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 the 1950s.
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 Senecal; including the Cold Spring Longhouse from which emerged the sacred message of the peace prophet, Handsome Lake.
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.
Similar 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 industries.
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.
For 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.
An 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 recalls:
“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 waters.
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 year.”
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 power.
“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.”
Fluoride 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.
Polluted environment leads to Society
The various forms of environmental disruption caused by the Seaway would sow the seeds of the Warriors Society in complex ways. It both undermined the traditional subsistence economy and faith in the integrity of the Canadian justice system.
An image emerged of Iroquois people having to use violent methods to escape their polluted environment, a belief that first emerged in Kahnawake.
The Mohawk community of Kahnawake, surrounded by the suburbs of Montreal, was also devastated by the Seaway. Here 1,260 acres were lost through the construction of a new canal channel, although for an expense of an additional $2 million, these lands guaranteed by sacred treaties could have been avoided through constructing a canal away from the shore.
One of the Kahnawake leaders, who worked the hardest to defeat the Seaway’s assault on Kahnawake, was artist and writer Louis Hall. He worked closely in courtroom battles with an able Jewish lawyer, Omar Z. Ghobashy, a prominent Egyptian civil servant before the Nasserist revolution.
Ghobashy persuaded Hall to adopt the fighting model of Israel, where a relatively few well armed committed armed zealots could form an army that successfully returned to the Jewish nation some of their ancestral lands that had been seized in the past by Arabs (although they were heavily outnumbered in the Middle East).
Hall dreamed of creating a native Warrior Society. He hoped it would use armed might to return some of their land stolen by whites who built such monstrous projects as the Seaway, to earth respecting native Americans.
Hall was like many in Kahnawake, disillusioned with the Canadian justice system from its inability to protect their community from the destruction of the Seaway. He mocked and ridiculed the peace orientated confederacy elders who had been able to stop through nonviolent methods such assaults on their lands as the Kinzua dam, which flooded away the Cold Spring Longhouse.
At the same time Hall was planning the formation of the Warriors Society, in nearby Montreal, the FLQ was demonstrating the explosive impact of terrorism to get publicity for various injustices faced by French Canadians.
On August 22, 1973 an FLQ bomb exploded near Kahanwake on a nearby CPR railway bridge, closing Seaway traffic for several hours. A huge FLQ proclamation was painted in red overlooking Kahanwake. Hall would mimic the Quebec separatists in their fierce determination of those who disagreed with his aims as “traitors.”
Hall’s determination to build an armed Warrior Society, which would wrest territory for a homeland for native Americans like the exiled European Jews carved Israel out of predominately Arab Palestine, was in keeping with fashionable justifications for armed conflict in the 1960s and 1970s among much of the political extreme left in North America and Europe.
Since the Seaway encouraged many to believe in such an armed struggle to obtain land in a clean environment away from polluting industries, many native Americans from around the continent flocked to his cause to join the Warrior Society after it was formed in 1971.
Natives flock to Society
One important figure in the early Warrior Society was a Shawnee native from Oklahoma named Richard “Cartoon” Alford, a veteran of the occupation of Wounded Knee, as well as the co-founder of the Oklahoma chapter of the American Indian Movement. AIM was founded in 1969 and was an expression of the struggle for social justice manifested in the civil rights movement.
Cartoon was a direct descendent of the famed Shawnee leader Tecumseh. When he was asked to go to Kahnawake in the fall of 1973 to assist in the training of the young men, he did so without hesitation. In time, he would be asked to accept Mohawk citizenship while carrying the Turtle Clan name Tronnekwe.
While other armed struggle movements for social justice in North America such as the Black Panthers, the Weathermen and the FLQ made little headway, for more than a decade Hall’s Warriors were able to achieve some of their goals.
A major victory took place on May 13, 1974, when the Warrior Society seized at gunpoint a 612 acre site in Adirondack State Park in New York at Moss Lake, at an old girl’s scout camp on Moss Lake. The camp was renamed as the Mohawk community of Ganiekeh or “place of the people of the flint.”
