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The Oka Crisis,
Oka, Quebec
July 11, 1990

Last updated: 5 months ago

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     The Oka Crisis was a land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada which began on July 11, 1990 and lasted until September 26, 1990.The dispute was the first well-publicized violent conflict between First Nations and the Canadian government in the late 20th century.
      The violent clash was triggered by something as simple as a golf course and as complicated as native burial traditions.

   In 1990 mayor of Oka, Jean Oulette, wanted to expand into the Kanesatake reserve, and the courts gave him permission! The Aboriginals living on the reserve were obviously not too pleased about that.
     The Kanesatake Mohawks were enraged and set up barricades all around the area. The mayor of Oka responded by ordering the Sûreté de Quebec (the Quebec Provincial Police) to put an end to it. A fight ensued, and one police officer was shot. This was the beginning of a large feud. The Mohawks from Kahnawake then blocked the Mercier Bridge which was often frequented by many people. This caused multiple traffic jams, keeping people away from their work in Quebec. The outcome was exactly what The Mohawks wanted: chaos.
     They also refused to allow the Sûreté de Quebec to take control of the Kahnawake reserve. In response, all vehicles were cut off from entering the reserve, and the Sûreté du Quebec also set up barricades so that the Mohawks were unable to enter Oka.  Many riots and demonstrations followed.

   Finally the Canadian Army had to be brought in to take over the entire situation, after many violent fights broke out. In September, seventy-eight days after the conflict began, the Mohawks removed the barricades and stopped their protest. However, the federal government ended up buying the disputed land and gave it to the Mohawks. 

     The Oka Crisis shows Canadians that the relationship between the natives of this land and the government is like treading on glass. The Oka Crisis drew worldwide attention, catapulting native land rights into the spotlight; an issue that should have been addressed a long time ago.

 

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