‘He’s not our voice’: Kanesatake Mohawks barricade band office after grand chief criticizes rail blockades

Lindsay RichardsonAPTN NewsAngered by a series of “cowardly” comments by their grand chief during a radio interview, a group of residents in Kanesatake Mohawk territory west of Montreal came together Tuesday morning to barricade the band council’s office in a show of protest.Arriving just 8 a.m., a group of peaceful demonstrators – proponents of the community’s traditional government – demanded council employees evacuate before they chained and padlocked the office’s front door.Members of the group then held vigil, touting signs reading “Serge Simon does NOT speak for the Mohawks of Kanehsata:ke.”“He’s just a puppet, just a government puppet,” resident Steve Nelson said. “That’s all he is. Now we’re here to cut the strings.”The group is calling on Serge Otsi Simon – who is now in his second term as grand chief – to step down following his comments about supporting the Wet’suwet’en Nation.They allege Simon is an ineffective leader who does not consult with the community before taking up speaking engagements in their name.Nelson explained that there has not been a public or community meeting in close to seven months.“We want him to stop speaking on our behalf,” added John Harding. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s not the opinion shared by this community.”

During an interview with CJAD 800 on Monday evening, Simon expressed concerns that ongoing railway blockages in the Mohawk communities of Kahnawake and Tyendinaga, among others nation-wide, will ultimately “erode support” from the Canadian public.“It’s reached its purpose; it’s made its point,” Simon said when asked to weigh in on the demonstrations.“The governments and the industry – I think – understand,” Simon explained. “Even though I’m calling for a possible lifting of the blockades, I know there are other chiefs that probably feel the same. It doesn’t mean that you surrender anything.”There have been protests nationwide against the RCMP and the federal government after police moved in on Wet’suwet’en members and their supporters Feb. 6.More than two dozen people were arrested.Hereditary chiefs there say they’re opposed to the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline that will carry fracked natural gas from Dawson Creek, B.C., across the province to Kitimat on the coast where it will be refined and shipped to markets in Asia.(Mohawks outside the band council office Tuesday. Photo: Jeff Dorn/APTN)Simon’s interview came just hours after an unequivocal statement of support by Kenneth Deer, a respected Elder and Secretary for the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake.Deer, like many others before him, expressed that the Mohawk nation is indebted to the people who rose up across Turtle Island to show their support when the Oka Crisis erupted 30 years ago.Marlene Hale, the self-proclaimed “only Wet’suwet’en in Quebec,” has not shied away from crediting the Mohawk nation for their continued support.“[The communities] have both separately done their roll-outs, and done it peacefully – they know, based on the struggles they’ve had themselves,” Hale said at a university demonstration held in Montreal on Feb. 5.“They will not stop [working] in solidarity with us.”Longhouse supporters in Kanesatake say they feel the same, regardless of the feelings expressed by the grand chief.“Our people today said no, we’re done with this nonsense,” Harding said. “He’s not our voice, and we’re going to stop it.”“The comments that were made yesterday, they don’t represent [the] Mohawk community,” said Hubert Nelson. “He doesn’t speak for the Mohawk people – the allies.”While the blockade was underway in Kanesatake, Simon was speaking at an Assembly of First Nations panel of chiefs in Ottawa, saying it’s a “damn shame” that Indigenous peoples have no other option but to enforce collective action, especially considering the government’s continued promises of reconciliation.“I’m not demanding anything, never did, about lifting the blockades as a show of good faith,” Simon told reporters at the press conference Tuesday. “There is a bigger picture at play here. UNDRIP might be postponed, or very well may be scuttled and we’ll be taken back 10 years in our relations because of this issue.“I’m simply pleading with the protestors: have you made your point yet? Has the government and industry understood? I think they did.”Simon did not return APTN’s request for comment.“We got a lot of aid in 1990; to turn around and say we don’t support, [that] the RCMP can do whatever they want on Wet’suwet’en territory – we don’t agree with that,” Harding added.“As of now, we want all the Wet’suwet’en people to know, and the people in Tyendinaga, Kahnawake, and all the other people supporting that we support too. One hundred percent.”

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.


1 thought on “‘He’s not our voice’: Kanesatake Mohawks barricade band office after grand chief criticizes rail blockades

  1. Awesome of you kanesatake Mohawks. Clearly the “grand chief” doesn’t get it. Sounds like he was bought.

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