Cartoon successfully organized Ganiehkeh’s defense against New York state police. More than 300 natives from across North America journeyed to the camp, some well equipped with weapons. Such armed strength resulted in a 1977 agreement between the Warriors and New York State (negotiated by Mario Cuomo, then New York’s Secretary of State) to move Gainekeh to the more northerly Altona corner of the Adirondacks, a few miles south of the Canadian border.
Community relations were smoothed by Christian ministers, who viewed the Mohawks, similarly to the Jews, returning to their sacred ancestral lands. Under an agreement with New York State, the community was given control over a 698-acre settlement site, and the 5,000 acre Macomb Reforestation area was dedicated to their use for subsistence use.
New community prospers
Under leaders such as Cartoon, Ganiehkeh was able to prosper. It was able to come so close to Iroquoian ideals of being a drug and alcohol free community that it became for several years a cherished place for native Americans to undergo rehabilitation for substance abuse. The community kept cattle and chickens, raised and sold rabbits and operated a small sawmill.
In 1981 a craft store was opened. Under an agreement with the Miner Center of New York State, a program of maple syrup production was developed. Although such subsistence activities were commonly combined with ironwork for employment, this pattern had been long been customary in Iroquois communities.
Ganienkeh also provided an important point to many young Iroquois; that the direct assertion of aboriginal land claims and treaty rights could force New York to concede criminal, civil and administrative victory over native people. This victory would have some unexpected consequences.
Originally conceived for the high ideals of living in a clean environment, it would unexpectedly open the door to commercial gambling, cross border smuggling, and the rise of an “entrepreneurial” class among the Iroquois that would in time, seek to undermine the authority of each and every Native government.
Society corrupts itself
In the early 1980s Ganienkeh had realized some of Hall’s dreams for the creation of a drug and pollution free haven for the Iroquois in the relatively clean environment of New York’s Adirondacks.
It was soon destined however to change into a center for organized crime, causing its founder Cartoon, to eventually lead a Mohawk police action against the remaining Warriors he formerly commanded at a critical standoff at Akwesasne.
The brave Oneida journalist and police investigator, Jim Moses, has traced the major shift in the nature of the Warrior Society, to the Racquette Point incident of 1980 describing it as: “The last time the Mohawk Warrior’s Society acted from a purely altruistic motive before the movement corrupted itself.”
The Racquette Point standoff erupted over a minor incident concerning the U.S. St. Regis Band Council’s efforts to cut trees for the construction of a fence around the reservation. The Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs (the traditional government at Akwesasne) interpreted this as an abandonment of Mohawk land claims outside of reserve boundaries.
The Mohawk Nation Council (the Longhouse people) refused to
permit the formation of a “warrior society” at Akwesasne even if there were individuals who referred to themselves as such.
The Racquette Point incident (an almost year long armed standoff) created a law enforcement vacuum, which presented a few opportunistic Mohawks with the change of a lifetime. The international border was open for business.
The resulting smuggling activities would draw the Warriors Society into the destructive vortex of organized crime. It would also result in a conflict with the traditional adherents of the Longhouse and the Confederacy that had been originally sympathetic to it.
The most important factor was that the incident promoted a need for guns, which would be exploited by criminals associated with organized crime.
During the Raquette point siege, individuals connected to organized crime offered weapons to the Warriors. Moses found these gunrunners, with much experience as mob connected thugs, had “extensive connections to the underworld in Chicago and Detroit” and had “very sinister” reputations.
Shady alliances form
The new organized crime connections would be exacerbated in their dangers by other new developments, most critically in 1982 after a close vote of 325 to 307 conducted by the U.S. St. Regis Tribal Council, after the successful nonviolent resolution of the Racquette Point incident. The close vote resulted in the dissolution of the American Mohawk police force.
This situation would last 15 years, until it was finally remedied as part of the coordinated approach to the problem of organized crime long advocated in vain by courageous voices like Jim Moses.
Four Mohawk communities were now straddled near the Canadian-U.S. border, with two, American St. Regis and Ganienkeh, being no police zones. These communities are only within a half hour drive of each other.
