“Self-Restraint” in the Face of Armed Attacks on Six Nations People

From Kahentinetha Horn:

MNN. May 27, 2006. People watching the televised attacks on our people at Six Nations are shocked to see how much self-restraint we have as a people. Don’t mistake the Indigenous self-restraint for submission to Canadian authority. It’s a lot harder to restrain oneself in the face of provocation, adversity, mistreatment, unfairness and attacks on human rights and dignity. This is what we’ve had t o do throughout the confrontations that have been organized against us by the Canadian state over our reclamation of our land now known as “Kanenhstaton”, the precious land.

When we face our adversaries in just about every walk of life, it is sickening how we have to hold everything in and walk around as if we’re wearing a mask to hide our true feelings of anger and frustration. Right from the day we are born we are assaulted by the agencies of the colonial governments. Many people are trained to look at us with pity or condescension or fear. It’s as if we were some kind of reptile or untrained animal. The natural world is not respected in colonial society the way it is in ours where we learn favorable lesson from every type of creature. 25% of the species on the planet are extinct now. We had something to learn from each of them that we will never now learn.

So far we we’re threatened with an armed Ontario Provincial Police attack on March 22 which was aborted. Then we were physically attacked by the heavily armed OPP on April 20th. Finally their hired guns managed to organize a rabid crowd to come to the reclamation site to “kill those Indians”. They carried pepper spray, baseball bats, cherry bombs and other weapons. These are all old strategies that have become familiar to us. Where did they get the pepper spray from? The only people who normally have it are the cops.

The whole aim of these confrontations is to get us so riled up that we will do something rash. Then they can have the excuse they want to use full force against us, making it seem like thuggery is legal. This demonstration is something they want to show other Indigenous people that they’d better stay in their place, “or else”. So far, not one of our people has taken the bait. Everyone was there on their own initiative. Everyone was free to decide for themselves what to do. Everyone decided to stay and to hold our ground. In the face of the armed threat of the rioters and the police the restraint that was shown reflects the depth of the power and understanding in all of our people. No one was aggressive, no one backed down and when attacked, we defended ourselves very well.

That’s the way we are. This shocked Canadians. As one guy from Vancouver said, “I don’t know how you people can do that!” We can do it because we know who we are. We know the way of the Kaianereh’ko:wa and the natural world.

So what’s next? If Canada wants a repeat of the Mohawk Oka crisis of 1990, or the Ipperwash standoff, or Burnt Church or Gustafsen Lake, it can go ahead with its plans. Is it doing this on purpose? Or is it just bad habit? Either way, it’s time for Canada to pull up its socks, behave like an adult, stop threatening us, obey its laws, honor its promises and deal with us as equals. Canada has a choice.

In 1990 when the politicians found they could not get us to fire the first shot so the army could complete the job, they decided that it would be a good idea to bring in some snipers. They wanted to kill off a few of those they considered to be key Mohawks. They knew that this would drive us crazy and would unleash anger like they had never seen before. Of course, we’d be as helpless as fish in a rain barrel. We’d be surrounded by the army. This is what they had to do to have the excuse to do us in.

It might have worked! I don’t know why, but I was targeted. We found out about this plan and were very careful not to come out of the Treatment Center where we had been holding out for over a month. We were surrounded by at least 2000 Canadian soldiers with more weaponry than they have in Afghanistan today. Then on September 26th 1990 the army decided to back off and let the Quebec Police come in. We were told they were going to be very aggressive. You know what that means, eh? So without a moment’s notice, the 55 of us, men, women and children, walked out and ran into the woods. The soldiers and the police were so angry with us for pulling such a surprise on them, they chased us down, beat us up and even bayoneted my then 14-year old daughter in the chest.

Even though we had weapons, we had never fired a shot at them.

Recently someone was describing to us the disgusting shame and abuse that Palestinian families are put through when they try to leave their walled compounds to go to work or school or wherever. Heavily armed young Israeli soldiers routinely mistreat and insult them. All they can do is put their heads down while the other people watch. They have no choice but to show restraint.

What does this do to self-esteem? It makes a white hot anger blow in people’s hearts. We know we don’t have any choice but to show self-restraint. But that doesn’t mean we accept subjugation. The unwieldy state apparatus that Canada has set up around us has created “prisons of grass”, both real and metaphorical. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper just made an announcement that he wants to build more prisons and hire more police. Is he building an “absolute” police state? If we are supposed to be living in a culture of peace, this shouldn’t be happening.

Kahentinetha Horn
MNN Mohawk Nation News



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