Canadian Troops Move In at Mohawk Settlement in Canada
OKA, Quebec (AP) _ Canadian troops backed by armored vehicles and helicopters Saturday swept into a Mohawk community where armed Indians and authorities have stared at each other across barricades for 53 days.
Gen. Armand Roy, commander of the Canadian Forces 5th Brigade, said he decided to send in his troops after two Mohawk men were wounded in factional fighting behind Indian barricades set up in a land dispute with government officials.
″I decided to move my troops so as to guarantee the security of civilians and my soldiers,″ Roy said.
The military action came after efforts failed to reach a negotiated settlement in the dispute. The Mohawks have been trying to block a golf course extension on land they claim is theirs, but they have also raised other grievances.
One shot was fired into the air by a Mohawk after the troops moved in, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said. But there were no reports of casualties.
Defiant Indian militants stood their ground and screamed at Canadian soldiers to get away as troops pushed to within 100 yards of the Mohawks’ main barricade Saturday afternoon.
The troops moved into an area where the army had estimated at least 50 armed members of the militant Mohawk Warrior’s Society were located.
Later in the evening, Lt.-Col. Pierre Daigle said the army was digging in for the night around two other barricades.
″I’m willing to die for this,″ one Warrior screamed at a soldier approaching the main barricade. ″Are you ready to die? But before I die, I’m going to take out 50 of you. ...″
Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk negotiator, denounced the army action as illegal. She said some Mohawk children had been caught in the path of the advancing troops.
″The army move was so fast they didn’t have a chance to get the children out ...,″ she said in a radio interview from behind the barricades at the settlement.
Journalists were not being allowed into the Kahnesatake Indian settlement overlooking the village of Oka, 18 miles west of Montreal.
The troops, backed by provincial police, had also surrounded the Mohawk community center, where about 75 Indian civilians were gathered. The center has been used to house a food bank run by the Indians.
Provincial authorities Monday had given the military the go-ahead to end the armed standoff that began July 11, when the Quebec provincial police attempted to storm a Mohawk barricade at Oka. One officer was killed, but it is still not clear by whose gunfire.
Later that day, fellow Mohawks set up a blockade in sympathy at the Mercier bridge, a major link between Montreal and its southern suburbs.
The ostensible reason for the Mohawk uprising - expansion of the golf course - was settled when the federal government purchased the land and said it would turn it over to the Indians. But militants seized the situation to publicize a much wider range of Indian grievances against the government, including demands for sovereignty.
Quebec provincial police identified the two wounded Mohawks as Chief Francis Jacob and his son Corey.
The two were severely beaten with baseball bats by four or five members of the Warrior’s Society early Saturday morning, police said. Jacob, who had two black eyes, and his son were later released from the hospital.
Dan David, a journalist who lives in the Mohawk settlement, said the factional fighting was sparked by an incident Friday evening in which several masked Warriors ransacked and looted the home of veterinarian Rejean Mongeon.
He said some members of the Warrior’s Society took offense after moderate Mohawks were quoted in the media as denouncing the attack on Mongeon’s home.
The militant Warrior’s Society has been vying with elected native officials for authority within the Mohawk community.
On Friday, Mohawks from the Kanewake reserve south of Montreal allowed troops to remove the main barricades they had set up on routes leading to the Mercier bridge. Quebec Transport Department officials said it would take several days before the bridge can be reopened to traffic.
The bridge blockade has forced thousands of commuters on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River to make long detours to Montreal, which is on an island. Angry residents have protested and thrown rocks at Mohawks.