Legacy of the summer of 1990 Oka crisis

[This post, to which I’ve appended a link to a relevant Nov. 19, 2021 CBC article, was originally uploaded to the Preserved Stories website on May 17, 2014.]

I became interested in learning about the Oka crisis after I began reading about the history of the community – Cartierville – in Montreal where I grew up, after arriving in Canada at the age of five.

As I’ve noted in a previous post, I’ve learned in my recent online research that Cartierville, named after George-Etienne Cartier, “traces its [European] history to the fortified Sault-au-Récollet settlement [at the eastern end of Ahuntsic-Cartierville], which was established by the Sulpicians in 1696.”

I also learned that:

In 1716 the French Crown granted a large parcel of land to the Mohawk north of the Ottawa River, and a smaller adjacent grant to the Sulpicians. The latter had the grant changed so that all the land was in their name, depriving the Mohawk of their own place.

Please refer to the above-noted previous post for the bibliographical references on which these quotations are based.

First Person Plural (2011)

Many resources are available at the Toronto Public Library concerned with the Oka crisis.

All of the available resources that I’ve encountered are of interest.

To date, I’ve been particularly impressed with a 2011 study by Sophie McCall entitled First Person Plural: Aboriginal Storytelling and the Ethics of Collaborative Authorship.

A blurb for the book at the Toronto Public Library website notes:

Told-to narratives, or collaboratively produced texts by Aboriginal storytellers and (usually) non-Aboriginal writers, often confound traditional literary understandings of voice and authorship. In this innovative exploration, these unique narratives are not romanticized as unmediated translations of oral documents, nor are they dismissed as corruptions of original works. Rather, the approach emphasizes the interpenetration of authorship and collaboration. Discussing a wide range of told-to narratives, including ethnography, recorded (auto)biography, testimonial life narrative, documentary, myth, legend, and song, Sophie McCall explores the multifaceted implications of the choices that editors, translators, narrators, and filmmakers make as they channel these narratives into new forms. Focused on the 1990s, when debates over voice and representation were particularly explosive, this comprehensive study examines collaboratively produced texts in conjunction with key political events that have shaped the struggle for Aboriginal rights in Canada. Emphasizing the scope rather than the limits of the told-to narrative, McCall considers how Aboriginal voices have been represented in a range of forums such as public inquiries, commissioners’ reports, and land claims court cases. A captivating inquiry, First Person Plural offers a vital, interdisciplinary discussion of how told-to narratives contribute to larger debates about Indigenous voice and literary and political sovereignty.

Oka: A Convergence of Cultures and the Canadian Forces (2008)

A second work that has equally held my interest, among the many resources related to Oka that I’ve looked at to date, is Oka: A Convergence of Cultures and the Canadian Forces (2008).

A summary (accessed around May 2014; the link is no longer available) of the book at Public Safety Canada reads:

Based on historical and primary sources, including interviews and government documents secured through the Access to Information Act, this book dispels the myth and disinformation surrounding the causes and events of the Oka Crisis. The author highlights the relevance of Oka, as an integral part of Canadian history, towards the formation of government policy and the active participation of [I]indigenous Canadians in their ongoing effort to shape and alter their social and political realities within Canada and their resistance to cultural assimilation. This study also explores one of the most controversial and volatile Canadian Forces internal security operation of the twentieth century.


The latter study, which includes an overview of the early history of Oka, adds to my understanding of the relationship between the Sulpicians and the First Nations. A related topic, also of interest, concerns the relationship between the Sulpicians and George-Etienne Cartier. The latter topic is discussed in a review (see link in previous sentence) of two books about Cartier.

Much has been written and asserted about the Oka crisis and related matters.

The topic is of interest – to me personally, among other people – because any discussion related to Oka is concerned with a wider, fundamental, and pertinent question.

The question is: When you tell a story, whose story are you telling?


Thomas King in The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (2012) shares a First Nations perspective (pp. 233-236) concerning the Oka crisis. I owe thanks to Scott Munro for renewing my interest in the book. I had borrowed it previously, from the Toronto Public Library, and have recently been reading it again.

A June 17, 2015 CBC article (a link is no longer available) is entitled: Documentary ‘Trick or Treaty’ aims to tell the true story of Canada’s past.”

A June 18, 2015 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Manitoba formally apologizes for mass adoption of [A]boriginal children.”

A July 11, 2015 CBC article is entitled: Oka Crisis: Mohawk claim to pine forest never resolved: Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon vows he and Oka mayor will declare a joint moratorium on future projects.”

Also of interest: Extremely Violent Societies: Mass Violence in the Twentieth Century (2010).

Click here to watch The Oka Legacy (Nov. 19, 2015 CBC video) >

A Feb. 2, 2016 New York Times article is entitled: “Fighting ‘Erasure'”.

An April 15, 2016 Globe and Mail article by Bob Rae is entitled: “Attawapiskat is not alone: Suicide crisis is national problem.”

An Aug. 10, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Popular theory on how humans populated North America can’t be right, study shows.”

An Aug. 21, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “‘Trained our entire lives to ignore’: Gord Downie’s call to action for Indigenous in the North: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised because ‘he cares about the people way up north'”.

An Aug. 22, 2016 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Sixties Scoop survivors’ day in court finally arrives Tuesday: Indigenous Canadians taken from their homes and their culture suing Ottawa, decades later, over the federal government’s duty to them.”

A Sept. 27, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Prince William gets lesson in colonialism, cultural genocide at Black Rod ceremony: ‘The current Crown approach of deny and delay cannot continue,’ Grand Chief Ed John tells Prince William.”

A July 11, 2017 CBC article is entitled: “The Oka Crisis was supposed to be a wake-up call. Little has changed in 27 years: The land in dispute? It’s still in the hands of Oka. Mohawk land — illegally taken.”

2 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    A Nov. 19, 2021 CBC article is entitled: “How the legacy of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples lives on, 25 years later: While its recommendations were largely ignored, the sweeping report had profound impact in legal community.”

    An excerpt reads:

    Over four years, the commission travelled to 96 communities and held 178 days of public hearings to produce a comprehensive five-volume report that essentially outlined a 20-year roadmap for bettering the lives of Indigenous people in Canada.

    And the cost of peace — as Chartrand says the government viewed it — was a recommendation for a $30-billion investment in Indigenous communities over a 20-year span.

    The commissioners argued investing this money immediately to eliminate gaps in areas like education, health care, nation-building, justice and child care would actually save the federal government money 20 years down the road.

    In other words, sovereign, healthy communities would cost a whole lot less due to the initial, upfront investment.

    But that $30-billion figure, along with the constitutional changes needed to achieve some of the reforms, led the government to reject the funding’s implementation within an hour of the report being tabled.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *