Kahnawake members occupy site on Montreal's South Shore after housing development approved

On July 1, while Indigenous groups and supporters across Canada donned orange shirts across the country drawing attention to the tragic legacy of residential schools, a community members from the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake on Montreal's South Shore was setting up camp in a wooded area to halt a proposed housing development from the neighbouring municipality of Chateauguay.

Members from the Kanien'kehá:ka Nation at Kahnawà:ke, the traditional government in the community, are camping along the Old Chateauguay Road (OCR) where a recent zoning change cleared the way to build 290 homes in March.

"The Kanien'kehá:ka Nation at Kahnawà:ke is opposed to this project as it further usurps lands that rightfully belong to Kahnawà:ke," a news release from the nation office signed by the three clan chiefs reads. "Moreover, the development would cause disruption and disharmony being so close to our community and will flood the OCR with unwanted traffic from Chateauguay."

The OCR is a two-lane road that leads from Chateauguay through Kahnawake territory ending in the heart of the community. It can be used to connect to the main highways that lead to the Honore-Mercier Bridge and into Montreal.

The nation office adds that Kahnawake is currently facing a housing shortage and finite land base that "will not be able to accommodate its growing population in the near future, and yet Chateauguay continues to chip away at our much-needed lands."

The nation office is not affiliated with the elected Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK), but both bodies agree that no development should happen on the land in question.

"We've had several discussions over the course of the past two years with the mayor on this specific topic," said MCK Chief Mike Delisle. "He's received a notice in writing that we have a formal objection to it."

Chateauguay Mayor Pierre-Paul Routhier did not respond to CTV requests for comment.

Delisle said newly elected Council Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer will soon meet with the mayor to further discuss the matter. Previous media reports from the community's Eastern Door newspaper quote the mayor as saying that no permits have been issued to build.

TRADITIONAL TERRITORY BEING OCCUPIED

The nation office said in its release that it considers the community's traditional territory as extending to the Wolf River, which is referred to on current maps as the Chateauguay River.

"An estimated nine-square mile zone that has been wrongfully occupied by Chateauguay," reads the release.

Delisle added that the land in question is contiguous to land in a long-standing grievance between Kahnawake and Canada known as the Seigneury of Sault St. Louis dating back to 1680 that includes approximately 45,000 acres.

"It's still within a disputed area of Seigneury grievance," said Delise. "We're pushing Canada and Quebec to step in and do something about it."

The nation said the rezoning and potential development is a problem and that other surrounding communities should take note.

"The Kanien'kehá:ka Nation at Kahnawà:ke calls upon the municipality of Chateauguay to leave these lands alone," the release reads. "Moreover the Kanien'kehá:ka Nation at Kahnawá:ke hereby cautions all surrounding municipalities that development in the larger territory of Kahnawake is being monitored by the Longhouse and can be the target of a campaign to stop development in the interest of environmental protection and as an act of self-determination to protect our territorial integrity." 

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