The Oka Crisis
The Oka Crisis
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After fighting for years to reclaim their native land, the Mohawks of Kanesatake (Oka) erected a barricade to their land.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT
While Quebec was looking into the idea of holding a new referendum on sovereignty, other nations, such as the Canadian First Nations, were attempting to gain their own recognition as an independent people within Canada. While Natives had been making claims for centuries, the ones put forth at Oka [see Map 1 : Oka map] took a turn that left its mark on Canadian history.

SUMMARY
When confronted with a plan to expand a golf course on their land, the Mohawks on the Kanesatake reserve [see Map 1 : Oka map] decided to erect a barricade to Oka [see Map 1 : Oka map]. Indeed, the land which the mayor of Oka [see Map 1 : Oka map] and other citizens of the city were eyeing for the new golf course was being claimed as long-held ancestral land by the Mohawks. Three months later, on July 11, 1990, the police intervened and attacked the barricade being guarded by the Natives. Shots were fired and Marcel Lemay, an agent with the Sûreté du Québec (provincial police force), was killed. The conflict took on an entirely new perspective from that moment on. The Mohawk claims were no longer strictly territorial in nature, but rather a demand for recognition of Native independence. The Warriors then joined the Mohawks at the barricades. The government refused to negotiate while the Mohawk barricades were up and sent in the provincial police (Sûreté du Québec) to erect its own barricades on the roads leading to the municipality of Oka [see Map 1 : Oka map] and the Kanesatake reserve [see Map 1 : Oka map]. As neither group was willing to dismantle their barricades, Robert Bourassa called in the Canadian Armed Forces. Despite the armed presence, negotiations were slow, and it took several weeks before the Mercier Bridge and highways 132, 138 and 207 were able to reopen to regular traffic [see Map 1 : Oka map]. Twenty days later, on September 26, 1990, the last barricades were taken down and the Warriors gave up the fight.

Concepts
Referendum
A vote held for the general public to obtain a vote on constitutional laws or issues.

Sovereignty
Power and identity of a State that is recognized as being independent.

Claim
Act of claiming something for oneself or for a group to which one belongs.

Mohawk
Natives of the Iroquois family, the Mohawks are members of the Iroquois Confederation, which is comprised of six First Nations throughout the United States. Mohawk communities are located in Ontario, Quebec and in New York State near the Canadian border. Quebec Mohawks live in Kanesatake (Oka), Kahnawake (Caughnawaga) and Akwesasne (Saint-Régis).

Warrior
Radical fundamental group of Natives who often engage in illegal economic activities, such as black-market cigarette and alcohol sales, and who are active participants in the defense of Native Indian rights.