The CAQ won again, Bill 96 passed, and two years into the pandemic we still said the word COVID more often than we ate breakfast.
The year was more than just doom and gloom, however. Kahnawa’kehró:non once again showed what makes this community special, making more news and notching more accomplishments than could be halfway expected from a town twice this size.
So without further ado, let’s have a look at the year that was as we get ready for the year ahead.
2022 began under the shadow of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, impacting the lives and livelihoods of Kahnawa’kehró:non. In early January, a Kahnawake Education Center (KEC)-led decision to resume in-person education at full capacity was announced to take effect after winter break, with health measures in place to protect both staff and students.
In February, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) announced an extension of the community-wide State of Emergency.
By the end of the month, the MCK released a statement announcing a State of Recovery and an end to vaccine passports.
In mid-March, the Kateri Memorial Hospital Center (KMHC) announced a COVID-19 outbreak at the hospital, which led to a temporary pause on visitation, followed by an announcement from the MCK confirming multiple COVID-19 outbreaks across town.
Nevertheless, the State of Recovery finally transitioned to a State of Normalcy on May 2, with caution recommended. The mandatory mask mandate in indoor public places was rolled back for the first time since June 2020.
In May, KMHC closed Kahnawake’s COVID-19 testing centre due to low demand from essential workers in town.
On June 21, the COVID-19 Task Force’s mandate expired, thus ending the MCK-backed team to enforce COVID-19 measures throughout town.
Over the summer, TED published a story about living conditions at KMHC’s long-term care facility detailing experiences of neglect and abuse as told by multiple residents, their families, and KMHC staff.
In September, schools across town resumed in-person studies without mask requirements.
In early 2022, the issue of ever-growing arrears for social housing clients saw progress as some residents reached out to the MCK’s Housing Unit after learning about issues stemming from arrears and unpaid dues.
Efforts to recover trust in the MCK’s Housing Unit resulted in a total restructuring of the department’s policies and procedures, personnel, and an MCK-wide shift in payment processing.
A social housing project to develop at least five new single-person dwellings for Kahnawa’kehró:non in Chateauguay was announced in April.
November began with shocking news about a three-year-long criminal investigation into alleged fraud at the MCK’s Housing Department that amounted to more than $1 million in losses: no charges.
The MCK announced the findings of the investigation, which concluded that despite 24 sworn affidavits and the testimony of more than 30 community members, the crown prosecutor determined there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
In late April, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 15, a reform to the Quebec Youth Protection Act that reinforces provincial jurisdiction over Indigenous child welfare.
Bill 96, which reinforces French-language rules without exemption for Indigenous communities, passed in May, but two provisions relating to court documents were suspended in August.
In August, premier Francois Legault finally met face-to-face with MCK grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer to discuss the future of Kahnawake-Quebec relations after they were frozen by the MCK in the wake of the new law.
In October, the Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers) made history in the Quebec Superior Court, halting excavations at the Royal Vic Hospital site in Montreal. The landmark ruling will give time for investigations into the possibility of unmarked graves at the site to take place.
This December, it was announced that the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government would seek a judicial review of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s decision to halt a $20-billion class-action settlement to compensate victims of child welfare discrimination. The reform half of the $40-billion package announced a year ago was unaffected.
In January, Kanien’kéha speaker Norma Delaronde passed away, an elder known for encouraging others to speak and learn the language. She was a matriarch of the Delaronde family and Turtle Clan mother for the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake.
In March, Akwesasró:non Wolf Clan mother Winnie McComber passed away after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis, leaving behind a huge legacy of tradition and love.
The same month, Randy Goodleaf passed away at the age of 82, leaving behind an entrepreneurial legacy in Kahnawake, having founded the former Shell station at Rabaska’s corner. He also served two terms as an elected council member with the MCK.
Kory Cross lost his battle with cancer this November. He is survived by Samantha-Montour Cross, his children, and his extended family.
The passing of beloved doctor Suzanne Jones from pancreatic cancer came as a shock to the community this December. She had served Kahnawake for over 35 years.
Also in December, the community lost Martin Horn to cancer. Horn served the community as a dispatcher with the Peacekeepers for 13 years.
With the Omicron variant in full swing, frustrations over ongoing pandemic measures were high to begin the year. This consternation found a voice in the “Freedom Convoy,” a group of truckers who drove across the country en route to Ottawa to vent their anger at the government.
The movement became a hot topic in town, with many residents feeling strongly aligned with one side or the other. In January, upwards of 50 cars followed marchers and a tractor through Kahnawake to KMHC in support of the convoy.
Days later, the convoy was set to drive through the territory. Supporters and detractors alike assembled alongside Highway 132, but ultimately the truckers were rerouted over the Champlain Bridge for traffic reasons.
Ultimately, some Kahnawa’kehró:non and other Kanien’kehá:ka even travelled to Ottawa to participate in the weeks-long occupation of the country’s capital city.
In spring, a swell of consternation came over Kahnawake as leaders rallied the community around a fight against Bill 96, a controversial bill to promote the French language that many felt undermined Indigenous sovereignty, the fight to save Kanien’kéha, and the prospect of student success.
A student-led walkout at Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) on May 10 saw about 1,000 Kahnawa’kehró:non – students, staff, parents, and community supporters – march along Highway 132, disrupting traffic and attracting massive amounts of attention to the cause.
Kahnawa’kehró:non were even among thousands of marchers in Montreal who protested the bill.
