Canadian First Nations: "Idle No More"

Have you heard about the Canadian "Idle No More" movement. It is "calling on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water."

"Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth."

Below is a press release taken from the movement's website followed by an article Idle No More Is Not Just an "Indian Thing." by Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion, the University of Winnipeg:

"Idle No More began with 4 women, Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon, sharing a vision of bringing together all people to ensure we create ways of protecting Mother Earth, her lands, waters and people.

The women began discussing the possible impacts that some of the legislation would carry if people do not do something. It became very evident that the women MUST do something about the colonial, unilateral and paternalistic legislation being pushed through the Government of Canada’s parliamentary system. They began with a piece of legislation called Bill C-45 which attacked the land base reserved for Indigenous people. The women decided that they would call a rally to inform the public that this bill intended to, without consent give the minister of indian affairs power to surrender the lands reserved. They felt that this would ultimately make room for oil, nuclear and gas industries to tear up the land for profit. From this rally they also informed the public on other legislation that affected and ignored the treaties made with the crown but also the waters, land and people that it would impact in very harmful ways.

The women then helped other communities to coordinate efforts to hold similar rallies with the same goal in mind

- Stand up and speak up against undemocratic and internationally illegal government acts. These rallies took place all across the country. The women seen that there were many other communities that needed to come together in an act solidarity and resurgence to assert their inherent rights as a sovereign Nation, thus The National Day of Solidarity and Resurgence was called for December 10, 2012. This was an enormous event that never in history seen many nations and diverse groups of people come together. These events and acts have continued to grow and from the talk of grassroots has no intention of slowing down. The group called Idle No More have witnessed these events spreading out internationally within the United States as well as the United Kingdom sharing in helping to support our cause of opposing the government’s actions as well as support to asserting our Nationhood.

The women will continue and remain in a position to have the grassroots voices be heard by; Supporting and encouraging grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to our Nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media. Build relationships and create understanding with allies across Canada. Take steps to contribute to building relationships with international agencies such as the UN to raise awareness to the conditions Indigenous people have been subjected to and assert our sovereignty in the international arena. Acknowledge and honor the hard work of all grassroots people who have worked, and continue to work towards these goals. They are the inspiration for IDLE NO MORE

Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth. On December 10th, Indigenous people and allies stood in solidarity across Canada to assert Indigenous sovereignty and begin the work towards sustainable, renewable development. All people will be affected by the continued damage to the land and water and we welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies to join in creating healthy sustainable communities. We encourage youth to become engaged in this movement as you are the leaders of our future. There have always been individuals and groups who have been working towards these goals – Idle No More seeks to create solidarity and further support these goals. We recognize that there may be backlash, and encourage people to stay strong and united in spirit.

We contend that:
The Treaties are nation to nation agreements between Canada and First Nations who are sovereign nations. The Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two Nations. The spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that First Nations peoples would share the land, but retain their inherent rights to lands and resources. Instead, First Nations have experienced a history of colonization which has resulted in outstanding land claims, lack of resources and unequal funding for services such as education and housing.

We contend that:
Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by using the land and resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are the most powerful in the world due to land and resources. Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land but do not get a share of the profit. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned – the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada. We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land.

We contend that:
Currently, this government is trying to pass many laws so that reserve lands can also be bought and sold by big companies to get profit from resources. They are promising to share this time…Why would these promises be different from past promises? We will be left with nothing but poisoned water, land and air. This is an attempt to take away sovereignty and the inherent right to land and resources from First Nations peoples.

We contend that:
There are many examples of other countries moving towards sustainability, and we must demand sustainable development as well. We believe in healthy, just, equitable and sustainable communities and have a vision and plan of how to build them. Please join us in creating this vision.

Response to Legislation
Idle No More calls on all people to continue to oppose and reject all imposed legislation originating from the federal government. The unilateral imposition of these Bills is in direct violation of the Treaties and the Treaty relationship that the Original peoples of Turtle Island made with the British Crown. Indigenous peoples and nations have not been consulted and therefore, the actions taken by the federal government does not reflect the international standard of Free Prior and Informed consent. The continued imposition of federal legislation on Indigenous peoples and governments’ is not in line with the legal principles of “acting in good faith” and maintaining the “honour of the Crown”. There are many nations taking action(s) to reflect acts of Indigenous nationhood, sovereignty and jurisdiction in response to the passing of legislation such as Bill C-45 and we must continue on this path. When we stand strong and believe in our ways and assert acts of Nationhood, it does not matter what amount of legislation the federal government introduces or passes because it is not with our consent and therefore, is not applicable. Stand strong and believe in the spirit and intent of our Treaties as that’s what our ancestors are calling us to do.

