CAUGHNAWAGA, QUEBEC, JULY 18 -- Indian tribal chiefs from across Canada slipped through police patrols into this besieged reservation near Montreal today to hold an emergency meeting aimed at breaking a week-long armed standoff with authorities that began over land claims at a nearby golf course.

The confrontations here, along with sympathy protests in Ottawa, the capital, and in British Columbia and Manitoba, reflect a growing militancy among Canada's 700,000 indigenous Indians and Eskimos over what they say is the government's refusal to address longstanding aboriginal grievances.

Canadian army units bivouacked nearby on alert for possible intervention in the confrontations, which have claimed the life of a Quebec provincial police officer. {Quebec Prime Minister Robert Bourassa said tonight that there would be "incalculable risks" in using force against the Mohawks, saying "it is not the policy of my government to call for the army at the moment." Reuter reported.}

Heavily armed Mohawk Indians of the Kahnawake reservation manned an earthworks barricade they erected a week ago to close down the busy Mercier Bridge, one of the main commuter thoroughfares to Montreal Island from the suburban south bank of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Another group of about 200 Mohawks, also armed with hunting rifles and AK-47 assault rifles, faced off against hundreds of Quebec police at Oka, 18 miles west of here, where a policeman was shot to death Wednesday when the authorities attacked a barricade.

Nightly, crowds of up to 3,500 residents of Chateauguay, adjacent to the bridge, have held angry demonstrations at the southern approaches to the closed span, complaining that the Indians' barricade has turned their normal six-mile commute to Montreal into a 90-minute detour.

Police attempts to seal off this besieged reservation have turned into a cat-and-mouse game with its 6,000 Mohawk residents, who have been smuggling in food to counter what they claim is a government effort to starve them into submission.

The Indians started to become more strident in their demands after Elijah Harper, 41, a Cree Indian and the only Indian member of the Manitoba provincial legislature, last month used procedural rules to single-handedly block ratification of the Meech Lake constitutional amendments, which were designed to bring Quebec into the constitution and preserve the 123-year-old Canadian confederation.

The Indians, who have suffered severe economic and social setbacks despite Canada's general prosperity, have charged that the federal government's hard-line stance on their land claims is in retaliation for Harper's blocking the accord, which also was stalled in the Newfoundland legislature.

The Indians are demanding that the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney enter negotiations to end the potentially explosive standoffs at both roadblocks and to settle land disputes throughout Canada that go back centuries.

Indians and Eskimos, who make up little more than 2 percent of Canada's population, have long considered themselves economically and socially deprived -- and ignored by provincial and federal governments.

They make up three-fourths of the prison population in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, for example, and have up to 90 percent unemployment in some areas. Their suicide rate is considerably higher than the national average, as are their alcoholism and infant mortality rates.

The barricades were originally erected to protest a decision by the white town of Oka to expand a nine-hole golf course on land the Indians claim belongs to the Mohawk nation. The dispute goes back to 1717, when a Roman Catholic mission was established in Mohawk territory with a land grant by the king of France.

The federal government rejected the Indians' claim in 1986, and last March the Mohawks set up a roadblock to block the golf course extension. For months, police ignored it, but they moved in Wednesday when Oka Mayor Jean Ouellette demanded action.

The Indian blockade of the Mercier Bridge was immediately set up in sympathy with the Mohawks of the Kahnesetake reservation, adjacent to Oka, and since then both groups have been sealed off except for occasional Red Cross convoys of food and medical supplies.

"A hundred years ago the government tried to starve us out. They couldn't do it then, and they can't do it now," said Chief Billy Two Rivers, head of the Kahnawake council longhouse, or traditional government, located here in Caughnawaga, seat of the reservation.

The protests have become racial at times. The mostly French-speaking demonstrators, demanding army intervention, have shouted "Savages!" and burned effigies of Indians.

Last night Mohawks circumvented roadblocks and brought this correspondent and a tribal chief from New Brunswick in by boat across Lake St. Louis. Less than an hour later, Quebec police closed the Montreal Island boatyard from which the Indians' boat had left and stepped up patrols on the lake.

The New Brunswick chief said police told him earlier that they would prevent the 150 chiefs of the nationwide Assembly of First Nations invited to the emergency conference from reaching Kahnawake Reserve because "we're at war with you."

This morning, a small plane landed on a fairway of a golf course here -- not the one involved in the dispute -- to bring in baby formula and other essential supplies.

Chief Joe Norton, head of the Kahnawake Grand Council, said that the police "will be making a serious mistake if they prevent the chiefs from coming here. It will just inflame people more."

Norton said the purpose of the Assembly of First Nations meeting was to tell the government, in strong language, that "you've got to settle these {land} issues, and you've got to settle them peacefully."

He said the young, armed Mohawks manning the barricades were becoming impatient with efforts by tribal elders to negotiate a peaceful solution, and could open fire across a 200-yard "no man's land" with the slightest provocation.

"The traditional leaders who think we can negotiate a solution are going to get pushed aside. There's going to be a real Indian uprising here if the government doesn't start dealing with the land claims on a sincere basis," Norton said.

Government officials in Ottawa called the land claims here a Quebec-Mohawk concern, and said they should be dealt with on a provincial level. Indian Affairs Minister Thomas Sidden, in a statement sent to the Mohawks Tuesday, said the federal government had attempted to settle the Oka dispute in the past, and even proposed buying the land adjacent to the golf course to defuse it.

On Sunday, negotiations between the Mohawks and Quebec Native Affairs Minister John Ciaccia broke down after the provincial government offered to recognize the 54 acres of golf course land as Mohawk territory, although the terms of title transfer were left uncertain. The government proposed to withdraw "significant numbers" of police if the Mohawks dismantled the roadblocks, while a religious order acceptable to both parties would monitor the withdrawal.

Ciaccia also promised to do all he could to promote "nation-to-nation" negotiations between the Mohawks and the federal government, although Ottawa continued to give no assurances to enter talks about the overall 260-square-mile land claim. He also promised to conduct a public inquiry into the federal government's actions in the current crisis, while the Mohawks promised to cooperate in the investigation into the fatal shooting of Quebec Police Cpl. Marcel Lemay on July 11.

The Mohawks Tuesday presented a still-undisclosed counteroffer, although face-to-face negotiations were indefinitely suspended.

Chief Two Rivers, in an interview, said, "The federal government seems to have forgotten its responsibility. This goes far beyond Oka. It is a national issue, not a provincial issue. If they want to commit genocide, then they can call in the army, because our people will fight to the end."