recordbodycount: Pierre Trudeau sliding down a bannister (politics // the secret master saint)
2009-09-15 08:45 am

Bridges and Borders

The U.S. border weirdness has always bothered me since it first kicked up a few years ago. I used to have arguments about it with my mom, who takes the position that cheap Mexican labour hurts American workers who are already vulnerable due to globalisation, but it seems to me like building big fences isn't the way to stop business from exploiting workers.

But here's a thing I should have thought of, because I live in a place where all this is a big concern: The U.S. and Mexico are not the only nations involved here.
Recently, Renee Cruz, a tribal member and respected Christian leader, was accosted by U.S. border agents on her way home from an evening church service. Cruz was stopped, forcibly removed from her vehicle, questioned and eventually arrested. The incident is under investigation. For tribal leaders, such incidents make protection of tribal members a high priority. But sovereignty is also important, and in this case, the nation recognizes its rights. “When there have been problems, we have exercised our right to remove border agents from tribal land,” said tribal councilman Timothy Joaquin.

Related, I heard about this earlier in the summer but it never seemed to make very big news even in Canada: the U.S./Canadian border has traditionally been an undefended one, and recently Harper decided the border guards should carry handguns. The border guards have long had friction with the Mohawk people on the Akwesasne reserve that straddles the border, and the Mohawk leaders said they didn't want guns on their land. In a stunning turn of events, the government didn't listen. On the first day that the guards were to carry their new guns to work, the Mohawks camped peacefully near the border to protest, and the guards walked off the job citing "safety concerns." Full Story
Trouble at this border crossing started a few years ago when border guards became aggressive and began intimidating our people. They focused much of their abuse on our youth, but our elders, women and children also suffered. The thought of arming these aggressive border guards causes much fear in the Akwesasne community, but we will not respond in the same manner. It is the reason why we seek a non-violent solution and remain vigil at the peace fires.

Old and young gather around the peace fires and at the tent next to the customs facility. Our young play the ancient game of lacrosse on the lawn. Elders sit around the fires and share wisdom gained through years of experience. Women prepare food and feed all those who come to keep vigil. And men, chosen by our clan mothers, are keeping the peace. [source]

All this sounds pretty reasonable to me, but talking to white Cornwallers uncovers all kinds of nutty resentment of the Mohawks. The taxi drivers in particular were pissed off because having the bridge closed made traffic complicated and also kept them from getting the good high-fare jobs taking people to the casino. Which is a straightforward practical concern, but they had no problem with making it all about the violent shit-stirring greedy Indians instead.

Anyway, this is not the first time there's been resistance around the border on Mohawk land. In 1968 there was a blockade on the bridge to defend their rights under the Jay Treaty. AND HERE IS THE POINT OF THIS POST the National Film Board made a short film about it which you can watch online.

Why should you? Because the NFB is awesome. Maybe just to me, I get happy school flashbacks from it, but I really like their films a lot. They're very sober and educational and yet mysteriously compelling.

PS. Mike Mitchell, the Mohawk leader in the film, is kind of adorable. That does not affect my political opinions at all.

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