Kahnawake 'repulsed' by Quebec's response to Montreal Canadiens' land acknowledgement

An Indigenous land acknowledgement from the Montreal Canadiens last week sent shockwaves through Quebec, with bipartisan backlash from politicians who called the Habs' statement false. 

On Thursday, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake wrote, in a scathing public statement, it was "repulsed by Quebec’s attempt to politicize a genuine reconciliatory action."

The story began last Saturday, when the Canadiens performed their first territorial acknowledgement before puck drop.

For those who don't know, a land acknowledgement is a statement, usually spoken or displayed before a public event, which identifies which Indigenous nation was present on the land before Europeans arrived. 

As of last Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens will perform the acknowledgement before each home game, which states Quebec was founded on unceded territory. "Unceded" means the Indigenous people who were here before Europeans arrived never signed the land away.  

"The Montreal Canadiens wish to acknowledge the Kanien'kehá:ka, also known as the Mohawk Nation, for their hospitality on this traditional and unceded territory where we are gathered today," reads the statement, first delivered by announcer Michel Lacroix last week. 

Quebec's Indigenous Affaires Minister Ian Lafrenière called the acknowledgement a "mistake" during a press scrum on Wednesday, adding it's unclear which Indigenous community was first to live in the area now known as Montreal. 

"It's important to recognize that the First Nations were here before us and that we live together, but now we're getting into a debate between historians who don't agree, so maybe it was a mistake."

I’m elated to see the response from the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Please share!! https://t.co/X50EKpLOsH

— Nakuset S (@NakusetS) October 22, 2021

Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said "if it is historically wrong to say that this is unceded Mohawk territory, I am sorry, but the truth is important. Rigour, facts matter."

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) supported the acknowledgement, calling it "an example of true reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous Peoples" in a statement issued Thursday. 

However, it said, "the media commentary from Quebec insist that it may be a mistake to refer to specific nations when acknowledging the people to which the unceded territory belongs."

The council invited politicians to speak with Kahnawake leaders to better understand their relationship to the land beneath Montreal. 

“When we talk about land, it is an essential part of who we are as Kanien’kehá:ka,” said Ohén:ton Í:iente ne Ratitsénhaienhs (grand chief) Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer. 

"Opinionated commentary that challenge and discredit our presence are not only insulting, they are taken as displaced attacks on our existence,” she said. 

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