The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is blasting the Quebec government for questioning a land acknowledgment by the Montreal Canadiens that refers to the unceded territory of the Mohawk Nation.
The statement, which since Saturday has been read before the NHL team’s home games, acknowledges the Kanien’keha:ka, or Mohawks, for their hospitality on what it refers to as “traditional and unceded territory.”
On Wednesday, Quebec Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière told reporters the acknowledgment “was maybe a mistake.”
In a statement Thursday, the elected council for the First Nations reserve across the river from Montreal commended the hockey club’s gesture as an example of true reconciliation and added it was “repulsed” by the province’s attempt to politicize the effort, which it said undermines the Mohawk presence in the Montreal region.
Lafrenière told reporters that, while it’s important to recognize that First Nations were here before others, the statement may be inaccurate because it enters into an area that is the subject of debate between historians.
He says it’s unclear who were the first people in what is now Montreal.
“And that’s where it becomes complicated,” Lafrenière said.
Kahnawake Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said in a statement that land is an essential part of Mohawk identity.
“It holds the knowledge of our ancestors, our history and our presence, now and for the future,” Sky-Deer said.
“Opinionated commentary that challenge and discredit our presence are not only insulting, they are taken as displaced attacks on our existence.”
Opposition parties at Quebec’s National Assembly have also chimed in on the Habs’ decision.
On Tuesday, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade praised the team’s decision to introduce a land acknowledgment, saying it sends an important message.
However, Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said it’s a mistake to state that Montreal is unceded Mohawk territory.