Tyendinaga: More Charges Laid, Clampdown Intensifies

More Charges Laid: Clampdown Intensifies
Support Tyendinaga Mohawks!
( May 20, 2008 )

In the wake of recent road closures, OPP intimidation, and jailing of Mohawk community members, charges have now been laid by the OPP against at least 9 additional Tyendinaga Mohawks. These charges, according to police, stem from “events that occurred in and around Deseronto,” between April 21 and 26. According to the OPP, the investigations are ongoing and additional charges may be laid against other Mohawks. While none of the 9 people recently charged were forced to remain in police custody, and are free to go home to their families, all carry conditions of ‘no protests’ and ‘not to be present at the quarry site’.

Three men remain in custody at this time, awaiting trial – Clint Brant, Matt Kunkel, and Shawn Brant. Shawn Brant’s trial date has been set for mid-June.

The current situation in Tyendinaga is developing into a sweeping crack-down on community members, the stifling of resistance to increased policing and further development of the Culbertson Tract, while federal monies are being poured into the Territory for policing matters and an RCMP report is released, citing federal government intentions to dedicate police “to fighting contraband, which he [Stockwell Day] said is funding organized crime and possibly even terrorists” in three Mohawk communities, including Tyendinaga.

It is important to remember that the feds’ concern with Native-made smokes and sales go much deeper than their own pocket book. It is not simply the lost tax revenue that they suffer, but the fact that the lost dollars go to sustain Mohawk families and other services and allows for the Mohawk Nation to stand, as it always has, as a clear and organized force of resistance against the Canadian government’s practices of assimilation and control of First Nations peoples.

It is the efforts to strengthen Mohawk Nations’ economies and sovereignty that threatens the implementation of Canada’s colonial agenda. The policing agendas of the Canadian government aim to crack down on this assertion of self-sufficiency and strength, not, as they claim, “organized crime”.

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OPP Weaponry and Escalation:
Update on the Struggle for the Culbertson Tract
Update from the Tyendinaga Support Committee ( May 13, 2008 )

While the quarry site, part of the disputed Culbertson Tract, has remained under Mohawk reclamation since March 2007, the Mohawks of Tyendinaga recently successfully halted another non-Native development effort on the Tract – this successful action led to a series of alarming and serious events.

In late April, a Kingston realtor, Emile Nibourg, made loud public plans to begin construction on the Culbertson Tract, culminating in a written commitment to bring a crew of “25 to 30 guys” to the site. The Mohawks of Tyendinaga responded by closing roads immediately adjacent to the proposed site, which they held for several days. While the OPP swat team was eventually brought in to remove the Mohawks from the roads, no confrontation ensued, and Nibourg backed away from his plans to build on stolen land.

Several days later, after the roads had been reopened, Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant was arrested during an interview he was conducting with APTN. Shawn’s final words during his arrest on Friday were “This is it, justice for first nations communities: lock us up. Anybody who speaks out, lock-em up. KI6, Bob Lovelace: lock-em up…Don’t fix the problems, lock-em up.”

Despite the reporting in mainstream press, Shawn Brant’s arrest on Friday, April 25th stemmed from an incident that took place days before. Specifically, Shawn Brant has been charged for his role in preventing further attacks on two Mohawk woman and a young child by racist rednecks from the town of Deseronto (see below for more on Shawn’s arrest).

Supporters rushed to the quarry after watching or hearing of Shawn’s arrest. His arrest sparked off police actions that led to the jailing of four other Mohawks, the OPP pulling their weapons on community members at the reclaimed quarry site, and a weekend of tense stand-offs and road blockades. Psychological warfare on the part of the police resulted in a tense face-off between the OPP and community members that lasted for days.

The same weekend, Six Nations community members erected a blockade of the Highway 6 bypass, near Caledonia, in support of the Tyendinaga Mohawks. This blockade was not removed until Six Nations received confirmation that the OPP had withdrawn from the Mohawks of Tyendinaga.

Following Shawn’s arrest, Matt Kunkel, Clint Brant, Dan Doreen, and Steve Chartrand were charged and jailed. Dan, spokesperson for the earlier Mohawk road closures on Highway 2, and Steve have since been released with strict conditions. A couple from the community who were also arrested by the OPP were later were released unconditionally. Matt and Clint, along with Shawn, remain in maximum-security pre-trial custody in Quinte Regional Detention Centre in Napanee, until trial.

Ontario has opted for the incarceration of First Nations people over the resolution of outstanding land issues as their status quo. As for the Ontario Provincial Police, it appears the adoption of Justice Linden’s Ipperwash Inquiry recommendations is experiencing some delay. During the road closures in Deseronto, an OPP officer on the scene audibly commented to her colleagues, “We should just shoot them (Mohawks) all.” Following the arrests of the 5 Mohawks, the OPP claimed to have seen ‘one long gun’ at the quarry site, prompting the officers on the scene to pull their weapons out. The Mohawks at the quarry were not armed. The memories of Dudley George have not faded. And while in custody at the Napanee OPP Detachment, several different officers repeatedly informed Shawn Brant that they were going to “slit his throat”.

Once again, for his role as a spokesperson in the community, Shawn Brant is facing trumped-up charges. These new charges were laid less than two weeks after Shawn Brant was acquitted of charges alleging that he threatened Canadian Forces soldiers during a demonstration to prevent development of the Culbertson Tract in 2006. Shawn is now forced to remain in jail at least until his trial on these latest charges, which is to take place in mid-June. Further updates on those charged will be coming soon.

As well as dealing with five of their community members now facing charges, the people of Tyendinaga are also facing another serious challenge. The OPP has struck a deal with the Band Council to build a new police station on Tyendinaga territory, ostensibly for the Tyendinaga Reserve Police force (employed by the OPP). Community members have questioned why the four-man force needs a bullet-proof, 5,000-square-foot facility. An identical structure on Mohawk land at the Akwesasne Reserve in Quebec is now home not only to the local Reserve cops, but also to the OPP and the RCMP. The deal between the Band Council and the OPP, in which the Band will spend $1.2 million on the new station, with an additional $1 million contributed by the Province of Ontario and Stockwell Day’s Federal Ministry of Public Safety, was made without proper consultation with the community. The Men’s and Youth Councils, who meet at the recently constructed community longhouse, have openly voiced their opposition to the station, saying the money is needed more urgently elsewhere on the reserve. Meanwhile, construction on the new station has, as of printing time, now begun.

The Province of Ontario refuses to take responsibility for the actions of its police force, the OPP, while also continuing to abdicate responsibility for their role in the licensing of the non-Native quarry operations. The quarry itself now sits partially flooded, while the Mohawks continue their reclamation of the site until government acts to return it to them. The federal government continues to languish at the negotiation table, while making noise in the mainstream press about crackdowns on the Native cigarette industry, and the land – long acknowledged as belonging to the Mohawks – remains unreturned.

The Tyendinaga Support Committee

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