Idle No More: non-Indigenous responsibility to act

10 Dec

Today, thousands of Indigenous activists and their allies will march, demonstrate, blog, tweet or starve to get their message to Stephen Harper: enough is enough.

Normally, enough being enough isn’t enough and it hasn’t been for centuries.

Enough is the point at which people united, absolutely refuse to be subjugated. They refuse to be dominated, colonized and re-colonized. Enough looks different than a protest.

In Canada, I don’t think any social movement has reached the breaking point where “enough” truly has been enough.

But Idle No More could be the spark needed for a movement is built to truly say “enough.” Idle No More could be the rally call, the inspiration. The parental shove into the lake that all people who fight to uphold and honour the Treaties need.

Idle No More is a movement that was called after the news circulated that First Nations leaders were denied entry to the House of Commons to discuss the federal budget bill. This bill makes sweeping changes to hundreds of regulations that will affect all Canadians and Indigenous people in particular.

Born on social media networks, it calls for peaceful protests in towns and cities across Canada, and online.

Resistance will take many forms. From mass rallies, protests outside politicians offices to Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike, activists will challenge the decisions of our unaccountable and undemocratic government.

When I say “our,” I refer to Canadians, descendants of settlers and for who, on this land, the current government is the only (federal) government we have. When Stephen Harper breaks his promises, lies about fighter jets or sells a part of Alberta to China, our political system works such that, while we may disagree, this government has been elected and they have the authority to pass this massive budget bill. We should voice our opposition and have a range of legal and less-than-legal options for how to do this.

But for Indigenous communities, this relationship is different. The lies of the federal government aren’t part of the regular [dis]functioning of their government system. It’s a break in the legally-binding Treaties that were signed between national governments.

When considered in these terms, the actions of the Harper government aren’t just another example of our broken democracy, it’s a break in the formal and legal responsibilities that the Crown has with Indigenous people.

These responsibilities are the flip-side of the rights that the government seems to have no problem helping themselves to: access and exploitation of land and resources for example. But there are no rights without responsibilities and the current lot has shamefully ignored the “responsibilities” aspect of the Treaty arrangements.

When Joe Oliver or Jim Flaherty refuses to meet with First Nations Chiefs in Ottawa, that’s a high insult. That is an action that signals that our government has no interest in meeting with the representatives of the people on who’s land we live, we pillage, we profit and we steal.

Of course, this isn’t really new in the relationship between the Crown and Indigenous people. What might be new, though, is the nationally-coordinated, sophisticated response that will coalesce around Idle No More.

Canadians: we have a responsibility to honour the Treaties, understand the Treaties and demand (vocally, physically, however we can) that our government honour the Treaties too.

I’m sure that today isn’t going to be the last that we hear of Idle No More and I’m excited to watch how the campaign unfolds in the communities that I’m connected to.

But, just as it will take unity and solidarity among First Nations people to fight for their rights, non-Indigenous activists have a role to play too. This is our government and we are partly to blame for allowing the current pack of wolves access to the hen house.

I hope you can participate in an Idle No More event either today or in the coming days. But more important than that, I encourage all non-Indigenous people to:

Know the history and the stories of elders of what has happened on this territory.

Place decolonization at the centre of all progressive/social justice organizing you do.

Read and understand the Indian Act and how this racist piece of legislation is used today.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be humble. Walk softly. Be kind. Be bold.

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15 Responses to “Idle No More: non-Indigenous responsibility to act”

  1. . December 11, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    Reblogged this on Food and Land and commented:
    Some interesting stuff in this post, and some weird stuff. Who is assumed to have been idle by “Idle no More”? And who is assumed to need a “parental shove in the lake”? These questions aside, this post ends on a solid note:
    “I encourage all non-Indigenous people to:
    Know the history and the stories of elders of what has happened on this territory.
    Place decolonization at the centre of all progressive/social justice organizing you do.
    Read and understand the Indian Act and how this racist piece of legislation is used today.
    Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be humble. Walk softly. Be kind. Be bold.”

