Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance

by Kathi Berman, April 2015

600 words

2 pages


The truth is not always as it seems at first sight. Such state as Canada seems to be a democratic country that worries about its citizens. But, suddenly, it can behave like an oppressor, if its interests are concerned. This is displayed in a documentary film by Alanis Obomswaim “Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance” that shows true scenes from the standoff between indigenous people, the military, and the government, occurred just 22 years ago and known as Oka Crisis. The film has a powerful message of unity, fortitude, and patriotism, as well as depiction of lives and feelings of modern warriors, who in the face of danger are ready to protect what is rightfully theirs.

The cultural setting for the movie is the native group of Mohawks preserving their sacred land Kahnesatake, a reserve near Oka, from the occupation by the Oka local land development interest, which got a government approval for building a new golf course there. However, this land has been a property of Mohawk Indians due to the agreement between Mohawk’s ancestors and the French and British governments yet since the 17th century. The incidents of Oka are a result of 270 years of repression, when the Mohawk territory was consistently taken by non-native people inhabiting the territory and Mohawks were eroded from their own land.

I think that the main issues addressed by the movie are the issues of freedom and loyalty to the land. The scenes shown in the film touch also a vast area of issues concerned with human rights for minorities, as well as all the citizens of the state. The film also provokes thoughts concerning the strengths of separate people when they are united together to fight for common rights. I believe that a person must always choose whether to be a warrior or a conformist. The film “Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance” represents the significance of such a choice.

Throughout the film, issues of freedom were depicted in notable examples that made me think why some groups of people can limit the rights of other people in such a cruel way. When the rest Mohawk’s land was taken for the golf course, and, hence, the rights of indigenous people of Canada were again abused, Mohawks reacted on this with natural protest and blocked the road to the building site and building materials, thus protecting their land in the name of ancestors. In spite of the principles of democracy, this protest was met by Quebec’s provincial police and the Canadian army aggressively. So, the Canadian so-called guaranteed freedoms can be easily violated if the government comes across a challenge against its supremacy and absolute power. Moreover, the manifestation of resistance is tried to be extinguished as soon as possible until it spreads and power structure is threatened elsewhere.

Thus, the Mohawk Indians were forced off the road by the army that took the full control of the situation. Hereby, the soldiers demonstrated the apathy towards people suffering in front of them, unwillingness to provide them provision, …

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