Akwesasne Border Struggle

CBSA agents were due to be armed at the Port of Cornwall (Kahwehnoke) crossing on June 1 2009, a policy universally opposed and condemned by the Akwesasne Mohawk Community


1) “Akwesasne under siege” (rabble.ca, June 5, 2009) here

2) Mohawks continue struggle at border (Indian Country Today, June 5, 2009) here

3) AUDIO: Interview with Sakoietah, member of the Men’s Traditional Council at Akwesasne (No One Is Illegal-Montreal Radio, June 4, 2009) here

4) Interview with Brendan White, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (Ottawa Citizen, June 3, 2009) here

5) VIDEO: Kanietakeron gives message to CBSA agents (video by Neddie Thompson, May 31, 2009)
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J-479EaojM
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH7zuzkbjuc

6) VIDEO: Protest at border crossing by Akwesasne Mohawks here

7) Mohawk Nation News (MNN) Articles here


The Mohawk territory of Akwesasne straddles the jurisdictions of Ontario, Quebec and New York State, and is a major international border crossing between Canada and the United States. Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) guards began arming in 2007, and there are currently more than 800 armed CBSA guards across Canada. The entire CBSA aims to be armed, in stages, by 2016. The CBSA announced that their agents at the Port of Entry at Cornwall (at Akwesasne) would be armed by June 1 of 2009.

As written in Mohawk Nation News on May 3, 2009: “For the next month Mohawks of Akwesasne will be protesting colonial Canadian border guards arming themselves with Beretta 9 mm handguns in the middle of our community. They hope to start on June 1. Akwesasne is on both sides of the foreign Canada-U.S. border and home to the whole community regardless of this imaginary line… A letter was sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to have meetings with Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan and his predecessor Stockwell Day over a year ago. There has been no response. We hear that the European settler experience at the border is completely different. They are often waved through without harassment.” (For full article visit: https://noii-van.resist.ca/?p=1076 )

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne passed resolution #318 on February 28, 2008 forbidding firearms to be carried by Canada Border Services Agents CBSA on the territory of Akwesasne.

On May 8, 2009 over 250 Mohawks marched on the U.S.-Canada border. As written in Mohawk Nation News: “We are the most policed people in the world. Almost 20 U.S. and Canadian enforcement agencies traverse our community.” Daily disagreements have been instigated against Mohawks who must pass through the checkpoint on a daily basis. There have been serious injuries, hospitalizations, charges and assaults. So far there have been no fatalities. There has been a steady increase in racial profiling and slurs direct at us sanctioned by Canada. Incidents are being provoked to justify armed guards. Hundreds of complaints have been filed with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Canada Justice Department and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. No peaceful resolution has come forward.”

During the month of May, the community attempted to pressure and negotiate with the federal government and lobby at the international level. On May 26, 2009 Cornwall city council passed a resolution that no guns should be given to the CBSA guards. On May 28, 2009 Skarohreh Doug Anderson of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy presented a request to the Secretary of the UN Security Council to ask the UN to send officials to Akwesasne. Kenneth Deer of Kahnawake raised the issue of guns at Akwesasne with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous People.

Excerpt of statement to Secretary of the UN Security Council in New York: “On June 1 the Canada Border Services Agency guards will try to carry 9mm Berettas, which are meant to kill people. The UN must stop this attempt at ethnic cleansing at Akwesasne. Canada at the behest of the U.S. is trying to commit genocide on us, the real people of mother earth. The reasonable decision of the Haudenosaunee, our friends and supporters, is that there should be no guns anywhere on the Canada-U.S. border on the Canadian side. Canada is setting a precedent that any visitor arriving will have the barrel of a gun in their faces, so to say. We want the border station to be removed from the middle of Akwesasne. We know the power they presently exercise without the guns. They ridicule and demean us as we come through the border. They use their power of intimidation to pull us into their building away from the protective eyes of our friends and relatives. We have no choice but to cross many times a day to carry on our normal lives. The violence will always be directed at us and not at them. We want peace. These supposed peace officers are acting like war zone combatants. What a contradictory message Canada sends out to the world.”

The Akwesasne Mohawk Council Chiefs offered several compromise positions to senior Canada Border Services Agency officials during a meeting in Ottawa, but were rebuffed on May 28, 2009, according to Chief Larry King. During the Ottawa meeting, the chiefs unsuccessfully asked that the move be delayed for at least a year or until the end of CBSA’s arming process in 2016 to allow more time for community consultations as well as time for officers to be trained in cultural sensitivity by the community. The meeting ended with a declaration from CBSA president Stephen Rigby that our position is what it is; to which the chiefs responded, whatever happens will happen said King. (Source: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Armed+border+guards/1644877/story.html )


-> Many members of the Akwesasne community currently opposing armed border guards have referenced the story of Saiowisakeron (Jake Ice), a traditional Mohawk man who was shot and killed by Dominion police in 1899. There is a statue of Jake Ice at Akwesasne, which has become a focal point to express opposition to armed border agents. More information about Jake Ice available here.

-> In 1968, members of the community blocked the border-crossing bridge against the policy that forced Akwesasne residents to pay duty on purchases they made in the United States, despite the fact that the Jay Treaty of 1794, also known as the “Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation” affirmed that they were not required to do so. An NFB documentary by Mort Ransen is available online here.

For an extensive backgrounder, read “Forty-one year legacy of Mohawk resistance at Akwesasne border” by Mohawk Nation News.

-> June 2008: Mohawk grandmothers attacked by CBSA guards; more info here.

-> Katenies, a member of the Akwesasne community, has openly challenged the colonial “Canada-US” border. She refuses to recognize the authority of the Canadian courts to judge her for “border violations”.  Article/Audio compilation here.