Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson arrived to try to crack a 75-day deadlock between armed Mohawk Indians and Canadian authorities.
Although Jackson arrived Sunday night in his capacity as a television journalist, the former U.S. presidential candidate said he hoped to help end the tense standoff."Hopefully, through dialogue and the interviewing process, the tensions will ease, the bloodshed will stop and there will be some rational resolution to this conflict," Jackson said at Montreal's Dorval airport.
Jackson had returned recently from Baghdad, where he helped secure the release of some Westerners held by the Iraqi government in the Persian Gulf crisis, when Canada's Mohawks asked him to mediate in their conflict.
The dispute erupted July 11 when police stormed a barricade erected by Mohawks in the town of Oka to block the extension of a golf course onto land they regard as sacred. A policeman was shot to death as members of the militant Mohawk Warriors group repelled the assault.
Unrest spread to other Mohawk settlements in Quebec, prompting Quebec province to ask the Canadian army to restore order. The barricades at the Kahnawake reservation south of Montreal were dismantled peacefully, but about 20 Warriors remain holed up in an alcohol treatment center at the Kanesatake settlement in Oka, 20 miles west of Montreal.
The Warriors, accompanied by 30 women and children, refuse to surrender unconditionally. The federal government has ruled out talks on native grievances until they give themselves up.
"When talking becomes impossible, violence becomes inevitable," said Jackson, who began his civil rights career in the 1960s as a follower of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
However, an army spokesman said Jackson would not be allowed into the Mohawk outpost at Oka, which has been fenced off with razor wire and surrounded by hundreds of soldiers.