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Mohawks won’t block Massena crossing during protests today


MASSENA — Canada-wide demonstrations are planned today by those concerned about Indian sovereignty, but regional tribal leaders pledged not to block the Massena-Cornwall International bridge, as was done earlier this month.

In a joint release, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs announced that today’s “Day of Action” for Idle No More protesters would not include a repeat of the Jan. 5 demonstration that shut down the border crossing in response to a Canadian federal budget bill that many tribal leaders believe would violate their treaty rights.

“The leadership of Akwesasne also decided Jan. 14 that it is best to keep the bridge open at this time while discussion continues between national First Nations leadership and the Prime Minister’s office as well as to support planned community events,” the statement read.

Those community events include activities scheduled in connection with Mid-Winter ceremonies, a week long rite of annual spiritual renewal starting today at the Mohawk Nation Longhouse.

At issue in the demonstrations is Bill C-45, a Canadian federal budget bill that reduces some environmental protections and would allow private developers to buy tribal land.

According to the joint statement, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has requested the next few weeks to respond to proposals brought forth by Canada’s First Nations Chiefs during a Jan. 11 meeting.

Border crossing rights, land claims procedures and native education are three key points raised by Akwesasne leadership.

Already this morning, Canadian media outlets are reporting Idle No More blockades planned to take place elsewhere across Canada, from rail lines in Winnipeg to the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor and a busy highway in Niagara Falls.

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