Monday's Idle No More protests by thousands of Indigenous people and their allies across Canada have their roots in resistance to tar sands development and the Harper government's blatant attempts to clear the way for large-scale exploitation of land, water, and people. As The Wandering Anthropologist put it earlier today:
With the massive exploitation of the tar sands taking off in Alberta, Canada has been transforming into a major oil producing nation, thereby also transforming relations between the First Nations, who live on top of the tar sands, and the federal government. Canada’s government, led by the Conservative Stephen Harper, is introducing a package of measures which includes changes to laws that will expedite access to tar sands, and transport of oil and gas through Canada. The laws will facilitate enormous expansion of the tar sands oil production and hugely impact on the lives of First Nations.More below the billowing orange gas flare.
In this light, First nations protests throughout Canada, aiming to stop precisely that which lies at the heart of the Conservative governments’ policies, deserve more attention they have been receiving.
Idle No More began in response to the attacks on First Nation sovereignty, lands, and waters represented by Bill C-45, passed by the Canadian Parliament despite vocal opposition from First Nations and a last-minute attempt to be heard by Indigenous leaders who tried to enter the House of Commons but were pushed back by security.
As idlenomore.ca explains:
“IDLE NO MORE”
(December 10, 2012)
Less than three weeks ago, 4 women from Saskatchewan (Indigenous and non Indigenous) decided that they could no longer stay silent in the face of what is a legislative attack on First Nation people and the lands and waters across the country. Together, Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson and Sheelah Mclean started organizing ‘teach-ins’ in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert to start bringing awareness to Bill C 45 Says McAdam,
“Bill C 45 is not just about a budget, it is a direct attack on First Nations lands and on the bodies of water we all share from across this country.”
The Bill brings forward changes specifically to the Indian Act that will lower the threshold of community consent in the designation and surrender process of Indian Reserve Lands. McLean reminds that bill is about everyone. She says “the changes they are making to the environmental legislation is stunning in terms of the protections it will take away from the bodies of water – rivers and lakes, across the country". She further adds, “ how can we not all be concerned about that?”
The Idle No More efforts picked up momentum in Alberta and soon spread across Canada. Thousands of people joined in the actions on Monday. Now, in the wake of those protests, support is pouring in for Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has started a hunger strike to pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper to respect the treaties and consult with Indigenous leaders.
In the light of the crescent moon the Sunrise Ceremony begins marking the start of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike Tuesday in Ottawa.The Idle No More movement, organized and sustained almost totally through the Twitter hashtag #IdleNoMore and a Facebook page, shows enough signs of resolve and creativity to give the impression that a Native Spring -- perhaps even a permanent Indigenous Rights Revolution -- has begun.
Spence is holding the hunger strike to force a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper or the Queen to have them respect treaty rights.
First Nation peoples across the country have expressed support for Spence, some deciding to fast for a day in solidarity. The Samson Cree Nation scheduled to hold an hour blockade of a highway in support Wednesday as well.
“I think that’s what keeps me going,” said Spence who is holding her hunger strike on Victoria Island that sits below Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada. “All the support and kind words and all the prayers I’m going to be doing, especially with this ceremony that happened this morning, it keeps me going.”
Idle No More has come to symbolize and be the platform to voice the refusal of First Nations people to be ignored any further by any other Canadian government.
The National Day of Action for Idle No More will mark the point in history when the generations and centuries of the refusal to acknowledge the relationship stops.
There's lots of potential for the Idle No More activists to form international coalitions with Indigenous people in the U.S., non-Indigenous allies, climate change activists, and others. Check out the action on Twitter and Facebook, read âpihtawikosisân's posts here and here, and see Nora Loreto's blog on the Non-Indigenous responsibility to act.