Idle No More? Speak for Yourself…

Analysis of Idle No More MobilizationMake a Stand graphic

by Zig Zag, Warrior Publications, Dec. 12, 2012

On Dec. 10, 2012, several thousand Native peoples rallied across Canada as part of a national day of action dubbed “Idle No More” (INM). The protests targeted Bill C-45 and the policies of the ruling Conservative Party. In Edmonton, as many as 1,500 turned out, one of the largest. A reported 400 people attended in Calgary and Winnipeg, with anywhere from 100 to 300 participating in Toronto, Regina, Saskatoon, North Battleford, and Vancouver.

What is Bill C-45?

Bill C-45 is an omnibus bill meant to put into law parts of the Conservative Party budget introduced in early 2012.  It is also known as the Jobs and Growth Act.  Its full bureaucratic title is Bill C-45: A Second Act to Implement Certain Provisions of the Budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and Other Measures.

As an omnibus bill it includes changes and revisions to a wide number of federal laws and regulations. These include the Fisheries Act, the Canada Grain Act, changes to MP’s pensions, the handling of hazardous materials, and a new bridge to Windsor, Ont., from Detroit, Michigan.   One of the more controversial provisions are proposed changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which remove thousands of lakes and streams from federal protection under that law.

Some of the changes proposed under Bill C-45 have been criticized by

Members of Unis'tot'en camp, November 2012.

Members of Unis’tot’en camp opposing Pacific Trails Pipeline, November 2012.

environmentalists and Indigenous peoples resisting mining, oil & gas projects, as well as proposed pipelines:

“Together, the changes proposed in the omnibus bill would further weaken Canada’s environmental laws, remove critical federal safeguards, and reduce opportunities for the public to have their say about projects that could threaten the air, water, soil and ecosystems on which all Canadians, and our economy, depend.”

(“Open Letter to MPs regarding Bill C-45,” West Coast Environmental Law, November 21, 2012)

For Indigenous peoples in particular, along with the threats to land and water, are proposed changes to the Indian Act including an amendment to change the rules around what kind of meetings or referenda are required to lease reserve lands. The aboriginal affairs minister would also be given authority to call a band meeting or referendum for the purpose of considering an absolute surrender of the band’s territory.

“The amendment allows the federal government to call a band meeting or referendum in order for the band to decide on releasing reserve land. [Sylvia] McAdam sees the amendment as furthering the push to privatize reserve lands [McAdam is one of the organizers of INM].

“Bill C-45 also removes the protection of water, exempting major pipeline and interprovincial power line projects from proving they won’t damage navigable waterways.”

(“Bill C-45 rally,” by Shari Narine, Sage, Vol. 17, Issue 3, 2012)

Indian Act chiefs attempt to enter House of Parliament in Ottawa (for 30 seconds...)

Indian Act chiefs attempt to enter House of Parliament in Ottawa (for 30 seconds…)

During the second reading of the bill, on Dec. 6, 2012, amendments proposed by opposition MPs were blocked by the Conservative Party majority. That afternoon, Indian Act chiefs made a public show of attempting to enter the House of Commons, for about 30 seconds. They were refused entry by security guards and the minor scuffle became headline news.

Once the bill receives a third reading in the Commons, it will move on to the Senate with the expectation that it will become law before the end of the year.

What is “Idle No More”?

Corporate media, as well as their Native counterparts, have painted INM as a truly grassroots movement, with some commentators even asserting it could be a sort of “Arab Spring” for Natives in Canada. According to a press release from INM,

“The movement, under the banner “Idle No More” (#IdleNoMore) emerged within the grassroots less than four weeks ago in Saskatchewan. It began as an effort to educate First Nations people on the multitude of legislation being put forward by the Harper government that they feel is a direct attack on the rights of First Nations. The organizers Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson and Sheelah Mclean began by organizing “teach-ins” to inform people.”

(Idle No More Press Release, Dec. 10, 2012)

From these humble beginnings, #IdleNoMore proliferated through social media and in a short period of time helped mobilize several thousand Natives across the country.

