Thursday, January 03, 2013


Idle No More is the latest and, perhaps, the most dramatic example of the multitude taking on the Empire.  It began in Canada but it spread almost instantly  to EVERYWHERE.  There is no outside when all is inside.  Idle No More means every single day is a day for action.  Idle No More has leadership and no leadership.  It is young and it is old.  It has demands and it has no demands.  It is local and it is international.  It is traditional and it is virtual.

Jacob Devaney writes, 

"At its very core, all of these movements have very common threads and are born from common issues facing people everywhere. Those who represent financial interests that value money over life itself, that are devoid of basic respect for human decency, and for nature have dictated the future for too long and people everywhere are standing up to say, "No more." This non-violent social uprising is viral in the minds and hearts of everyone across the planet determined to bring healing to our troubled communities, our planet, and the corruption that is eroding the highest places of governments around the world."

He is right and he is wrong.  Idle No more is a movement of the indigenous people.  It can't be stolen from them.  However, Idle No More touches so many beyond the indigenous community as well simply because the Empire is molding us all into one big mass of singularities, the same, yet different.

Dave Sauer, president of the Winnipeg Labour Council, says in the Winnipeg Metro, the issues being raised by the Idle No More protests, specifically the federal government’s Bill C-45, affect Canadians of all backgrounds — and should therefore interest them.

“As a trade unionist, we live and die by our … agreements,” said Sauer. “The treaties that we’ve made with the First Nations of this country… right now it’s pretty obvious that those are not being followed through on, one end is not honouring the agreement.”

Wab Kinew, director of indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, wrote anarticle for the Huffington Post on the Idle No More movement when it started gathering steam in December.

“When aboriginal people do well, all of Canada does well,” said Kinew, adding he hopes Idle No More also becomes an awakening for young people of all backgrounds and political stripes to get educated on and engaged with “the policies and the programs that are going to determine their futures.

“A lot of the things which other Canadian people prize, like the great outdoors, the rights and freedoms that we have, these are values that most of the people involved with Idle No More are focusing on.”

Idle No More is also a flash Round Dance in Denver where five people were arrested, including a seventeen year old Cheyenne/Arapaho by the name of Cheyenne Birdshead.

Idle No More is the increbibly courageous and insipiring Attawapiskat First Nation chief Theresa Spence whose hunger strike is moving the Earth itself. 

And yet, Idle No More is not Chief Spence at all.  After all it began before Chief Spence began her hunger strike as a grass roots movement while Chief Spence represents more traditional indigenous leadership.  

Founding organizers of Idle No More in Saskatchewan posted a statement online saying that elected First Nations chiefs do not speak for the social movement.

"The chiefs have called for action, and anyone who chooses can join with them, however this is not part of the Idle No More movement," the statement said.
"While we appreciate the individual support we have received from the chiefs and councillors, we have been given a clear mandate by the grassroots to work outside the system of government, and that is what we will continue to do."
Chief Spence responded to that call.  "We need to continue to encourage and stand in solidarity as Indigenous Nations," Spence said in a statement Wednesday. "We are at a historical moment in time, and I ask that grassroots, chiefs and all community members come together in one voice."
Not to worry, not really.
Pamela Palmater, a politics professor and leader with Idle No More, is quoted on the CBC stating the movement has remained largely united as it has gained momentum and that any debate over leadership has to do with who sets the agenda.
"I think what [the founders of Idle No More] were trying to convey was that they don't want the First Nations political organizations to take the reins, and decide what will and won't happen with the grassroots people."
"But that's different from us as Idle No More working with the chiefs on the ground," she added. "This whole movement started out with that partnership and we've maintained that partnership all the way through."

At the blog Shift Frequency, Morgan Maher writes:

"After generations of genocide, political slight-of-hand, segregation and degradation, after being tossed empty words and shoved with broken promises, broken homes, broken lives, suicides, dead food and contaminated water – thousands upon thousands of indigenous people are gathering in cities, towns, villages, malls, plazas, galleries, roads and railways across Canada, the US – all around the planet – to dance, sing and stand up for human rights and human decency..."

Again, Idle No More is an uprising, a fight back, a struggle for the future led by and for the indigenous people of Canada and the indigenous people of the world.

Kirstin Scansen is a Nehithaw woman, from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in Treaty 6 territory, Saskatchewan says,

Idle No More presents a challenge to the old colonial order that forms the basis of Canadian society. This movement has been about challenging oppression in very real and very meaningful ways. It has meant questioning the legitimacy and authority of colonial laws by pushing the limits of these laws. Idle No More means not only speaking of Indigenous sovereignty, but living out our inherent sovereignty as nations. This is especially important in the case of Omnibus Bill C-45, where our fundamental human rights to clean water, lands and foods are at risk. Essentially, Harper and the Conservative government of Canada are legislating the extinguishment of our Indigenous nationhood.  Our response has been two-fold: to re-situate ourselves as nations, and to rejuvenate the commitment of our people and Settler society to the Treaty relationship."

And Idle No More is Much More...which brings us back to Jacob Devaney who writes further, 

Society and nature work in similar ways to our own body’s immune system. We are given a symptom that causes us to be aware that there is an illness that needs to be addressed. We can try to suppress the symptom, but that does not heal the illness. Popular uprisings with very core commonalities are spreading all over the planet. Exploitation of our environment, as well as the exploitation of people and cultures for the sake of financial gain is immoral and must be stopped at the highest levels of our governments."

