The 2023 Annual Fishing Derby

How fishing brings the community of Kahnawake together

Alongside the marina of Kahnawake, community members are setting up for the annual ice fishing derby. Walking out on the ice, one can hear the sounds of chatter and whirling, drilling down as fishers try to get the best spots. On the marina, you could see six pop-up tents and two huts spaced out on the frozen river. 

For the organizer Kirby Joe Diabo, the ice fishing derby is much more than a competition. Diabo also owns the REEL UM’ IN bait shop that overlooks the marina, where the event takes place.

“This event is all about getting people out there to enjoy the outdoors. Family gatherings and the added element of competition is always fun,” Diabo said.  

Fishing has always been an integral part of the Kahnawake community. It’s not only a way to feed families, but it’s also a way to promote healthy family connections and activities. 

“Ice fishing is a lost part of our culture,” said David Fazio, a longtime fishing veteran, and friend of Diabo. “With [Diabo], we are trying to get the people back into it. We used to live off of this. But when the white man came through the seaway, it killed off our natural resources.”

Diabo grew up fishing with his father in the winter and summer. “When I was younger there were a lot of tournaments outside of Kahnawake that we went to,” Diabo said.

But as Diabo got older, he realized the tournaments had stopped due to a decline in interest in the event. As he got more involved in the community, Diabo was motivated to bring them back to Kahnawake.

“When we first started the ice fishing tournaments here, we had a turnout of around 150 people on the ice. Nowadays, it has kind of slowed down and we get a turnout of around 30 people, which is still a lot for a fishing tournament,” Diabo said.

Although this year’s tournament happened, the mild weather created some challenges for the organizers. According to Outdoor Canada, the ice needs to be at least 12 inches thick, or thick enough to support a medium-sized pickup truck for the ice fishing tournament to take place. 

Diabo also couldn’t move his ice huts on the ice in time. Instead, pop-up tents that have heaters in them were set up so people could be comfortable. All the fishing gear that was needed for the day was found in the tents, including bait, rods, and heaters. 

The pop-up tents and ice fishing huts on the morning of the derby. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/The Concordian

Despite the challenges the event still happened, with temperatures as low as below 30 for a week or so leading up to it.

The cold weather didn’t stop the community from getting out on the ice on Feb. 25. 

For Landon Goodleaf, the marina’s owner, the ice fishing derby is linked to some of his favorite memories of growing up.

“I remember when I was a little kid… One of the marina members, who was a friend of the family’s, invited us to a fishing derby. I remember it being a blizzard and it was wicked cold,” Goodleaf recalled. 

Goodleaf went on to explain that the day was so cold he couldn’t bear staying out, so he ended up going home. The next day, the gentleman who brought him to the tournament came to his house with a trophy for the largest Pike fish caught. Goodleaf recalls that this made him extremely happy.

For Goodleaf, it’s not about winning; it’s about enjoying the moment with his community.

“No electronics for me, I am old school. I have a boat and I am familiar with the water levels, where the holes are,” Goodleaf explained. “I am not gunning out to win the tournament, I just come out and drill some holes and have fun.”

For others, it’s all about finding the most efficient fishing methods. Experienced fishing veterans like Fazio don’t let silly things like the weather get in the way.

At sunrise on the morning of the derby, Fazio got set up on the ice with a hut that he made himself. He acquired all the modern sonar equipment which was scattered around inside his hut. 

Near where he sits in the hut, he has a screen that emits live video from the underwater camera that he has set up. He also acquired a sonar sensor that emits a sonic signal that will bounce back when it encounters an object. Then, it determines the object’s distance and position based on the reflection time and wave pattern. Fazio’s sonar sensor is extremely useful for ice fishing because, on days when the visibility is poor, it helps him determine the distance of where the fish are.  

Fazio’s underwater camera. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

Fazio prefers his modern equipment in comparison to the traditional tip-ups that other community members like Goodleaf use for ice fishing. “I’m a cheater. I am 58 years old and I have had enough of this crap,” Fazio said jokingly. 

