A note to Idle No More: Inclusion and respect will make the fire stronger

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In the past several months, I have sensed a growing and powerful energy amongst our people. I began to sense it when we started marching and singing around Winnipeg during the call for a National Inquiry on Murdered or Missing Indigenous Women.

When given the opportunity to speak, I stated that we are witnessing the rise of a people's movement, where the passion and energy of our people will no longer be harnessed by apathy, political correctness, deference, or a blind trust in provincial or federal politicians to do the right thing. There is a new energy that is now awake and its messaging is spreading quietly amongst our people through the whispers, the prayers and the songs of our young men and women.

Many of you will know this energy as a very old and powerful warrior spirit. It is the warrior spirit of our people that has been quietly burning in the heart of our collective consciousness for thousands of years. Each and every one of us has an opportunity to take from the fire of the spirit and re-kindle our deepest desires for the opportunity to flourish with pride in our existence as indigenous people. Some of us can feel it in the words of the songs, others sense it as the soft energy that makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks when we hear the beating of the drums and the singing of the songs of our people.

This great and beautiful gift is unique to us, and only us, as the Indigenous peoples of these lands. Non-indigenous persons can sense the great gift. They wish to observe it and hopefully feel the energy too. We should accommodate them and include them where and when we can because many of them are starving for something more meaningful than the material world that consumes our days.

The warrior spirit of our people does not know the Indian Act, it does not yield to political correctness, and its prepared to blast through the many complexities of the artificial world we have made here on Turtle Island. No government can defeat the true power of the spirit because it sources from a spiritual place, the same place that holds the truths of the human spirit, and the truths about our treaties.

The spirit of the warrior is bigger than Idle No More, it is bigger than the Chiefs. We try to capture or own the spirit in the artificial constructs of our human experience, but we cannot. It is beyond us in our limited human experience to capture the essence of the warrior spirit in anything we have created. We must let it flourish in the expressions of our young people and accept it in whatever form it takes. Some will express the energy through fasting, others will march, others will sing, others will fight, others will sit at tables and negotiate, and others will run from it because they are fearful of a future they cannot control.

There is no need to fight for control over the energy that has spread like wildfire across the turtle’s back. It is incorrect for me or any other Chief to try to co-opt or control Idle No More as it would only frustrate the beautiful expressions of the energy of the spirit that is now empowering our people. It is equally incorrect for organizers of Idle No More to try to limit the participation of any of our people, Chiefs or otherwise.

Humility, acceptance, inclusion and respect will make the fire stronger. Attempts to co-opt or control the fire will only demonstrate the limitations of the human constructs we have built to maintain or control power in our communities and political organizations.

If I could adorn the organizers of Idle no More with wonderful gifts, I would. Pipes should be raised and buffalo robes should be wrapped around the shoulders of the four women who began the process. The expression of gifting is not just an expression of gratitude; it is my desire to establish a relationship built on foundations of trust. A trust that means that I will not stand in the way but will stand with our people as we build a new generation of empowerment and continue to become Idle No More.


Derek Nepinak is the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. 

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