But was it all grassroots? Indian Act chiefs and band councils, the Assembly of First Nations and its regional branches, Aboriginal service organizations, and organizations such as the Confederacy of Treaty 6 Chiefs, all contributed to the mobilization of Dec. 10. None of these entities can be considered grassroots as they all receive funding and support from the colonial state.

A billboard opposing Bill C-45.

A billboard opposing Bill C-45 near Calgary, paid for by Tsuut’ina band council.

In fact, along with their power struggle for political control over Native peoples, the Indian Act Indians are angry that their government funding was recently cut.

On Sept. 4, 2012, the federal government announced that core funding for Aboriginal political organizations and tribal councils would be cut by 10 percent or see a $500,000 limit on funding. The Manitoba AFN for example, a provincial organization, will see its funding cut from $2.6 million annually to $500,000.

In addition, Aboriginal service organizations were also hit with cuts:

“In September 2012, the federal government announced it was slashing the budgets of numerous aboriginal groups. For example, the Assembly of Manitoba’s funds were cut by 80%; the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations budget was reduced by 70%; and millions of dollars were additionally cut to regional tribal councils in aboriginal communities from coast to coast to coast.”

(“Academics say cuts to Aboriginal organizations are hurting crucial research projects,” Canada News Wire, Nov. 22, 2012)

The cut backs and lack of consultation have angered the chiefs, including Shawn Atleo, head of the AFN. On Dec. 10, Atleo used threatening rhetoric in describing the government’s actions and the potential for Native unrest:

“When our people see no movement from the government to work with us, when they see backsliding, undermining and continuing threats and pressures on an already burdened population, the flames only grow stronger,” Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations said last week.

“Our people will not stand for it. Rightly so, there is growing anger and frustration.”

(“Omnibus Budget: Bill C-45 To Deliver Profound Changes For Environment, Natives,” by Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press, Dec. 10. 2012)

There can be little doubt that the “Idle No More” protests were exploited by the chiefs to create greater political pressure on the federal government, using their standard tactic: raising the spectre of Indigenous revolt unless the government concedes to their demands.

The shortcomings of being idle

By definition, to be idle is to be not working, to be ineffective, useless, and without purpose. As a precursor to an Indigenous “resurgence,” the title “Idle No More” is itself an ironic statement, especially for Indigenous grassroots people who have been fighting for many years against land theft, destruction of their territories, missing and murdered women, etc.

Mohawks at Tyendinaga, April 2008.

Mohawks at Tyendinaga, April 2008.

Have the Mohawks at Tyendinaga or Kanehsatake been “idle”? What about the people at Six Nations? The thousands who have mobilized against proposed pipelines and oil tankers in BC over the last few years? Were the Tahltan “idle” as they blocked mining and gas corporations, or the Secwepmec and St’at’imc resisting ski resorts?

Perhaps it can be said that our Brothers and Sisters on the prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been a little more “idle” than Natives in the rest of the country. If so, then it is an appropriate title for that region, but hardly for Indigenous people in Canada as a whole. Overall, in fact, INM was largely based in the prairie region. This is where it originated and where the largest numbers participated.  It also explains the emphasis on treaty rights in INM organizing (just so you know, most indigenous nations in occupied BC don’t have treaties).

Comparisons of INM to the “Arab Spring” reminds me of its bastard child, the Occupy movement. Like Occupy, INM has mobilized a significant number of people who have little experience in social movements and resistance in general. Looking at the Facebook sites where much of the rallies were organized, it is evident that many participants thought that a few thousand Natives protesting would “make history.”

And here was the first reality check: peaceful parades do not in and of themselves have a significant impact. They are in fact routine and serve to reinforce the illusion of democratic rights. What does impact the state and corporations is economic disruption, actions that stop the flow of capital and industry. But it is highly unlikely the Indian Act Indians will promote such a strategy as it would be political suicide on their part (aside from a few public relations stunts).

Note the Canadian flag on the feathers.

Note the Canadian flag on the feathers.

Like Occupy, there is also a sprinkling of new activists who think pacifist methods are the only acceptable forms of protest, and that it is of paramount importance to get positive media coverage. One of the organizers for Winnipeg’s rally, Jerry Daniels, was quoted as saying “They are trying to make us look like radicals but that’s not what we stand for.” Really? You don’t want to see radical change to an oppressive and genocidal system?

