IdleNoMore: Sleeping Giants Awaken by Colby TootoosisTweet
It’s a Political unrest… no… It’s a Resurgence
The movement has begun as we see a united front of our indigenous nations with their fists raised in the presence of waving flags. We are in a critical time. A time where you recognize microphones and megaphones waiting to be utilized to motivate, inspire, and rally our people. It is legitimate to say that a sleeping giant of indigenous presence has been prodded by the pitchfork of Canadian legislation. The blankets of comfort have been ripped off our people as many are awakening to the realities of the state of our indigenous nationhood.
The “Idle No More” hashtag campaign has inspired December 10th, 2012 to become a spontaneous day of action nationwide. As the day unfolded we witnessed uploaded media and pictures of 100’s and in some places 1000’s of indigenous people take to the streets of major cities across Canada. A day filled with freedom and yet very minimal reporting and broadcasting from mainstream media. Many young people through out the years would speak of a revolution; patiently waiting while questioning when and how it will begin. Is this the beginning of the anticipated uprising? What context will it consist of? And who’s leading it?
Though on the surface we can see the unity of this movement through social media. There is however a hidden subtle disparity in perceptions that needs to be highlighted to dissolve confusion, and inspire constructive critical thinking. Some are aware of this disparity and some are oblivious or veiled by misinformation. It is clear that many of these rallies were and need to be opportunities for First Nations to reorganize and reeducate, while creating a space for critical dialogue for the re-evaluation of our perceptions on nationhood. For instance, for some First Nations, the most degrading term you can call an Indigenous person in Canada is a Canadian. (FYI for our southern relatives located in the United States, Mexico and South America) This is because some First Nations entered into Treaty convents with the Crown of Great Britain, the Queen, and not with Canada. There is the generational understanding that we are our own Nations; a nation within a nation. On the other hand, there are some First Nations who didn’t learn or grasp this understanding and are fine with their Canadian identity, along with the “Aboriginal” label that Canada imposed.
There are also different treaties that distinct First Nations have with the different levels of jurisdiction of the Crown, i.e. Federal and Provincial. These distinct relationships complicate the political maneuvering of many Nations who have been attempting to unite together via the Assembly of First Nations organization. For instance, Nations within Treaty one to eleven have distinct rights that were recognized with what used to be a Treaty Card. Indians from other territories across Canada were advocating for the same rights as Treaty 1-11. Long story short, Canada said well lets just give them all the same thing. As a result Canada took the Treaty cards away from the Treaty Indians and gave Indians across Canada a Status Card. Many people are unaware of the source of these distinct rights they now hold. These include, the Medicine Chest (Treaty Right to Medical/Dental), and Power of the Pen (Treaty Right to Education). When you look at it from this angle, all the status Indians across Canada are resting on the backs of Treaty 1-11, specifically in regards to certain rights.
I can only speak on behalf of myself as a witness and observer since I had the humble opportunity to be part of the circle in the early planning of one Idle No More rally – prior to them becoming a nation wide movement. It needs to be acknowledged that in the beginning, before the hash tag, this Idle No More movement stemmed from women who gathered with the intention to defend Treaties specifically within Treaty 1-11. A grassroots movement to share a message that Provincial based First Nations organizations and the Assembly of First Nations were failing to communicate. I understood this message to be; We want our Treaty Cards back. We are not Canadian and we reject the “pan-aboriginalism/pan-Indian” mentality. We are our own nation as described and embedded in our distinct languages. We reject the legislation that the Canadian Government is imposing to further assimilate and domesticate the international stature that exists within our covenant with Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain. The intention is to also empower the grassroots people and youth to become informed and educated with the original understanding of these covenants.
A prayer exists in the heart of these rallies. A prayer that is rooted in the depths of indigenous consciousness. A prayer for our people rise and awaken – to come together not only in unity, but in harmony. For unity and harmony to dance together we need to humble ourselves raise the standard of our communication with each other while holding space for critical inquiry. Part of this inquiry is for all of us observe and study the contrasting understandings and perceptions of current indigenous realities.
