Idle No More is a homegrown phenomenon, hitting the streets in Winnipeg and blockading the tar sands industry near Sarnia.
It was initiated by activists Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon in November 2012, during a teach-in at Station 20 West in Saskatoon called “Idle No More.” It was held in response to the Harper government’s introduction of Bill C-45.
From there, there were marches, rail blockades and round dances — from sacred sea to sacred sea. This prairie fire spread across the world, with solidarity demonstrations from Sapmi to New Zealand.
An important highpoint for Idle No More was the dedication of Chief Theresa Spence from Attawapiskat, Ontario. Plagued by years and years of neglect and institutionalized racism, their Chief came to Ottawa with the intention of starting a Nation-to-Nation dialogue with the Canadian government.
Chief Spence erected a tipi on Victoria Island in Ottawa and began a fast for her people, hoping that this would prompt the government to take action to authentically deal with the issues that on and off reserve Indigenous people face.
Specifically, she was against the Harper government’s passing on Bill C-45. Not only did this bill change the way the government could interact and negotiate with different First Nations communities, it also stripped vital environmental protection for our lakes and rivers — now the Navigation Protection Act (NPA). Much of these bodies of water are located on treaty land, or in the case of B.C., unceded land.
Chief Spence and other community and spiritual leaders undertook fasts for their people. Chief Spence herself only consumed water, tea and fish broth. She maintained this for six weeks, until the opposition parties signed her 13-point agreement. She never did meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
But if it wasn’t for everyone who came out — Indigenous or ally — to dance the round dance to bring public awareness to First Nations issues, to fast for 24 hours to support Chief Spence, to spend Christmas on the CN rail blockade in Aamjiwnaang First Nation or challenge the police in anti-frakking protests in New Brunswick, this movement would not exist.
People who question if society even cares have never reached out to grab a stranger’s hand as the drum begins its round dance beat. Or they have never recieved a coffee on a cold night around the fire at a blockade. Or court support. Or a solidarity message passed through social meda. Or a smile.
If you don’t think people care, you’re not paying attention.
Under the banner of Idle No More, Nations within Canada rose up. There were massive round dances in the large malls of Edmonton and Toronto, a handful of blockades in Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick. There were also teach-ins across Canada and informational webinars to keep everyone connected.
For 2013, Indigenous groups called for a Sovereignty Summer. (In the United States, it’s called Fearless Summer.)
More than 2,000 people gathered at Parliament Hill on Friday June 21, 2013, to kick off Sovereignty Summer — a joint campaign between Idle No More and Defenders of the land.
There was another round dance on Canada Day in Toronto’s Dundas Square as well as again in Ottawa.
For us here in Canada, there are a few different actions in October that people can plug into.
On October 4, 2013, people are invited to join in on the 3rd Annual Families of Sisters in Spirit Vigil 2013.
“Families of Sisters in Spirit believes that no decisions can be made on behalf of Indigenous women, families, communities and Nations without our free, prior, informed consent. This demands our DIRECT leadership in any/all processes. Help FSIS bring as many families as we can to Ottawa to have our voices heard!! In our own words! In our own ways!” Learn more and join the action!
On October 7, 2013, people are invited to join for Canada-wide (hopefully worldwide) call to action put out by Idle No More.
This day marks the 250th Anniversary of the British Royal Proclamation, which lead to the founding of this country they call Canada – a country founded on Indigenous lands. If you believe in the spirit of Idle No More and the 6 calls for change of #SovSummer then we ask you to stand up and be counted this October 2013.
If you would like to help organize an event in your community. C’mon Toronto peeps, let’s put something together.
IT’S ROUND DANCE TIME!
Photo is of Jacqui Levalley by krystalline kraus.