Mohawks: the Resistance Continues
By Brenda Norrell,Jan. 10, 2011. Kahentinetha Horn, 71, publisher of Mohawk Nation News, was beaten by Canadian Border Guards on June 14, 2008, at the Akwesasne border crossing. Kahentinetha is now charged with assaulting those officers and obstruction of justice. This week, she faces a court decision on penalties for those charges.
During a radio interview with Kevin Annett on “Hidden from History” on Saturday, Horn described the media boycott of the attack by Canada Border Services Agents CBSA and her history of resistance.
Horn described how Julian Assange of Wikileaks exposed the truth through documents. She exposed the truth of Canadian government and colonial wrongdoing through her writings and her life. The imperialists try to eliminate these people.
The media boycotted the attack of Kahentinetha and another Mohawk grandmother who were peacefully crossing the Canada-US border. “They beat up the other woman first.” Kahentinetha described the stress hold performed on her inside the customs house to induce a heart attack.
The handcuffs behind her back were tightened until there was no circulation. Then she experienced pain up her arms and across her chest and upper back, which was the start of the heart attack. Then her head was pushed forward to cause death. She was close to death when her brother arrived on the scene. He called an ambulance and saved her life. She has since been in Kahnawake under medical care.
She said at least 300 Mohawks have been assaulted by border guards in recent times. Many others have not reported the harassment. One young man was rammed on the St. Lawrence River and was left paralyzed.
She was recently notified of two charges and two Canada wide warrants for her arrest. She remained homebound for the past two and a half years. On July 7, 2010 she was driving to the motor vehicle bureau to pay her registration. The Chateauguay police pulled her over immediately. “It looked like a setup,” she recalls. She was arrested. The officers made arrangements to transport her to “parts unknown.” She was not allowed to call her family.
The patrol car was steaming hot. She began having heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath and choking. She waved her nitrate stick. The officers called an ambulance and was taken to the hospital.
Kahentinetha said she does not have enough money to defend herself against Canada’s charges. She lives on a pension and has to make a difficult choice. “If I go ahead, I need a lot of money. If I plead guilty, we could ask for leniency, or something.”
At the time of the 2008 attack Kahentinetha had a large audience international for her articles at Mohawk Nation News. With a background in research, she documented the facts. After the attack, her website and large list of subscribers was hacked and lost. She did not have the energy to rebuild.
“I’ve written and posted almost 929 articles,” based on her right to freedom of speech [www.mohawknationnews.com]. “I think Indigenous Peoples are the canary in the mine. We have withstood brutal treatment through the centuries… other people will now be getting the brunt of cruelty we have endured for 500 years”.
As a traditional sovereignist Kahentinetha said she was raised with knowledge of Indigenous inherent rights. Describing her life of resistance, she recalled the 1968 public protest at the Akwesasne border, the same checkpoint where the assault took place 40 years later, in 2008. After this protest, Kahentinetha, small in physical frame, was charged with beating up 23 Cornwall policemen. “They were a lot bigger than me.” As the names of the supposed victims was read in court, everyone started laughing. The charges were dropped except for two, which were also eventually dropped.
A film on this incident was made and is available on the internet; “You are on Indian land”; National Film Board.
Three years earlier, the Civil Rights Movement brought her together with American Indian leaders. She knew the people in the American Indian Movement, Dennis Banks and Russell Means. She was the only indigenous from Canada to attend the Indian Conference on Poverty in 1965. “We framed our role in the Movement.”
They decided to support Black people, “Their objectives were different from us”. Blacks wanted to become equals in mainstream society, with the same access. “We wanted sovereignty, to stay separate, protect our land, language, elders and children and maintain our culture.”
“We supported the Blacks but told them to honor our right
to speak for ourselves”.
In 1968 after Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed, Rev. Ralph Abernathy was speaking in Washington, including native issues. The Native Americans wrote a letter to him to remind him of the native position and to respect it. Kahentinetha and a Mexican American, delivered it. At that time Kahentinetha was selected to be at the gravesite of President Robert Kennedy.
Kahentinetha points out that “half of North America is the territory of the Haudenosaune and our allies.” The Iroquois Confederacy signed agreements on behalf of about 300 other Indigenous nations.
Kahentinetha spent 20 years raising her five children. In 1990, she rose once again to defend sacred land. “The Oka golf club wanted to increase their golf course to 18 holes on our burial grounds and ceremonial site”. She was studying for her master’s degree at the time. “We resisted.” On July 11 1990 The Quebec para-military police came in and started shooting, “One of their policemen was killed.” A 78-day siege began.
After Canada’s Prime Minister Mulroney met with President Bush, Sr., he announced in Parliament that the Canadian army would be sent in. 4,000 troops, tanks, lethal weaponry and snipers surrounded Kahnewake, Kanesatake and Akwesasne. The Mohawks of Kahnewake shut down the Mercer Bridge, which connects Montreal with south shore communities.
Kahentinetha and two of her children were stuck behind the army’s razor wire. “We thought they were going to shoot us.”
Mohawk women prevented shooting from both sides. If one shot
had been fired, “our people would have been slaughtered.” There were choppers flying over and they stopped food from getting in. The army put three levels of razor wire around them. “I’ll never forget that, standing there and being put inside razor wire on my own land”.
On Sept 26, they came out. “We got badly beaten up by Quebec police and Canadian soldiers,” Kahentinetha said. “Apparently I was one of those who were supposed to be taken out by a sniper.” A soldier stabbed her daughter in the chest.
The first group went to trial for one year. Then the second group, with Kahentinetha, went to trial for another year. Mohawks were fired from their jobs in Ottawa. It was almost impossible to find work, even as floor cleaners.
“We have a reputation of resistance. It is our right to
resist and defend ourselves,” Kahentinetha said. Later, the Canadian Army put in their training manual that Mohawks are
insurgents. Mohawks were listed in GlobalRisk with the Taliban as “terrorists”.
Kahentinetha said that women are the foundation of the communities. The government and media portrays them as sexual objects or street workers. They are not protected. Currently, there are about 600 indigenous girls who have disappeared. Police refuse to investigate. She believes they are killed because they have too much information on
the ruling class. “Maybe when they abuse these girls, they have to kill them.”
Kahentinetha said the abuse at the border is part of the larger
picture. The government wants to abuse, criminalize and arrest
her people, especially the young men who want to protect the people.
“When will we hear an outcry about this?” she asked. “They tried to kill me,” she said of the heart attack induced by the Border Guards. “I had the first pangs of death. Then I came back.”
She described natural justice and unnatural justice. With
unnatural justice, people are trying to rule the world with killing, cruelty and fear. She looked into the faces of the lethally trained border guards when they were assaulting her, “There was no empathy.”
Natural justice is the connection between our intuition, which is the natural world, and our intellect.
She pointed out that the police, courts and military are being used against her and her people. The Border Guards routinely pull the people out of their cars by twisting the arm and trying to dislocate it. Many of these injuries remain for the rest of their lives.
In closing, Kahentinetha told a traditional legend of the two headed serpent. One head was gold and the other was silver. The skin was many colors. One head was peaceful and the other was violent. The people found the sickly serpent and cured its diseases. Everyday the serpent got stronger and wanted more. He multiplied, began killing and taking everything from the people. The serpent needed the constant flow of murder and the land was stained with blood. The serpent only wanted those that could be enslaved.
Then, a young boy made a bow with hair of the clan mothers. The serpent was slain. The boy climbed on top, cut the serpent
open and released all that had been devoured.
Kahentinetha warned, “We have to stay out of this fight.”