[Critique] “The Mohawk Warrior Society — Indigenous Sovereignty Handbook”: Mohawk Resistance

The Mohawk Warrior Society is publishing its Native Sovereignty Handbook these days. The controversial militant organization, considered radical by many, but which sees itself rather as resistant, and whose members are nicknamed the « Warriors », notably came to light during the Oka crisis in 1990.

From the first glance, the informed reader will recognize the image which extends over the entire cover page, the famous Iroquois flag, red and gold with in the middle the face of an Aboriginal person with an eagle feather planted on the head, brandished several times during the conflict in Kanesatake. The book also revolves around Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall (1918-1993), traditionalist activist, writer and artist, who imagined the banner in question, nicknamed the « flag of unity », and which has today become a essential symbol of Native struggles in North America.

In addition to a selection of works of art by Karoniaktajeh Hall, a complex and emblematic figure of the Warrior Society, the book includes for the first time in French several of his writings deemed fundamental by the movement, such as Rebuilding the Iroquois Confederacy (1980) and the Warrior’s Handbook (1979). The latter is a captivating historical pamphlet full of teachings and reflections on the living conditions of the First Peoples in Canada.

But far from the polemical proposal stirring up the pains of the past, the collection – fascinating and provided in detail – unfolds more like an anthology whose objective is to share an oral tradition often unpublished or rarely made available to readers. Through extensive documentation, she recounts here the origins of the Warrior Society and its influence on political struggles.

Thus, the book opens with the testimonies of four of its founding members: Tekarontakeh, Kakwirakeron, Kanasaraken and Ateronhiatakon. These activists and traditional knowledge keepers were among the first to truly organize high-profile initiatives (rallies, blocking of roads and bridges) to assert Indigenous authority over the traditional lands of the Mohawk Nation both in the United States, in New York State than in Quebec.

Remember that the movement was born in the 1960s, the era of “great citizen awakenings” which saw the birth of various emancipation groups on the North American continent, the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the Black Panthers in the lead.

One of the great interests of the book is that it gives voice to the Mohawk resistance over nearly five centuries. The essay is a patchwork of literary styles and genres mixing interviews, manifestos, tales, philosophical reflections and historical accounts. A chronology of Mohawk history, a chapter on toponymy and a glossary on various concepts in Aboriginal language complete the volume.

The Mohawk Warrior Society


Selected works of Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall, Éditions de la rue Dorion, Montreal, 2022, 464 pages.

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