To optimize his chances of a good catch, Fazio also set up three fishing holes inside of his hut and five more outside. The five fishing holes had tip-ups stationed at each hole. Tip-ups are usually placed at the edge of the ice hole and are set at a specific depth without actively needing to be manned by an angler. When a fish comes around to bite, the tip-up flag goes up — that’s when Fazio knows he got a good catch. 

Tip-ups at the ice holes on the lake. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

The day prior to the fishing derby, Fazio had his hut set up in the “weeds” as he calls them because that’s where all the Pike were.

“It’s been pretty cold these past couple of days. I hope someone gets a decent catch. If it’s going to be anyone it’s going to be those guys out in the weeds over there,” Fazio said as he motioned to the window overlooking the other side of the lake.

However, since the fishing derby was offering a bonus prize for the biggest Walleye catch, Fazio moved his hut a little closer to where the marina entrance is located. 

Fazio with his first catch of the day, a Pike. Photo by Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

“I’ll have a chance to catch Walleye here because they come in from the deep water to feed. The Pike, on the other hand, goes in to feed on the Perch,” Fazio explained. Pike fish have a more spotted look to their bodies and are naturally a little more slender, whereas the Walleyes are a bit longer in size and have a more striped pattern along their bodies. 

At the end of the event, many prizes were given to the community members for the longest Pike fish caught.

Ben Green was awarded first place for his 30 ¼ inch Pike catch, winning $100 and a $600 gift certificate.

Jaydence Beauvais won second and third place for a 29-inch Pike and a 28-inch Pike.

Finally, the Walleye bonus award was given to Dice Phillips for a 17 ½ inch Walleye.


Cinema Politica returns with the powerful film BEANS

On Nov. 1, The Cinema Politica team wanted to generate conversations on the themes of land and reconciliation with this screening about the Oka crisis

Cinema Politica kicked off its fall programming on Nov.1 with a screening of the award-winning movie BEANS. The film by director Tracey Deer premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2020. BEANS recounts the story of the Oka Crisis through the eyes of 12-year-old Tekehentahkhwa, nicknamed Beans, played by Kiawenti:io. The screening was followed by a discussion with actress Brittany LeBorgne who plays Karahwen’hawi, a member of the Mohawk community, in the film.

“The occupation of an ancient pine forest on the Mohawk reserve of Kanesatake is in its fourth month. The people here are protecting a burial ground from being levelled for a golf course expansion by the neighbouring town of Oka,” explained a voice in the movie’s trailer. The Oka Crisis occured in 1990 in response to a golf course expansion project, which immediately faced resistance from the Mohawk community. The official start date of the crisis was July 11, 1990, when Quebec’s police force intervened in the conflict. The Mohawks had been blocking the road leading to the piece of land since March, and the city of Oka had tried pressuring them to bring their barricade down, without any success.

The Mohawks of Kahnawake were also involved in the conflict, as they blocked the Honoré Mercier bridge in support of the Kanesatake community. In August, the Canadian army came in to provide back-up to the local police force. The events created tension between the residents of the surrounding cities and the Mohawk communities. The violent crisis concluded on Sept. 26, 1990, when the Mohawk resistance came to an agreement with the army.

The film presents these historical events through the coming-of-age story of Beans who lives in the Mohawk community of Kanesatake. The young girl is building her identity as she hopes to enter a private high school, and tries to fit in with a group of older teenagers. She is faced with the reality of the Oka crisis, with the film showing the anger and fear growing within her as she experiences the violence taking place during the summer of 1990. The lives of Beans and her family, including her mother Lily and little sister Ruby played by Rainbow Dickerson and Violah Beauvais respectively, as well as the greater community are complemented by archival videos of the actual events.

In BEANS, Deer highlights the violence and racism experienced by the Mohawks. The film is an eye-opening and touching depiction of the reality of the conflict. The director was inspired by her personal experience of the Oka crisis. “I was Beans. I was twelve-years-old when I lived through an armed stand-off between my people and the Quebec and Canadian governments known as The Oka Crisis. The Mohawk Nation of Kanesatake and Kahnawà:ke stood up to a formidable bully — and won. That summer I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker and vowed to one day tell this story,” wrote Deer in her notes on the film.

