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A picture taken during the Oka Crisis on July 11, 1990. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press) "Just go in there and exterminate them like the rats they are."

"What are we waiting for? Let’s get rid of them."

"Put them all in the Big O and blow it up."

I heard these words from random non-Natives as a 14-year-old boy, 27 years ago to the day. I feel a mixture of pride, anger, sadness and resolve when I think of that fateful summer, and what went on for those 78 days in Kanesatake: the Oka Crisis.

The dispute was over land, over which the mayor back in 1990 wanted to build a golf course. On July 11, the Sûreté du Québec — Québec’s provincial police force — was called in, guns blazing.

I remember hearing the first-hand account from my father, who was in the famed Pines that morning, where it all unfolded. He was manning the ambulance still owned by our family today. I remember looking out the window and seeing streams of cars heading down the road, five-and-a-half kilometres away, to help.

I witnessed my neighbour jumping in a car with other men, brandishing a rifle, prepared to fight.

The look on their faces was of defiance. If the fight was coming to us again, so be it. We wouldn’t back down.The police left that morning with their tails between their legs, as one of their own lay wounded. Cpl. Marcel Lemay later died, marking July 11 as a dark day for his Québécois family to mourn along with us.Under the Great Law of Peace — the basis for our Haudenosaunee Confederacy, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy — there are three key elements: peace, power and righteousness.The Great Law, which was established thousands of years ago, meant six of our Onkwehón:we () nations […]

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