The Warrior’s birthplace, Kahnawake, surrounded by Montreal, provides a good location to sell such contraband goods as tax-free cigarettes, alcohol and illegal drugs on a massive scale.
What made the border situation so explosive for the corruption of the Warrior Society were new sinister and cynical political developments by right wing political forces in the United States, hostile to the earth protecting agendas of the allied environmental and native movements.
These consciously sought to cut federal expenditures on native programs, have native communities fund their economies through gambling and exploit native governance as a weak link to undercut public efforts to curb organized crime.
Since the alliance between greens and natives promised a new form of people’s power, threatening to big polluting corporations, corrupt conservative strategists in the Regan and Nixon administrations forged an alliance with opportunistic native entrepreneurs, who were environmental outlaws, with organized crime.
A key architect of the destructive, cynical policy to use native governance to facilitate organized crime in the early 1980s was the late Stephen Henntington Whidden, who had earlier served as legal counsel in the corrupt Presidential administration of Richard Nixon.
Whidden, a Harvard University trained lawyer in 1979, was serving as solicitor for a Seminole nation when it clashed with state authorities over the installation of poker and video slot machines in a bingo hall in Hollywood, near Fort Lauderdale.
Whidden aggressively encouraged the Seminole nation to seek commercial advantages by undertaking various activities, including gambling, which were prohibited by Florida state law. Investigations by the California Department of Justice would reveal that Whidden’s schemes with the Seminoles were part of an effort financed by such pillars of organized crime as the Genoveses, the family of Sebastian Larocca in Pittsburgh and the key financial wizard of Mafia gangs, Meyer Lanksy.
More than a few Iroquois watched the Florida events closely so when the Seminoles won their legal fight against the state to operate commercial bingo halls, similar ventures sprouted up in Akwesasne, Oneida, Cattaraugus and Gagienkeh. Each gambling venture was based on the assertion of Iroquois sovereignty extracted from the 1973 Moss Lake occupation; only this time the issue would be economic rather than territorial.
Illegal gambling, as defined by the traditional leaders of the Confederacy, would appear in Iroquois soon after the Racquette Point incident in Ganienkeh. Here, the community would follow the Seminoles and ignore state law regarding gambling, which established limits of $1,000 a prize for bingo.
This resulted in the establishment of the Sunrise Stakes Bingo Hall. Ganiekeh would soon pioneer in another activity unregulated by state law. This would be the establishment of gasoline stations that did not charge state tax.
The economic capitalists exploited the sovereignty struggles of the Confederacy in ways that defied the very laws the leadership was seeking to preserve, and without any tangible benefit to those aboriginal governments that were entrusted with the task of defending the collective rights of the people.
Loopholes enable gas and gambling commerce
The commercialization of Warrior activities to defend gasoline stations and gambling halls, resulted in criticism of the Warriors, from their former allies at the Racquette Point standoff, who adhered to the traditional Iroquois Confederacy, most notably, Doug George.
He viewed the proliferation of gasoline stations in various Iroquois communities, which were not subject to the same environmental controls imposed on similar off reserve enterprises, as a dangerous blight.
George deplores how to this day on a single mile stretch of U.S. route 37 through Akwesasne, “There are seventeen large gasoline stations dispensing millions of gallons of fuel each month. Very few of them have effective environmental controls, follow any kind of spillage guidelines, or are prepared to clean up the frequent overflows that have polluted the wells of many homes. The profits motive is supreme. The fuel-station owners treat any mention of natural law and its consequences as the whining of unrealistic Iroquois dwelling ‘in the mythical past’.”
In speaking to Tom Porter, a highly respected Mohawk elder and spiritual leader, he pointed out there is only one Iroquois community where the blight of cut rate cigarette stores, gasoline stations and other opportunistic commercial activities, which seek to exploit loopholes to avoid regulation and taxation has been halted. This is the traditional Iroquois capital of Onondaga, seat of the Confederacy government.
Onondaga has the strongest confederacy government of any Iroquois community, not faced, like other communities, by rival body imposed by U.S. or Canadian law.
Its investigations into the past activities of Warrior businesses, which were expelled from the community, indicate that there is likely a chain of toxic time bombs around various Warrior-protected businesses throughout Iroquois.