On May 21, another protest stopped traffic on the Mercier Bridge as Kahnawake youth handed out around 2,000 pamphlets outlining their opposition to the law.
The passage of Bill 96 on May 24 without an exemption for Indigenous communities in the province outraged Kahnawa’kehró:non, prompting the MCK to halt cooperation with the Quebec government on a range of files. Even elementary school children continued to speak out, such as at a “Day of Action” assembly at Karonhianónhnha Tsi Ionterihwaienstáhkhwa.
Kahnawa’kehró:non Sean French proved protest need not always take place in groups. On September 3, he marched along Montreal’s Avenue Christophe-Colomb with a warrior flag. “You can’t have reconciliation and keep street names like this,” he said.
Crime and punishment
The trial of Kahnawa’kehró:non Derek White and Hunter Montour, who were accused of smuggling tobacco, continued to start the year.
February ended with a plea deal for Isaac Delaronde, who pleaded guilty to possession and was conditionally discharged with 18 months probation.
After a series of robberies throughout the community, non-local Serge “Junior” Tremblay was charged with robbery and assault, among other charges, in early March.
Murder charges for the death of James “JR” Richard Curotte were dropped against Justin Moore, who was released from custody and the case was dismissed.
In May, an unleashed dog attack on a resident resulted in charges for the dog owner for criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
In September, Chase Brascoup was charged with flight from a peace officer, dangerous operation, failure to stop at the scene of an accident, and theft of a motor vehicle. In November, he appeared in court for these charges.
Culture and entertainment
Renowned filmmaker Tracey Deer’s ITALICSBEGINHEREBEANSITALICSENDHERE won the prestigious Rogers Best Canadian Film Award in March.
That same month, ITALICSBEGINHEREReservation DogsITALICSENDHERE actress Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs celebrated the show’s two wins for best ensemble cast and best new scripted series at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Multimedia artist Skawennati had a busy year, with a solo exhibit for her work in Quebec City called ITALICSBEGINHEREWhen Onkwehón:we Visit the Queen,ITALICSENDHERE; a display in ITALICSBEGINHERERadical StitchITALICSENDHERE, the Indigenous beadwork exhibition at the MacKenzie Gallery in Regina; and a feature of her Calico and Camouflage clothing line in the Indigenous Fashion Show at the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts.
In October, Skawennati won the 2022 Hewlett 50 Arts Commission Grant to support her multidisciplinary art.
At the Canadian Folk Music Awards in April, singer-songwriter duo Chelsey June and Jaaji, professionally known as Twin Flames, took home awards for Indigenous Songwriters of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year for their album ITALICSBEGINHEREOmen.ITALICSENDHERE
In April, Kaniehtiio Horn won best performance by a supporting actress in a comedy series for her role in ITALICSBEGINHERELetterkennyITALICSENDHERE at the Canadian Screen Awards.
Lauren Ashley Jiles a.k.a. Lou Lou la Duchesse de Rière earned the highest accolade in burlesque – Miss Exotic World – at Las Vegas’s Burlesque Hall of Fame Tournament of Tease in early June.
Meanwhile, Ryleigh Mayo danced her way to first place in four categories at the dance competition Extravadance, earning her a $250 cash prize.
After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the long-awaited return of the Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow Wow in July saw its largest turnout with 16,000 in attendance.
In August, Joe McGregor signed off for the last time from the ITALICSBEGINHEREAll Kanien’kéha Talk ShowITALICSENDHERE on K103.7, which aired for more than 30 years with his co-host Leo Diabo.
At the end of summer, TED launched the language initiative “Sharing Our Stories” with two stories from Joe McGregor called “Power” and “Medicine,” published in both English and Kanien’kéha.
Celebration for the TV miniseries ITALICSBEGINHEREPour Toi Flora,ITALICSENDHERE which was written and directed by Sonia Bonspille Boileau, erupted in October when it won the representation of race and ethnicity award at the MIPCOM CANNES Diversity TV Awards.
The imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto screened multiple films by Kahnawa’kehró:non this year, including Ange Loft, who received the Indigenous artist award, and Roxann Whitebean, who won the Live Action Short Award for her film ITALICSBEGINHERERose.ITALICSENDHERE
Donations were announced for the development of the Kahnawake Cultural Arts Center including $5 million from Mohawk Online, $1 million from the Playground Poker Club, and another $1 million from Magic Palace.
Considering 2022 was not an election year, Kahnawake saw more than its fair share of votes, including a community referendum on what to do with the remains of father Léon Lajoie.
In February, as the Jesuit-led investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Lajoie drew to a close, the MCK announced that a referendum would be held on whether his remains would be exhumed and moved off territory.
On March 25 and 26, Kahnawake decided to remove Lajoie’s remains from the grounds of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in a tight 223-195 vote. His remains were exhumed on the morning of August 10.
On September 6, Kahnawa’kehró:non voted in two new KMHC board members, Frank McComber and Kim Martin.
Alan John Rice resigned as a Council chief in September after being hired as MCK’s executive operations officer. The resignation sparked what would be the first of two fall by-elections. Barton Goodleaf’s subsequent resignation, effective October 31, led to the second.
The first was won by Iohahiio Delisle on November 5 with 110 votes. Stephen McComber came in second with 82 and David A. Diabo in third with 53.
The second by-election was held on December 3. Stephen McComber decided to give it another go, this time against Bobbi Dee Kawennitake Deere. After an expedited election process, McComber finally made it to Council with a 161-108 vote count.