Angry Akwesasne residents protest at the Mohawk police headquarters on Friday, Feb. 23, 2019.
Alan S. Hale / Postmedia
AKWESASNE — Friday’s wild night of protest that ended with a police SUV being torched is the latest, and most dramatic, illustration of long-simmering divisions within the Mohawk community of Akwesasne.The confrontation between police and traditionalist First Nations supporters over a raid on a pot shop brings to a dangerous new level the political crisis that has been slowly gripping Akwesasne since the community approved a $240-million Dundee land settlement agreement in December.In 1981, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne filed for the return of approximately 8,000 hectares of land along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, now known as Dundee Township, in the most western portion of Quebec.In December 2018, out of 2,197 voters, 79.61 per cent approved the settlement agreement.The settlement, and the way the ratification referendum to ratify was conducted, has angered and emboldened traditionalists in the community who do not accept the elected Mohawk Council of Akwesasne as a legitimate government.Opponents have launched several appeals at Akwesasne community court in efforts to invalidate the referendum results. Only 28 per cent of eligible voters took part, and the vote would have been invalid had that number been less than 25. After the fact, some said they wouldn’t have voted at all had they known about the 25 per cent threshold.The court has already determined that at least one of the appeals can go to a hearing.Meanwhile, the continued conflict has prompted the traditionalist faction to use community law to try to remove all 12 MCA members from office.Petitioners need only obtain more signatures than the number of votes each chief got in the election. Even the most successful chief in the last election last summer only received 222 votes.The tactic has already succeeded. Chief Dennis Chaussi was ousted last August after a man who had sued him in community court also started a petition. Chaussi was re-elected to his seat three months later, and has since become a vocal advocate of amending the election law to restrict the use of these petitions.The raids on the controversial cannabis dispensaries, “licensed” by the traditionalist Indian Way Longhouse group, appears to have been the last straw.But another traditional Mohawk longhouse, the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs, disagrees with Indian Way group.“We have learned through recent media reports that the cannabis dispensaries that were in operation on (Cornwall Island) have misled people by making the claim that they are operating legally under the strength of the Kaianerakowa (Great Law of Peace),” Mohawk Nation Longhouse administrator Bute Hill wrote in a statement. “It is our position that without our approval, these individuals cease any further claims that they are conducting any business under such laws and agreements that remain sacred to us.“We will not support people doing this.” ALSO IN THE NEWS:Akwesasne protesters torch cop car after pot shop raidTkachuk family gets creative in order to show support for both brothers in first NHL meetingFour charged with drug offences in community policing project