Kanesatake, Quebec

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Mohawk Territory
Location within Deux-Montagnes RCM.
Location within Deux-Montagnes RCM.
Kanehsatà:ke is located in Southern Quebec
Location in southern Quebec.
Coordinates: 45°29′N 74°07′W / 45.483°N 74.117°W / 45.483; -74.117Coordinates: 45°29′N 74°07′W / 45.483°N 74.117°W / 45.483; -74.117[2]
Country  Canada
Province  Quebec
Region Laurentides
RCM Deux-Montagnes
 • Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon
 • Federal riding Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel
 • Prov. riding Mirabel
 • Land 11.88 km2 (4.59 sq mi)
Population (2014)[3]
 • Total ~1,350 living on territory; 2,400 registered[1]
Time zone EST (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−4)

Kanehsatà:ke is a Kanien'kéha:ka Mohawk settlement on the shore of the Lake of Two Mountains in southwestern Quebec, Canada The Kanien'kéha:ka historically were the most easterly nation of Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois). People who reside in Kanehsatà:ke are referred to as Kanehsatà:kehró:non. Tiowéro:ton or Doncaster 17 Indian Reserve conjointly belongs to the Kanehsatà:kehró:non as well as Kahnawà:kehró:non[4] As of 2014, the total registered population was 2400, with a total of ~1350 persons living on the Territory. Kanehsatà:ke was considered one of the Seven Nations of Canada, allies of the British, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Today it is one of several reserves or settlements in Canada where the Kanienkehaka are self-governing, including Kahnawake, Akwesasne and the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, where they constitute the majority.


Joseph Onasakenrat, Kanesatà:ke Chief, 1868–1881

Beginning about 1000AD indigenous people around the Great Lakes area began adopting the cultivation of maize. By the 14th century, Iroquoian-speaking peoples, later called the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, had created fortified villages along the fertile valley of what is now called the St. Lawrence River. Among their villages were Stadacona and Hochelaga, visited in 1535-1536 by explorer Jacques Cartier. By the time Samuel de Champlain explored the same area 75 years later, the villages had disappeared. Huron and Kanienkehaka based in other Iroquoian territories used the valley for hunting grounds and routes for war parties. Historians are continuing to examine this culture, but theorize that the stronger Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) waged war against the St. Lawrence Iroquoians to get control of the fur trade and hunting along the valley below Tadoussac. (The Montagnais controlled Tadoussac.)

By 1600, the Mohawk used the valley for hunting grounds.[5] The Mohawk were originally based further south in present-day New York, and used this area along the St. Lawrence as a hunting ground since the late 16th century. While the Mohawk shared certain culture with other Iroquoian groups, archeological and linguistic studies since the 1950s have demonstrated they were a distinctly separate people.[5] Historians and anthropologists believe they had earlier pushed out or destroyed the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, a discrete Laurentian-speaking group who had inhabited villages along the St. Lawrence River since at least the 14th century.[5]

In 1717, the King of France granted the Mohawk in Quebec a tract of land 9 miles long by 9 miles wide under the condition they leave the island of Montreal. The settlement of Kahnesatake was formally founded as a Catholic mission under the supervision of the Sulpician Order for the Mohawk, Algonquin, and Nippising. A majority of the Mohawk converted to the Catholic religion, but had grown wary of the Sulpicians due to mistreatment and un-fair dealings with regard to their right to the land. By the late 1800s most of the Mohawk had converted to Christianity and began to defy the Sulpician order because of their mistreatment.

In 1881 a large faction of the Mohawk left Kanehsatà:ke due to on-going political and religious strife. They relocated to Watha Mohawk Territory near Muskoka, Ontario. The Sulpician Order, which had established a mission with the Mohawk, received an aokller grant for land next to them. The religious order had the deeds changed so that all the land was legally granted to them.[6] Believing the Order supervised land in trust for them, the Kanienkehaka did not discover the deception until the late 19th century. In the 20th century, they pursued a land claim case to recover their lost property, but were ruled against on technical issues.[6]

Recent history[edit]

In 2013 the Kanehsatà:ke Health Centre Inc. was the first Indigenous Health Centre in North America to receive a Baby Friendly Accreditation, a major achievement for Kanehsatà:ke and the Kanehsatà:ke Health Centre Inc.

Also in 2013 the local Pikwadin group, a funded initiative of the First Nations Human Resource and Development Commission of Quebec (FNHRDCQ), began a re-vamp of the local radio station CKHQ 101.7 FM. After the station's previous manager died in 2003, the station became idle. In 2004 the station failed to renew its broadcasting licence with the CRTC. The radio station was running under a 'pirate radio' status pending a licence renewal until it was accepted on June 17, 2014.[7][8] The Montréal-based non-profit organization Exeko assisted with the process through their idAction program [9]

Oka crisis[edit]

Main article: Oka crisis

In 1990 there was a 78-day standoff between the Mohawk Nation and their allies (both aboriginal and non-aboriginal) and various levels of government after the City of Oka made plans to develop a pine grove and cemetery by adding nine more holes to a private golf course along with new luxury housing. The land had long been used by the Mohawk, and some of their ancestors' tombstones were located in the cemetery.[6]

