By Idle No More - 2014 was a busy year for Idle No More, in Canada, across Turtle Island, and globally, as the movement entered a new phase, consolidating and deepening its organizing for effective long-term change through mass education, grassroots strategy building, and local and mass actions. This document cannot hope to capture all of the inspiring work that is done everyday by the hundreds of Idle No More groups around the world. This Year in Review lifts up some of the powerful actions, gatherings, and organizing out on the land and in the streets as we continue to build this peaceful revolution to honour Indigenous sovereignty and protect the land and water.
Idle No More
The Idle No More movement first grabbed headlines more than two years ago, when thousands of First Nations people and their supporters took to the streets in protest over conditions for Aboriginals that in many cases were far below what other Canadians have come to expect. In this excerpt, Coates explores the history of abuse and exploitation that led to what has been an amazingly optimistic and powerful expression of Aboriginal unity and engagement. Many Canadians have long since forgotten about the movement. But Coates says the movement’s legacy continues today. Ken Coats“The combination of deeply entrenched grievances, sustained prejudice, and serious community difficulties, with the recent significant achievements and important victories of real re-empowerment has proven to be an extremely powerful mix”, he writes.
I remember in the early days of the Idle No More Movement being awe-struck by seeing natives take to the streets and public places with drums, singing and dancing. It was beautiful, cultural, positive, and yet it was bringing attention to some very painful truths. In Idle No More, Hints of a Global Super-Movement I write about this emerging phenomena and close with a video of Ta’Kaiya speaking at a rally when she was only 11. Together we have seen so much growth and evolution since then, it is a very exciting time to participate in our unfolding future. Velcrow Ripper has made enormous contributions with films like Scared Sacred, and Occupy Love that encourage us to bring a spiritual perspective to our work for positive planetary change.
It’s two years later. Where is Idle No More now? Or, the question I get often: What was the point of the Idle No More movement? Did Canada change at all? While the round dances in malls and marches have subsided, the hunger fasts on Victoria Island have ended and the calls for resistance to fast-tracked omnibus legislation has quieted, there is more collective action led by indigenous grassroots peoples throughout Canada than ever before. The media has changed. Reporters cannot responsibly choose Ikea monkeys over indigenous peoples anymore. Canadian intellectuals and politicians like John Ralston Saul, Naomi Klein and former prime minister Paul Martin are now building careers off of the lessons they learn from indigenous peoples when writing their books and building their foundations.
The climate crisis is a crisis of democracy requiring a coordinated global grassroots mobilization to stop harmful policies and practices and build alternative systems that are effective and equitable. The climate crisis affects all of us and touches everything we care about. It will take a mass "movement of movements" to counter the power of money and corruption that prevents the change we need. The last two decades have been wasted by political misleadership and, as a result, immediate action is required. A landmark report issued last week concluded: “By 2018, no new cars, homes, schools, factories, or electrical power plants should be built anywhere in the world, ever again, unless they’re either replacements for old ones or carbon neutral.” We have a big task before us and need to build a global movement to make it a reality.
Federal officials closely tracked the fallout of an RCMP raid on a First Nations protest against shale-gas exploration in New Brunswick, at one point raising concerns it could spawn another countrywide movement like Idle No More. Documents obtained under access-to-information legislation reveal a lengthy email chain last fall monitoring events related to a blockade near Rexton, N.B., about 70 kilometres north of Moncton. Members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, who were concerned about the environmental impact of shale-gas development, didn't want energy company SWN Resources to do testing work on their traditional territory. Police officers enforced an injunction on Oct. 17 to end the blockade of a compound where the company stored exploration equipment. The early-morning raid led to violent clashes between officers and protesters. By the end of the day, six police cars had been torched and 40 people arrested. As the situation unfolded, a government official sent an email reporting "growing support of protesters by first nation (sic) communities and other groups across the country." "An 'Idle No More' like movement of protests is reportedly being planned starting tomorrow," wrote Alain Paquet, director of operations for Public Safety Canada.
