STE. CATHERINE, QUEBEC, AUG. 29 -- After nine weeks of defiant resistance to provincial authority, a band of Mohawk Indians stood by peacefully tonight as the Canadian army tore down two barricades the Indians had set up here to block access to a key Montreal commuter bridge.

Not a blow was struck or harsh word exchanged as bulldozers and mechanical diggers began tearing apart the barriers across two approaches to the Mercier Bridge -- in the midst of afternoon rush hour. Watching the operation from a few yards away was a troop of Mohawk youths -- acquiescent, but masked and clad in combat fatigues.

The removal of the barricades ended two days of speculation that open warfare was about to break out between the army and members of the Mohawks' paramilitary Warriors Society, who erected the barriers in early July in support of Indian protests elsewhere in Canada and had spurned government attempts to settle the impasse.

On Monday, Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa gave the army the go-ahead to use force to tear down the barricades. But the threat of violence evaporated today when intense negotations between army commanders and Mohawk leaders ended in agreement that the barricades should be dismantled to prevent bloodshed, according to army Lt. Col. Robert Gagnon, the military commander on the scene.

The traffic barriers -- 12 miles southwest of Montreal, within the bounds of the Mohawks' Kahnawake Reserve -- were only two of several erected around Kahnawake in a dispute that grew out of a conflict at another reserve, where armed and well dug-in Mohawks have fought off attempts by the Quebec town of Oka to extend a golf course onto land they regard as sacred. The Mohawks at Oka, 12 miles west of here, have vowed to continue their stand, but no violence was reported there today.

The one fatality in the two-month Oka confrontation came July 11, when a Quebec policeman was killed in a gun battle as scores of officers tried to storm the Indians' position. No blame has been fixed in the slaying. To demonstrate solidarity with the Oka Mohawks, the Kahnawake militants closed the Mercier Bridge the next day.

All week long here, local residents shared fears of bloody combat as the army amassed more than 4,000 troops, tanks and armored vehicles in readiness for battle with hundreds of Indians at the Mercier Bridge and Oka, who were said to possess up to 170 AK-47 assault rifles. The Oka Mohawks reportedly had also dug an elaborate system of trenches and had laid land mines.

The barricades at Ste. Catherine blocked Route 132 to the bridge, one of the main arteries across the St. Lawrence River to Montreal, a move that angered commuters deprived of the route. The bridge is now to be repaired and could be reopened in a few days.

Over the last few days, the barricades at Ste. Catherine, made up of timber, blocks of concrete, tires and furniture, have also become something of a tourist attaction. Although the public was kept at least 100 yards away from the embattled Mohawks by the army's own razor-wire barrier, this had not stopped people from turning up by the hundreds -- many toting picnic lunches, blankets and binoculars -- to try to get a close-up view of the Indian fortifications.

This evening, however, the crowds melted away. "We expected a battle," said one onlooker. "This has turned out to be an anticlimax."

Earlier this afternoon at Oka, young Mohawks, some barely out of school, paraded with their military-issue rifles for reporters allowed behind the traffic barricade and pseudo-fortress the Indians have constructed just outside town. The Indians said they would rather die than lay down their arms.

Their spokesman, Loran Thompson, 43, who describes himself as a teacher, said: "The warriors have decided that they will not lay down one weapon. The minute you lay down one rifle, one pistol, one firearm, you are admitting defeat. They will not admit defeat and the people of the Mohawk Nation understand this."

Although Oka was voluntarily evacuated by the army on Tuesday, many residents remained there and were going about their daily chores as usual. One elderly couple sat in rocking chairs on their patio soaking up the summer sun as they watched tanks roll by.

"It beats watching the birds," said the old man.

There is a feeling in Oka that the situation will not come to blows, despite the defiant stance of the Mohawks. John Ciaccia, Canada's minister for native affairs, who has been meeting with Mohawk chief Joe Norton, said a peaceful settlement was in sight to resolve the whole issue.

Neither the Mohawks nor the army officials at Ste. Catherine would elaborate on the reasons why the Indians had agreed to the peaceful dismantling of the barricades, other than to say that both sides wanted to avoid casualties.

Lt. Col. Gagnon said discussions had been going on with the Mohawks for 10 days, after which an agreement not to open fire was reached by both sides. "I had an assurance {from the Mohawks} that no one would open fire, and I gave in return the same assurance," he said.