A Mohawk claim on the land had been rejected in the Federal Courts a few years earlier on technical grounds. The land had been granted to the Mohawk in the early 18th-century by the French government, but the Sulpician Order, who had administered the land in trust, had changed the deeds and taken the land with the support of the colonial government. In response to the City of Oka development project, the Mohawk barricaded a dirt road leading to the land.[6]

The city requested support from the Sûreté du Québec, who barricaded highway 344 leading to Kanesatà:ke. In the first days of the confrontation, a police officer was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the Mohawk people. In solidarity, Mohawk in Kahnawake blockaded the approach to the Mercier Bridge, which passed through their land. Residents of the area became enraged about traffic delays. The Quebec government then requested support from the Canadian Army. Provincial and national leaders participated in negotiations between the Mohawk and the provincial government, and the barricades were removed.[6] Police and military forces pushed the remaining protesters back until they were confined to health centre and surrounded by the military. The protesters' food and supply lines were systematically reduced and possibly tampered with. In the end they chose to come out of the health centre, although they did not surrender. They were immediately arrested and separated. These events and history are explored in Alanis Obomsawin's documentary film, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993).


In 1991 Kanehsatà:ke citizens first held elections for chiefs and council members. Jerry Peltier was elected grand chief.[10] Prior to that, chiefs were hereditary through the matrilineal kinship system, and nominated by clan mothers.

In 2004 and 2005, disputes over the governance practices of Chief James Gabriel resulted in violence in Kanehsatà:ke. Chiefs Pearl Bonspille, Steven Bonspille and John Harding opposed Gabriel, leading to a series of incidents that ended Gabriel's tenure as grand chief. John Harding and fellow council chiefs Steven Bonspille and Pearl Bonspille opposed Gabriel's attempt to control policing by hiring private officers for a drug raid in January 2004. They considered Gabriel's action to be an unlawful attempt to usurp the power of the Police Commission. The 67 special constables were forced to take shelter in the local police station for protection after 200 community members surrounded the police station. After his home was burned in purported arson, Gabriel left the community for Montreal.[10]

During this period, a Community Watch team was organized to counter the lack of a police force. A liaison team was established with the Sûreté du Québec (the provincial police force).[citation needed] Political communication lines were opened up with the Quebec government to prevent another crisis as had occurred at Oka.

Politics and population[edit]

Elections were held in late spring of 2005. On June 26, 2005, Steven Bonspille defeated Gabriel in the election for grand chief. The election resulted in Harding and Pearl Bonspille's being replaced in office as chiefs on the council.[10] New members were voted in as chiefs on the seven-member council.[10]

Tribal engagement in politics has remained high: in 2008 there were 25 candidates running for seven seats on the council. At the time, there were more than 2300 registered voters: 1685 on the territory and 664 outside.[10]

Tobacco trade[edit]

Tobacco is a traditional herb and medicine indigenous to North and South America. Archeological evidence has shown its use has been part of ritual religious and political traditions in native cultures in the Americas for at least two thousand years. Under current laws in Canada and the United States, state and provincial authorities attempt to control trade of tobacco products through prices and sales taxes, in part because of health concerns related to high tobacco use.

Despite the associated political issues, Kanehsatà:ke has benefited by economic returns from the tax-free sales of tobacco (in cigarettes) to non-natives. Beginning about 2003 with only two fishing shacks set up at each end of the territory, the community has expanded its tobacco sales. As of 2014 there are ~25 stores selling tobacco products. The Mohawk reserves of Akwesasne and Kahnawake have both developed factories to supply Kanehsatà:ke with their cigarettes since the business expansion began.


The area English school board is the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board. As of 2014 55 students from Kanesatake choose to attend Lake of Two Mountains High School in Deux-Montagnes.[11] Mountainview Elementary School and Saint Jude Elementary School, both in Deux-Montagnes, also serve this community.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mohawks of Kanehsatà:ke - Connectivity Profile", Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, accessed 11 September 2013
  2. ^ Reference number 149275 of the Commission de toponymie du Québec (French)
  3. ^ a b "(Code 2472802) Census Profile". 2011 census. Statistics Canada. 2012. 
  4. ^ "Mohawks of Kanesatake", Aboriginal Communities, Government of Canada
  5. ^ a b c Pendergast, James F. (Winter 1998). "The Confusing Identities Attributed to Stadacona and Hochelaga". Journal of Canadian Studies 32 (4): 149–159. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Alanis Obomsawin, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, National Film Board of Canada, 1993, accessed 30 January 2010
  7. ^ [1], CRTC
  8. ^ "CRTC approves CKHQ licence", blog
  9. ^ "Uniting Kanesatake through radio", Wawatay News, 16 May 2014
  10. ^ a b c d e Jeff Heinrich, "Wide-open race in Kanesatake", The Gazette, 27 June 2008, La Nation Autochthone du Quebec, accessed 29 January 2010
  11. ^ "Overview." Lake of Two Mountains High School. Retrieved on December 8, 2014.
  12. ^ "Mountainview Elementary Zone." Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board. Retrieved on December 8, 2014.
  13. ^ "Saint Jude Elementary School Zone Map." Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board. Retrieved on December 8, 2014.

External links[edit]

Links re: Policing and governance issues of 2003-2005