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Title: Kanesatake  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Algonquin people, Mohawk people, Kahnawake, James Gabriel, Akwesasne, Society of Saint-Sulpice, Ganienkeh, Steven Bonspille, Joseph Onasakenrat, Jean Bazin
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Indian territory

Location within Deux-Montagnes RCM.

Location in southern Quebec.

Coordinates: 45°29′N 74°07′W / 45.483°N 74.117°W / 45.483; -74.117Coordinates: 45°29′N 74°07′W / 45.483°N 74.117°W / 45.483; -74.117[2]

Country  Canada
Province  Quebec
Region Laurentides
RCM Deux-Montagnes
 • Grand chief Serge Otsi Simon
 • Federal riding Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel
 • Prov. riding Mirabel
 • Land 11.88 km2 (4.59 sq mi)
Population (2011)[3]
 • Total 7,645 living on territory; 9,925 registered[1]
Time zone EST (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−4)

Kanesatake is a Mohawk (Kanienkehaka) settlement on the shore of the Lake of Two Mountains at the Ottawa River in southwestern Quebec, Canada, near Montreal. The Doncaster 17 Indian Reserve also belongs to the Mohawk of Kanesatake.[4] As of 2011, the total registered population was 9925, with a total of 7645 persons living on the reserve.[1]

The settlement was formally founded as a mission community under supervision of the Sulpician Order in the early 18th century. The Mohawk, based further south in traditional territory in present-day New York, had used this area along the St. Lawrence as a hunting ground since the late 16th century. Historians and anthropologists believe they had earlier pushed out or destroyed the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, a discrete Laurentian (Iroquoian)-speaking group who had inhabited villages along the St. Lawrence River since at least the 14th century.[5]

Kanesatake was considered one of the Seven Nations of Canada, allies of the British, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Today it is one of several reserves or settlements in Canada where the Kanienkehaka are self-governing, including Kahnawake, Akwesasne and the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, where they constitute the majority.


Beginning about 1000, nomadic indigenous people around the Great Lakes area began adopting the cultivation of maize. By the 14th century, Iroquoian-speaking peoples, later called the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, had created fortified villages along the fertile valley of what is now called the St. Lawrence River. Among their villages were Stadacona and Hochelaga, visited in 1535-1536 by explorer Jacques Cartier. While they shared certain culture with other Iroquoian groups, archeological and linguistic studies since the 1950s have demonstrated they were a distinctly separate people. They spoke a branch of Iroquoian called Laurentian.[5]

By the time Samuel de Champlain explored the same area 75 years later, the villages had disappeared. Huron and Kanienkehaka based in other Iroquoian territories used the valley for hunting grounds and routes for war parties. Historians are continuing to examine this culture, but theorize that the stronger Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) waged war against the St. Lawrence Iroquoians to get control of the fur trade and hunting along the valley below Tadoussac. (The Montagnais controlled Tadoussac.) By 1600, the Mohawk used the valley for hunting grounds.[5]

In 1717 the French colonial governor gave the Mohawk a grant for nearly nine square miles at the Lake of Two Mountains, to encourage them to move away from Montreal. The Sulpician Order, which had established a mission with the Mohawk, received an aokller grant for land next to them. The religious order had the deeds changed so that all the land was legally granted to them.[6] Believing the Order supervised land in trust for them, the Kanienkehaka did not discover the deception until the late 19th century. In the 20th century, they pursued a land claim case to recover their lost property, but were ruled against on technical issues.[6]

Recent history

In the late 20th and early 21st century, rising Mohawk political activism brought changes to Kanehsatake. In 1990, the adjacent town of Oka decided to construct an extension of a private golf course onto a pine grove and burial ground long used by the people of Kanehsatake, where tombstones marked their ancestors' graves. The Mohawks occupied the land and barricaded access to it. When the Sûreté du Québec and Canadian Forces intervened, the result was the prolonged standoff of the Oka Crisis. One police officer was killed by gunshot.

