IdleNoMore speech in Egypt by Patricia SteinTweet
Han mitakuyepi! Cante waste nape cayuzapi! Anpetu waste! Hello relations! I greet you with a good heart! Today is a good day! My name is Patricia, and I am Lakota from Turtle Island. You may know me as “indigenous”, “Native American”, or even “red Indian”. To be specific, I am American, or that is at least what my passport says. I am here today to stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Canada — the indigenous peoples, the first peoples, of Canada.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. History says he “discovered” a new world, but that world was already alive and thriving! North America, what indigenous peoples call “Turtle Island” as a fully functioning world. Hundreds of different nations, with hundreds of different languages were already there. Millions of people had been calling that land home for thousands of years before Columbus “discovered” them. The 520 years followed resulted in the largest genocide in history…one that is hardly known.
Before settlers came to North America the indigenous population has been estimated as high as 100 million. Today we’re roughly 8 million. 92 million lost to disease, massacres, and even sterilization. During the settlement of what is today known as America and Canada, we were forced onto small, barren pieces of land as prisoners or war. Today, we still live on those pieces of land, only now, the government calls them “reservations”. Reservations where we live in third world conditions in first world countries. We have the highest suicide rate, diabetes runs rampant, drug and alcohol abuse have poisoned our people, and our life expectancy is well below the average of America or Canada. Yet…we are still here!
Now, what little we have left, is under attack….starting with Canada. Prime Minister Harper has passed a bill, Bill C45, which endangers us all. Bill C45 is a direct violation of treaties of the sovereign indigenous peoples of Canada. Bill C45 changes land management on reservations making it easier for the government to control, and possibly take land out from under us. This bill also revokes protection of millions, yes, millions of rivers and lakes. Putting control of fresh water sources in the hands of the government. What will result, should this be ignored, will be a corporate take over of an entire country. Furthermore, it would be the final step in the continuing genocide. Our way of life, our traditions, are under attack. Because of this, the movement called “Idle No More” was started.
On December 11th, one of the 630 “Canadian” chiefs started a hunger strike. Chief Theresa Spence, started her hunger strike in response to Bill C45, with her demands being a meeting with Prime Minister Harper and the Crown, or rather, the Crown’s representative, the Governor General. Today marks one month since Chief Spence’s announcement, and while Prime Minister Harper has agreed to a meeting, held today, he has ignored her hunger strike. The beginning of this month Harper scheduled this meeting with the indigenous chiefs. Two days ago we were informed the Governor General (the Crown’s representative), would not be in attendance. Not only would he not be in attendance, but Harper himself would only be spending thirty minutes with chiefs. Thirty minutes of a three hour meeting. Upon receiving this news, Chief Spence withdrew from the meeting, and has now prepared for death as she enters into her sixth week of hunger strike. It was announced yesterday, the Governor General would attend a ceremonial meeting with chiefs after their meeting with Harper. I has quickly become apparent these meetings, mean nothing.
Last night, the indigenous, or as Canada call them, “First Nations” chiefs held an emergency meeting. It appears the general consensus is to withdraw from both the meeting with Harper and the Governor General. A few chiefs may still attend the meetings, but this will not be clear until later today. What matters most, is the majority have decided to join their people in nation wide rallies, prayer, and round dances, or “friendship” dances.
Idle No More should no longer matter to just the indigenous Canadians, but to all Canadians…and in fact, to all people…world wide…including you, but I’ll let start with Canada first.
This movement has risen from our responsibility, our duty, as stewards to the earth, so that our children, our grandchildren, and the generations to come, including your own, might enough a better quality of life. Idle No More represents Canada’s last hope in preventing wide spread destruction of land, water, plans, and animals for resource development…developments which cannot last. The reason being? Only the indigenous peoples of Canada have constitutionally protected treaty rights which mandate Canada to obtain consent prior to acting on natural resources. None of which Harper has done. These rights are also protected on an international level by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Idle No More is in opposition of federal policies to protect ALL of our interests. Indigenous, Canadian, and even globally…because once on country takes control of precious natural resources, for temporary gain, especially a country praised for democracy such as Canada, it is only a matter of time before it spreads, even on a global level. We consider earth to be our mother, and what befalls the earth, befalls the sons of earth.
So, I ask you today to stand in solidarity with us, because together, we can break down a piece of this gear which is corrupting this world. (But I’ll let Tarek Nasr explain that one.)
In closing, Idle No More has brought hope back to my people…when many had none…and I can say, I have never been more proud to be indigenous, than I am today.