Thursday, February 22, 2007

Trevor Miller Set Free after Declaring Mohawk Sovereignty to the Colonial Settler-State of Canada

The following is written by Sarita Ahooja, and is one of several documents from the February 2007 report The Criminalization of the Six Nations Land Reclamation.

On February 9, 2007, Trevor Miller, a 31 yr-old Mohawk man charged by the colonial authorities due to his participation in the Six Nations Land Reclamation, and who was sitting behind bars for over 7 months, was finally released on bail. Trevor Miller was greeted outside the courthouse by his supporters with tears and applause.

At a prior court appearance, Trevor declared to the Cayuga court “I am a sovereign Mohawk man, and you have no jurisdiction over me.” Trevor is being represented by his lawyer Justin Griffin, as well as Stuart Myiow, a representative from the Mohawk Traditional Council of Kahnawake (MTCK).

As Trevor stood proudly in the witness booth, dressed in traditional regalia, he greeted the full courtroom of supporters who rose and stood in his honor. Grassy Narrows activist Bonnie Swain was also present, having traveled from her Ojibway territory, Northern Ontario, where the fight to stop clear-cutting on their lands by Abitibi Consolidated and Weyerhaeuser has been on-going since the blockade began in 2002.

The defense lawyer began the proceedings by stating that Trevor’s ongoing detention is contrary to the principles of due process and public justice outlined in colonial common law and the Canadian Charter of Rights. Mr. Griffin pointed to the court transcripts (which were not made available by the Crown earlier despite a court order), stating that the Crown misled the court and the police have withheld crucial video evidence. Although Judge Borkovich immediately dismissed this issue, he stated, “I would be prepared to grant him bail, but what gets me is that he doesn’t recognize this court’s jurisdiction…He can’t have it both ways. He must respect this court, if he wants respect for his sovereignty.”

Stuart Myiow of the MTCK intervened to address certain racist comments uttered by the Crown and explained to Judge Borkovich, “the initial act did come from Trevor. It is an act that is part of the continuing genocide that has been brought upon our people.” Mr. Myiow assured the judge that “if Trevor is released into our custody, we will guarantee that he attends other court dates”. In 1998, a Six Nations Mohawk man, facing charges of assault was released from the colonial court system proceedings and into the care of the Mohawk Traditional Council of Kahnawake. All charges were dropped in a pre-trial agreement.

The Crown’s rebuttal claimed that the risk was too high as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy had advised the accused not to appear in court, and Trevor had “fled his warrant.” He insisted on cross-examining Stuart Myiow to see how the supervision would take place, claiming that there are no legal consequences for the MTCK if Trevor were not to obey. Judge Borkovich denied the crown’s request and responded, “Why shouldn’t I believe this man’s word? The Mohawk Nation has its entire reputation at stake.” The sighs of relief and tears of joy overwhelmed the courtroom.

Judge Borkovich then granted Trevor’s release to the Mohawk Nation, and ordered a 10,000 deposit to be paid as well as two acceptable sureties. The judge also imposed a series of conditions which include keeping the peace, early curfew, non-association with co-accused, to remain 200m in distance from the land reclamation, no driving, and that he live and follow the rules of his aunt’s home.

Trevor must appear in court again on March 7, one day after the Superior court hearings for the jurisdictional challenge put forth by Kanohnstaton defender Erwin Ron Gibson, represented by his lawyer Stephen Ford.

Although there is a lot of organizing and fundraising to do, the months of agonising and worry for Trudy, Trevor’s mother, are over. “I feel so uplifted. When they said the words Mohawk Nation, I felt our power … we can do anything.”

Trevor Miller is among a growing number of young first nations activists who are taking action by directly challenging the colonial legal system, and raising the hopes of their elders and their people towards liberation.

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