Deer received the TIFF Emerging Talent Award 2020 after releasing BEANS. The film was part of the festival’s Top Ten for Canada list and won The Best Motion Picture Award at the Canadian Screen Awards, among other accolades.

For Rania Salawdeh, assistant coordinator for Cinema Politica, BEANS touched on important current issues. “We really wanted to have this kind of conversation around the lands that we currently live in, so everyone relates to it to a certain extent because it’s a locationality that they know, it’s a place that they’re aware of, it’s a history that they do not know but that they are positioned in. And I think that was a feeling that we wanted to provoke in the audiences,” she said.

Since 2003, Cinema Politica’s mission has been to present political films from independent creators that touch on current themes and issues. For Salawdeh, the conversation following the screening of a film is an important part of the experience. “We also need not only to consume films but also contextualize films and see how we as audiences can interact with the film materials as well. […] There’s that relation I think, between seeing a political film and having a political conversation,” she said.

Cinema Politica will be presenting its next screening on Nov. 15 at La Sala Rossa. Titled Queer for Palestine, the program will feature several short films created by artists from Palestine and Lebanon. The presentation is part of the 10-day Queer Cinema for Palestine Festival.


Visual courtesy of Maia Iotzova


Be an Indigenous accomplice, not an ally

Understanding the best practices of Indigenous solidarity, the impacts it can have, and the role the media plays.

The Concordia Centre for Gender Advocacy hosted a workshop on Nov. 6, focusing on better ways to be an Indigenous ally, which involve breaking the rules of Canada’s colonial system and respecting Indigenous leadership, as Indigenous people are the ones most affected by colonization.

The workshop was called Indigenous Solidarity Best Practices, and it was presented by Iako’tsi:rareh Amanda Lickers. She is Seneca, an Indigenous nation that is historically part of the Iroquois League.

“The most radical allyship would be giving back the land,” said Lickers. “Move from being sympathetic to doing something. Be useful, interrupt the colonial narrative and push back against colonial social norms.”

Lickers believes one of the ways to support Indigenous people is to donate a yearly amount of money – small or large – to Indigenous organizations and communities. She frames it as a kind of rent, as non-Indigenous people are able to live and create families in Canada because of Indigenous displacement.

She used the phrase, ‘accomplices, not allies,’ which is the name of an online zine that focuses on removing the ally complex, which refers to people that wish to ‘save’ marginalized people, or use them to advance their own goals. The zine calls for people to be accomplices instead of allies, to actively disobey colonial structures in support of marginalized groups.

Lickers says the best way for people to understand how colonization affects day-to-day life is education. People need to be active in learning about how colonization came to be and to use sources that are corroborated by Indigenous groups.

“Media can shape public opinion, it can shape popular education,” said Lickers, explaining the important role traditional media plays in influencing public belief; that media prioritizes certain voices over others, and it selects what parts to tell. There are few stories of thriving Indigenous people.

“If it bleeds it leads,” said Lickers, explaining that violence attracts readers, and mainstream media picks stories that fall into their editorial narrative. “There are certain types of reporting that glamorize poverty and violence, but it doesn’t discuss the everyday racism that Indigenous people face.”

Marisela Amador is a non-Indigenous alumnus from the Concordia journalism program. Now Amador works at the Eastern Door, a newspaper that reports on the Kahnawake Indigenous community, on the south shore of Montreal.

Amador agrees with Lickers’ view that mainstream media exploits Indigenous issues.

“White media comes here and it sensationalizes everything, and it shows a perspective that is not accurate,” said Amador. “Once the media have gotten what they need, that’s it, they leave.”

Amador explained that the Kahnawake community does not feel like ‘white’ media is an ally and that it is a common thing for people in Kahnawake to feel alienated.

“It’s not that people here don’t want to talk,” said Amador. “It’s just that nothing good comes from it.”

