[News] First nations #IdleNoMore protests push for ‘reckoning’

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 27 16:31:43 EST 2012

  /Two articles follow/

  #IdleNoMore: Settler Responsibility for Relationship

December 27, 2012

Being at the Idle No More drum dance in Yellowknife this past week was 
moving in many ways. It was led, in part, by strong young Indigenous 
women who have moved in their own decolonization journeys from 
frustrated anger to empowered loving action. In the cold afternoon air, 
the sun shone bright as more than a dozen drummers spoke loud and clear 
with a unified beat. Dancing to the drum in the middle of the city 
brought a hush over the dancers: the land was fed by the closeness and 
spirit of the people, receiving the offering and affirmation made by the 
drummers and the circle. The drum dance transcended the political 
context, revealing a spiritual bond that lives and breathes through Dene 
being indivisible from the land.

Many settler allies support Idle No More on the grounds of moral 
responsibility, or self interest. These are legitimate bases from which 
to act. But the calls from Idle No More organizers where I live are ones 
that are premised on recognizing and acting on relationship: calls that 
say “we need everybody.”

Relationship: it’s a constructive approach to harnessing settler support 
for achieving this movement’s goals. Everyone is needed. Its 
effectiveness rests on requests for specific settler actions to be taken 
in the context of recognizing and creating relationships. Relationship 
is fundamental to meaningful co-existence, and an antecedent to 
motivating change within settler society over the long term.

Co-existence through co-resistance is the responsibility of settlers, 
and we achieve it in part by making change in our own systems and among 
other settlers, taking our cue from Indigenous action and direction. For 
settler allies, having a place to land relationally creates a stronger 
rationale for unsettling established systems: knowing and being with 
Indigenous peoples, even if it is just to be welcomed to stand alongside 
at marches and rallies, or to join the drum dance circle, creates a 
tangible bond. Relationship creates accountability and responsibility 
for sustained supportive action. This does not mean requiring Indigenous 
energies for creating relationship with settlers; it means settlers 
taking initiative to live on a personal level what they claim on a 
political one.

What Idle No More highlights in part is not simply neglect and actions 
of the Harper government. What it highlights is that Harper’s extreme 
legislation is only possible because successive generations of settler 
Canadians have normalized looking to government rather than themselves 
to resolve “the Indian problem.” Canadians don’t tend to get riled when 
Canada gets it right (such as impetus toward such initiatives as a 
residential school apology, the Kelowna Accord); nor do they get riled 
when the appalling undoing of decades of slow progress on Indigenous 
issues occurs, as has been accomplished by the Harper government over 
the past few years. For the most part, settlers simply have no clue, are 
not engaged in relationship with Indigenous peoples, and assume that the 
government is following the rule of law and doing right by Indigenous 

I am somewhat skeptical about the willingness of settlers to support a 
movement in a sustained way on the basis of either moral responsibility 
or self-interest. I have found that even the most supportive settlers 
have a privilege line they refuse to cross. It is the existence of that 
line and the refusal to cross it, which requires long-term effort. 
Erasing that line is predicated on personal transformation. In the short 
term some settlers may show support as a way to leverage Indigenous 
unrest to achieve their own social or environmental agendas. But over 
the long term, settlers must engage in personal transformation to 
entrench meaningful decolonization. Idle No More may assist in moving 
such settlers past merely supporting their own interests toward the more 
difficult task of supporting interests of decolonized justice.

I am convinced that such a shift needs to start early: it has been said 
that it is easier to build strong children than repair broken men. As 
the mother of two boys I am convinced that they are the key to settler 
change: they and all the other settler children in Canada who will in 
future people Canadian institutions and society. A critical settler 
responsibility is consciously educating our kids away from the constant 
barrage of social, educational, and structural influences that reinforce 
an omniscient patriarchal heterosexual white male birthright. This task 
is crucial because children are open; their “normal” is created by us as 
parents. What this means is parenting in a consciously decolonizing way. 
So far some basic rules for me include supporting my boys’ developing 
relationships with people and places that are decolonizing; fostering 
their respectful spiritual and physical relationship with the land; and, 
supporting them in developing critical thinking faculties necessary for 
an ethics of compassionate discernment. In this task, a movement such as 
Idle No More is a lifeline.

