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By Dr. John Bacher
The terrible way of organized crime disguised by the rhetoric of
the Warrior's Society, which peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s in
Iroquois country, had its roots in the assault on the lands held sacred by
native people through the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway during
This was a decade in which basic political rights, such
as the vote, were denied to native Canadians, which crippled their voices
to protest the assault suddenly unleashed on their ancestral lands.
The assault on the Seaway was combined with the other invasion of
other Iroquois lands. This included the preliminary Oka Golf course and
the construction of dams, which flooded much of the New York State
reservations of the Tuscarora and Seneca; including the Cold Spring
Longhouse from which emerged the sacred message of the peace prophet,
The assaults on the earth in the homeland of
Iroquois launched a complex and complimentary toxic brew of hatred, deadly
chemicals, polluted waters, violence, racism, corruption and despair. Once
again, war and terror came to a land that had not seen violent political
conflict since the Saskatchewan Metis Rebellion of the 1880s.
Turning the turbulent St. Lawrence into a canalized channel for
ocean commerce was pushed forward by right wing Republicans prominent in
the presidential administration of Dwight Eisenhower.
business tycoons influential today in the U.S. presidential administration
of George Bush are trying to further expand the Seaway to larger ships,
for the same narrow interests of the polluting coal, automobile and steel
They remain blind to the widespread contamination this would cause
through the introduction of more exotic marine species and the destruction
of islands and shoals by dredging and explosions.
The 1950s Seaway
scheme was born out of another tragic episode: the ecocidal invasion of
the Innu homeland, Nitasssinan. Until this decade, the homeland of the
Innu of Quebec and Labrador remained pristine wild lands, where these
people were able to continue to live through a traditional subsistence
economy, respectful of the vast herds of caribou that teemed their land.
Then an industrial assault suddenly appeared in a virulent form
through iron ore mines, since abandoned, in the interior of Quebec and
Labrador. These were serviced through a new train line to the port of Sept
Isles blasted through old growth boreal forests. The main reason for the
construction of the Seaway was to get iron - marginally cheaply for a few
decades - from Sept Isles to steel refineries in Ohio.
short-term steel industry profits, enormous harm was done to the earth
during an era when native Canadians could not vote and environmental
assessment legislation did not exist. The greed of a few well-placed
plutocrats in the Republican Eisenhower Administration devastated the
traditional native subsistence economy based on fishing.
abundance of marine life had nourished Mohawk communities along the St.
Lawrence for more than a thousand years, since the valley had been part of
Iroquois territory from time immemorial. When Jacques Cartier arrived at
what is now Quebec City he found a large Iroquois community numbering in
the thousands. The plagues brought about by Europeans compelled the
Mohawks to retreat to the central New York area until they had regained
sufficient population to return to their ancestral territories.
Organized crime lays roots
One of the leading and courageous
foes of the drift to organized crime is Kanentiio, a Mohawk journalist and
author, more widely known as Doug George, who for many years braved the
gunfire of the Warrior's Society and their organized crime allies.
Despite bearing the brunt of considerable hostility from these
elements, involving serious threats on his life, and a period of
imprisonment from a trumped up charge manipulated by the Quebec
government's of dam building maniac, Robert Bourassa, George has no
hesitation in tracing their origins to the greedy devastation of the St.
Lawrence for the Seaway's construction.
In his book Iroquois
Culture and Commentary, published by Clear Light Press in 2000, George
describes the great bounty of the St. Lawrence before the coming of the
Seaway. Before its completion on the dark day of April 25, 1959, he
"A family could do well on the river. Like the lifeblood
of our mother, it provided all one needed to survive. The rapids scoured
the water clean so that when the river finally slowed at Akwesasne, it was
a shimmering green. The turbulence brought a rush of rich oxygen into the
Species of fish such as sturgeon, walleye, northern pike, trout and
salmon took to the rich beds with excitement. When the ice surrendered in
defiant, crashing roars in the spring, the fish began to run, spawning by
the millions. A family working together, with gill nets and spears, could
catch enough bullheads in two weeks to care of their financial needs for a
George stresses that the problems caused by the drowning of
the St. Lawrence rapids causing former fish breeding ground to be choked
with weeds, were compounded by the toxic contamination unleashed by new
industries that located in the region to take advantage of heap hydro
"Powerful, arrogant and flush with cash, companies such as
Reynolds Aluminum, the Aluminum Company of America, Domtar, Courtland
Textiles, and General Motors built new factories or expanded old ones
along the St. Lawrence. Employing thousands of workers in upstate New
York, they became virtual lords of the St. Lawrence."
contamination from an aluminum refinery in Massena, New York, resulted in
the demise of cattle farming. After Mohawk fish consumption was reduced by
pollution, the rate of adult-diabetes began to soar. Captured fish became
too toxic to use for garden fertilizer.
The slow process of
environmental litigation and cleanup eventually revealed some of the scope
of corporate abuse of the St. Lawrence. The Alcoa refinery eventually
received a $3.75 million fine, the largest criminal penalty ever assessed
in the history of the United States, for a hazardous waste violation. A
foundry of General Motors in Massesna was convicted of illegally dumping
31,000 tons of PCB contaminated waste.
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