Devaney, who by the way is  is Founder and Director of Culture Collective, adds we, you and I, face a rather simple choice.  He writes that we can either:

"...continue to be part of the cancer that slowly destroys our water, our air and the resources that are the fabric of life by staying unconscious, or become the conscious antidote that slowly kills the cancerous disease which threatens the existence of life on the planet..."

or, we can be the equivalent of,

"A factory producing monkey wrenches for the gears of the machine which is at the center of our collective demise."

The following is from Indian Country Today.

Idle No More, Indeed

JANUARY 03, 2013

As Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence enters her fourth week on a hunger strike outside the Canadian parliament, thousands of protesters in Los Angeles, London, Minneapolis and New York City, voice their support. Spence and the protesters of the Idle No More Movement, are drawing attention to some deplorable conditions in Native communities, and recently passed legislation C-45, which sidesteps most Canadian environmental laws. "Flash mob" protests with traditional dancing and drumming have erupted in dozens of shopping malls across North America, marches and highway blockades by aboriginal groups across Canada and supporters have emerged from as far away as New Zealand and the Middle East. This weekend, hundreds of Native people and their supporters held a flash mob round dance with hand drum singing, at the Mall of America, again as a part of the Idle No More protest movement. This quickly emerging wave of Native activism on environmental and human rights issues has spread like a wildfire across the continent.

“Idle No More” is Canadian for “that’s enough BS, we’re coming out to stop you,” or something like that. Spence is the leader of Attawapiskat First Nation, a very remote Cree community from James Bay, Ontario. The community’s on reserve 1,549 residents ( a third of whom are under l9) have weathered quite a bit, the fur trade, residential schools, a status as non-treaty Indians, and limited access to modern conveniences- like a toilet, or maybe electricity. This is a bit common place in the north, but it has become exacerbated in the past five years, with the advent of a huge diamond mine.

DeBeers, the largest diamond mining company in the world moved into Cree territory company in 2006 . The company states it is “is committed to sustainable development in local communities.” This is good to know. This is also where the first world meets the third world in the north, as Canadian MP Bob Rae discovered last year on his tour of the rather destitute conditions of the village. There is no road into the village eight months of the year, four months a year, during freeze up , there’s an ice road. A diamond mine needs a lot of infrastructure. And that has to be shipped in, so the trucks launch out of Moosonee, Ontario. Then, they build a better road. The problem is that the road won’t work when the climate changes, and already stretched infrastructure gets tapped out. .” Last year, Attawapiskat drew international attention , when many families in the Cree community were living in tents at minus 40 .

There is some money flowing in. A 2010 report from DeBeers states that payments to eight communities associated with its two mines in Canada totaled $5,231,000. Forbesmagazine reports record diamond sales by the "world’s largest diamond company...increased 33 percent, year-over-year, to $3.5 billion. The mining giant, which produces more than a third of the world’s rough diamonds, also reported record EBITDA of almost $1.2 billion, a 55 percent increase over the first the first half of 2010.”

As the Canadian Mining Watch group notes “Whatever Attawapiskat’s share of that $5-million is, given the chronic under-funding of the community, the need for expensive responses to deal with recurring crises, including one that DeBeers themselves may have precipitated by overloading the community’s sewage system, it’s not surprising that the community hasn’t been able to translate its … income into improvements in physical infrastructure . Neighboring Kaschewan is in similar disarray. They have been boiling water, and importing water. The village almost had a complete evacuation due to health conditions, and “ … fuel shortages are becoming more common among remote northern Ontario communities right now,” Alvin Fiddler, Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, explained to a reporter. That’s because the ice road used to truck in a year’s supply of diesel last winter did not last as long as usual. “Everybody is running out now. We’re looking at a two-month gap” until this winter’s ice road is solid enough to truck in fresh supplies, Mr. Fiddler said.

Kashechewan’s chief and council are poised to shut down the band office, two schools, the power generation centre, the health clinic and the fire hall because the buildings were not heated and could no longer operate safely. “ In addition some 21 homes had become uninhabitable,” according to Chief Derek Stephen . Those basements had been flooded last spring, as the weather patterns changed. Just as a side note, in 2007, some 21 Cree youth from Kashechewan attempted to commit suicide, and the Canadian aboriginal youth suicide rate is five times the national average. Both communities are beneficiaries of an agreement with DeBeers.

The reality is that these communities would never see the light of media attention, if it wasn’t for Theresa Spence, and probably facebook, twitter and social media. Chief Theresa Spence is still hoping to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging him to "open his heart" and meet with native leaders angered by his policies. "He's a person with a heart but he needs to open his heart. I'm sure he has faith in the Creator himself and for him to delay this, it's very disrespectful, I feel, to not even meet with us," she said. Native communities receive little or no attention, until a human rights crisis of great proportion causes national shame. Facebook and social media may change and equalize access for those who never see the spotlight. ( Just think of Arab Spring). With the help of social media the Idle No More movement has taken on a life of its own in much the same way the first "Occupy Wall Street" camp gave birth to a multitude of "occupy" protests with no clear leadership. "This has spread in ways that we wouldn't even have imagined," said Sheelah McLean, an instructor at the University of Saskatchewan , one of the four women who originally coined the "Idle No More" slogan. "What this movement is supposed to do is build consciousness about the inequalities so that everyone is outraged about what is happening here in Canada. Every Canadian should be outraged." Actually, we all should be outraged, and Idle no More.

Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservations, and is the mother of three children. She is also the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for frontline native environmental 

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