Idle No More has the potential to motivate societal change in so many 
ways. It is an opportunity to shift awareness among settlers and so 
shift the context on which settler privilege is premised. Over the long 
term it has the potential to contribute to changing how and what settler 
children learn about Indigenous peoples, and the history and current 
Indigenous-state relationship. It will stand as part of a longer record 
of documented injustices and Indigenous responses, opening young minds 
to understanding the complexity of injustice in which settlers live and 
prosper. A gift that it stands to impart to settler society is one of 
both awareness and self-awareness, sustaining a basis for a fundamental 
shift toward decolonizing settler consciousness, creating a tool for 
fashioning a shared future of all of our children in the shape of justice.


/Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, PhD, is the author of /Finding Dahshaa: Self 
Government, Social Suffering and Aboriginal Policy in Canada/. She works 
as an advisor for Indigenous organizations in the Northwest Territories. 
She lives in Yellowknife with her husband and two young sons.
*First nations #IdleNoMore protests push for ‘reckoning’ *


OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Dec. 19 2012, 8:13 PM EST

Last updated Thursday, Dec. 20 2012, 11:04 AM EST

First nations protests that are sweeping the country are a “call to 
action” and Canada must pay heed to indigenous peoples in ways it never 
has before, says the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

The Idle No More movement “is part of what so many of us have been 
saying is a moment of reckoning,” Shawn Atleo, the head of Canada’s 
largest aboriginal group, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. 
“We need to see real movement right now.”

Highways have been closed, Christmas music has been drowned out by 
native drummers at shopping malls, and the hunger strikes by an Ontario 
chief and others who support her have become a rallying cry for native 
people from one coast to the other.

“What we’re seeing in these rallies and events is that it’s not just 
first nations,” Mr. Atleo said, “that Canadians are joining first 
nations across the country and saying essentially what the tagline says 
– that we will remain idle no more.”

This is not the first time native people have been moved to action, but 
never in recent years have the protests been so widespread or sustained.

They point to the legislation that directly affects their communities, 
which native leaders, including Mr. Atleo, say was written without their 
input. They point to development of natural resources on their 
traditional lands that offers little sharing of wealth but promises 
lasting environmental consequences. They point to a federal government 
that they say has been long on gestures but short on a willingness to 
listen and negotiate.

This week, the National Chief visited the Cross Lake First Nation in 
northern Manitoba where Raymond Robinson, 51, is on a hunger strike to 
protest bills that he says violate his people’s treaty rights. Mr. Atleo 
also spent time with Theresa Spence, chief of the impoverished 
Attawapiskat First Nation, who has gone more than a week without food to 
demand that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a representative of the 
Crown meet with first nations to discuss the treaty relationship. Mr. 
Atleo has written to both Mr. Harper and Mr. Johnston to ask for an 
“immediate commitment” that Ms. Spence’s demands will be met.

When asked if the AFN supports the hunger strikes, an assembly 
spokesperson said it supports all actions by first nations and 
individuals standing up for positive change. The spokesperson also said 
the AFN encourages safety and respect for the “sacred responsibilities 
to embrace life,” and stands “firmly in pride, identity and rights.”

The government points out that Mr. Harper met with Mr. Atleo in late 
November to discuss a range of issues. In addition, Aboriginal Affairs 
Minister John Duncan has offered to meet with Ms. Spence but says he has 
not yet received a response from her. But there is no sign of a 
willingness to call the meeting that Ms. Spence insists must take place.

Tanya Kappo of Edmonton is one of the people credited with making the 
Idle No More movement a cross-Canada phenomenon. “It feels like a fire,” 
she said in a telephone interview with The Globe.

Ms. Kappo, 41, graduated from law school last spring. Earlier this year, 
she heard another indigenous lawyer, Sylvia McAdam, talk about law from 
a Cree perspective and the two became Facebook friends. Ms. McAdam and 
three other women held what they called a “teach-in” in Saskatchewan in 
November to talk about the effects of the federal bills and to provide 
information about treaty rights. They called the session Idle No More.

Ms. Kappo was frustrated by the fact that she wasn’t hearing about these 
bills from first nations leadership. So she organized her own “teach-in” 
at the Louis Bull First Nation in Alberta on Dec. 2, and she tweeted 
about it using the hashtag #idelnomore. “And it just snowballed from 
there,” Ms. Kappo said.

Mr. Atleo said every resource development project in Canada has a first 
nation next to it, many with people living in poverty. The government 
must also take seriously the hundreds and potentially thousands of 
missing and murdered first-nations girls and women, he said.

“I think we are going to see a continued expression of this frustration 
in an effort to break a very toxic system that, in fact, in my view, is 
life or death,” Mr. Atleo said. “The cycle of heartbreaking tragedies 
has to end, and that’s what our people are saying.”

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