In the winter of 2012-2013, round dances erupted in malls, universities, airports, major intersections in cities and First Nations communities. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Indigenous people and non-Indigenous allies joined hands to dance. That was part of the phenomenon that was called Idle No More (INM). On April 4, a book that documents and celebrates the INM movement in writing, poetry, photographs, paintings and posters, was launched at Toronto’s Ryerson University. About 40 people attended the Canadian launch of the book entitled The Winter We Danced. Monica McKay, director of Ryerson’s Aboriginal Initiatives and a member of the Nisga’a Nation, performed a traditional opening ceremony. The Winter We Danced has 74 contributors. The book was the brainchild of a group called the Kino-nda-niimi Collective. Among its members are Hayden King, assistant professor of Politics and director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson. King is Pottawatomi and Ojibwe from Beausoleil First Nation in Ontario. Among other things, King selected the photographic images contained in the book. Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, who is Anishinabe from St. Peter’s Little Settlement in Manitoba, acted as the lead editor for the book. Sinclair teaches courses in Indigenous literatures, cultures and histories at the University of Manitoba.
An aboriginal protest closed the Trans-Canada Highway near Espanola, in northern Ontario, for about three hours today. Ontario Provincial Police say the demonstration at the junction of Highways 6 and 17 was part of the "Idle No More" protests. The OPP monitored the demonstration and say it was peaceful. First Nations have been protesting against the policies of the Conservative government, and more than 1,000 held a day of protest Friday in Ottawa. They have also been urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston to meet with Theresa Spence, the chief of northern Ontario's troubled Attawapiskat First Nation, who is on a hunger strike. Spence has urged Harper and Johnson to start a national discussion about First Nations poverty, saying communities face impoverished conditions.
The founders of Idle No More joined a prestigious list this month as Foreign Policy magazine named the women to its top 100 global thinkers list. The list includes Pope Francis, 16-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai, U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Idle No More founders Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean and Nina Wilson began the now-global movement in Saskatoon last year by hosting a small teach-in at Station 20 West. The teach-in was to protest the federal government’s proposed omnibus budget bill, C-45. The bill, which was more than 400 pages long and which passed last December, was criticized by many Idle No More protestors, stating it infringed upon First Nations land and treaty rights.
Several Mi’kmaq women shut down a Maritimes Energy Association briefing held at the Westin Nova Scotian this morning around 8am, supported by a rally of over a hundred protesters. The NS Energy Minister intended to give a briefing on the Province’s plan to move forward on oil and gas projects to members of industry. Two banners were dropped from the hotel roof declaring Water Is Sacred and Stop the Energy East (pipeline), and an imitation frackwell was erected to show opposition to the controversial shalegas exploration process. Eliza Knockwood, a Mi’kmaq woman and mother, silenced the crowded room of government officials and industry representatives with her drum to send the message that water is sacred. “Although the language of the Treaties do not capture the true beauty and spirit of my ancestors, it does show us what is important to them and how they lived in harmony with the natural environment.”
Secret documents from Canada’s spy agency show that the Canadian government was getting ready in case last year’s Idle No More protests “escalated.” A heavily-redacted 11-page report — with one entire page missing — obtained under the Access to Information Act shows that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was involved in preparing an all-of-government approach to dealing with the First Nations protests, which began in late 2012. The redactions were, in part, because the information related to “the efforts of Canada towards detecting, preventing or suppressing subversive or hostile activities,” according to a letter from the spy agency.
When you talk about oppression, it’s not a competition, of course. But you can see where all these interconnecting factors come together, with transgender aboriginal youth as the intersection point. What would make it so that half of aboriginal trans youth don’t want to be in the world any more? We see them dropping out of school as young as they start identifying as transgender – as early as third grade. It’s appalling. This highlights the necessity for systematic change, because it’s not just individuals creating oppression. Oppression isn’t nature. It’s not innate. It’s not biological. It’s something we’ve done ourselves.
The Canadian government is increasingly worried that the growing clout of aboriginal peoples’ rights could obstruct its aggressive resource development plans, documents reveal. Since 2008, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has run a risk management program to evaluate and respond to “significant risks” to its agenda, including assertions of treaty rights, the rising expectations of aboriginal peoples, and new legal precedents at odds with the government’s policies.