Mohawk Land Protectors Blocking Kahnawake Train Line Are Ready For The Long Haul (Photos)
- Land protectors are blocking an exo commuter train line in Kahnawake in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
- Participants tell MTL Blog that they're going to continue their action until the federal government finds a solution.
- They're calling on all Canadians for support, pointing to the numbers that turned out for Greta Thunberg's Montreal march for the climate.
As land protectors continue to come out in support of the Wet'suwet'en people of British Columbia, Canada has been paralyzed. After the RCMP began making arrests to break up blockades of worksites for the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would pass through unceded territory, groups took up in protest across the country. Now, new blockades have managed to indefinitely suspend rail services in several provinces, in addition to all but two VIA Rail train lines.
I went out to Kahnawake this morning to speak with the Mohawk and other supporters who are braving the -25 degree weather in order to maintain a blockade that has interrupted service on exo's Candiac line.
The commuter train travels through Kahnawake Mohawk territory, and from the highway, you can clearly see the smoke billowing out of the small encampment where land protectors and supporters huddle near a large fire, protected from the wind by 7-foot tall snow piles.
I wanted to know how they were feeling, what they were thinking and, more than anything, I wanted to know what they hoped would come from these demonstrations.
When I arrive, someone quickly points and tells me, "the women are in charge."
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One thing was undeniably clear: these demonstrators won't be going anywhere anytime soon. These land protectors aren't out in frigid Quebec weather to just step aside and allow those who have been fighting out west to be left alone.
"If we open this again, the government is going to run them over," an elder insisted, as his husky-wolf mix kaié:ri (which means four in Mohawk) sniffed around the snow.
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So the land protectors are determined to stick around until they see something firm from the government, and that's going to take support, they say.
"There were 500,000 people out in the streets of Montreal when Greta Thunberg was here," a supporter from Spain noted from beside the fire.
"Where are those people now?"
And while the inconvenience of the blockades is being felt by many Canadians, the sentiment here in Kahnawake is that the inconvenience of a pipeline will be even worse, if it's allowed to happen.
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"There will be spills. Look at Standing Rock," said Tina Point, who has travelled all the way from Ahkwesáhsne Mohawk Territory near Cornwall, Ontario to be present in Kahnawake.
She's referring to the Keystone Pipeline leak in November of last year that let 383,000 gallons of crude oil into North Dakota wetlands.
I asked Tina, whose Mohawk name is Kaherison, what she would like to see happen and her response was clear.
"I personally think Trudeau should do a moratorium on all land development," she said, continuing to explain that so much is happening across Canada without consultation or consideration of First Nations communities who are inevitably impacted.
"All our waters are connected. It all has to do with the water."
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Before leaving the blockade site, I asked those present how they felt about other Canadians coming and sitting with them, to talk, share, listen and just be there in solidarity.
As it turns out, the invite is open.
"I think it would be awesome if they could shut down the bridge and get everybody to walk over. All different nationalities... to come and show support."
"Show the government, y'know, look, there's people standing with us... Because they went up in Wet'suwet'en and... what if they come in here and do that, too?"
"That's why I think it's important to get other people to stand up... to just support us. We're not trying to harm anybody. Come, sit, talk."
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Before leaving, I said my goodbyes and gave one last pet to kaié:ri.
"He's so calm," I said in complete awe of the massive animal.
His companion just nodded and replied, "you treat people right, you treat animals right... easy."