It was very difficult for the Onondaga government to close down the Warrior allied business that refused to recognize the authority of the Confederacy council.
Conflict centered around a gas station operated by Oliver Hill, who was organizer of the Iroquois Businessman’s Association. Hill’s establishment was subject to long blockades by organized by traditional Onondaga clan mothers.
Eventually, Hill’s gas station was demolished by the authority of the Confederacy council. This action was unfortunately denounced by the Canadian Alliance in Solidarity With Native People’s (CASNIP), which until its end in 1998, would continually endorse the most outrageous actions associated with the Warriors Society.
It tragically just repeated the justifications repeated by Louis Hall in his influential publication The Crisis, until his death, disorienting much of the native leadership across Canada about the dangers posed by the dual problems of the Warriors and organized crime.
After Hill’s gas station was shut down, it was discovered that its leaky pumps left a thick layer of gas stretching for 80,000 square feet. These 10,000 gallons of leaded fuel contaminated an aquifer that provided Onondaga residents with drinking water.
Warrior rhetoric became a device whereby any Iroquois businessman could attempt to escape community regulation through manipulating arguments around sovereignty, which instead of being vested in the institutions of Iroquois governments, became used to justify a variety of antisocial actions.
While such justifications had some basis in critiquing the actions of imposed band councils, they were also applied to the traditional confederacy – Louis Hall at one point even denouncing all of these revered spiritual leaders as “traitors” and condemning them to death.
This problem of disrespect for any legal authority was especially troublesome in Akwesasne since it disrupted attempts to regulate bars, which could not be enforced in the absence of a police force on the American side of the community.
Speakeasies recruit; cause deaths
Unregulated bars by the mid-1980s became seen as responsible for deaths resulting from high speed driving. The owners refused to close despite referendums held by councils on both sides of the border; one by a margin of 665 to 151.
One march to close the speakeasies resulted in a demonstration of 2,000 persons in a community of only 8,000 residents.
Despite massive protests, the bars that became a vehicle of recruitment into the worlds of Warrior activity and organized crime, remained open. An undercover police investigator, Carl Broeker, whose activities briefly lead him to be imprisoned on a makeshift smuggling island prison on St. Lawrence River island, spent some time in one such facility, which he described, according to Paul William Roberts and Norman Snider’s recent book Smokescreen, as a “dingy, desperate place, the kind of hard drinking sty where alcohol pours like gasoline on fire…Fathers and sons, brothers, friends and acquaintances knifed each other over a hostile word or a dubious look.”
In the decade between 1985 and 1995, the peak of the blight of the Warriors and organized crime, some 75 tribal members in Akwesasne would die violently or disappear. Most of these deaths involved conflict between criminal groups or accidents involving smuggling.
Violence was however, also involved in efforts to intimidate opponents of organized crime and the Warriors. Two newspapers edited by Doug George, Indian Times and Akwesasne Notes, would have their offices destroyed by arson in 1988 and 1989. Here they were housed in a fortress like concrete block structure on the Canadian side of Akwesasne, close to the police station, along with the Mohawk Radio station CKON. Its broadcasting cable was later cut to sabotage its broadcasts.
The social corrosion caused by the explosion of unregulated gambling casinos, cut rate cigarette stores and gas stations, and smuggling in various contraband items such as drugs, alcohol, guns and tobacco, accompanied by a variety of other criminal activities such as counterfeiting and money laundering, eventually resulted in the souring of many former Warrior leaders, most notably Cartoon.
He told investigators working with Jim Moses that his turning point came when he realized the Warriors were drug dealing and using “cocaine and high balls”, a potent mixture of cocaine and heroin.
This lead to his departure from Ganiekeh, in a manner akin to Christ’s angry reaction “among the moneychangers in the temple.”
The peak of power for the Warriors and their allied organized crime supporters took place between 1988 and 1994 when they controlled the St. Regis Tribal council. Critical to the control of the council was Chief Leo David Jacobs, who signed a gambling pact with New York State, which was eventually, in May 2002, ruled illegal by the courts.
