Akwesasne Under Siege
by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee, originally published at Rabble
Ed. Note: Jessica wrote this in response to Canadian border patrol agents being armed in Akwesasne. This article gives a summary of the situation:
John Thompson, president of the Mackenzie Institute, a Toronto-based think-tank, said Monday that Mohawk militants are “blowing smoke,” and would never attempt an armed, illegal occupation of the offices of the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Native leaders and activists at Akwesasne have been warning for months they would take action to prevent Canada from giving 9-mm pistols to its border agents, because they say the presence of armed government agents on their reserve is an affront to their aboriginal sovereignty.
“Things are escalating in Akwesasne. The Indians aren’t being peaceful anymore,” the news reporters are saying.
500 years of colonization and the continuous refusal to acknowledge our fundamental human rights do not produce peaceful results. I’ll tell you that right now.
But I’m not currently in Akwesasne — my home community which has been under siege by the Border Patrol Services for quite some time now. Yes, the existence of a transnational border that tears a community apart is a sign of putting us under siege. Only this time, since June 1, 2009 to be exact, they want to legitimize and regulate their firearms against us.
So if you want to get a first hand account of what’s going on there right now — I implore you to ask someone who belongs to and is in the community as we speak. But I do have some things to say about this situation which has been a long time coming.
The media have repeatedly asked me about which “side” do I think is right, do I agree with the border being closed, do I side with the “warriors” who refused to back down to the rule of the governments, or am I simply indifferent to it all since I live in Toronto now?
I actually know precisely where I stand – as a Kanionke:haka woman, a Mohawk woman, who belongs to the Haudenosaunee people, and as young person who is part of the next seven generations, I am on the side of my community who is on the side of the land - of Mother Earth. As women we are titleholders and caretakers of the land. And I know very well that the border should not be there.
I am also not a trade economics ignoramus — I recognize why countries feel the need to have borders, make passport and visa systems, promote capitalism, etc. But what I have never understood is how can you really separate a people and a community? How can you tell a nation to pick a side? The answer is to conquer them — that’s how they tried to do it to us — and that’s also why.
What the border has done to far too many of our First Nations communities is horrific and atrocious on so many levels — and it has poisoned our minds to think in singular factions, instead of a full circle. Billy Two Rivers, an Elder and community activist from Kahnawake spoke to me about that this past weekend. “They have no right to tell you which side you belong to. Oh sure, they say it’s St. Regis on the ‘Canadian Side’ and Hogansburg on the ‘American side,’ but that is all your lands. It’s gotten to the minds of our people — and that has got to stop.”
It is incredibly degrading to have to show proof of citizenship simply to see your family or go to the other side of your own community — and sure we might have some sort of a special “border-crossing lane” but its mere existence is enough to put insult to injury — which continues to do much harm to our people. Borders were created to separate and destroy us, all across Turtle Island, but I don’t know how much other people remember this when it’s not going on in their territory.
So what’s going on in Akwesasne now is not an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of telling the government to shove it — the issue runs much deeper than that. The border might be there, but we are NOT a conquered people.
Which way is going to best resolve this situation I’m not sure of yet but I do know we have a right to stand up for our own community, which will never solely be in Canada or the United States. We belong to Mother Earth in whom no one has claim over – and where there aren’t any borders.