By Gale Courey Toensing
Gray’s apology may be too little, too late to the countless Mohawk Indians who posted responses saying his comments were racist and insulting. Gray shared his thoughts three days after the January 5 Idle No More protest that closed the International Bridge between Massena, New York, and Cornwall, Ontario, for five hours. His blog entry is called Pointless Bridge-Closing Protests Must Stop. The protest drew 300-400 exuberant Mohawk Indians from both sides of the St. Lawrence River onto the International Bridge for several hours of marching, singing, drumming and a round dance at a highway roundabout on the Canadian side of the imposed international border. Dozens of Idle No More protests have swept across Canada, the United States, Europe, the Middle East and as far away as New Zealand and Japan over the past month in support of indigenous rights.
Gray’s blog posting had the buoyancy of a lead balloon. Within two days, it drew more than 160 comments, many of which were critical of him. Ron LeFrance, one of the three chiefs of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, posted a comment a day after Gray’s blog appeared. “It’s too bad you know so little about your neighbors and the struggles we face to survive as Mohawk people,” LaFrance wrote. LaFrance and Sub-Chief Eric Thompson attended the Idle No More protest. “The foolishness you refer to is what we refer to as STANDING up for our rights, something that has been taken away from you without you even realizing it,” LaFrance wrote. “These foolish people you are referring to keep your little excuse for a town afloat. If it wasn't for the people and businesses of Akwesasne, Massena would have dried up a long time ago. I don't know why we keep your economy from drying up when we hear and read crap like this. Malone is not that far away, think about it blow hole!”
But Gray also has a point. Blocking traffic probably violates the law. Several people, including some Indians, have noted that blockades may make the protesters seem aggressive, violent, even criminal.
Right now, Idle No More is generating more good than bad will. The protesters don't want to lose that advantage. They may want to save the civil disobedience tactics for when they've run out of other options.
For more on Idle No More, see Harper Meets Chiefs and Idle No More = Occupy.
Below: "An estimated 300-400 people took part in an Idle No More solidarity march across the International Bridge in Mohawk territory between New York and Cornwall, Ontario, on Saturday." (Lorraine White)