He would eventually be convicted by the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute for running the St. Regis Tribal Council as a criminal enterprise.
Among those convicted with Jacobs was former New York State trooper, John Fountain, an example typical of the corrosive impact of the corruption of law enforcement, which contributed to the toleration of the Warriors by governments on both sides of the border for many years.
After his arrest, Jacobs admitted to taking kickbacks from Larry Miller, a Las Vegas-based businessman who had a slot machine business and extensive connections with organized crime.
Miller was a partner with Robert Tavano, former chair of the Niagara Falls New York Republican Party, who was convicted of stealing $400,000 from the county government.
As a result of a subsequent gambling investigation, it was revealed that Tavano had close connections with major Mafia czars such as local godfather, Stefano Magaddiono, and Hamilton crime boss, Johnny Papalia.
Tobacco Road Revisited
By Dr. John Bacher
Papalia acquired alcohol smuggled into Canada via Akwesasne with Warrior aid from out-of-state locations as far away as California and Oregon.
In 1994, this amounted to 600,000 cases, generating profits of $7.8 million, which were used to acquire casino sites. Jacobs confessed to taking $3,000 in kickbacks for every tractor trailer load of illegal goods Miller moved through Aksesasne.
Opponents of the Warrior protected businesses in Akwesasne after their repeated requests for the stationing of a Canadian-American police force had been rejected in a racist manner by the surrounding governments, especially that of New York State, resorted to blockades of roads leading to casinos.
They were established on March 23, 1990, with the support of the Canadian Mohawk police force and tribal council.
Gambling supporters tried to destroy the blockades even as they were being built. The resistance held, however. Women baked bread, cakes and pies to feed two hundred people who rotated in shifts around the clock. One leading gambling foe, Brian Cole, a prominent Mohawk environmentalist, withstood two beatings by gambling supporters on the blockade.
Faced with the loss of millions in revenues, by late April 1990, the Warriors began to escalate their violence.
On April 23, the North American Indian College was set on fire. Gas bombs were fired at blockades. A live hand grenade was tossed into a crowd in front of the Canadian Mohawk police station, as 15 Warriors lined up their cars. Several private homes were damaged by firebombs. The police station was later hit with 200 rounds of fire from unidentified men carrying AK-47 assault rifles.
During the evening of April 24, 1990, the blockades ended in an explosion of gunfire. Hundreds of rounds of automatic weapon fire were poured, parallel to the ground, on the blockades. Warriors at the time of this offensive were staggering and howling, apparently drunk and high on cocaine. Twenty cars of gambling foes were torched. The American side of Akwesasne became a no man’s land, rent by bursts of weapons fire.
On April 26, 1990, the Canadian Mohawk council prepared a mass evacuation. Within a few days some 2, 667 of the 3, 920 people on the Canadian side had fled, along with 1,000 of the 4,000 American residents. Nearly 2,000 refugees were sheltered in public facilities of the Transport Canada Training Institute in Cornwall. The gun battles at Akwesasne were the most intense since the Metis rebellion over a century ago.
As their foes fled, Warriors embarked on a reign of terror. Brian Cole was beaten with baseball bats, and forced to hide in the woods for 24 hours, until being able to escape to a hospital. The sons of three sub-chiefs of the Confederacy council were beaten when they went to Cole’s aid. Automatic weapon fire was aimed at the home of traditional sub-chief, Jake Swamp, and gambling foes Barbara and Barry Montour, the son of Art Montour, a key leader of the Warrior Society.
An action was taken by the Canadian Mohawk police force to prevent a Warrior takeover Akwesasne in April 1990. Despite the pleas of Mohawk cops, they were abandoned by every Canadian police agency leaving them no choice but to leave the reservation.
The only resistance to the complete takeover of Akwesasne-and subsequent control of the Mohawk nation itself-were a small group of 12 men defending the home of a Mohawk man in the Snye district of Akwesasne.
That home was the residence of Dave George, Jr. the brother of Doug George. From April 27 to April 30, the small band forced back repeated attempts by the heavily armed Warriors to overrun their position. On the evening of April 30 they were joined by two Canadian journalists who would witness 12 hours of almost continuous gunfire.
