IdleNoMore Idles On

Graphic: Earth Tribe- Activist News
Graphic: Earth Tribe- Activist News

The mainstream media speculates that IdleNoMore, the movement for indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice that swept across Canada in recent months has petered out. The Harper Conservatives in Ottawa desperately hope that it has, but the truth is more complicated. Like waves breaking on a shore, the IdleNoMore movement has receded for the moment, gathering power for the next wave that will break onto the shore of Canadian consciousness and politics.

Thomas King, author and professor of english and theatre studies at the University of Guelph, wrote and directed a video, Not The Indian You Had In Mind, that challenges stereotypes of First Nations people, and helps explain the roots of IdleNoMore, and why it will be back. Here’s a clip from the video. Follow the link below to watch the full 5 minute video on the National Screen Institute of Canada’s website.


Watch the full video here.

Meanwhile Chief Theresa Spence has not been idle since she ended her 45 day fast on January 23rd. This week at the 82nd Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva Switzerland, the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the Mushkegowuk People of Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada filed an “Early Warning and Urgent Action” request. The request is in response to the majority government of Stephen Harper’s Bills C-45 and C-38, as well as the on-going issues of lack of adequate housing and safe drinking water in indigenous communities across Canada.

Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian government and the world will be paying close attention to the CERD’s consideration of a submission from the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the Mushkegowuk People of Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada filed last week under the CERD’s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures,” IITC said in a statement, alleging that the bills—passed in June and December 2012—were put through without aboriginal consultation. The two bills, opponents claim, gut key environmental protections, in essence abrogating treaty rights. Bill C-45, by changing the way aboriginals can own land on reserves, also undermines treaties, opponents say.

Ron Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nations stated:

The world needs to know of the total disregard shown by this government toward the Indigenous Peoples of this part of great Turtle Island. When you disregard the sacred Treaties and continue to disrespect our Mother Earth and all of creation, including the sacred water which sustains all life on the planet, there is no way that Indigenous Peoples can stand back and do nothing.

Read more about this story on Indian Country Today Media Network and on  On, check out Paul Martin Says Ottawa Has “No Understanding” Of Native Issues.

aaron paquette art.RISE


The Drumbeat Continues

harper please meet with chief spence

The story of the Idle No More is far from over. Over the holiday season, when people are generally too busy celebrating with friends and family to pay attention to political or social movements (there’s a reason why Stephen Harper shut down Parliament not once but twice in December). However, Canada’s indigenous people have shown that they are not going to allow their treaty rights to be ignored, no matter what the season, and have kept up the momentum that started on December 10. The Idle No More movement calls for a new relationship based on mutual respect between Canada and its First People, and for the protection of the waters and the land. There have been round dances in shopping malls, marches blocking highways, and blockades of roads and railways across the country. Chief Theresa Spence is in her third week of fasting within sight of our House of Parliament, and has been joined by a handful of  elders across the country. All of these events have been peaceful but they show a steadfast determination on the part of First Nations to stop the deterioration of the treaties that Canada was founded on and to ensure there is clean water, clean air, and a stable climate for future generations.

I don’t think Stephen Harper, wily politician though he is, has any idea of the fire he has ignited. Although the embers of discontent with his dictatorial, non-parliamentary ways have been glowing for years, and his particularly abrasive brand of neoconservative, pro-corporate, anti-science and anti-consensus politics has been fanning them even more strongly since he was elected to a majority government in May 2011. One would think that any politician with the smarts to get himself elected Prime Minister of Canada would be savvy enough to realize that ignoring the request of a First Nations leader who feels strongly enough about the plight of her people to go without food, and settle in a tipi away from home and family over the Christmas season, makes him look churlish and uncaring. It would have been easy for Mr. Harper to stop by to see Chief Spence on Christmas Day, and offer her what she was asking for – the opportunity to have a conversation about the plight of her people with the leader of Canada. But Mr Harper chose not to do this. In fact on December 21st when tens of thousands of Canadians, Aboriginal and Nonaboriginal, were marching and drumming and dancing in protest of his government’s legislation, and Chief Spence was in her second week of fasting, our prime minister tweeted Mmm… bacon along with a link to a Simpsons video. Really, Mr. Harper? That tweet, while appropriate for an adolescent, is not fitting to one who is in the position of leading the nation. Mr. Harper has been very successful at the politics of divisiveness and confrontation, but has no tools to respond to a humble Aboriginal woman who is willing to suffer greatly, even unto death, to improve the lot of her people and protect the land. Harper’s dilemma is almost Biblical, during this season when Christians the world over celebrate the birth of a child born into the humblest of circumstances.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)

  Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

The mainstream media has even started to take notice. An opinion piece in Macleans magazine written by Brigette De Pape, the Parliamentary Page who became Canada’s most famous protestor when she held up a “Stop Harper” sign in the House of Commons , wrote that Idle No More is a Christmas gift to all Canadians:

In the face of a Harper majority government, which was elected with a mere 39 per cent of the vote in 2011, we’ve been asking for an end to unjust policies, and a transformation of a broken system.

