KANESATAKE -- Residents of the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) nation of Kanesatake west of Montreal held a pow wow Saturday to support Indigenous communities across Canada amid ongoing land disputes.

Kanesatake itself is in the midst of a dispute with neighboring town Oka, where tensions reached their highest during the 1990 Oka Crisis, and territorial claims remain unresolved.

“We’re taking it back and we’re not leaving,” said Kanesatake Council Chief Victor Bonspiel.

KAHNAWAKE CALLS FOR NEGOTIATIONS AS 'EQUAL PARTNERS'

Meanwhile, Kanesatake’s sister community south of Montreal, Kahnawake, is the site of an encampment along its border with Chateauguay.

Community members gathered on July 1 to protest a proposed housing development which they say encroaches on their territory.

Chateauguay re-zoned a parcel of land on March 15 to accommodate 290 homes in an area it says is within the city limits.

But, Kahnawake says the parcel of land falls within the boundaries outlined in the Seignuery of Sault St. Louis – an area of land given to the community by the French crown in 1680.

“This tract of wooded area is probably the last buffer we have between us and the municipality,” said camp spokesperson Karihwakatste Deer.

"We have sent numerous letters to people in government offices, the prime minister … even to Quebec's (Indigenous Affairs) Minister Ian Lafreniere and unfortunately, things have gone unanswered," Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said in an interview with the Canadian Press Thursday.

"It's a very pressing issue for us. It's about getting our lands back."

Mohawk protest

Two protestors sit in an encampment next to where Mohawks are occupying a disputed parcel of land to stop a proposed housing project in Kahnawake, Que. on Thursday, July 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Lafreniere said in a statement Thursday he encourages the municipality of Chateauguay to continue conversations with the Mohawk council regarding the housing project.

"The community wishes for that land to be acquired by the federal (government) in regard to land claims, so a solution has to be found rapidly," said Lafreniere, adding that he is in contact with Kahnawake's grand chief.

Days ago, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake renewed calls for their land claim to be respected and voiced its support for the demonstrators.

“We have always insisted on face-to-face dialogue to resolve our issues,” wrote the council in a recent news release, “and our relationship works best when we act in a truthful and respectful manner as equal partners.”

“This has not been the case from Canada in recent years.” 

-- With files from the Canadian Press