2013 Akwesasne Year in Review

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December 2012 – A federal search warrant raid on Dec. 18 on the closed Three Feathers Class II Casino resulted in the arrest of the Wolf Clan Representative from the Akwesasne Men’s Council. The raid and arrests of two other Akwesasne men left many questions for Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne clan members. A group of young men from this longhouse began to pass out leaflets at the four corners intersection near the Hogansburg post office in support of the Idle No More Movement, as Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s protest fast continued in Ottawa. Members of the Akwesasne Men’s Council had been taking cut firewood and food to her camp in support of her dedicated efforts

January 2013 – The leafleting young men from the longhouse spread word of an Akwesasne bridge / border crossing via social media. The International Bridge between Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York was closed by 1500 marchers, led by local Idle No More organizers. The temperature during the march was a frosty 15 F. / -9 C. Many children wrapped in blankets made the march a display of family unity. March organizers characterized the strong Akwesasne community support as an outpouring of generations of frustration on a number of political issues.

February 2013 – Frustration over the bridge closure led to stern comments by surrounding New York municipality leadership, pertaining to other rumored International Bridge closings. An exchange of words began over the border crossing efforts between the Massena village mayor and township supervisor, and the St. Regis Tribal Council. A boycott of Massena businesses by Akwesasne residents was suggested in one commentary. The Three Feathers Casino trial was postponed for the first time.

March 2013 – A series of longhouse clan meetings was held to discuss threats to the historic tobacco trade in Akwesasne. Wampum runners and Akwesasne Men’s Council representatives were sent out by the Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne to surrounding Kanienkehaka reserves. A letter from the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives enforcement agency was received by some Akwesasne residents, alleging an April 1 deadline for on-reserve cigarette manufacturer compliance. The letter created a sense of fear and intimidation among these Akwesasne residents. A regional meeting was held at the longhouse on the topic of Onkwehon:we economic development. One of the young men from the leaflet team was arrested at gunpoint by tribal police, charged with crimes of moral turpitude.

April 2013 – Some local tobacco manufacturers ceased operations, resulting in more unemployed, skilled workers from the local economy. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the selected remediation plan for the PCB polluted Grasse River to the outrage of Akwesasne residents.

May 2013 – The Three Feathers Casino trial was postponed for a second time. A second International Bridge crossing was held, sponsored by the Mohawk Nation longhouse. The crossing by 750 marchers, including Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne clan members, was widely covered in the media. The reason for this march was in part due to the confiscation of band member vehicles by the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) due to non-reporting trips to Cornwall Island (Kawehnoke). A notification from the Grand Council of the Iroquois Confederacy, based in Onondaga, which sanctioned the border crossing, called out elected tribal and band councils. The notification forbade elected governments from having any involvement in Iroquois land issues.

June 2013 – The annual St. Regis Tribal Council election process was disrupted by allegations of election impropriety against the tribal council chief running for re-election. The tribal election board heard an appeal by a tribal chief candidate challenger. A second tribal election was announced.

July 2013 – The second tribal election was held. The challenger who brought the appeal to the first election outcome was elected to office. Yet another election appeal was filed but the tribal election board dismissed the complaint and certified the election.

August 2013 – A human rights tribunal involving the CBSA continued hearings in Cornwall, Ontario over a civil rights lawsuit filed by a Kanienkehaka woman. The pregnant woman had been exposed to x-rays while remaining in her vehicle during a secondary inspection by CBSA personnel. An important missing piece of video evidence was located by the CBSA for use in the tribunal.

September 2013 – A federal police raid against heroin dealers in Massena, New York was aided by two tribal police departments. Three helicopters were used in the operation, prompting concern from some Akwesasne residents that the raid was a dry run for a future Akwesasne anti-tobacco raid by the ATFE. The St. Regis Tribal Council was drawn into a controversy involving the Salmon River School District. A championship hockey coach who was recorded demeaning students from Akwesasne was initially fired but was then considered for rehiring. The fallout from the aborted rehiring efforts resulted in a school board member resigning amidst pressure from tribal leaders.

October 2013 – The Three Feathers Casino trial began in Albany, New York. The RCMP raid against the Mi’kmaq shale oil fracking protest camp at Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick resulted in arrests on October 17th. Protest watch fires in support of the arrested protesters were lit and manned in Akwesasne. Members of these peoples’ fires began to journey to Elsipogtog in a continuing show of unity.

November 2013 – A South Carolina tobacco farmer was convicted in federal court of money laundering at the tribal Class II Mohawk Bingo Palace. He was also convicted of illegally manufacturing over 13 million cigarettes bound for sale in Canada. The trial revealed the use of undercover informants within the Akwesasne tobacco trade.

December 2013 – The Three Feathers Casino trial ended in a not guilty jury verdict for three defendants; two other defendants still face federal charges of illegally operating a casino and possessing gambling devices. A federal judge in the Northern District Court of New York ordered an Akwesasne smoke shop to stop selling alleged counterfeit Marlboro brand cigarettes. An undercover purchasing operation was conducted by Altria (owner of Marlboro) at the Raquette Point gas station, in conjunction with the criminal complaint. The peoples’ fires in Akwesasne were concluded after shale oil fracking was discontinued in New Brunswick.

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