Prominent in the call outs for INM rallies on Dec. 10 was the imposing of pacifist doctrine under the slogan “peaceful rally.” But here INM organizers went a step further, using spiritual ceremonies as a club to pacify the protests by claiming that whenever a sacred pipe was present, people had to be peaceful.

Sylvia McAda, one of the original organizers of INM, posted an article on the group’s website the night before the planned rallies outlining the “traditional rules” people were expected to follow:

“Pipes will be lifted for the Idle No More gathering; this will signify peace between two Nations and with the Creator. The presence of a pipe at any event is followed by the pipe laws of gentleness, compassion and mutual respect.

“As well, the ladies attending are “encouraged” to honor the Ancient Indigenous Women’s Sacred Teachings of honoring woman’s empowering gift of creation by wearing a dress to the length of their ankles”

(“Sacred Protocol is Invoked,” Amendment: Sunday, December 9th, 2012,

Here in the Pacific Northwest Coast we had neither pipe ceremonies nor woman’s dresses down to the ankles. This use of ceremony and spirituality to control people’s behaviour will be an ongoing obstacle to effective Indigenous organizing in the future, and one that will need to be overcome by genuine grassroots movements. A public protest, an occupation, or a blockade, for example, are not ceremonies. They are actions taken to defend people and territory. Nor is a social movement a church in which religious codes can be imposed upon participants.

Another person, going by the name “Harmony King,” posted on multiple INM Facebook sites a Youtube video showing a Native male shaking the hands of a cop in Saskatoon, portraying it as an example of respectful protesting. Like numerous Occupiers, there is a pro-cop sentiment that arises from naivety and ignorance as to the actual role of police in oppressing and controlling indigenous peoples.

Sovereignty in action?

Sovereignty in action?

Just as in Occupy, there are numerous contradictory images and slogans arising from INM. One graphic, with a raised fist holding a feather in front of a Canadian flag proclaims “Indigenous Rights Revolution.”  Another shows a picket sign with “Indigenous sovereignty in action” written on it, held up in front of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.  These graphics imply militancy but are bound up in colonial imagery and confuses a struggle for human or treaty rights with revolutionary change.

While the Indian Act Indians are undoubtedly pleased with the INM rallies, since it serves their interests, this does not discount it as a whole. In fact, the significant mobilization of Natives in the prairie region is perhaps the most inspiring aspect of INM, and hopefully a precursor to even greater acts of defiance and resistance to come. Ultimately, however, mobilizations that spring largely from disaffected Indian Act chiefs, their political organizations, and service agencies, does not a grassroots movement make.

Posted on December 12, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 51 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Lingit Latseen and commented:
    Zig Zag tells it like it is.

  2. There were at least a thousand people on the street in Saskatoon.

  3. A lot of inaccuracies in your article. Eg. there were over 1000 people in Saskatoon alone; the video you refer to where one policeman refuses to shake hands and another does is also from Saskatoon, not Winnipeg. And can you name one disaffected Indian Chief who is allegedly running this? It is grassroots, and it is as strategic as it can be. Also think of the word idle as in a car engine idle-ing, it is running but preparing to engage full throttle. Your objection to regional custom and approach is petty and divisive. The pipe was present at certain rallies, and it was to be respected. Nobody was demanding that, say, Inuit or Haida change to Cree protocol. There is nothing wrong with respecting or acknowledging traditional ways, and nobody was turned away or scorned for not wearing a skirt. Can we instead focus our energy on how we are going to change things? As in all things, there has to be a starting point. Something crucial you missed was that the rally in for example Saskatoon was followed by six hours of strategizing and discussions by a huge crowd of, yes, grassroots and organizers. Cynicism does not serve anyone.

