Idle No More was an introduction into the world of indigenous activism for many people. A new generation was awoken to the reality of institutional racism in Canada and this generation anticipated that their fresh energy would bring hope into the lives of the oppressed and marginalized.
For non-native allies it was a rallying point and some great connections were kindled amongst indigenous people as well. But it wasn’t the revolutionary movement some made it out to be. Why not?
#IdleNoMore was a battle waged predominantly online, and that became a problem. Indian’er than thou contests sprang up in Facebook comment sections and by 2015 decolonization seemed to be nothing more than an internet meme.
Although it was started by legitimate indigenous activists, looking back it would seem that this movement entitled tech-savvy descendents of the Wannabe nation, mostly. That is rez slang for a person who is searching for their identity and who may not have relational connections to the oral tradition.
The thing about oppression is that it is oppressive. It is heavy. And the people who are truly being oppressed have dealt with that extra load their entire lives. So when newbie activists enter the forums full of good intention and pep they need to be careful with the tone they use when talking to the real life warriors who have been carrying these burdens for a lifetime.
At Kanonhstaton, the Protected Place during the Caledonia raids of 2006 the younger people looked for guidance from the elders. These elders may not have had grey braids or wrinkled faces full of wisdom but you knew who was at Oka and who wasn’t. These elders might wear camouflage.
Because the fact of the matter is that some of our people are wore out and too tired to fight anymore – and we can’t blame them. For the 70 year old activist who was at Wounded Knee in 1973 the term Idle No More is very disrespectful and dishonoring. That’s why the hashtag #NeverBeenIdle gained attention.
In that regard, Idle No More was a Canadian movement – an opportunity for our visitors to finally do something.
Alanis Obomsawin’s critically acclaimed film “Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance” was aptly named. This battle for justice is a marathon – a war of attrition. It was Nez Perce Chief Joseph who supposedly said the famous words, “I will fight no more forever.” And although we can sympathize with the tragedy his people were facing he wasn’t speaking on behalf of all nations and definitely not on the behalf of the Kanienkehaka Mohawks.
So when you see true Onkwehonwe and Anishnabek people online or in the streets be aware that they may not fit your ideas of what “warriors” or activists might be – they may opt for commercialized clothing, joke around too much or heaven forbid have different views than you.
But they were born into oppression and thereby born into socially conscious activism by default and it is completely reasonable for them to become tired of fighting at a certain point in life. It’s our responsibility from within our culture to take care of our own. It’s our job to prevent our people from becoming too tired to care.