Providing tactical leadership was Cartoon (now Doug’s brother-in-law) and Ron Lazore, a former U.S. Marine and member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Police. George later recalled how, “Cartoon and Ron kept us going, because they were steady and knew what they were doing. We could have not survived without them.”
George said they were outnumbered 10-1 with gunshots coming at them from all four directions including the St. Lawrence River, making retreat impossible. He and Cartoon later compiled a list of the Warriors who were at the scene.
They identified Warriors from Akwesasne, Ganienkeh, Kahnawake and Oneida (they were also joined by a number of white and black men connected with gambling and smuggling operations. All organized for what they thought would be an easy victory.
Instead, the Mohawk men at the George residence received critical assistance on May 1, which enabled them to launch a frontal attack on the Warrior positions compelling that group to break and run.
The victory was however, soon completely overshadowed by the subsequent revelations of two deaths that had taken place sometime after the April 29 barricade assault. The victims were two Mohawks. Matthew Pyke, a long time anti-gambling activist was shot in his back at 6:30 pm on his way to join the George group.
Earlier that morning, JR Edwards, an apolitical resident, was shot when walking to his uncle’s home. Both deaths remained unsolved by the American and Canadian criminal justice systems.
No charges were ever laid in the death of Matthew Pyke. A friend, Bruce Roundpoint, helped to get Pyke to a hospital but was stopped at a Warrior roadblock, causing a critical delay in Pyke receiving medical aid. He would later die of his wounds a few hours later.
Evidence later gathered as a result of charges laid in connection with Edwards’ death point to efforts to manipulate an accidental death from massive rounds of gunfire. It was later revealed by pathology that Edwards’ body had been moved after his death. He originally fell forward on impact, rather than lying on his back (photographed by the press).
Following the two deaths, the Akwesasne reservation was finally occupied by the Canadian Army, the Ontario Provincial Police, the New York State Police and the Sûreté du Québec. This occupation by 500 police stopped the gunfire and encouraged refugees to return home.
Despite the massive police intervention, no charges were laid against any Warriors for the numerous extreme acts of violence they carried out in the past two years. Aware of their continued impunity, the Warriors harassed even the occupying police.
On June 16, Quebec police officers were forced to take cover after twenty shots were fired at one of their roadblocks. Two days later, New York state troopers narrowly escaped injury when a speeding van rammed two of their roadblocks.
Warriors drove back and forth in front of the home of the late Matthew Pyke’s parents screaming profanities. The homes of Jake Swamp and Doug George also became targets of random gunshots. No charges were laid in connection with any of these incidents.
Rather than charging Warriors for anything, Quebec police charged Doug George with the murder of JR Edwards – a move compared by Jim Moses to a pedestrian being charged after being struck by a drunk driver on the basis of accusations made by equally intoxicated passengers.
While the arrest fit a pattern of a cowardly refusal to challenge a still numerically superior combined Canadian-U.S. security force, it also points to the Quebec government’s long standing conflict with the environmental activist, Doug George. He was flown to Montreal for his incarceration in the personal plane of Premier Robert Bourassa.
Finger pointing and intimidation
An investigative reporter, who earlier was distinguished by being the only editor daring to publish through his newspaper, Indian Times, the secret subsidized contracts between Hydro Quebec and major industries, George was long a thorn in the side of the Quebec government.
His information was used by the Cree of northern Quebec as part of their campaign. The absurd and contemptible charges put one of Bourassa’s most effective environmental critics behind bars.
While Quebec police declined to take any Warriors into custody for questioning, George, his brother Dave, Ken Lazore and two Mohawk police officers, Steve Lazore and Roger Mitchell, were intensely interrogated for 12 hours and denied counsel despite repeated requests.
This detention caused the entire Mohawk police force to resign their commissions with the Sûreté du Québec, although retaining their Ontario credentials. Following the interrogation, Doug George was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He was imprisoned for ten days and released on $10,000 bail.
