Idle No More has rapidly spread from Southcentral Canada, into the U.S. upper midwest, the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence river valley, to the Pacific Northwest south of British Columbia, and into other countries with subjugated indigenous populations. Begun less than two months ago, it is spreading like the Ghost Dance movement on steroids. I’ve heard it referred to locally as “Re-Occupy Wounded Knee,” which might not be fair, as that de-Canada-izes the movement’s origin.
It is propelled by the internet, social media such as facebook, twitter, youtube and skype, and good old grapevine word-of-mouth. 21st century smoke signals. What started in Saskatoon as a small protest and hunger strike over a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper over his Omnibus Bill, C-45, the resulting teach-ins in Canada have led to concerns about other Omnibus bills, and their elements that reduce indigenous rights.
In late December, there was an Idle No More flash mob dance in Juneau. It has been followed by three more solidarity demonstrations, including teaching aspects. Here’s Alaska Native story teller Ishmael Hope, on one of the Juneau actions:
On a deeper level, something I really love about this movement is it helps get people together, and right now, all we’re doing — we’re not making big speeches. We’re getting together and we’re singing our ancient clan songs. … What this helps us remember is there’s no separation between a culture, our language and our sovereignty. They strengthen each other. So we sing our songs, we know ourselves more and we’re able to stand up for ourselves better.
The Anchorage event, with its major component of teaching materials handed out by the event’s sponsors, resembled many of the education and awareness-based INM actions in Canada and elsewhere.
The rally’s sponsors were varied, and representing issues from all parts of Alaska:
REDOIL: Their network consists of grassroots Alaska Natives of the Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Tlingit, Gwich’in, Eyak and Denaiana Athabascan tribes. The REDOIL network addresses the human and ecological health impacts of the unsustainable development practices of the fossil fuel industry in Alaska. REDOIL’s main concern in the past has been with the oil industry, and the physical deterioration of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline.
Chickaloon Village Traditional Council: The organization currently operates seven departments: Health and Social Services, Housing, Education, Environmental Stewardship, Justice, Transportation, and Accounting/Administration. They help serve the needs of Tribal citizens and another estimated 2,373 Alaska Natives and Native American Peoples living in their service area, as well as the non-native community members living in Glacier View, Chickaloon, Sutton, Palmer, and Butte. CVTC is deeply involved in coal industry development on and near traditional tribal lands. They are not supportive of any current coal mining projects.
Alaska Community Action on Toxics: ACAT is a statewide environmental health and justice organization established in 1997.
They hope to assure justice by advocating for environmental and community health. They believe that everyone has the right to clean air, clean water, and toxic-free food.
Their active programs help communities implement effective strategies to limit their exposure to toxic substances and to protect and restore the ecosystems that sustain them and their way of life.
Since the end of the first decade of the 21st century, ACAT has been increasingly involved in providing health information abut coal mining and other mineral development projects in the state, such as the proposed Pebble Mine.
At Friday’s rally, speakers represented each of Alaska’s main tribal families, Eskimo, Aleut, Athabaskan and Southeastern. None were supportive of the ongoing development projects, such as Shell Oil’s Arctic offshore drilling project, the gigantic Pebble Mine, or any of the many contemplated coal mines around the state.
I was happy to see articulate speakers like CVTC’s Theresa Wade, speaking about projects I’m directly involved in, like stopping local Mat-Su coal developments, right in our back yards, or in the case of Chickaloon – front yards.
Idle No More is so new, so fresh. I wonder if, like Occupy Wall Street and the American Indian Movement, the FBI and other Federal agencies are already targeting INM for infiltration, disinformation, and the creation of fake plots.
Here’s my video of Friday’s rally. It is just three short clips from the 80-minute long rally:
1). Lisa Wade, an Athabascan from the Chickaloon Traditional Council, speaking about impending coal developments on traditional tribal lands, and the struggle against this.
2). Marcelle McIntyre and Matt Walker from the Tsimshian Dance Group in Southeast Alaska, from Metlakatla.
3). Paul Pike, from the Mi’kmaq Nation on the island of Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland), in Canada. He is a founder of Medicine Dream.
Bob Hallinan from the Anchorage Daily News took some fine photographs.
My longtime friend, Linda Scates, posted hers at her photo niche.
And Anchorage Idle No More’s facebook page is getting packed with photos.