MYTH BUSTING IDLE NO MORE

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IDLE NO MORE is a global movement that aims to protect the environment and respect Indigenous people’s relationship to the land. There are so many aspects that people are criticizing and I think we should take a second and examine some of the criticisms and share the facts as I understand them. I have been involved since December 2012 as an organizer of some of the December events. In recent months I have committed myself to working on the educational elements of Idle No More developing presentation resources and outlines so anyone can facilitate a group discussion on why Idle No More is relevant to all Canadians. Check out some Q&As that hopefully address some of the myths that are floating around out there in the world.

WHERE DID IDLE NO MORE COME FROM?
INM originated in Saskatchewan when 4 women (2 indigenous, 2 non indigenous) took an online conversation into their communities. They were talking about Bill C-45, how it puts our environment at risk and violates the treaties. Those Teach Ins were what ignited Idle No More and the primarily young indigenous participation in this movement. The basis of this movement is education, non-violence and respect for natural law.
WHAT IS NATURAL LAW?

Natural laws tell people, young and old, how they should respect the land, the water, the animals and each other. Natural law says that every living thing is connected and when people follow natural law, the environment is healthy, people have enough to eat and the land and animals will flourish for future generations. – Muskwa: Fearless Defender of Natural Law Comic Book (won as a prize from MM@BT in December 2012)

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WHO IS THE LEADER?
There is no leader. As a grassroots movement, INM exists in the actions that are taken by you and I. There are people who help to spread the message, people who like to host meetings, people who like to attend events and we need all of their help. And as a leaderless movement, our involvement as citizens is paramount.

WHAT DOES IDLE NO MORE WANT????
We want a lot of things. But for starters, the repeal of Bill C 45, the repeal of Bill C38 with some concrete plans on the table to replace the Indian Act and update the Treaties. We also want to protect mother earth, honour the spirits of our ancestors and one another and listen to our women. We also want the voices of Aboriginal youth to be heard because for so long, so many have gone unheard. There are alarming rates of incarceration, child welfare involvement and suicide that we have to live with, and are hoping to be equal partners in creating the change we need in how our systems work with young Indigenous people.
WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO PROVE?
The original Idle No More founders shared a vision of a movement that was grounded in traditional teachings, peace and education. It is with that in my mind that I get involved with this movement. We are asking all Canadians to join with us to stand up for democracy and protect Mother Earth. It is with a vision of a united and healthy community where all Canadians are healthy in mind, body, and spirit that we move forward and stand together. The round dance is a symbol of how we are trying to lead by example – our unshaking commitment to protecting mother earth is not something that is going to fade away. Ever. Period.

WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS BANGING DRUMS, BURNING SWEETGRASS AND SINGING??
It is our culture and for many years it was illegal for us to practice it. More than half of the Aboriginal people in Canada are under the age of 30 with many who do not speak their language or practice their traditions. By sharing our drums, ceremonies, medicines and example with the general public we are showing Canadians the beauty and strength of being connected to one another and mother earth. It is how we pray, and how we demonstrate our commitment to being stewards of this land for future generations.

YOU SEEM SO DIVIDED IN THE MEDIA?
We are not divided we are learning to talk with one another. We are hearing from one another and having disagreements within healthy dialogue is good. Keep in mind this is a very emotional subjects, and we are now having a very personal conversation, but on a global level. This is primarily young Indigenous people leading the conversation, so if we stumble, or make mistakes at times, understand it is because we have never spoken to the world before and we are learning too.

IS IT REALLY NECESSARY TO BLOCK TRAFFIC?
Most of the Idle No More events in Winnipeg have happened along side the Winnipeg Police Service to ensure the safety of participants and the general public. Many of the blockades that have happened in recent weeks are not necessarily Idle No More events. The Aboriginal community is very active and there are many facets, including some that are more aggressive in their tactics. INM always wants to retain ceremony in our gatherings, and focus our message on solutions and unity.

WHEN WILL YOU STOP?
The short answer – not for a while, I foresee Idle No More lasting well into the next federal election in 2015. We will stop when a proper process is on the table to seriously address the offensive legislation that concerns Aboriginal People, treaties and environmental protection. Keep in mind there is an urgency in our demonstrations, as many of our young people and community members are dying each day that we wait. Many people have a heart for others in war torn/overseas countries that are in need, and we ask all Canadians to stand up for our own young people – because when we are healthy, educated and involved we are gonna stand up for you.

