Blockades or Breakthroughs?

Blockades or Breakthroughs?: Aboriginal Peoples Confront the Canadian State

Copyright Date: 2014
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Blockades or Breakthroughs?
    Book Description:

    Blockades have become a common response to Canada's failure to address and resolve the legitimate claims of First Nations. Blockades or Breakthroughs? debates the importance and effectiveness of blockades and occupations as political and diplomatic tools for Aboriginal people. The adoption of direct action tactics like blockades and occupations is predicated on the idea that something drastic is needed for Aboriginal groups to break an unfavourable status quo, overcome structural barriers, and achieve their goals. But are blockades actually "breakthroughs"? What are the objectives of Aboriginal people and communities who adopt this approach? How can the success of these methods be measured? This collection offers an in-depth survey of occupations, blockades, and their legacies, from 1968 to the present. Individual case studies situate specific blockades and conflicts in historical context, examine each group’s reasons for occupation, and analyze the media labels and frames applied to both Aboriginal and state responses. Direct action tactics remain a powerful political tool for First Nations in Canada. The authors of Blockades or Breakthroughs? Argue that blockades and occupations are instrumental, symbolic, and complex events that demand equally multifaceted responses. Contributors include Yale D. Belanger, Tom Flanagan, Sarah King, P. Whitney Lackenbauer, David Rossiter, John Sandlos, Nick Shrubsole, and Timothy Winegard.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9612-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Maps
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-50)

    Oka, Ipperwash, Caledonia.

    Blockades, masked warriors, police snipers.


    Canada’s failure to address and resolve the legitimate claims of First Nations.

    Imagine your new neighbour comes into your backyard and fences off half of it. Then he sells it to someone down the street. This new neighbour tells you he got a good deal, but he won’t say how much he got. Then he says that he’ll take care of the cash – on your behalf, of course.

    Maybe he even spends a little on himself.

    You complain. He denies he did anything wrong.

    What would you do?

    Go to...

  6. 1 Point Pelee’s Summer of Discontent
    (pp. 51-69)

    The trouble began at Point Pelee in the late spring of 1922, at the end of the seasonal songbird migration that has made this national park in southwestern Ontario so famous. In early June, a group of fifteen Chippewa people from the Caldwell First Nation moved to a small cabin at the edge of the park boundary and declared that they were reclaiming the area as their reserve. If this move did not provide enough difficulty for Park Superintendent Forest Conover, a rumour had spread throughout the region that an additional 1,500 Native people from the surrounding area were set...

  7. 2 The Nature of a Blockade: Environmental Politics and the Haida Action on Lyell Island, British Columbia
    (pp. 70-89)

    On 30 October 1985 a small group of Haida blocked access to a logging camp on Lyell Island in the South Moresby region of the Queen Charlotte Islands off the west coast of British Columbia – islands that the Haida call Haida Gwaii (“islands of the people”).¹ Explaining the decision to set up a blockade on the only road in or out of the camp, the chief of the Council of the Haida Nation, Miles Richardson, declared, “We can’t just sit back and have our homelands consistently pushed aside because of the interests of others.”² Within a week, two dozen...

  8. 3 Lubicon Lake: The Success and Failure of Radical Activism
    (pp. 90-118)

    On 15 October 1988 the Lubicon Lake Cree erected barriers on the four main roads leading to the oil fields on their “traditional territory.” It wasn’t the biggest, or the longest-lasting, or the bloodiest blockade in Indian history. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (rcmp) dismantled the barriers five days later, no one was hurt, and only twenty-seven people were arrested. But it had an unprecedented amount of media support because the Lubicon, advised by political organizer Fred Lennarson and lawyer James O’Reilly, had worked for years to build up a network of supporters across Canada and around the world –...

  9. 4 “The War Will Be Won When the Last Low-Level Flying Happens Here in Our Home”: Innu Opposition to Low-Level Flying in Labrador
    (pp. 119-165)

    I have seen our children robbed of everything that makes us Innu in a school system which makes them look down on their own people and culture. Our people have been deeply wounded by what has happened in the past 25 years. The one thing that has stopped our total breakdown as a people has been the months we still live away from villages in our tents in the country. For the families who now have houses in Sheshatshit we find ourselves right alongside what Canada wants to make into a nato base. Even without a base, each year military...