Amador feels like the strict deadlines and word counts mean important background information on Indigenous issues is left out in mainstream media, leading people to be misinformed.

She wishes that there would be more time and room to fit information when she’s reporting, but because of tight deadlines, Amador just has to do her best.

Amador believes the best way to have more Indigenous content in mainstream media is to have more Indigenous reporters.

Samantha Stevens is a non-Indigenous Concordia student doing her masters on the ‘white saviour trope’ in newspaper coverage on Indigenous issues. She noticed in her research that mainstream media has improved from blatant racism, but this has now been replaced with a more subtle form of racism.

These forms of racism include how media usually portrays Indigenous people as poor, and Stevens noticed that when Indigenous people are jobless, it is common for the media to refer to them as being on welfare.

“Quotes are a huge problem. The same person is quoted all the time,” said Stevens, explaining that this enforces stereotypes that all Indigenous people have the same issues, and leaves out other voices in the community.

She believes most journalists don’t even notice what they are doing, as it is so ingrained in Canadian culture. According to Stevens, the only way to see more accurate reporting is for non-Indigenous writers to make space for Indigenous people to tell their own reality and stories.

Lickers believes that non-Indigenous reporters need to support Indigenous voices in the media, to facilitate and collaborate in a way that gives visibility to Indigenous reporters.

“Honestly, I think we are going to have to change the style of news if we want more Indigenous representation,” Lickers said.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Physical recognition of the land: A pilgrimage to Montreal

  Students and faculty members of the department of theological studies trekked on Saturday from sunrise to sunset, from the south shore’s Indigenous community of Kahnawake to Montreal.

The event happened two days before the Theology in the City conference and was a way to physically perform the land recognition opening speech for most events at Concordia University.

“We’ve made this walk before with students from old Montreal to Kahnawake,” said Concordia professor Matthew Anderson, organizer of the march and conference. “But we thought, what if we started in Kahnawake and we walk to the conference we would experience in our own bodies what it is to cross this unceded territory.”

Christine Jamieson, a speaker at the conference and theology professor, was present at the march. She is native from an Indigenous community in the Frasier Canyon in British Columbia. Before the march, she performed a smudge; a traditional cleansing ceremony using sage smoke to get rid of any negative energy. In many Indigenous communities, smudges are performed as a way to align what is called the seven grandfather teachings – humility, bravery, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect, and love.

“If you look at those seven teachings, each one is an important component of living, what I would call, an ethical life, but maybe what most Indigenous people might say is living a good life,” said Jamieson. “Anything that we can do, whether it’s a smudge or a sweat lodge, these are really ceremonies that are meant to help us to walk more freely and more ethically in a sense.”

Jamieson said that recognition is a two-way path, and that there is a lot to learn from Indigenous cultures and their relation to land and nature.

“I think that Indigenous people have always felt a deep relationship to the land and into the world around us,” said Jamieson. “Not just to other human beings but to all beings, and that includes the lands and the plants and the animals and the water. I think that when Europeans came to Canada, there was an interruption of that relationship and there was no real acknowledgment of that relationship between people and the land, and how their whole identity was really connected to this relationship.”

Since the first encounters, European settlers have always negotiated in favour of their economic interests rather than in harmony with Indigenous people’s beliefs. Those beliefs have been ignored for centuries, long before the creation of the Canadian Confederation.

“I think when we acknowledge land, it’s really to try to bring us back to that relationship that we have with this land and with everything around us,” said Jamieson. “I really believe that if we can do that more consciously, we will be better able to live those seven sacred teachings which brings about that balanced life.”

She continued that it is primordial to acknowledge this relationship since it is paramount for the survival of humans. “We are so vulnerable, we are the weakest in a sense, and yet we have so much power to destroy what we are utterly dependent on,” Jamieson said.

Along the walk, the small group of seven came across many infrastructures marking centuries of colonial federal jurisdictions. The Mercier bridge, inaugurated in 1934, and the Seaway, in 1959, for example, have forced hundreds to be relocated by the government in the early and mid-1900s and caused the death of many steelworkers. A 10-metre steel cross was raised in memory of the lost men.