LAST WORDS?
This movement is about unity. It is about working cooperatively alongside Canadians. Many people say that we shouldn’t meet with Prime Minister or officials unless it is on our terms. I say we meet with them at every available opportunity. Attending their meetings creates a precedence and an expectation that they should next attend a meeting of our own crafting. Boycotting meetings, attempting to create division in a time when we must stand united for the sake of future generations is selfish. We must work together – regardless of our quarrels. I may disagree with you, but I still love you. I appreciate the work we are all doing, and urge us to continue applying pressure, raising awareness, celebrating and loving one another.

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WHAT’S NEXT?
1) Global Day of Action: today at 5pm at the MB Legislative Building. #j28 on twitter!
2) Weekly Teach-Ins: Be on the look out! Starting in February 2013 there will be a weekly opportunity in Winnipeg every single week to learn about Idle No More, the values and the teachings.
3) Manitoba Tour: There will be 7 communities in Manitoba that will be visited by the Manitoba Idle No More Team with the final one being in the white shell for a powerful solstice ceremony.

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3 thoughts on “MYTH BUSTING IDLE NO MORE

  1. John S says:

    I,ve been following this movement since it began and am usually fairly sympathetic to indigenous issues in other countries as well as this one. However, in this movement, you’ve kind of lost me. I understand the opposition to bill c-45 concerning environmental concerns with the land. What I don’t understand, and I don’t know if it’s the media, or the people themselves behind the movement, are the issues related to treaties. Myself,not being an aboriginal studies major, is confused. Are you saying that the treaties themselves are not valid (perhaps because the people signing them didn’t know what they were signing) or are you saying that the treaties haven’t been fulfilled. I continue to hear the slogans “educate yourself” etc but information like that is almost absent from the movement (at least from my perspective). Many of the issues that are brought up, such as poverty, health, living conditions etc. are connected to problems related to poverty in general which covers all races. I believe this is where you’re losing a lot of the support of mainstream Canadians.

    1. northendmc says:

      thanks for leaving this comment. I think it is important for people to share feedback like this, and i thank you for your comment.

      In response, I am learning about treaties as well. here is my understanding: Treaties were made and signed that guaranteed certain provisions for First Nations from the perspective of the federal government. These were things like education and health care. As of right now, the government has not fulfilled its obligations – and worse has previously tried to assimilate us into society. Now Idle No More is saying that we have a connection and commitment to protect mother earth that has been around longer than any treaty, and we are saying it is our role as Indigneous people to stop harmful legislation that impact our water and the environment. We are simply using the treaties as a legal reference to justify our inherent rights to be stewards of the earth. Idle No More is also about a cultural revival – so all people are welcomed to join us in celebrating the beauty that for too long has been hidden!
      Here is 1 case in NWT where the Deh Cho first Nations are using their inherent rights in a legal battle with the Canadian Government – hope it gives some more perspective to my points

      http://www.dehcho.org/documents/press/12_09_04_edehzhie_news.pdf

  2. Rob says:

    I think that this is a good point – how does Bill C-45 effect the treaties. There may be a few ways, but here one that I think it does. When First Nations signed treaties they reserved for themselves land – their reserves. So, their reserves are their treaty lands. Prior to the new legislation (Bill C-45), if an individual First Nation wanted to lease their lands to non-First Nations it had to designate the land for the specific purpose. That is, if the First Nation wanted oil and gas exploration, or potash, or agriculture. The land needed to be designated for each purpose. For each land designation required consent from the majority of eligible voters of the band. This was done through a band-wide referendum. For the vote to be valid, they had to have quorum – a certain number of eligible voters had to cast their votes. If they did not meet the quorum another referendum was required. If they obtained a quorum and a majority consented to the specific land designation, then the result was sent to Ottawa and waited to gain approval from the Minister of Indian Affairs (now known as Aboriginal Affairs). The process is long, taking months if not longer. To address the time, the federal government decided to amend the Indian Act – through Bill C-45. Now, a band-wide referendum is not required, however a referendum is still held – at a band meeting called by the Chief and Council. So, instead of a majority of the majority of the eligible voters, all that is needed is a majority of those who attend the meeting. There is no time requirement for when the meeting is called and when it is held. This process is also the same for land surrenders. So in other words, the federal government has unilaterally changed how First Nations’ treaty right to their lands can be leased and surrendered. Though this new law does streamline the process, it opens the possibility of corporations to influence Chiefs and Councils, loosens the Chiefs and Councils accountability to its members, undermines First Nations governance, weakens First Nations’ democratic process, and attacks First Nations treaty rights to their lands. Interestingly, the minister’s approval is still required – yet no provincial and even municipal referendums require approval from the federal government.

    One other thing: the Idle No More movement was started by 3 Indigenous women and 1 non-Indigenous woman.

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