We must continue to assert acts of nationhood premised on ancient ways and teachings that were given to us in our original instructions by Creator when we were placed here on Turtle Island. We encourage people to advocate for our Mother (the land), the Water (giver of life) and those generations that have yet to come. We must keep that warrior spirit alive and continue the advocacy efforts as there are other Bills in parliament and our energies must be directed towards fighting against them. We will continue to rise up and make our presence known across Turtle Island, the land that is rightfully ours as Creator put us here. Stand Up and Rise UP - this Fight is NOT Over. We need you all in this - we shall PERSEVERE!" SOURCE

Idle No More Is Not Just an "Indian Thing."
By Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion, the University of Winnipeg
The Huffington Post, Canada
Posted: 12/17/2012 12:28 pm

"What is "Idle No More"?
It is a loosely knit political movement encompassing rallies drawing thousands of people across dozens of cities, road blocks, a shoving match on Parliament hill between Chiefs and mounties and one high profile hunger strike.

It is also a meme tweeted and shared about thousands of times a day, for messages about indigenous rights, indigenous culture and cheap indigenous jokes ("Turn off your ignition #idlenomore").

The name Idle No More comes from Alberta. A few weeks back Sylvia McAdam and three other female lawyers were mad about Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill. Their biggest frustration was that nobody seemed to be talking about it. Two provisions in particular upset them: the reduction in the amount of federally protected waterways and a fast tracked process to surrender reserve lands. In McAdam's view, if Aboriginal people did not speak out it would mean they "comply with [their] silence." So she and her friends decided to speak out. They would be "Idle No More." They held an information session under the same name. Co-organizer Tanya Kappo fired off a tweet with the hashtag "#IdleNoMore."

#IdleNoMore struck a nerve. Though bill C-45 has become law, many of Aboriginal people have voiced their opposition to it. Many of the other tensions in the indigenous community has started to bubble up to the surface and "Idle No More" now encompasses a broad conversation calling for recognition of treaty rights, revitalization of indigenous cultures and an end to legislation imposed without meaningful consultation.

To me this conversation is more than just an "Indian Thing." It is one that Canadians of all backgrounds should pay attention to, if not participate in. The ideals that are underlying this action are ones to which we all aspire, even if we may disagree on how exactly to pursue them.

5. #IdleNoMore is about Engaging Youth
When Grand Chief Derek Nepinak went on national television after he and some other leaders got into that shoving match outside the chamber, he acknowledged the Chiefs were responding to young people calling for action via social media. At the rallies held in cities like Winnipeg, Windsor and Edmonton, it has been the youth who have done the organizing, and it has been the youth who have made up the majority of attendees. Scanning Facebook and Twitter, "#IdleNoMore" has popped up in the timelines of people who typically discuss Snookie or the Kardashians. Agree or disagree with the message, Idle No More has accomplished something all Canadians want: it has young people paying attention to politics.

4. #IdleNoMore is about Finding Meaning
Much of the talk around Idle No More is about preserving indigenous culture, either by revitalizing spiritual practices, or by keeping intact what little land base we have left. The reason culture is so important is that it provides a way to grapple with the big questions in life: "Who am I?," "What am I doing here?" and "What happens after I die?" Some of the answers have been handed down as words of wisdom. Other times, you are told to go out on to the land and discover them for yourself through fasting or prayer. We need these ways. As I look around and see many fellow Canadians searching for meaning in their own lives, I think to myself perhaps they could use these ways as well.

3. #IdleNoMore is about Rights
What almost everyone carrying the Idle No More banner is calling for is meaningful consultation between the federal government and First Nations people. This is what section 35 of our constitution is all about: Aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized and affirmed, and that means we have to talk. If there is no meaningful conversation happening, it is troublesome. Aboriginal people may be the canary in the coal mine. If we overlook one section of the constitution does that mean others are in similar jeopardy?

2. #IdleNoMore is about the Environment
Idle No More started in part because of outrage that Bill C-45 reduced the number of federally protected waterways. The environment continues to be a regular topic at Idle No More protests. Dr. Pam Palmater, one of the leading voices in the Idle No More conversation, argues this is indigenous environmentalism is significant since the crown has a duty to consult with Aboriginal people before natural resource projects proceed. She says, "First Nations are Canadians' last, best hope of protecting the land, water, sky and plants and animals for their future generations as well."

1. #IdleNoMore is about Democracy
Democracy thrives when well-informed people are engaged and make their voices heard. Idle No More started with four young lawyers trying to inform the people in their communities about an issue they were passionate about. Now many people are engaged. Even more information is being shared, and even more voices are being heard. There is no one leader or "list of demands" attributable to Idle No More. While this may seem chaotic, this is what democracy is all about. Democracy is messy. Democracy is loud. Democracy is about hearing a wide ranges of voices and trying to build a path forward among them. It is not about shutting off debate or trying to rush things in through the back door." SOURCE

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By Yothu Yindi

There’s a wakening of a rainbow dawn
And the sun will rise up high
There’s a whisper in the morning light
Saying, "Get up and meet the day!"

