National Geographic : 1987 Sep
War, indeed, almost broke out at Akwe sasne in 1979, when a minor incident over a confiscated chain saw escalated into a major confrontation that had armed traditionalists barricading themselves against armed tribal council supporters, with state and federal authorities poised tensely between. For nearly two years the siege went on. At one point, confederacy chiefs at Onondaga and Tuscarora threatened to sever gas and pow er lines crossing their reservations if police stormed the barricades at Akwesasne. Ulti mately indictments were dismissed against the traditionalists and the barricades came down, but the hurts and hatreds still fester. VEN AS I VISIT, more problems erupt at Akwesasne. Over a period of a few weeks seven deaths have been attributed to drunk driving, and the clan mothers are up in arms. They de mand that local speakeasies be closed. A crowd of demonstrators gathers in front of one. As they march, a youth on a motorcycle roars away from the speakeasy, right past the demonstrators, and minutes later dies in a collision up the road. It's too much. That night flames suddenly shoot from the build ing. The local fire department, not wanting to interfere, stands by as the wooden struc ture burns to the ground.