That might be a surprise if you’ve been watching Sun Media or reading the National Post, but that’s where the Idle No More movement comes from: the love of the indigenous peoples for our planet Earth. You can appreciate this clearly from watching 11 year old Ta’Kaiya Blaney http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js2blj8Gcio speak about the responsibility of the Human species to speak for the other organisms who have no voice. Idle No More is a decolonizing movement. It is an environmental movement. It is an indigenous rights movement. It is all of these in one.
A recent anthology, The Winter We Danced describes the events and future directions of this important, vital resistance movement that has become world wide. (Kino-Nda-Nini, 2014)
It started in the fall of 2012 with tweets from four women in Saskatchewan, Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean, and Nina Wilson, expressing their disappointment with bill C-45. This was the spark that ignited the dry tinder of dissatisfaction that became the world wide resistance movement we see now. Bill C-45 gutted the Navigable waters act, the Fisheries Act and gave the oil industry everything they asked for. “It gives major corporations direct and easy access to our waters and to our land.” (McAdam, 2013: 14). The Indian Act was amended to allow a majority of any meeting of a First Nation to allow reserve land to be leased to outside interests, instead of requiring a majority of the entire band population as before – so under the new law even a secret meeting of 10 can now vote to allow a pipeline to cross their territory even if the majority of the community are opposed – a perfect mechanism for divide and rule. “These attacks are directed at indigenous peoples because the government is very aware that First Nations people can stop development on their land.” (McLean, 2013: 14).
Yes, it’s about treaty rights – the right to health care and education. Canada’s existence is based on treaties of land sharing with the original peoples of this county, unlike the US, which engaged in expensive and bloody wars of conquest. That means we are all treaty people – including the newest immigrants. (Faille, 2013)
“The Canadian government is not acting in the best interests of Canadian citizens, so we have to defend them as well. This is what the elders have directed us. The treaty informs us that we adopted the Europeans and the subsequent descendants; they’ve become a part of our family, so they must be protected.” (McAdam, 2013:15)
It is also about restoring the traditional gender balance of indigenous cultures from the patriarchal pattern imposed by the colonizers.
“Across Canada, indigenous women are continuing a tradition of leadership that existed before colonization, and in spite of a political system which, over the last 150 years, has made every attempt to prevent them from having power. While the stated goal of Idle No More is ‘education and the revitalization of indigenous peoples through awareness and empowerment,’ according to a press release issued by the group on January 10, the rights of indigenous women appear to be an inherent part of that revitalization. (Moe, 2013).
But it’s far deeper than that. Every one of us is affected negatively by this law, from the street person to the most powerful banker. We speak of preserving the environment, which by definition is what is around us. But that definition is inadequate. As the indigenous people have always known, the environment is not around us; it is within us. We are the environment. Everything we put into the air, into the water, into the soil, we put into our bodies. We all drink the water and breathe the air that is being polluted (poisoned) by industrial waste. We all depend on the balance of nature that we have disrupted. Acidification from the absorption of carbon dioxide by the ocean is causing it to become more acidic, which is dissolving the shells of the snails and exoskeletons of other organisms upon which the entire ecosystem depends. Ninety percent of life exists in the global ocean. The human has reached the limit of its habitat. There is no place else to go (Nickerson, 2009).
So, once more, we see that the sense we have created that we are separate from each other and from the planet is an illusion – a delusion. Idle No More is reminding us that this is so, that there is no them, no us, no other. We either thrive together or perish together. We are related to every organism on this planet, as we all come from the same source. Every atom of our body comes from the Earth, as much as a rock or an eagle. The Earth is our mother, literally, materially.
It is because we have lost our connection to the sacred that we have got into so much trouble – believing that the planet is nothing but a treasure chest for us to use as we please. We have forgotten that the Earth is a living organism of which we humans are but a tiny part.
“When we look down at the Earth from space we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet – it looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also, at the same time, looks extremely fragile.” (Garan, 2012)
This is what the astronauts understood from the awe they felt in observing the Earth from space. Idle No More reminds us once again that this is are also ancient knowledge.
The Kino-nda-nini collective (eds) The Winter We Danced, Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement, Saskatoon: Arbeiter publishers, 2014. This anthology says it better than I ever could, but there are 70 authors here and way more pages ;)
Max Faille, First Nations honoured treaties, Canadian governments didn’t. CCPA Monitor, March 2013.
Ron Garan, NASA astronaut (quote from the film, The Overview Effect, dir: Guy Reid http://vimeo.com/55073825 )
Sylvia McAdam, quoted in Sarah van Gelder, Why Canada’s Indigenous Uprising Is About All of Us, YesMagazine, Spring 2013: 14, www.yesmagazine.org/idle-no-more)
Sheelah McLean, quoted in Sarah van Gelder, Why Canada’s Indigenous Uprising Is About All of Us, YesMagazine, Spring 2013: 14, www.yesmagazine.org/idle-no-more)
Kristin Moe, “Indigenous women take the lead in Idle No More” http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/indigenous-women-take-lead-idle-no-more
Mike Nickerson, Life Money, and Illusion: Living on Earth as if we want to stay, revised ed. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishes, 2009 www.sustainwellbeing.net