Land ownership is arguably one of the most controversial aspects of Aboriginal human rights today in Canada. The issue of land ownership reached a tense climax in the summer of 1990, when a violent standoff erupted over ownership rights to a piece of land within the town of Oka. The 78-day standoff between the Quebec Police and the Mohawks of Kanesatake was one of the most revolutionary acts of defiance of Canadian Aboriginals in the 20th century.
The crisis at Oka inspired and gained support of people worldwide. The event inspired protests as well as sudden increase in land claims from Aboriginals in New York, Vancouver, and various other parts of the world. "This is a Mohawk issue, it's for all the Mohawks in every community."(Winegard, 103) were the exact words of chief spokesperson Ellen Gabriel who was the voice of the people of Kanesstake. The Mohawks of Kanesatake were no longer just representing themselves in the struggle for Aboriginal rights, but also fellow tribes around the world. The Mohawks of Kanesatake became international spokespeople for frustrated Aboriginals everywhere . They not only caught the attention of other Aboriginals but they also had the support of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson from the United States, as well as high-profile American civil rights lawyers(Swain,150). The unexpected involvement of such notable and internationally-known figures put pressure on the federal government to take charge of what was once a municipal and provincial issue. The fact that such a small tribe of Mohawks was able to harness not only national but international support was a huge accomplishment and proud moment for Canadian Aboriginals. However, the portrayal of the Canadian government was not something to be proud of.
The event brought negative attention to Canada because of the way the government was handling the situation and its low priority for its people. At one point, the federal government attempted to intimidate the...
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