while all eyes are glued on que-bec City and the kickoff to the Summit of the Americas, police and immigration officials will cast a wary glance toward the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve near Cornwall today (Thursday, April 19), where plans for an anti-globalization protest are fraying nerves.
As NOW goes to press, activists are gathering at the U.S. border straddled by the reserve. But on Akwesasne turf the question of whether to participate in the attempt to escort U.S. summit protestors across into Canada is highly debatable.
OCAP activist Shawn Brant, himself from Tyendinaga near Belleville, has been speaking to the media for several weeks, ratcheting up the rhetoric. "Certainly, there's always a potential for conflict, and we're prepared," he says. "We're mounting an opposition to any potential that can be put before us."
But many on the reserve, with its history of bitter internal splits, are anxious about such a confrontational approach.
Michael Mitchell, the Akwesasne band council chief, told the media two weeks ago that he's not friendly to the protest, but several calls to the council office have only yielded the information that members are still formulating an official position. The council played a videotape about the December 1999 Seattle protest at one of its recent meetings.
The band council doesn't speak for all traditionals at Akwesasne or for the Mohawk Warrior Society, but they're not supporting the demo either. "It's not a Mohawk initiative," says Teyowisonte when reached at Mohawk Warrior Society headquarters at nearby Kahnawake. "None of the longhouses (traditionalists) have officially endorsed the action. Shawn Brant represents himself pretty much."
Other representatives of the Mohawk Warrior Society don't like the idea of anti-globalization forces using their turf as a launching pad for their protest. "It's the duty of the Rotiskenrakete (men of the nation)," says a statement released Monday by the group, "to carry the burden of peacekeeping to defend and protect our land and people from any harm. We strongly suggest that Akwesasne community members do not attend the protest, for their own safety."
But local Stacey Boots is supporting the effort. To hear him tell it, the Warrior Society statement condemning the action "was prematurely released by a handful of individuals who are afraid the police are going to arrest them. We're trying to keep it peaceful," he says.
Some U.S protestors have been turned away at other border points in recent weeks. Brant insists his action is necessary to make a political point. "We're making an assertion, a legitimate push for understanding of the issues affecting Akwesasne and the Mohawk nation, and how the free trade agreements are affecting indigenous people within the hemisphere," he says.
Indeed. Akwesasne is a good example of the evils of corporate expansion. Environmental degradation caused by local industry is everywhere. Native women on the reserve have been warned against breast-feeding their babies. Mortality rates are high and poverty is widespread.
Native police from at least two other nearby reserves, meanwhile, are on alert. "Our ultimate goal," says Akwesasne Mohawk police spokesperson Leroy Swamp, "is ensuring that Akwesasne remains a safe community."