George was arrested on the basis of testimony by Ken Lazore, which he later recanted after three and a half months. Then he indicated that his statements had been read by Quebec police officers that pressured him into signing it.
He also revealed that Quebec police had threatened him during the 12 hour interrogation and denied his request for legal counsel eight times.
They told Lazore that he would never see his children again and would face a 25-year sentence unless he implicated George. Considerable pressure was also brought on Lazore by the Warriors to recant.
On October 23, 1990, an unknown gunman in a passing car fired at least 18 rounds of ammunition at his home from a machine gun.
The prosecution’s case collapsed on the third day of a preliminary hearing in Valleyfield, Quebec, which was held to determine if there was sufficient evidence to hold a trial.
In addition to Lazore’s repudiation of his statement, a ballistics expert testified that the bullets that killed Edwards could not be linked to rifles used by Lazore or George.
On November 1, 1990, Quebec judge, Pierre LaBerge, indicated that after reading the file the previous evening, he concluded that the evidence against George wouldn’t stand up in court. He ordered that since the case was so lacking in merit, that George should be released immediately.
A few months following the two deaths from gunfire in Akwesasne, another death from a firefight, involving a Quebec policeman, Marcel Lemay, took place in the Mohawk community of Kanehsatake.
Unlike the disputes over the activities of organized crime in Akwesasne, this involved the community’s attempt to protect a sacred pine forest and burial ground. An unarmed blockade against the golf course had been put in place on March 11, 1990, and had been established with the advice of the Alliance for Nonviolent Action, a Canadian peace group.
Doug George maintains the incident at Oka was in direct response to the Akwesasne crisis. He says the Warriors had lost tremendous face at Akwesasne as a result of their defeat and arrived at Oka in July 1990, uninvited by the community with their vehicles stocked with firearms and looking for a way to assert their power.
Such an action, George argues, was certain to provoke the Sûreté, which was angry over accusations of cowardice rising from its refusal to aide the Akwesasne Police. George says officer Lemay, who was to die at Oka after being shot by a Warrior, had been at Akwesasne.
Following the two deaths at Akwesasne, Warriors began to show up at the blockade in late June. On July 11, 1990, 100 outgunned Sûreté officers unleashed tear gas against the Warriors. The Sûreté quickly retreated after they encountered an unexpected barrage of bullets from the Warriors at the blockade, which lasted less than 30 seconds but left one police officer dead.
The violence at Oka resulted in sympathy blockades at Kahnawake, the most significant of which blocked the Mercier bridge, a major Montreal traffic artery.
The Oka Crisis
Aware of the Oka crisis’ potential to spread violence across Canada, the federal government moved swiftly to buy the disputed land on generous terms, spending $5.2 million for 39 hectares by early September.
Then all but 300 of Kanesatake’s 1,500 residents had become the second wave in 1990 to flee from Warrior terror.
Warriors in Kanesatake openly manipulated the prolonged armed standoff to legitimate organized crime activities. Not present during the fatal shooting, Akwesasne Warrior leader and casino operator, Loran Thompson, showed up the next day and made a rousing speech in a community gym.
Following the purchase of disputed land on July 27, Thompson again persuaded those taking part in the blockades to maintain them at high risk. Thompson knew if his various criminal activities were to continue he would need the cloak of sovereignty and the threat of violence.
An unexpected ally of the Warriors were members of the press, both domestic and foreign, who put aside their journalistic objectivity in a mad rush to label the outlaw group as “freedom fighters” waging war against an oppressive government.
Caught up in their own rhetoric, the press refused to investigate the criminal backgrounds of the Warriors despite pleas by the Mohawk people. The result was “Oka” became synonymous with legitimate aboriginal struggle rather than the genesis of a criminal enterprise that would come to dominate, and contaminate, the Iroquois for the next 13 years.
Investigative reporter, Jim Moses developed a concept known as “silks” to describe the entrepreneurs who used the Warriors to build a fortune. One of the worst cases of such tactics took place in Tuscarora, New York in July, 1990. Shortly after the Oka crisis erupted, Warrior critic, Harold Printup, was shot in the head and fell into a coma. Two gunmen piled debris around the shooting site with pro-Oka slogans to disguise their motives.