  10. 5 A Bridge Too Far? The Oka Crisis
    (pp. 166-221)

    The “Indian Summer” of 1990¹ profoundly changed the perception of Aboriginal-government relations in Canada. Elijah Harper defeated the Meech Lake Accord in the Manitoba Legislature, his eagle feather becoming a symbol for peaceful Native resistance and the unwillingness of Aboriginal people to tolerate their concerns being relegated to the political margins. The complex and prolonged confrontation at Oka, Quebec, proved even more destabilizing, suggesting that Aboriginal communities were volatile powder kegs that could erupt into open violence. The Mohawks had long asserted title over a parcel of land known as “the Pines,” but their failure to secure a favourable resolution...

  11. 6 The Oldman River Dam and the Lonefighters’ Response to Environmental Incursion
    (pp. 222-252)

    Overshadowed by the more sensational events that occurred at Oka in 1990, a small group modelling themselves after a traditional clan known as the Lone Fighters worked at diverting the Oldman River traversing the Peigan Reserve of the Piikani Nation of southern Alberta late that summer.¹ Incensed at the provincial government’s refusal to halt dam reservoir construction occurring on what they considered sacred, albeit surrendered, Piikani lands located 13 kilometres north of the reserve, the new Lonefighters rented an earth mover to divert the river’s course around an irrigation inflow located on the reserve that served several downstream communities. On...

  12. 7 The Tragedy of Ipperwash
    (pp. 253-313)

    The death of Native protestor Anthony O’Brien (Dudley) George on 6 September 1995 after a confrontation with the Ontario Provincial Police (opp) at Ipperwash Provincial Park has become a quintessential example of government perfidy and aggression over Native land claims. The decision by members of the self-proclaimed “Stoney Point First Nation” to occupy the park reflected a tortured history of dispossession, divisions within the local Native community, and political frustration. After decades of failed attempts to secure a return of the former Stony Point Reserve¹ – which the military had appropriated from the Kettle and Stony Point Band in 1942...

  13. 8 The Gustafsen Lake Standoff
    (pp. 314-355)

    In the summer of 1995, while Native peoples at Ipperwash Provincial Park in Ontario were engaged in a confrontation with the Ontario Provincial Police, a small group of Aboriginal people and non-Native supporters were involved in an armed standoff with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (rcmp) over a small portion of privately owned cattle ranch land in south-central British Columbia. They had been using this site at Gustafsen Lake for a sun dance and insisted that they needed to protect and control the neotraditional sacred space. This justification was quickly superseded by the more general claims of Aboriginal sovereignty over...

  14. 9 Seeking Relief: The Dispute in Burnt Church (Esgenoôpetitj)
    (pp. 356-382)

    The fishing dispute in Burnt Church, New Brunswick, began in September 1999 and continued until August 2002. At its conclusion, a bureaucrat for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans was heard to comment, “Perhaps it never really was about fish.”¹ Indeed. The prolonged violence in Burnt Church has complex origins. Many scholars have focused on the importance of the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 Marshall decision as the event that triggered a Mi’kmaw fishery and hence the violence at Burnt Church.² Ken Coates suggests that the violence occurred because the “federal government was caught unaware” by the court’s decision...

  15. 10 Blockades, Occupations, and the Bay of Quinte Mohawks’ Fight for Sovereignty
    (pp. 383-410)

    On 28 February 2006 several protestors from the Six Nations of Grand River occupied a housing development in the tiny community of Caledonia located approximately 20 kilometres southwest of Hamilton, Ontario. The media descended on the low-key protest, only to witness it flare into periodic confrontations that would soon subsume Six Nations residents, Caledonia’s populace, the Ontario Provincial Police (opp), and provincial politicians. To this point, Six Nations leaders had rarely engaged in civic disorder, choosing instead to rely on a historic self-determination discourse in order to press their territorial claims both in Canada and on the international stage.¹ It...

  16. 11 Your Home on Native Land? Conflict and Controversy at Caledonia and the Six Nations of the Grand River
    (pp. 411-444)

    The record of Aboriginal barricades since Oka in 1990 – from Ipperwash and Gustafsen Lake to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Akwesasne – demonstrates that direct confrontation has increased. Certain elements of the Aboriginal population erect barricades or (re)occupy lands as a means to promote legitimate grievances and bring governments to the negotiating table. For a minority of others, however, these actions represent an opportune avenue to safeguard lucrative commercial enterprises – such as gambling, the tobacco trade, and a sophisticated smuggling network – with a view to intimidating domestic residents, usurping authority, and establishing “no-go zones”...

  17. Contributors
    (pp. 445-448)
  18. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 449-458)
  19. Index
    (pp. 459-466)