Massena, N.Y. (UPI) — About
300 Mohawks blocked traffic at Cornwall Island, midpoint of the
Massena-Cornwall international bridge,
in their continuing protest against
imposition of Canadian customs duties on Indians.
The blockade at the island, owned by the Mohawks, lasted 10 minutes. There were
Mohawks claim terms of the Jay Treaty exempt
them from duty. Also, a right of way for the bridge across the island was
granted Canada by some Mohawk leaders in in a
contract that stipulated Indians would have the right to travel over the bridge
“without any charge, tax or tolls whatsoever” on either themselves or their
Despite this contract, customs officers
stopped a panel truck, which the
Indians loaded with groceries and clothing, and demanded a $5 duty. When the
Mohawks refuse to pay, trucks and goods were impounded.
Shortly after the truck was impounded, the Indians massed at the Canadian end
of the bridge and would not let automobile traffic pass. They carried signs
saying “Enforce the Jay Treaty” and “This is Indian territory.” Some beat on
drums while others danced and chanted in the Mohaw[k l]anguage.
After one car bearing Canadian plates rammed through the crowd, Mohawk leaders
broke up the demonstration and held a mass meeting at the long-house on
St. Regis Reservation. Another
meeting was planned on Cornwall Island with officials of the Canadian Office of
Indian Affairs. Several persons were knocked aside but not injured when the car
drove into the crowd.
Canadian officials began collecting customs duties from the Indians in
, honoring the contract
until that time. Mohawk officials, backed by leaders of the Iroquois
Confederacy of Indian Nations in New York State and Canada, were unable to
arrange meetings to discuss the situation with Canadian leaders, despite
several trips to Ottawa.
Forty-eight Indians had been arrested, and twenty-five cars towed, after a
blockade of the bridge .