Some Idle No More rallies were juxtaposed when Chiefs and leaders, some of whom have been aware of the bills far in advance and did nothing, many of whom have a track record for conforming with the colonial system, rather then defending Treaty – attempted to take over the rally with political rhetoric while putting grass roots organizers to the side. It was a struggle for some organizers to maintain the momentum of indigenous citizens empowering themselves with the microphone with Chiefs expecting, demanding the spotlight. Not all Chiefs and leaders were this way, many lead from the back and sides in strong support for the peoples liberation. Chief Wallace Fox of Onion Lake First Nation, who one of the Chiefs who lead the march into Parliament Hill in Ottawa last week, attended the Idle No More rally in Edmonton, Alberta while at the same time sponsoring a warm venue for the Idle No More in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (both rallies happening in Treaty Six Territory). However some citizens were upset with the grassroots grip over the microphones. The argument was that we need to stand by and support our leaders and not to over step them. However, the counter argument was the leaders need to support the people as they walk and enter into the front lines of resurgence.
A disagreement that also deserves to be addressed is the issue of voting in provincial and federal elections. Some attendees of the Idle No More rallies took advantage of the “aboriginal” mass’s to promote their preferred political party. Some people disagreed with the agenda to use the Idle No More movement for settler based platform campaign speeches. The paradox of “to vote or not to vote” is definitely a theme that the movement is stirring up.
The Treaty Fundamentalist/Indigenous Nationalist say’s not to vote because if we are our own distinct nations, voting in the provincial or federal elections is like a Canadian citizen voting for the next president of the United States, which doesn’t make sense. Why should we participate and conform to the colonial system? The young Canadian settler population voting participation rate is statistically declining, why should we vote for them when their own children aren’t even voting for them? It doesn’t matter what political party you vote for! They all have the same agenda, in order for Canada to legally be independent economically they need to assimilate the Indian – Canada benefits financially and economically from the domestication of our nations. Sure we need a voice in Parliament, but not as a political party, not even as our own first nations political party, not even as a prime minister! But a voice as our own nation! A First Nations Prime Minister will only give our children’s children the inheritance of Canada’s debt to the world bank. Our Treaties protect us from the enslavement of this system. We can’t forget Canada is in debt to us as Treaty people, as well as their debt relationship in world economy. Why do you want to create new partnerships? Or negotiate Treaty? Treaty was already negotiated – the fundamental partnership was already made.
The aboriginal pro-voting campaign argues that our ancestors fought for our right to vote. Our veterans gave up their lives and sacrificed their rights for us to vote. We have to get in their system and change it from the inside and utilize our people and numbers to sway the government. The Treaty fundamentalism ideology is outdated and that Treaty nationhood is irrelevant to this day and age. We need to modernize and renegotiate our relationship with Canada. Not voting is a fear based mentality stemming from residential schools, we need to move forward to and make our voices heard.
Both arguments are driven by passion. We need to allow our people to voice their opinions and have further dialogue so our people can debate terms like how “self-government” is a Canadian designation aimed at domesticating our nations under Canada’s law. We have to become clear in a direction we need to take collectively and strategically. We need to prepare and communicate with open hearts and compassion. The reality is, Canada’s legislation in regards to First Nations is moving faster then any other legislation ever passed in Parliament. We need to be ready.
December 10th, 2012 Day of Action occurred with the Idle No More movement creating a momentum and presence that needs to be asked one question. What now? Indigenous solidarity exists and has always existed! Silence is no longer an option. Sitting idle is no longer an option. We took it to the streets of the major cities. Now lets take it within our selves as we take focused steps towards the continuation of revitalizing our languages. Let’s further acknowledge the forgiveness that needs to occur specifically within our families and communities. It’s our young people who didn’t attend residential school who will be forgiving their own families and people for the challenges they’ve faced – so their children don’t have to carry a legacy of pain. Freedom is here. Let’s take it to our own Government Offices, our Band offices. Let’s hold our leaders to a higher standard so conscious collective social collaboration process’s can occur – so we can implement our own laws in alignment to the laws of the land. That way Canada will have to respond to us! Let’s continue to host more rallies, and create more space for dialogues and forums for the voices of our women and young people. Customize Idle No More to fit to your land, to fit to your territories and cosmology of your people. The world has yet to witness the full expression and potential of the indigenous presence. They have no idea what’s coming. They have no idea what’s here… But they will. Education is Freedom.
~“Who’s leading this!? Who’s in Charge!?” a Saskatoon city police officer shouts in front of 400+ chanting indigenous people walking straight, focused. They took up two full lanes in one of Saskatoon’s major midtown roadways. “We all are!!” a voice yells back as they march forward, enveloping the officer in the magnificent masses… ~ *oral testimony, Saskatoon’s Idle No More Rally, December 10th 2012.
All those who stepped up to organize Idle No More in your territories
Additional Links for Information on Idle No More:
Idle No More Website
Red Man Laughing Interview’s and explanations of Idle No More