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An open letter to the Oka mayor

(Editorial by Steve Bonspiel)


Dear Pascal Quevillon,

You, and by extension the village of Oka, will never win.

We, the first peoples of this land, will never stop fighting for what has always been, and always will be, ours.

So you may as well give up, give in, and do what’s right.

Stop fighting for the little pieces you have no control over and no right to.

Put your energy into building bridges instead of tearing them down and yelling racist crap, calling for police to come in and a BS “freeze” on our rights.

You live beside our people as our neighbour and we invited you into the Pines for the 25th anniversary of the so-called Oka Crisis.

Did you not see the unity in our eyes when it comes to fighting for our land?

Did you not feel that energy that comes from the Pines, where our ancestors hosted celebrations for millennia, used the ground in years gone by for food storage in winter, and still bury our loved ones?

Did you think we’d just go away? Disappear? 

We won’t. Know that. 

Imagine what we could be if we invited people to our area and developed that friendship and so many economic opportunities together, making both of our communities prosperous.

We have to look past differences and be better. For the future of both communities.

Sure, we have made our fair share of mistakes and could be better as a community, but how do we achieve that if we have a mayor who constantly tells us our voice and concerns mean nothing?

So Stop being stubborn, that kind of person who says, “My great grandfather has land here so I have just as much of a right to it as the Mohawks,” and be realistic.

We didn’t just come from Kahnawake a few hundred years ago, as archeological digs attest to. We’ve always been here, and our oral stories tell us that.

So instead of shouting out grotesque words that divide, listen to us.

Talk to us instead of talking at us.

Don’t make the same mistakes as mayors of the past. Because we could yell at each other and mudsling until the cows come home – we’re Mohawks who are used to fighting, after all.

But doing the right thing takes more than just being a loud mouth and a hot head.

It takes guts. It takes compromise. It takes vision. 

And it takes a leader who can see whatever is necessary through to keep the peace and do what’s right.

You’re not acting like a leader right now Pascal, but it’s not too late.

You have a real chance to change things, to make them better for your people and ours.

And don’t forget, many of our familial lines extend into the village, and yours extend up the hill.

Put down your weapons and use your most effective and powerful one: kanikonri:io, a good mind.

Until that happens and we can talk respectfully, nothing will change for the better.

But when and if you can achieve this, a higher state of consciousness that has compassion for all people – not just your own – you will see how great things can be, flowing side by side, for eternity.

It’s your move, Pascal, and the history books are taking note.

Make it count.

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Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.

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