From an Onkwehon:we perspective, there are few more important stories in 2013 than the rise to prominence of the Idle No More movement. Idle No More was founded by four women out of Saskatoon in December of 2012. What started off as a small grassroots movement, quickly gained international support. Idle No More was initiated in response to the Conservative government’s omnibus Bill C-45. Part of this Bill, was changing the name of the Navigable Waters Protection Act to the Navigation Protection Act. In the new Act, most bodies of water in Canada are no longer protected. The passing of Bill C-45 is in direct contradiction to various treaties that were made between the Queen and First Nations people all across Canada.
Bill C-45 also changes the Indian Act and the Environmental Assessment Act. The changes allow for easier privatization of treaty lands by way of a referendum vote, and they give the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs power to call a meeting to consider surrendering treaty territory.
What seemed to go hand-in-hand over the past year was Idle No More and protesting of pipelines, in particular the Northern Gateway Pipeline out west and the Line 9 reversal project in Ontario. With Canada having a large oil reserve in the western provinces, large industries from all over the world, including the US and China have come knocking on our doors to exploit and profit from our resources.
One thing that had a huge impact on the Idle No More movement and helped it gain international support, was the influence of social media. In the past year, thousands of photos can be accessed via Facebook of Flash Mob Round Dance’s all over Canada and the United States. We can view pictures of people from countries all around the globe, holding hand-made posters and signs supporting Idle No More.
Idle No More has even been compared with the black civil rights movement in the United States during the 1950s and ‘60s. The civil rights movement was a fight to end racial segregation and discrimination and to enforce constitutional voting rights of African Americans. According to its founders, Idle No More is:
1) a fight for justice in the sense that the federal government acknowledge and respect it’s treaty obligations with First Nations people and,
2) a fight for our Mother the Earth in protecting her against industrialization, resource-grabbing and pipelining. In regards to point #2, this fight isn’t just for Mother Earth: it is a fight for everyone. The destruction of lands, water, and animal species does not just affect First Nations people, it will affect humanity as a whole. This is why Idle No More has garnered significant support from the non-Indigenous community as well.
The vision statement of Idle No More is, “…to protect water, air, land and all creation for future generations… The movement promotes environmental protection and indigenous sovereignty.”
So what is Idle No More other then recurring themes of flash mobs performing round dances in shopping malls and blocking major highways, roads and railway lines?
Idle No More was built on the frustrations of years of systemic racism and oppression through such things as the Indian Act, residential school system, and the 60s Scoop era. It is because of that, that Indigenous people have lost entire generations, literally. Because of the violent ways in which Native people were stripped of their culture and traditions, they were left feeling less then human. Voices were lost and integrity and honour were replaced with silence, violence and addictions.
Almost every Indigenous family today suffers to some degree from the residual effects of colonialism: drugs, alcohol, violence, abuse (sexual, physical, spiritual, emotional), poverty, low self esteem, sense of loss, depression, and suicide.
Idle No More is a ‘wake up’ call to all of this. Kind of like, “Okay, we acknowledge that we have been hurt in the past by the colonizers but, it’s time to pick ourselves up and move on. Time to stop lying down and feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s time to get up and start fighting, in a good way, and with a good mind. Fight for ourselves, for each other, and for Mother Earth.”
Idle No More is Indigenous resurgence: we were knocked down, we stayed down for a while but now we’re getting back up. It’s time to get back up and fight the good fight.
Idle No More is Indigenous resistance: we refuse to let go of our culture and traditions no matter how hard the colonizers try and take it away from us. We refuse to give that up. We will not let go of our traditions nor our language.
Though the future of Idle No More remains uncertain, one thing is for sure, and that is Indigenous people worldwide are no longer afraid of colonialism or colonizers. The era of being bullied, intimidated and harassed off of our land and out of our culture and tradition has ended. It is now time to unite and take a stand against oppression and the oppressors. Indigenous people are Idle No More!