Kahnawake, Quebec Canada

Discovering Kahnawake, Quebec: A Rich Tapestry of History and Culture

Kahnawake, Quebec, is a First Nations reserve steeped in history and culture. Home to the Mohawks of Kahnawá:ke, this community is located on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River, across from Montreal. Established in 1719 by French Canadians as a Jesuit mission, Kahnawake has a rich history that intertwines with the broader narrative of Canada's past.

The Origins of Kahnawake, Quebec

The name Kahnawake is derived from the Mohawk word kahnawà:ke, meaning "place of the rapids". This refers to the community's original village, Caughnawaga, located near the rapids of the Mohawk River in what is now central New York. When Catholic Mohawk moved to the Montreal area, they named their new settlement after their former one. The Lachine Rapids' proximity also influenced their naming decision.

The residents of Kahnawake are traditionally referred to as Mohawk by people of European descent. However, their autonym is Kanien’kehá:ka, meaning "People of the Flint" or "those who speak [the language] Kanien'kéha". The Kanien’kehá:ka were historically the most easterly nation of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy) and are known as the "Keepers of the Eastern Door".

Location of Kahnawake, Quebec

Kahnawake is situated on the southwest shore where the Saint Lawrence River narrows. The territory is described in the native language as "on, or by the rapids" of the Saint Lawrence River. However, the path of the river was altered in the mid-20th century with the construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway canal, causing the people to lose access to the river.

Historical Land Claim of Kahnawake, Quebec

Kahnawake was created under the Seigneurie du Sault-Saint-Louis, a 40,320-acre territory granted by the French Crown in 1680 to the Jesuits to protect and nurture newly converted Mohawk to Catholicism. Despite the government's intention for the territory to be closed to European settlement, the Jesuits permitted French and other European colonists to settle there and collected their rents.

The Multicultural Community of Kahnawake, Quebec

Kahnawake was settled by a variety of historic indigenous peoples, although the Mohawk became the majority. They and other tribes had a practice of adopting captives into the tribe, often to replace people lost to illness or warfare. The Mohawk had a matrilineal kinship system, with children considered born into the clan of the mother and deriving their status from her family.

Effects of Construction Projects in Kahnawake, Quebec

Historically, the federal and Quebec governments have often located large civil engineering projects benefiting the southern Quebec economy through Kahnawake land due to its proximity to the Saint Lawrence River. The reserve is criss-crossed by power lines from hydroelectric plants, railways, and vehicle highways and bridges.

Late 20th Century to Present in Kahnawake, Quebec

The elected Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) have generally established predominance in governing the reserve. This elected government is the only body with which the Canadian government will deal.

Membership and Residency on the Kahnawake, Quebec Reserve

With continuing late 20th-century conflicts over who could reside at the reserve, the elected chiefs of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) passed laws regulating membership or eligibility for residence at Kahnawake.

Restorative Justice in Kahnawake, Quebec

Before European contact, the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee) had a long tradition of justice administered within the clan and council system. Since 2000, Kahnawake has started to reintroduce Skenn:en A'onsonton (to become peaceful again), the traditional justice system of the Iroquois.

Gambling/Gaming in Kahnawake, Quebec

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission offers gambling licenses to Internet-based poker, casino, and sportsbook sites. It has established Kahnawake as a substantial player in that business.

International Use of Kahnawake, Quebec Flag

In 2007, two vessels operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society flew the Kahnawake Mohawk flag. The Kahnawake Mohawk nation is the only indigenous American sovereign nation to have deep-sea foreign-going vessels flying its flag.

Historic Sites in Kahnawake, Quebec

Kahnawake contains three National Historic Sites of Canada: Fort St-Louis, the Jesuit Mission of St-François-Xavier, and the Caughnawaga Presbytery.

Representation in Other Media of Kahnawake, Quebec

Reaghan Tarbell, a native of Kahnawake, wrote and directed a one-hour documentary, Little Caughnawaga: To Brooklyn and Back (2008), about the families from Kahnawake who migrated to work in New York.

Kahnawake, Quebec Pow Wow

The pow wow is held every summer on the second weekend of July at the Kateri Tekakwitha Island. It is a social event open to everyone to share the Native American culture such as traditional foods, hand made crafts, singing and traditional dancing.