In the face of climate change that threatens the survival of humanity, coming to the public consciousness in the 1960s with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and then by the UN Commission in the 1970s, we’ve been searching for a solution to a path towards a clean future.

Since the beginning of consumer culture, we have been searching for some kind of meaning amid all the stuff.

Since the 15th century and the beginnings of colonization, we’ve been searching for a way to face our history, and to transform relations between settlers (non-Aboriginal people) and First Nations.

All the things we have been asking for have arrived at a shopping malls near us – in the form of the Idle No More movement.

Sylvia McAdam, one of the four Saskatchewan women who called for a National Day of Action on Bill C-45 that inspired the Idle No More movement, put it this way:

Bill C 45 is not just about a budget, it is a direct attack on First Nations lands and on the bodies of water w all share from across this country.”

First Nations from coast to coast are standing together and declaring “We are the land. We are the water. We will protect ourselves.” They are offering the descendants of settlers the opportunity to recognize our part in the colonization of this country and its indigenous people, and to build a new relationship of mutual respect for each other and the land. Perhaps the much-heralded end of the Mayan Calendar on December 21st 2012 wasn’t about the end of the world, but rather about the end of the world as we know it. The Idle No More movement offers all of us the incredible opportunity to be part of creating a brave and bright future for everyone.

while all canadians should support Idle No More*

More links:

The Anishinabe Legacy

Idle No More: A Drumbeat Is Heard Across The Nation

Image: Aaron Paquette
Image: Aaron Paquette

There are a lot of things I could write about on this crisp winter morning; NOAA’s updated 2012 Arctic Report Card, for example (hint: it ain’t lookin’ good) or the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut on Friday, or the (related) fact that American drones have killed nearly 200 innocent Pakistani children in the last few years. But I’m going to focus on a Canadian story that has been mainly overlooked in the mainstream media here at home – although Al Jazeera covered it last week, and some local media did a good job of reporting on it. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, the First Nations people of Canada took to the streets, to their MPs offices, and to Ottawa, to send a message to the government of Stephen Harper that they were “idle no more”.  The federal government’s sweeping omnibus budget bill C-45 bill, passed last week with little discussion in the House of Commons, is an insult to all Canadians who value clean air, clean water, and a stable climate but it is particularly insulting to First Nations people. As Dustin Hollings wrote at, addressing non-aboriginal Canadians:

“…the Harper Government is out to do a few really nasty things to all of us right now. There are a bunch of bills on the table but the basic timeline is shaping up like this… 1) Remove Environmental water protections acts. 2) Strip Aboriginal First Nations of Treaty rights (the final assimilation). “

18 year-old Ocean Morin, who organized the Idle No More rally in LaRonge, Saskatchewan that brought out hundreds of people, put it this way:

“As a child our parents, grandparents, elders and our leaders all said our children are the future, but I have a strong belief that if this bill is passed, there will not be much of a future for future generations to come.”

The Idle No More Manifesto is available on their website. I’ve reposted it in full here because it deserves to be read and shared widely. The First Nations are standing up for a sustainable future for ALL of our children.


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.

Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation is on her sixth day of a hunger strike to get Stephen Harper and the federal Conservatives and Queen Elizabeth to meet with First Nations leaders, include First Nations in decision, and to observe and honor treaty rights.   Chief Spence has stated she is willing to die for her people and this cause.

Graphic: Nora Loreto
Graphic: Nora Loreto

We can all get involved in this awakening:

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.

Write letters to PM Harper, to your MP, to your local newspaper, talk to people, share this story on social media. Suggestions for supporting Chief Spence are listed above. You may not be able to do everything, but I know you can do something. If you want to attend the next IdleNoMore event, circle December 21st at noon (MST). Idle No More has put out a call to all singers and drummers from across Turtle Island (North America) to come together for a Global Synchronized Awakening. Everyone can join in (make sure you synchronize your time with noon MST); visit for details:

The heartbeat of the drum, the heartbeat of Mother Earth, is the heartbeat of the people.
Drums are the oldest living instruments on earth, and their vibration helps us tune into the natural frequency of the earth, connecting us to all that is through a shared heartbeat.
The drum combines animal and plant life to make an instrument that rings not only through the air, but across time. All the elements of Nature are used in the creation of the drum, representing the circle of life in all its aspects.
Our songs hold the stories of our past and the visions for our future.


Graphic: Dwayne Bird,
Graphic: Dwayne Bird,