I had only just turned 10 years old when the Oka Crisis happened, and I certainly had no direct connection to the events, but because of my circumstances at the time, it had a certain impact on me.
On the one hand, a family friend was an employee at the golf course which triggered the affair. This family friend didn’t hesitate to share his strong personal opinions about these ”ungrateful Indians” who are ”all on welfare” are a ”drain on society” and who were supposedly causing his boss to lose money. His opinion seemed to be shared by a lot of the adults.
On the other hand, I was fortunate as a child to be involved, through my church, with a refugee center which really opened my eyes not only to the injustices people face beyond my own privileged little world, but to the wonderful diversity of humanity. There was discussion about the Oka crisis among the volunteers and patrons of the refugee center, and although my memories are hazy, I remember there being a great deal of empathy for the Mohawks’ situation. I wonder, today, whether these people who themselves came from colonial contexts were able to see a similarity between their own histories of colonization and those of the Mohawks. But maybe not. Maybe they were just people who could appreciate true hardship, having experienced it themselves. Either way, at the time, I don’t think I formed a coherent opinion on the affair, but in my limited way, I at least realized that there were differing opinions on the subject, and that whoever these ‘Indians’ were, they weren’t necessarily ‘bad guys’, like everyone else seemed to be saying.
Certainly the most positive outcome of all this, for me, was simply a basic awareness that First Nations’ people existed, beyond the stereotype in popular culture. First Nations people were real, they were right nearby, and they had something to say. This encouraged in me an interest in First Nations affairs as a child which continued into adulthood. Today I’m proud to consider myself an active ally of Indigenous peoples, which might not be the case if it weren’t for Oka.