    • Nora Loreto December 11, 2012 at 3:47 am #

      Thanks for the comment. To be clear, I didn’t come up with the name of the campaign, and I don’t think it insinuates that everyone has been idle, but fair point.
      I think everyone needs to be shoved into the lake. We should start with Harper…

      • carriewaabigwan December 11, 2012 at 6:02 am #

        please add the facebook group “Idle No More” specifically “Idle No More Edmonton”. add every fb event and group…here is where all the info and background is. the idle no more movement came from 4 women. 2 cree, one dakota and one non-aboriginal woman. idle no more is a grassroots movements created by these 4 remarkable and iconic woman. it is for all people. you can also recieve more info on Dr. Pam Palmeter youtube videos at one of the idle no more events hosted in hobbema alberta. lets get this word out

  2. carriewaabigwan December 11, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    please add facebook group “idle no more edmonton”
    idle no more is a grassroots movement create by 4 woman (2 cree, 1 dakota and 1 non-aboriginal)
    and there are videos on todays events as well
    can also youtube Dr. Pam Palmeter talk at Idle No More event hosted in Hobbema Alberta

  3. Daniel Miller December 11, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Thanks for the great post about this new campaign. Also, really like your suggestions for action at the end. Any recommendations for where to go (to learn “the history and the stories of elders of what has happened on this territory”? (what to read or watch?)
    Thanks,
    Daniel

    • Nora Loreto December 12, 2012 at 4:28 am #

      I think that what happens next is evolving in communities across Canada and is going to take various forms of action. Your best way to find out is to get involved in your local community.

  4. O'Neil Brooke December 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    “Honour the Treaties”

    Hey that’s a nice idea; just one problem. Where are the treaties? I have been actively searching for the treaties for a couple of years. I have found the two row wampum treaty and that’s about it.

    How can people honor the treaties (or demand that their political representatives honor the treaties) if no one knows what the treaties are?

    • Bob Sutherland December 22, 2012 at 3:30 am #

      Yes ,I know most Canadian don’t know the history of Canada, I went to Germany 14 years ago and spoke in an International conference on Dark history of Canada, Breaking Treaties, Setting up Residential school, most of all I am not ashamed to speak the truth of my own life experience, sharing my life as a Native person living in Canada. When I went to school I was taught about the British history, Now today, all Canadians are still in the Dark of their own Government polices, and how Harper is giving away to other countries to set up shop here in Canada for example the “Ring of Fire” is speared by a US company. We never were taught about the Treaties in the 60 and 70 when I attended High school.Treaties even today it is not taught in the school.

  5. domain August 28, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    Excellent way of explaining, and nice paragraph to obtain facts about my presentation subject, which i
    am going to deliver in university.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Support Chief Theresa Spence « Dulce et Decorum - December 12, 2012

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  2. Indigenous ‘Idle No More’ Movement Sweeps Canada · Global Voices - December 15, 2012

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  3. ONE HEARTBEAT ACROSS TURTLE ISLAND/Change in venue for Betty Lou Skogen Retirement | Sask Conference Justice and Right Relations UCC - December 19, 2012

    [...] I have been trying to dedicate some time every day to learning more about the issues that inform the Idle No More movement. I am a CBC Radio listener, and have noticed that coverage on Idle No More is starting to increase. Yesterday, Doug Cuthand was interviewed. If you don’t get the Star-Phoenix, here is a link to his most recent article: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Protest+movement+catches+Ottawa+flat+footed/7697535/story.html. Today, the Current had a couple of guests. I found this helpful article by Wab Kinew – http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/wab-kinew/idle-no-more-canada_b_2316098.html. One more blog  by Nora Loreto which is really interesting: http://noraloreto.ca/2012/12/10/idle-no-more-non-indigenous-responsiby-to-act/ [...]

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    [...] blogger Nora Loreto ha poi scritto un post per indicare in che modo i non-nativi possono contribuire con il proprio sostegno e la propria partecipazione [...]

  5. Indigenous ‘Idle No More’ Movement Sweeps Canada | FJE NEWS - February 8, 2013

    [...] Nora Loreto has compiled a post suggesting ways in which non-indigenous peoples can support and participate in the [...]

  6. Movimiento indígena ‘Idle no more’ arrasa Canadá - Global Voices - March 26, 2013

    [...] bloguera Nora Loreto ha recopilado un post [en] donde sugiere modos en que personas no indígenas pueden apoyar y participar en las [...]

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