Mohawk grandmothers attacked by CBSA guards

Posted by admin on Jun 15th, 2008

This past Saturday, June 14, 2008, around 2:30pm, a vehicle with two outspoken Kanion’ke:haka (Mohawk) activists, writers and grandmothers was stopped at Akwesasne while crossing into “Canada” from the “USA”. Akwesasne is a Kanion’ke:haka Indigenous community that includes parts of so-called Ontario, Quebec and New York, and community members routinely cross between “states” and “provinces”. Katenies lives in Akwesasne, with her mother and near her daughter and three grandchildren, who reside on both sides of the “border”. Kahentinehta, also a grandmother, is from Kahnawake. Katenies and Kahentinehta publish Mohawk Nation News and were delegates to the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit in San Xavier, Tohono O’odham Nation (Arizona) in November 2007.

Katenies was targeted for arrest by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) guards on an outstanding warrant for allegedly “running the border” in 2003, and offenses resulting from her refusal to appear in court and validate the colonial justice system. Katenies has maintained since 2003 that border officials and the Canadian colonial courts have no jurisdiction over Kanion’ke:haka people or land.

[Background information to Katenies’ struggle against border and court officials is linked at:]

This past Saturday, Katenies reiterated that she does not recognize the authority of the CBSA over Kanion’ke:haka land, as she has always done. She was then brutally arrested, with at least four male guards forcing her face down onto the ground, handcuffing her, and taking her into custody, where she remained for three days.

CBSA guards then demanded that Kahentinehta, 68, leave the car she was driving. She refused, and she too was brutally overpowered by at least four male CBSA guards and handcuffed tightly. Kahentinehta suffered a heart attack while handcuffed. However, due to the timely intervention of her brother – a local lawyer who was crossing the border at that time — she was eventually taken to the local hospital in Cornwall, Ontario by ambulance, where she has spent the last three days in the Critical Care Unit. Her condition is stable and she will be transferred to a hospital in Ottawa for further treatment and possible surgery.

The CBSA had originally indicated that they would charge Kahentinehta with various offenses, but those charges were never brought forward, most likely to help cover-up the brutal way in which she and Katenies were arrested in the first place.

Meanwhile, Katenies was jailed after her brutal arrest, and was only able to have a bail hearing, at the Superior Court in Cornwall this past Monday (June 16, 2008).

Supporters from Six Nations, Sharbot Lake as well as Akwesasne attended court to be witnesses to Katenies’ continued defiance of Canada’s colonial courts. Several of the elders from the Akwesasne community referenced the bridge blockades undertaken in the 1960s and 70s to assert free movement of Indigenous peoples at the border. They consider Katenies’ current stance as part of the same ongoing and long-term struggle for sovereignty.

At the hearing, the federal Crown lawyer objected to Katenies’ release on bail. A senior investigator with the CBSA who seems to have launched a vendetta against Katenies since 2003, testified for the Crown. He outlined the various warrants and court dates in the case, and Katenies’ continual and consistent refusal to recognize the authority of the colonial court system, or the jurisdiction of the CBSA over the border.

In the words of the CBSA investigator, Katenies “has nothing but contempt for the Canadian judicial system.” The investigator, who has lived and worked at the Cornwall border crossing for two decades, was forced to admit that it’s “not uncommon” for Mohawks to cite the lack of jurisdiction directly to border officials, although he called Katenies “an extreme case.”

Both Katenies and her mother, Nancy Davis, addressed the court. Nancy Davis refused to tell the court whether she lived in the “Ontario” or “Quebec” part of Akwesasne, stating clearly that she “lives on Kanion’ke:haka territory” and is a citizen of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. She remarked with a smile: “I’m the only one who has authority over my daughter.”

Under cross-examination by the Crown lawyer, Nancy Davis stated: “We feel we have the right to travel where we want, to go where we want. [The border] is an imaginary line for Americans and Canadians, not Mohawks.”

Asked outright if she recognized the authority of the court, Nancy Davis replied simply: “No.”

Katenies also addressed the court, while reiterating from the start that she did not recognize its jurisdiction, and pointedly refused to accept all charges, declining to have them read to her. When the court clerk tried to swear her in, Katenies stated: “I can only tell what I know.”

Katenies emphasized that she continues to demand that the courts address the jurisdiction question; that is, under what authority can colonial Canadian courts, agencies or officials claim to have jurisdiction over sovereign Mohawks. She stated forcefully: “I’m a passionate person, I’m a mother and I’m a grandmother. But, I’ve had no respect. No one has looked at what I’ve put forward.”

Katenies already served the court with a Motion to Dismiss, and invoked the jurisdiction question, back on January 18, 2007, almost one-and-a-half years ago. Her complete motion is linked HERE.

Under cross-examination, Katenies was asked by the Crown lawyer if she would accept paying a cash bond; she replied: “That would be extortion at this point because jurisdiction has not been dealt with.” She added: “I don’t see why you should incarcerate me and beat me into submission without answering my question.”

She threw the accusation of contempt back at the Crown, stating: “It is [your law] and your constitution that you keep talking about. Why do you continue to ignore me and our people, who have our own land and constitution?”

In his final submissions, the Crown argued that Katenies “has nothing but complete disdain for the laws of these courts.” He also made the somewhat obvious point: “Quite frankly, your worship, both mother and daughter don’t recognize our jurisdiction.”

He asked the court to keep Katenies in custody, adding: “She’s not interested in appearing in court and she doesn’t recognize us.”

Nonetheless, the presiding Justice-of-the-Peace, Ms. Leblanc, decided to release Katenies under some basic conditions: that Katenies reside with her mother and notify the Akwesasne police of any change of address (Katenies has lived with her mother for the past 8 years, since the passing of her father): that her mother post a surety (ie. a $1000 bond without any deposit); and that Katenies appear in court or designate counsel to appear in court for her. Her next court date was set for July 14, 2008 at 9am at Cornwall’s Superior Court.

Both Kahentinehta and Katenies, despite the brutal attack on them by CBSA officials, maintain their defiance and vow to continue to challenge the jurisdiction of the courts and border officials.

— reported by Nazila & Jaggi, members of No One Is Illegal-Montreal
info: or 514-848-7583

For further background and context:

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