    • Thanks for the correction, it was Saskatoon not Winnipeg. As for your comment, there are also a few inaccuracies. I never said disaffected chiefs were “running this” I said the INM largely springs from disaffected chiefs, their political organizations and service providers. Here is a short list of such chiefs: Shawn Atleo, head of the AFN, Derek Nepinak, head of Manitoba AFN, chief Charles Weasel Head of the Blood tribe, chief Barry Kennedy of Carry the Kettle FN… I could go on and on. They’re all promoting INM because it is in their interests to do so and their interests have been threatened with funding cuts to their respective agencies. They have known for a long time what the omnibus budget bill contained but did nothing. If you want to “focus our energy on how to change things” then stop attempting to impose rules of conduct on people and focus your energy on the enemy, which must of necessity include those agents of collaboration such as the Indian Act band councils.

      • I must stand with my NYM brothers n sisters that our participation in this colonial regimes are the reasons WHY we have become complacent by the fact that hundreds of our people’s forgot the political strength a decision of clans can hold political power among the people. OUR PEOPLE wake up! They will defeat us in Land, by taking it away, Governance structure by the fact our clan n territorial clan mothers do not have thier rightful place to be the decision makers, n our languages by the fact that many do not hold or carry that spiritual language needed to turn to the creator when things get thick n heavy. Those that are fearful must admit thier fear! Those that are afraid to stand maybe u need to come to this place of a rude awakening to what n how they will use their forces n police on our people when we stand up for mother earth maybe those illusions must n need to be shattered in order to truely see thru the lens of the real enemy!

      • Respectfully, I disagree with your presentation of the facts. While the chiefs you mentioned have stepped forward with support of the movement, they did not initiate it; the four women who began the movement – which has its roots here in SK – are not disaffected chiefs, political organizations, or service providers. It has indeed spread through social media and word-of-mouth at the grassroots level. As for your inaccuracy in the above reply to my comment: I do not impose any rules of conduct on people, and the person who posted that at a certain rally “there would be a pipe and it would be respectful for women to wear skirts” was respecting the pipe, not becoming a fashion dictator or suggesting that wearing a skirt was a condition of true Aboriginality. Clearly people who have no knowledge of what a pipe is and represents, or no pipe present, or didn’t even see the post, are exempt. It is a petty point for you to make, is what I’m saying. I agree with you, though, that many First Nations people are coerced into collaboration, it is the old “divide and conquer” but beware that you are not also playing into that dynamic. One final inaccuracy I’d like to point out is that many SK First Nations and, above all, Metis people died defending their homelands at gunpoint after all attempts at negotiations failed, and their leader was hung for treason in the province’s capital. That was only a generation or two ago, but a few decades before SK was a province. Resistance at all levels, including loss of life in armed resistance, has taken place here on the prairies. I do not belittle those who have run blockades elsewhere in modern times and suffered discomforts, but I have relatives who were killed, chased from their homes by Canadian soldiers at gunpoint, and watched their homes set on fire, only an hour from where I live. So yes: I disagree with the spirit and tone and content of your post. Particularly when it comes to belittling the actions of places you don’t appear to know the history of. I do not say that there are not some truths in your piece, only that they are selective, partial, contain inaccuracies, and I’m not sure what purpose they serve all in all. Spirituality, for example, is a legitimate and unique part of Aboriginal worldview and it is unique nation to nation, just as it is unique person to person. Bringing a pipe doesn’t make a protest some sort of cult experience, or devalue it. There are treaties here, and so we are honouring our own unique history and evoking the spirit of that treaty that was made. And bearing witness that it needs to be honoured, or else it is null and void and the lands and resources need to be returned. And I’m happy to wear a skirt when it’s minus twenty to minus forty, it allows for more layering. Kininaskomitin, zig zag.

      • I know what is being presented as the history of the #INM movement, four women in Saskatchewan etc. I also know #INM was promoted by the AFN and many of the chiefs angry at the government in regards to bill c-45 and cuts to their funding, which is the only thing they ever “fight” for. I am also aware of the strong resistance carried out by Natives on the prairies in the late 1800s. When I refer to their inactivity I am talking about the last 20-30 years, a period which has seen significant Indigenous resistance across the country. In regards to the use of spirituality and ceremonies as forms of control, the “sacred” protocol was posted on the #INM website which is claiming to be a “National Day of Action.” It did not say only in Saskatchewan should this protocol be observed. Is it really a petty thing? We can see in the Samson Cree (partial) blockade of the highway yesterday (Dec 12) that the band council there is using the exact same “sacred” protocol to impose pacifism on the action and we can expect to see this abuse of spirituality used again as a form of control in the future. I agree that bringing a pipe to a rally doesn’t make it a cult experience, but when it is used as a club to enforce codes of conduct it is, in my opinion, contrary to the very essence of Indigenous spirituality.

