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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .

In Defense of Mohawk Land
Linda Pertusati

(New York: State University of New York Press, 1997)
$14.95, 166pp. Index. Bibl. Pb.: $14.95; ISBN 0-7914-3212-2.

Linda Pertusati's In Defense of Mohawk Land is a superb narrative describing the thinking and actions of Mohawks and the Canadian government during the Indian siege at the small town of Oka in the Spring, Summer and Fall of 1990. She accomplishes this feat in just 139 pages of a 166-page book. Pertusati's favorable views toward the Mohawks during the standoff against Canadian Royal Mounted Police and Canadian troops provides and intimate view of internal Mohawk struggles. Most importantly, she describes the difficulty Indians in North America have communicating their political and cultural aspirations to state authorities, provincial officials and a general non-Indian public. Pertusati carefully describes the importance of historical events, developing political consciousness, and how the effective organization of resources play significantly in the ability of small nations like the Mohawk to mobilize and create a confrontation with a state like Canada. Pertusati's book helps us understand how such a conflict can develop. What she does not do (and this is her expressed purpose for the book) is give us a clearly stated theory about conflicts between nations like the Mohawk and states like Canada.

Pertusati attempts to use theories of 19th century Political Science to form a theoretical framework within which conflicts between the world's more than 6,000 nations and 192 states can be understood. Unhappily, she uses a system of thinking intended to rationalize the coming into existence and continued existence of modern political states to form her new theory. It doesn't work. It doesn't work for the same reason that the Mohawks were unable to communicate their political and cultural aspirations to the people and government of Canada. Scholars using Political Science worked to destroy cultural nations and replace them with political states. Canada seeks to replace the Mohawk not to coexist with it.

The Mohawks wanted accommodation and respect from the Canadians-not violence. State repression of indigenous nations is the result of a perceived threat against the state's sovereignty and central authority. Using Pertusati's attempt at political theory one must conclude that the Mohawks want to become a state just like the Canada. That is not what Mohawks said. If Dr. Pertusati had listened carefully to her Mohawk informants and abandoned conventional Political Science theory, she would have discovered a new framework for political conflict theory. That framework is called Fourth World Geopolitics: The study and application of conflict-resolution in relations between the world's nations and its 192 states which were formed on top of these nations in the years from 1648 onward. My own work and the work of Ward Churchill and Bernard Q. Nietschman (two of her theoretical sources) formed the body of Fourth World Geopolitical theory. Understanding and applying this modern theory would have made In Defense of Mohawk Land an important contribution to political scholarship. Instead, the author produced a well-written account of one conflict that mirrors scores of such conflicts that occur in the world every year.

Rudolph C. R˙ser, Center for World Indigenous Studies.

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