Masked Mohawks on Wednesday helped soldiers tear down barricades set up seven weeks ago near the Mercier Bridge, avoiding a bloody confrontation.
But other Mohawks said the original dispute remains unsettled and barricades at nearby Oka will remain.
After a meeting in front of one barricade leading to the community of Chateauguay and the Kahnawake reserve, army officers and unarmed members of the Mohawks’ Warrior Society began bringing the Mercier Bridge barrier down with heavy equipment.
The two sides then began dismantling another barricade near Chateauguay on a highway blocked since July 11, when Mohawks at Oka fought a gun battle with provincial police in a dispute over land that the community of Oka had earmarked as a golf course. The Indians contend it is ancestral land.
A police officer was killed. Responsibility in the death has not been fixed.
Other Indians shut down Mercier Bridge in support of the Mohawks at Oka, infuriating commuters and local businesses and leading to outbreaks of violence.
A Mohawk spokesman at the Kahnesatake community in Oka, 18 miles west of Montreal, said the barricades there will remain. He said the agreement at Kahnawake affects only that reservation.
“This place holds the key to everything,” Dan David, a spokesman for the Kahnesatake Mohawks, said. “Everybody knows this is where everything started and this is where everything must end.”
There were no talks between the army and the Mohawks near Oka.
Earlier Wednesday, four trucks, two front-end loaders on flatbed trucks and two armored personnel carriers moved toward the Mohawk barricades near the bridge. Reports circulated that the government had issued an ultimatum to Indian negotiators to settle or face army guns.
Mohawk spokesman Jack LeClaire said: “The decision was taken to avoid bloodshed. We have reached an honorable settlement between the military and the community of Kahnawake.”
The moves in Chateauguay caused confusion among Mohawks in both Oka and at a suburban hotel at Dorval where Kahnawake leaders were negotiating with army and government representatives when news came that the barricades at the bridge were being destroyed.
Just before the dismantling began, two soldiers got out of a truck, advanced to the barricade, went behind it and emerged with two masked members of the Warrior Society.
A Mohawk operated a mechanical shovel on one side of the barricade while two army bulldozers worked on the other side to bring it down. About 20 masked but unarmed Mohawks helped with the dismantling.
At the same time, the army began filling in a large trench in front of the barricades.
LeClaire said, “The bridge will be inspected. If the Quebec Department of Transport says it is passable, we hope it will be open by the weekend.”
The army earlier Wednesday had moved to within 650 feet of the blockaded bridge to the island of Montreal.
Soldiers near St. Isidore village, close to the Kahnawake reservation, had set up six 105-millimeter howitzers in a cornfield, aimed at the reservation and the blocked bridge.
The 2nd Battalion had set up positions near Mercier Bridge on Wednesday, and the army positioned heavy artillery also.
A Mohawk source earlier Wednesday reported a proposal that a joint Royal Canadian Mounted Police-Mohawk police force remove the bridge barricades together, the Mohawk contingent to be drawn from Kahnawake’s legally recognized native police, known as the Peacekeepers.