34 Photos of the Oka Mohawk Crisis of 1990

Patrick Cloutier, a 'Van Doo' perimeter sentry, and Anishinaabe Warrior Brad Larocque, a University of Saskatchewan economics student, facing off became one of Canada's most widely circulated images. Wikipedia

The Oka Crisis was a land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada, which began on July 11, 1990, and lasted 78 days until September 26.

The Canadian government, since early 1700s New France, had systematically taken lands including a sacred burial ground, from the Mohawk people. The land was first given to the Society of Priests of Saint Sulpice, a Roman Catholic order based in France. In 1869, the Chief of the Oka Mohawk people, Joseph Onasakenrat, led an attack on the seminary to take back the lands that had been taken from them over 100 years ago. The attack proved unsuccessful.

In 1936, the seminary sold the disputed territory to the Canadian government. By 1956, the Mohawk were left with only six square kilometers of their original 165. Three years later, the town of Oka approved the development of a private nine-hole golf course to be built on the disputed land. The Mohawk filed a suit with the federal Office of Land Claims against the development which was rejected in 1986. In 1989, plans were introduced to expand the golf course and in 1990, a court ruled in favor of the development of the golf course and the construction of 60 condominiums.

Out of protest of the court decision, members of the Mohawk community built a barricade blocking access to the disputed area. On July 11, the mayor sent the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), the provincial police force, to intervene in the protest. The SQ deployed their emergency response team who met the protesters with tear gas and concussion grenades in attempts to disperse them. Gunfire ensued from both sides. SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was killed in the fight.

At the peak of the crisis, the Mercier Bridge, as well as Routes 132, 138, and 207, were all blockaded. In August, the SQ had decidedly lost control of the situation and on August 8, Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa announced his request for military support to end the crisis.

On August 29, the Mohawks at the Mercier bridge negotiated to end their protest blockade. The Oka Mohawks, betrayed by the resolution, stood their ground. The final confrontation occurred on September 25, when the Canadian forces resorted to water cannons to disperse the crowd, proving unsuccessful.

The golf course expansion was canceled and the land was purchased from the developers by the federal government for $5.3 million. The Oka Crisis motivated the development of First Nations Policing Policy to prevent future incidents.

March 10, 1990, A small group of Mohawks drag a fishing shack into a clearing in the pine forest and vow to stay there, after Oka Mayor Jean Ouellette says he’ll proceed with a golf-course expansion onto the disputed land. (Ellen Gabriel)
July 1990, Mohawks walk on the Mercier Bridge, which connects Montreal to Kahnawake, hours. Kahnawake Mohawks blocked the bridge as soon as they learned of the police raid in their sister community of Kanesatake. (KORLCC)
Men take part in the destruction of a police vehicle Wednesday, July 11, 1990, on the morning of the start of the Oka Crisis in Kanesatake near Montreal. The long summer of conflict began when Quebec Provincial Police attempted to forcefully dismantle a Mohawk blockade on a side dirt road that had been erected earlier in the year to protest the proposed expansion of a golf course. The Gazette
Blockade set up by Mohawks and their supporters. Local police keep a close eye on it from the bottom of highway 344. The Gazette
Mohawk warriors stand guard at a barricade during the Oka Crisis, 1990. Reddit
Mohawks watching Oka crisis news on barricades. BENOÎT AQUIN: LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA
Warriors keep watch and read the newspaper at Kanesatake, 1990. Pinterest
A Mohawk Warrior stands atop overturned police vehicles Wednesday, July 11, 1990, the morning of the start of the Oka Crisis in Kanesatake near Montreal. The long summer of conflict began when Quebec Provincial Police attempted to forcefully dismantle a Mohawk blockade on a side dirt road that had been erected earlier in the year to protest the proposed expansion of a golf course. The Gazette
A Mohawk Warrior gestures defiantly towards police from atop overturned police vehicles Wednesday, July 11, 1990, the morning of the start of the Oka Crisis in Kanesatake near Montreal. The long summer of conflict began when Quebec Provincial Police attempted to forcefully dismantle a Mohawk blockade on a side dirt road that had been erected earlier in the year to protest the proposed expansion of a golf course. The Gazette
A police vehicle is pushed along highway 344 Wednesday, July 11, 1990, on the morning of the start of the Oka Crisis in Kanesatake near Montreal. The long summer of conflict began when Quebec Provincial Police attempted to forcefully dismantle a Mohawk blockade on a side dirt road that had been erected earlier in the year to protest the proposed expansion of a golf course. The Gazette
A blockade on a secondary road in Kanesatake is dismantled with a commandeered police front-end loader Wednesday, July 11, 1990, the morning of the start of the Oka Crisis in Kanesatake near Montreal. The long summer of conflict began when Quebec Provincial Police attempted to forcefully dismantle the Mohawk blockade on a side dirt road that had been erected earlier in the year to protest the proposed expansion of a golf course. The Gazette
A Mohawk Warrior walks towards police vehicles deserted by the Quebec Provincial Police Wednesday, July 11, 1990, the morning of the start of the Oka Crisis in Kanesatake near Montreal. The long summer of conflict began when Quebec Provincial Police attempted to forcefully dismantle a Mohawk blockade on a side dirt road that had been erected earlier in the year to protest the proposed expansion of a golf course. The Gazette
July 12, 1990: Quebec’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Ciaccia arrives behind the barricades at Kanesatake. He is greeted by Ellen Gabriel (center), the unofficial spokeswoman of the community. Ciaccia criticized the police intervention from the day before and for the role the mayor of Oka played in the conflict. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
July 12, 1990, The conflict continues during negotiations. Highway 344 remains closed. Ryan Remiorz: The Canadian Press
July 30, 1990, Kahnawake Mohawks keep an eye on residents of Châteauguay, who are rallying nearby to express their unhappiness with the situation in Kanesatake. (KORLCC)
Aug. 8, 1990, Mohawk Warriors patrol Kanesatake during the Oka Crisis. Paul Chiasson: The Canadian Press