      • we all do what we can in what ever means support each other…wether it is by being a computer warrior shall we say or fasting or prayers there is no need to be critical of each others method…then we fall into the trap of division….i respect all your words brother….we all are at different stages of growth i say this with the greatest respect to you….myself i know our leadership is at5 the most part not healthy…but i don’t need to bog my brain over it .right now..or what monies are doing this or that….for me its important to keep focused on one direction ……not to do so is also away of falling into a trap that has been used on us forever and that is to….

      • in reality we are already divided, in part by the imposition of the Indian Act band councils and their collaborative role in colonization and oppression. to blindly proceed without thought, reflection and yes critique only leaves us vulnerable to further manipulation and control.

  4. Great article Zigzag! Its important to see some critical analysis around such a fast moving campaign, with many sell out chiefs involved. With band council chiefs all applauding the peaceful actions of INM we can almost forget that every day there are different nations struggling, organizing, and acting to defend their land & territories, which youve mentioned. And the idle no more campaign seems to imply that natives across the country have been idle but aren’t anymore because they’ve joined this campaign. Or the term, The Awakening, as if we’ve all been asleep. Its a small but subliminal and ignorant fact that diminishes the efforts of many real grassroots native people, who’ve blocked treaties, who’ve blocked development, who’ve protected water, mobilized thousands of people, who are fighting pipelines and even their own people (band chiefs, treaty negotiators) for their survival as traditional people. All without government money, band council money, ngo money. And they’ve avoided the types of corruption that typically follow a movement led or influenced by corrupt officials who wont promote direct action but will threaten it when they dont get their way with the government, yet never make a call to act, but negotiate bunk deals that appear good but in actuality worsen our causes.

    Corruption like using division tactics between radicals and law abiding people, which pits common people against each other based on colonial laws on whats acceptable to do at a protest (if not the organizers own skewed sense of the term). Which we did see at occupy and INM. Corruption that coerces people through reasonably justifiable means to remain peaceful. But What is peaceful? Who dictates that? Why is it such a concern that violence will erupt? Or that it would be the people who instigate this violence and not the police, or the state? Since when did taking action become unpeaceful? Why is the term peaceful trumpeted around these sellouts & NGO dominated campaigns but not by the well known grassroots struggles over the decades? And why is peace put in the forefront of INM? The canadian/colonial nationalism as seen through INM’s webpage is unsettling, also in their term “live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship”. I live in BC and we have no treaty here, and any treaty that will put us in the same desolate position as our brothers and sisters whove signed modern treaties and are now suffering under the weight of them…..and struggling to have them honored without action, while the land struggles take a hit on the backburner….thats not a great thing to promote. The least we can do is be critical, given our many and varied experiences over the many decades. Not act as if we’ve just “awoken”.

  5. Jerry Daniels is a friend of mine, so I understand the reasons why he and many others (including the founders of this movement) are proponents of peaceful and non-violent action.

    Sitting Bull: “Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights….The warrior is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity.”

    • With all due respect to the memory of Sitting Bull, this is an incorrect statement. A warrior is indeed one who fights for without this capacity there can be no defense of the elderly, the defenseless, the children, the land, etc. And we should not fool ourselves into thinking that a warrior is above all a person who avoids violence. It is through the military defense of people, land and way of life by our ancestors that we are still here today. The idea that a warrior is above all a peaceful person is the result of Christian indoctrination and New Age spirituality, along with propaganda that Ghandi and Martin Luther King led “nonviolent revolutions.”