Warrior Society falls
Cresting by the fall of 1990, the Warrior Society would be in deep decline as a political force five years later, but its work had been accomplished.
The threat of brute force had convinced both the United States and Canada to retreat from overseeing Iroquois affairs; while the Iroquois governments, which lacked adequate physical or economic resources, were swamped by a criminal elite.
Much of the tribute for the decline of the Warriors as an organization is due simply to the dogged persistence of Jim Moses, who badgered reluctant security services to perform their duties.
While accompanying Jim Moses on one of his daring investigations, I remember strongly his words to me as he went to report on his activities to the London office of the RCMP. He repeated a saying that he learned from Doug George, that one of the most effective political actions that can be undertaken is to simply pressure a police officer into doing his job.
In addition to working with law enforcement, Moses cooperated with a strategic studies think tank, The Mackenzie Institute. The publicity generated by their report Sin Tax Failure played a major role in reducing cigarette taxes in Canada, a determined move taken by the newly elected government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in February 1994, through a drastic cut of $1.17 a pack.
This single action dried up an estimated $1 billion in Warrior controlled smuggling activities. Before this action 60% of the retail tobacco market in Quebec and 35% in Ontario was supplied by the black market. Moses at the time personally appealed to the Prime Minister to lower the tax because of the problem of organized crime terrorizing native communities.
Cutting the tax eroded what Moses called the “aura of fear” in native communities. The lowered tax was a dramatic shock to hundreds of smugglers and smoke shop owners. Band council police, who had previously been impotent in the face of openly criminal elements, became more respected in their law enforcement efforts.
Lower tax leads to breakthroughs
In addition to getting the tax lowered, Moses also successfully pressured police agencies to cooperate. As a result, a Cornwall Regional Task Force was established between the RCMP, Canada Customs and American agencies.
New multi-border blitzes were developed. Databases were shared. Combined resources allowed enforcement agencies to collectively target larger smuggling groups.
In March 1996, such efforts resulted in a major breakthrough when the RCMP made 170 arrests, including Warriors, members of a Montreal area chapter of Hell’s Angels, and organized Vietnamese criminals. A year later a joint task force cracked a bigger crime ring, leading to the arrest and conviction of Jacobs, Miller and casino czar Tony Laughing.
The arrest of the Warrior crime lords caused them to reveal some of their corporate collaborators. The U.S. subsidiary of RJR-Macdonald, the third largest tobacco company in Canada, was forced to pay $15 million in penalties. Two of the largest cigarette traffickers from Kahnawake received individual fines of $25 million and $20 million.
Most of the credit for the collapse of the Warrior crime empire, which threatened to make much of the country a war zone like Columbia, is largely due to a handful of brave Iroquois traditionalists.
In addition to those already mentioned, they include Longhouse reader, Huron Miller, who worked closely with Jim Moses, Onondaga chief Oren Lyons, the Confederacy Tadodaho, the late Leon Shenandoah, the Six Nations Cofederacy Chief Deskaeh, Harvey Longboat, the reciter of the Great Law, Jake Thomas and the Iroquois diplomat, Leaman Gibson.
All of these spiritual leaders put the principles of the good man and concern for the earth above the sensationalism and greed exploited by the Warrior Society. They have all been active in promoting earth respecting efforts at environmental restoration.
Racism, greed, bribery, environmental destruction and corruption played major roles in why the Warrior problem grew to such dangerous proportions.
To prevent such a plague ever happening again in Canada, the lessons of the good mind need to be applied. The earth should be protected and restored so that the blessings of nature can again provide healthy food from clean rivers. The rule of law needs to be vigorously and fairly enforced.
While some major victories have been won against organized crime, the challenges are enormous. Tobacco smuggling, although linked increasingly to funding terrorism, is not an important issue in North American politics. Rather than contemplating, as does the Bush Administration, a bigger Seaway, we need to correct some of the mistakes of the first folly.
The dark decade from 1985 to 1995 when the Warrior Society’s held many native communities in a grip of terror, is a powerful image of the urgent need to protect the earth and human rights.