicians and the governments gradually sold most of the land to private interests. These sales were not legal and constitute a serious breach of the Crown's fiduciary obligations, a breach that is now officially partly acknowledged by the federal government. The Mohawks have always protested against the unlawful sale of this land and have always fought, at times forcibly, to protect it.
The dispute over the Seigneury land of Lake of Two-Mountains has been rekindled by recent events regarding the Norfolk Company's development project. It must be noted that the land on which this company plans to build housing is part of the Seigneury of Lake of Two-Mountains and is also a part of the Seigneury known as 'the Small Common' which was historically used commonly by our people for pasture, burial and other activities. The Small Common has a size of about 2 1/2 square miles and used to be located all around the Indian village of the Seigneury (now called Oka.). We must stress that the real estate development project was initiated without any consultation with the Mohawk community.
After the events of the summer of 1990, the government of Canada agreed to negotiate the land claim of the Kanesatake Mohawks but, in 2006, it unilaterally terminated the negotiation process. Since then, everything was stalled, despite our numerous calls for a renewed table of negotiations.
Today, we are glad to see that the federal government finally appointed a negotiator so that we can review the real historical evidence on this matter and come up with a correct historical understanding of our claim to the Seigneury of Lake of Two-Mountains. Today, we are less far away from an agreement then yesterday.
We do not want a second Oka crisis; we want this matter resolved as it should, that is to say, by negotiating a formal agreement. I trust that government officials have learned from the 1990 crisis and that, 20 years later, we can settle our differences once and for all, so that such events no longer occur.
Looking towards the future
On July 11, 2010, we look not toward the past, but the future. We are strongly committed to achieving self-governance and to taking charge of our development. Proud of our roots and confident about the future, we issue today a clear message to our Quebec neighbours: we wish to develop our nation and become partners in Quebec's development through respectful nation-to-nation relations founded on the "Peace and Friendship" treaties concluded in the past between our respective ancestors.
The recent improvement of our relations with both the governments of Quebec and Canada allow us to look at the future with optimism. This is good news for us, as well as for all Quebecers. A strong and prosperous Mohawk nation will benefit all Quebecers.
We are determined to do whatever it takes to convince these governments - without waiting another 20 years or for another crisis - to come to a final agreement on the nature of our land and our rights.
In Peace and Friendship,
Grand Chief Sohenrise Paul Nicholas
On behalf of the elected members of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake
The Grand Chief Nicholas and members of the Mohawk Council will participate today in various activities on the territory of Kanesatake, including a speech by 12:30 and the launch of the book "À l'orée des bois" (translation of "At the wood edge "by Francine Lemay, sister of Corporal Marcel Lemay). A Lacrosse game demonstration, dancers and drummers are also scheduled.
SOURCE MOHAWK COUNCIL OF KANESATAKE
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