The Oka crisis was in origin a land claims issue. Mohawk peoples objected to the expansion of a municipal golf course onto sacred Native burial grounds during the summer of 1990. To protest this intrusion, Mohawk warriors from the Kanesatake and Kahnawake reserves blockaded a road that led into the golf course near the small town of Oka (south of Montreal). Tensions escalated when the Mayor called in the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) to remove the blockade. The SQ stormed the barricades on 11 July 1990 but met considerable resistance from the well-armed warriors. One officer was shot dead. The Canadian armed forces were called in and a standoff ensued between government and Mohawk forces. Peaceful negotiations ultimately ended the Oka crisis 78 days after it had begun.

The crisis, although marred by violence, has had positive effects for many Canadian Aboriginal people. It helped to give a national profile to First Nations issues, especially regarding land claims, and, according to at least some members of the community, forced governments to listen to and take seriously Native grievances. Oka became a rallying cry for Native peoples, encouraging them in their struggle with government authorities for Aboriginal rights.

Photo of Mohawks at Oka watching news of Oka crisis

Mohawks Watching Oka Crisis News on Barricades

Benoît Aquin, Library and Archives Canada, 3602895

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Chinook Multimedia


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