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1990: Canadian soldier, Mohawk warrior face off at Oka

The Story

(This clip is from CBC raw footage with no reporter.) "I just wanna look at their faces before I kill 'em." On Sept. 1, 1990, a chilling stare-off between a Canadian soldier and a Mohawk warrior nicknamed Lasagna comes to personify the gulf between the Native and non-Native residents. Although the actual confrontation, as evident in this unedited footage, lasts mere seconds, the image would become a lasting symbol of the stand-off. Native people barricade roads, protesting the Quebec municipality of Oka's plan to expand its existing nine-hole golf course to 18 holes. The proposed expansion lies on Mohawk sacred burial grounds in the lush Kanesatake reserve, located west of Montreal. Oka's mayor says it belongs to the municipality. The dispute over land claims pits the Native residents against the Quebec police force, and eventually the Canadian Army, as never before.  It results in the tragic shooting death of 31-year-old police officer Marcel Lemay. The end of the tense 78-day standoff comes with the Mohawk voluntary surrender, but the bitter divide over Native land claims would remain a contentious issue.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Sept. 1, 1990
Duration: 2:36

Did You know?

• Mohawk warrior Ronald Cross, better known as Lasagna, got his nickname from his mother's Italian cooking. He died in 1999 of heart failure. He was 41.

• The warrior-soldier confrontation seen here involves Cross, but a widely published photo of another such confrontation thought to depict him is in fact Saskatchewan warrior Brad Larocque.   

• At the end of the 78-day standoff, 34 people were arrested but all were acquitted on charges ranging from weapons possession to assault and participating in a riot.

• A coroner's report into the shooting death of Marcel Lemay concluded the shot was fired by a Mohawk warrior, but failed to identify the killer. In the end no one was charged with Lemay's murder.



The Oka Crisis more