Nowadays, the federal government can no longer act as such without legal backlash, something Anderson is grateful for; but this doesn’t mean that all problems are solved. Between 2004 and 2014, 400 out of 618 Indigenous communities were under at least one water advisory, reported the CBC. And that is only the tip of the iceberg.

However, Anderson is optimistic about the upcoming years. Although the previous Liberal government failed to address many promises regarding reconciliation with Indigenous communities, last week’s re-election may bring changes.

Anderson explained that minority governments that work along more progressive parties – in this case, the NDP – tend to propose more changes to social issues such as reconciliation with Indigenous communities. He hopes to see the next government address those issues such as drinking water.

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins, video by Arianna Randjbar


Kahnawá:ke: a native perspective on the KKR

A sit-down with professor and Kahnawá:ke native, Orenda Boucher-Curotte

Last week the Western media showed how it still views itself as the disapproving parent admonishing the errant Mohawk child, done through the coverage of the Kahnawá:ke Kanien’kehá:ka registry (KKR).

A Kahnawá:ke native holds a child at a community event on Sept. 19, 2008. The Kahnawá:ke Kanien’kehá:ka registry defines who is and is not a member of Kahnawá:ke on the basis of marriage and biological criteria. Photo by L. Lew on Flickr.

The KKR defines who can and cannot remain a member of Kahnawá:ke. It states that any member who marries or cohabitates with a non-native “will have their entitlement to receive any of the benefits and services … suspended for so long as they remain married or in a common-law relationship with the non-Indigenous person.”

This policy came into the spotlight with news of a $50,000 lawsuit brought before the Quebec courts. In it, seven members of Kahnawá:ke allege that their rights have been infringed upon and have been harassed and intimidated as a result of the KKR.

Instead of throwing another Western media hat into the ring, I sat down with Orenda Boucher-Curotte, Concordia University Religious Studies alumna, professor at McGill University, and Kahnawá:ke native to see what she thought of the situation.

The Concordian (C): What do you think of the media’s coverage of the lawsuit thus far?

Orenda Boucher-Curotte (BC): The media has jumped on the “this is racist” bandwagon, in part because I think it allows for people to vent their own colonial frustrations. People with very little understanding of what Kahnawá:ke has been through see this as a racist policy, but they have to first understand that those who support the evictions have a deep rooted fear that colonial laws set out to assimilate and destroy Indigenous peoples. Canadians know, or should know that residential schools, reservations, the Indian Act, etc., were all policies that set out to assimilate us [the Mohawk people] into the dominant [Canadian] culture … They fear allowing non-natives to live in Kahnawá:ke would eventually further those assimilation policy initiatives … I appreciate outside media giving a voice to those affected directly, for certain. But they also have a responsibility to speak about the injustices that led us to this point.

C: What has led to this point specifically?

BC: Restricting our resources to the point where we end up fighting about this: the blame on that lies with the government. The government includes [the Canadian Government as well as] our own band council system; a system put in place by the Indian Act. Essentially we are in a catch-22. If we had more resources, this would not be a problem. But our own traditional laws, such as ‘The Great Law of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’ which SHOULD supersede federal laws makes room for things like adoption and integration.

C: What has been the reaction in Kahnawá:ke to both the news coverage and the lawsuit itself?

BC: The reaction has been anger and frustration I think, but not all directed at those filing the suit. There’s resentment that those who would potentially make a decision on the case would be an outside court. That risks further imposing colonial laws on a community that is pushing for self-determination and self-government. On the flip side, those suing don’t have any other real recourse.

C: Do you have any concluding thoughts for our readers on the situation in general?

BC: All sides, and there are more than two on this issue, have strong conviction for their argument. It’s important to understand that it’s not the whole community who supports these evictions, but rather a group within the community. Many want to open up a space that encourages a dialogue where consensus can be reached, or alternatives offered. That can’t happen in one meeting, or even two. This issue has been ongoing for decades.

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