A man in the Kanehsatà:ke Mohawk Territory is a week into a hunger strike and says he will remain on it until a land dispute with Canada dating back centuries is addressed.
“I’m going to do my best, it’s been six days that I’ve been doing this hunger strike, I’m trying to find the right words here,” said Al Harrington in a video posted online Wednesday night from a tent pitched near the Longhouse on the territory.
The land dispute Harrington is referring goes back to the 17th century.
In the video Harrington posted on social media he announces that his hunger strike is now a public one.
Before that, he had asked media for anonymity.
Now he says he feels compelled to come out to bring more attention to his cause.
“I’m an activist, there’s a lot of issues. One, our land is being gobbled up and the government is not listening,” Harrington said in the video.
In August the Kanehsatà:ke longhouse gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a ten day ultimatum to address, among other things, the nearby municipality of Oka, Que., building housing on disputed Kanehsatà:ke lands.
Canada countered with an offer to meet with MP Marc Miller, parliamentary secretary for Indigenous and Crown Relations, something that the longhouse says they refused.
While Longhouse spokesperson Ellen Gabriel says she appreciates the efforts of Miller, she also says he’s not the solution to the land dispute.
She hopes that Harrington’s hunger strike will help prompt Canada to consult with the Longhouse instead of solely with local Kanehsatà:ke band council.
“I hope that there will be enough support and attention to say that what we are asking for is not unreasonable, which is a short term moratorium [on land development], to sit down and discuss with the title holders, which are the longhouse people, the Haudenosaunee, on our lands and to have a say on what happens on our homelands and to stop development from continuing any further,” said Gabriel.
“What we want is to have a seat and a voice.”
APTN News visited Harrington and Gabriel at the site of the hunger strike before they went public with Harrington’s identity.
Located just outside the Kanehsatà:ke longhouse, Harrington has spent much of his time receiving visitors around a sacred fire when he is not resting.
Gabriel said that Harrington is subsisting off of a liquid diet, and that a nurse visits once a day to check on him.
“The hunger strike is a personal decision that we support, at the longhouse, and that we are always vigilant about his health, and that we don’t want it to go to the extreme, so we will stop it when we see that it is a danger to his health,” said Gabriel.
Harrington is Ojibway from Shoal Lake First Nation in Ontario, but says he has been living in Kanehsatà:ke on and off for thirteen years.
He is raising his children there, and hopes they will inherent their rightful ancestral lands in the future.
“I’m trying to be as humble as possible, trying to do what is right,” said Harrington “I’m doing this for our future, and because no one is listening.”