(Please excuse any errors I may make in this post; there are conflicting details and dates, but what I present here I do in good faith. First Nation Secwep trthomas has agreed to cohost the thread and offer more clarity.)
The Idle No More movement was started in November by four women in Saskatchewan who were emailing each other about Stephen Harper’s and the Tories’ Omnibus budget bill C-45, which many First Nations people say disregards longtime treaties, ignores their tribal sovereignty, encourages increased assimilation, and further degrades the health of the planet, all in the name of increased employment. The women moved their conversations to Facebook, and the theme ‘it’s time to get off the couch and take act action’ grew like wildfire. From Turtle Island*, Ontario on Dec. 11:
Tristan Hopper at the National Post chronicles the beginning of the movement, and cites these core issues Indigenous Canadians have with the Tory/Harper bill:
Ontario, the three Prairie Provinces as well as large parts of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories all sit on land that First Nations people signed over to Canada in exchange for a package of government guarantees. Treaty 9, the 1905/1906 treaty signed the people of Attawapiskat, for instance, guarantees that, in perpetuity, First Nations would receive “benefits that served to balance anything that they were giving.” The treaty also guaranteed total Aboriginal control over reserve lands. Idle No More organizers point to the disastrous state of Aboriginal health and living conditions on First Nations reserves and allege that these treaty rights are not being properly honoured — and that current attempts to amend the Indian Act will only erode existing Aboriginal rights. “Canada has not committed itself to addressing the colonial relationship it still has with indigenous peoples,” wrote Metis blogger Chelsea Vowel earlier this month. “I think it’s fair to say that most Canadians believe that kind of relationship no longer exists. We are trying to tell you that you are wrong.”
Co-organizers of Idle No More say the bill reduces the number of waterways and lakes under federal protection by 99%, and changes First Nation rights guaranteed them in the 1760s. The bill will also give the Canadian government the power to change treaties that have long existed, and provides for the fast-tracking of federal approval of waterways like the Kitimat (no longer under protection) for the Northern Gateway pipeline.
On Dec. 11, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike that she announced she would break when PM Stephen Harper met with her. So far he has not, and only offered delegates from his government; she has so far refused. Liberal leadership contenders Justin Trudeau met with Ms. Spence in her Victoria Island tipi, while Mr. Garneau released a letter calling for Mr. Harper to build “renewed understanding” with Canada’s First Nations.
Solidarity actions, tobacco offerings, drum circles and round dances, flashmobs…most all with ample drumming, signifying the heartbeats of the people and planet have been spreading globally like wildfire. My.fdl’s mzchief has been gathering tweets here and videos and tweets here. In Edmonton Dec. 21:
Lower Nicola Indian Band Executive Director Arnie Narcisse spoke to the Merritt Herald recently:
He likened the relationship between First Nations and the federal government to a buffalo jump, with the First Nations treaty and land rights as the buffalo driven over the cliff by the Harper Government, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan, and pipeline proponents.
The Jobs and Growth Act basically gives the government the excuse to run roughshod over our right and title to this land,” he said. “All of these things are designed to sucker us into economics, if you will, at the cost of protecting the environment and all of the other things that matter to us.
Yes, the ploys sound overly familiar. That more and more of the 99% worldwide are all becoming members of the third world disenfranchised now is even clear to the First Nation and First American Indigenous. Solidarity with Idle No More and Chief Spence’s hunger strike have spread around the globe from New Zealand to Shiprock, MN to the American Northwest. (See the right-hand column at Censored News for photos and actions)
Chief Spence in her tipi in Ottawas on Dec. 21:
Poet/musician and former American Indian Movement leader John Trudell writes in the last stanza of his poem ‘This Idle No More’: