A feature-length, multi-award winning documentary by Native American filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin set in the thick of the armed confrontation between Native American Mohawks and Canadian government forces during the 1990 standoff in the Mohawk village of Kanehsatake near the village of Oka in Quebec. The two-and-a-half month ordeal received brief national attention when the Mohawk warriors of Kahnawake, in support of their brothers from nearby Kanehsatake, temporarily held the busy Mercier Bridge leading to Montreal, in an effort to bring world attention to the situation. Starting with plans to construct a luxury housing development and expand a private golf course into the Pines, part of Mohawk Nation’s land, tensions rose quickly and tempers flared as Mohawks were once again fighting for their sovereignty.
After a police officer was killed in a raid to expel the Mohawks from the Pines, the situation spiraled out of control. In scene after startling scene the drama escalates as the Quebec police are replaced by units from the Canadian army. With few exceptions journalists covering the crisis either evacuated or were forcibly removed. Alanis Obomsawin spent the final weeks of the standoff without a crew, shooting on video and using the slow speed on her sound recorder to stretch out her limited supply of audio tape. Obomsawin’s detailed portrayal of the Mohawk community places the Oka crisis within the larger context of Mohawk land rights dating back to 1535 when France claimed the site of present-day Montreal which had been the Mohawk village of Hochelaga. Her evocative dimension of the conflict, exploring the fierce conviction of the Mohawks and the communal spirit that enabled them to stand firm.