Oka Crisis

Main article: Oka crisis

In 1990 there was a 78-day standoff between the Mohawk Nation and allies (both native and non-native) and various levels of government over the City of Oka's plans to develop a pine grove and cemetery for another nine holes of a private golf course and new luxury housing. The land had long been used by the Mohawk. Their ancestors' tombstones stand in the cemetery. A few years' previously, the Mohawk had lost a federal lawsuit claim for the land, when the Court rejected their argument on technical grounds that they had been granted the land in the early 18th century but deprived of it by deception of the Sulpician Order. The Order had changed the deeds, but the Mohawk had believed they were holding the land in trust for them. In response to city moves to develop the land, the Mohawk barricaded a dirt road leading to it.[6]

The city requested support from the Sûreté du Québec. They barricaded highway 344 leading to Kanesataka. In the first days of the confrontation, a police officer was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the Mohawk people. In solidarity, Mohawk in Kahnawake blockaded the approach to the Mercier Bridge, which passed through their land. Residents of the area became enraged about traffic delays. Later Quebec requested support from the Canadian Army, their right under the constitution. Provincial and national leaders participated in negotiations between the Mohawk and Quebec, and the barricades came down.[6]

Community conflicts

Elections were first held in 1991 for chiefs and council at Kanehsatake. Jerry Peltier was elected grand chief.[7] Prior to that, chiefs were hereditary, nominated by the clan mothers.

In 2004 and 2005, disputes over the governance practices of then Chief James Gabriel resulted in violence in Kanehsatake. Chiefs Pearl Bonspille, Steven Bonspille and John Harding opposed Gabriel, leading to a series of incidents that ended Gabriel's tenure as grand chief. John Harding and fellow council chiefs Steven Bonspille and Pearl Bonspille opposed Gabriel's attempt to control policing by hiring private officers for a drug raid in January 2004. They believed Gabriel's action was an attempt to usurp the power of the Police Commission. The 67 special constables were forced to take shelter in the local police station for protection against community rioting that broke out. After his home was burned in purported arson, Gabriel left the community for Montreal.[7]

During this period, a Community Watch team was organized to counter the lack of a police force. A liaison team was established with the Sûreté du Québec (the provincial police force). Political communication lines were opened up with the government to prevent another Oka Crisis.

Politics and population

Elections were held in late spring of 2005. On June 26, 2005, Steven Bonspille defeated Gabriel in the election for grand chief. The election resulted in Harding and Pearl Bonspille's being replaced in office as chiefs on the council.[7] New members were voted in as chiefs on the seven-member council.[7]

Tribal engagement in politics has remained high: in 2008 there were 25 candidates running for seven seats on the council. At the time, there were more than 2300 registered voters: 1685 on the reserve and 664 outside.[7]

The population has increased: in 2011 there were 9925 persons registered to Kanesatake, and the total population on the reserve was 7645.[1]

Tobacco trade

Tobacco is a traditional herb indigenous to North and South America. Archeological evidence has shown its use has been part of ritual religious and political traditions in native cultures in the Americas for at least two thousand years. Under current laws in Canada and the United States, state and provincial authorities attempt to control trade of tobacco products through prices and sales taxes, in part because of health concerns related to high tobacco use.

Despite the associated political issues, Kanehsatake has benefited by economic returns from the tax-free sales of tobacco (in cigarettes) to non-natives. Beginning about 2003 with only two fishing shacks set up at each end of the territory, the community has expanded its tobacco sales. By 2009 it had more than thirty stores selling tobacco. The Mohawk reserves of Akwesasne and Kahnawake have both developed factories to supply Kanehsatake with their cigarettes since the business expansion began.

See also


External links

  • Kanesatake First Nation, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
  • Native nations communities of Québec, Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones du Québec
  • Photos, Surviving Canada

Links re: Policing and governance issues of 2003-2005

  • Chronology 2003-2005 Kanesatake Mohawk Voice
  • Ross Montour, "Impasse leads to trusteeship over Kanehsatake", The Eastern Door (Kahnawake Mohawk Community).
  • "Mohawk blockade stops traffic near Kanesatake",
  • - Judicial review of Council decision re: by-election (Federal Court of Canada)
  • Judicial review of Council decision to fire Ross (Federal Court of Canada)
  • "Mohawks end blockade northwest of Montreal",
  • "Uprising in Kanesatake", Maritimes Independent Media

Template:Deux-Montagnes RCM

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