But inside my mind there is a tribal voice
And it's speaking to me every day
And all I have to do is to make a choice
'Cause I know there is no other way.

All the people in the world are dreaming [Get up, stand up!]
Some of us cry for the rights of survival now [Get up, stand up!]
Saying, "Come on, come on! Stand up for your rights!"
While others don’t give a damn
They’re all waiting for a perfect day
Better get up and fight for your rights
Don’t be afraid of the move you make
You'd better listen to your tribal voice!

All the people in the world are dreaming [Get up, stand up!]
Some of us cry for the rights of survival now [Get up, stand up!]
Saying, "Come on, come on! Stand up for your rights!"
While others don’t give a damn
They’re all waiting for a perfect day
Better get up and fight for your rights
Don’t be afraid of the move that you make
You'd better listen to your tribal voice!
You'd better listen to your tribal voice!

One voice for Mother Earth

Well, I wonder if it’s part of history
Full of influence and mystery
From where the spirits of my people
Who have just gone before
Into the future of another day

All the people in the world are dreaming [Get up, stand up!]
Some of us cry for the rights of survival now [Get up, stand up!]
Saying, "Come on, come on! Stand up for your rights!"
While others don’t give a damn
They are all waiting for a perfect day
Better get up and fight for your rights
Don’t be afraid of the move you make
You'd better listen to your tribal voice
You'd better listen to your tribal voice
You'd better listen to your tribal voice
You'd better listen to your tribal voice. Gumatj!
You'd better listen to your tribal voice. Rirratjingu!
You'd better listen to your tribal voice. Wangurri!
You'd better listen to your tribal voice. Djapu!
You better listen to your tribal voice. Dhalwangu!
You'd better listen to your tribal voice. Ngaymil!
You'd better listen to your tribal voice. Dattwuy!
You better listen to your tribal voice. Galpu!

Dances OF Life (Maori Haka)

"Man may disappear. Man will disappear but the land will always be here. We are only the guardians of the land. This is our belief."

Make the earth tremble as hard as you can
As hard as we can
No, I am alive! Life is mine!
I will be defeated! I will die!
No, I take back my life! Life is mine!
I am born of distinguished people
whose legacy shines on me like the sun
Keep abreast! Keep abreast!
In your ranks! Hold fast! Into the shining sun!

Día de la Resistencia Indígena, Venezuela

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

 Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!


Kitabwalli said...

Dear bro - thanks for drawing attention to what's happening here in Canada. Another great source for those concerned is a blog - with LOTS of comments - by sister Chelsea at

All de bes' from Montreal

Guanaguanare said...

Thank you, Kitabwalli, for your comment and directing me to the blog, âpihtawikosisân. Among other things, I learned about Chief Theresa Spence's continuing hunger strike. Like our Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh, she has stated that she is not afraid to die and will persist until the federal government answers her call for a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Queen Elizabeth II and First Nations leaders to sit down together to reestablish the treaty relationship. Perhaps, like Yothu Yindi in their song "Tribal Voice", we are seeing the "wakening of a rainbow dawn" in this world, not just for indigenous peoples but for all humanity.

Kitabwalli said...

Most welcome for the reference. I see that the Queen's representative, the Governor General, refuses to meet with Chief Spence - claims the issues are 'political'. In refusing, he refuses to do his job. This is lawlessness.

I'm of part Irish origin, and the Irish have too much experience with hunger-strikes. But I respect those prepared to use this tactic - as you say, like Dr. Kublalsingh. Esp. when people have achieved a certain age. Just not such young people as Bobby Sands, please. They are needed alive.


Guanaguanare said...

Hello, Kitabwalli,
Thanks for visiting and commenting. Interesting that you mentioned Bobby Sands. During Dr. Kublalsingh's hunger strike some Trinbagonian readers were remembering Bobby Sands' hunger strike in their online comments. After all this time, he has not been forgotten.

I wish Chief Spence success but I do not like seeing anyone - young or old suffer or/and die in this manner. It's almost as bad as self-immolation but I imagine that such individuals have consultations with their consciences and this is the course of action that is decided upon. "Liberté ou la Mort?"


Kitabwalli said...

Hi Gull (if I may) - I certainly respect the dedication of any freedom-fighter to give her/his life for the people. And while Bobby Sands is not forgotten by all, very few could name the others who died in the same starvation strike. Nor do many know of the manipulations that went on behind the scenes.

Today, people are asking for warm clothing to be brought to Chief Spence's camp as, due to big snow and falling temperatures, some people need it. Also, firewood. Regret I no longer live just over the river in Gatineau.

Hoping people around the world speak out and that this stage of the struggle can end successfully without deaths.

Justice and Peace.