      • That’s an interesting opinion, however, Christians hardly taught us peace. In fact, it was our people that taught them peace:

        The Six Nations (which includes the Mohawk warrior nation) formed as a result of the Great Peacemaker. Times change. And the prophecies he left behind spoke of our people gathering, becoming humble, and those looking to conquer will know we aren’t ones to fight. Nowhere does it describe us needing to engage in violence.

        Even during Oka, it was the women that had to tame the men from attacking the military during the standoff. That’s why the women were the leaders in the communities, and men simply fought the battles the women said to fight.

        All our prophecies state that this is the time the people of the world would join with us… they can’t do that if we are attacking them.

      • You are incorrect in interpreting a call for militant resistance, as opposed to passive protest, as an “attack” on other peoples. It should be self-evident that an Indigenous resistance is aimed at the colonial regime, and not the population as a whole. In fact it is the growing potential for revolt among non-Natives, evidenced by recent mobilizations such as the Occupy movement, the Toronto G20, Quebec student strike, etc, that shows the possibility of unified social resistance against the state. I’m not too concerned with the Great Peacemaker or any prophecies you may believe. History itself shows that without a means to defend oneself, you are vulnerable to being oppressed and enslaved. It was only after Indigenous military resistance was defeated that the colonial state was able to fully impose itself on Native peoples.

      • You wrote:
        December 14, 2012 at 8:47 PM

        You are incorrect in interpreting a call for militant resistance, as opposed to passive protest, as an “attack” on other peoples. It should be self-evident that an Indigenous resistance is aimed at the colonial regime, and not the population as a whole. In fact it is the growing potential for revolt among non-Natives, evidenced by recent mobilizations such as the Occupy movement, the Toronto G20, Quebec student strike, etc, that shows the possibility of unified social resistance against the state. I’m not too concerned with the Great Peacemaker or any prophecies you may believe. History itself shows that without a means to defend oneself, you are vulnerable to being oppressed and enslaved. It was only after Indigenous military resistance was defeated that the colonial state was able to fully impose itself on Native peoples.


        We defend ourselves by gaining the support of the people and doing this legally under our treaty rights – we aren’t cavemen capable only of violence to make things happen unless that’s how you want to represent us as.

        You also do realize that the Quebec student strike had police agent provocateurs that were sent into to promote violence.

        And if you don’t believe in the wisdom of our elders, then clearly you aren’t one I or anyone I know would follow.

      • You need to educate yourself. Here in BC most Indigenous nations never signed any treaties with the Crown. There are many others across Canada who didn’t either. Your logic means that the only forms of struggle to be used are those deemed acceptable by your enemy, the colonial state. That is the mentality of a slave. What proof do you have that the student strike had agent provocateurs, and in this evidence please indicate what detrimental effect this had? Many people in Quebec engaged in militant resistance, several thousand. Are you saying they’re all agent provocateurs? That would be ridiculous.

      • Dallas:

        I think a lot of people misinterpret the message of the Great Peacemaker, and also take him out of his historical context. His message was one of Pan-Indian unity through diplomacy and mutual respect. The spirit of his message is peace, power, and righteousness, and we should approach all peoples with that mindset (and we have, although historically, we haven’t done it enough amongst ourselves – even when we had all the kindness in the world for the settlers).

        You should also know that the Great Law has provisions for defending the people and territory, and also treating nations which refuse to abide by the Great Law as *threats* to the peace. Canada and the US both do this, and not only to us – but around the world! There is not a peaceful tendency in either state.

        The Great Peacemaker and the Great Law are not examples of, or excuses for, pacifism.

    • The Montreal police admit to using agent provocateurs:

      It’s reasonable to assume these tactics have and could be used again.

      You really assume too much, too soon. Just because I mention Treaty, doesn’t mean I fit into your way of seeing the world. Our Treaties are remnants of our Nation, yet they aren’t required to assert our Nationhood and bring Canada to our table to negotiate on equal terms. They are simply ways Canada tied themselves up legally to us, and as we declare our sovereignty separate from Canada, the more Canada has to deal with us on our terms. Many Horses once said that we’d one day “outrun the white man in his own shoes”.

      Violence will only get in the way of this objective… you can’t expect everyone else to just leave North America. We have to work together for future generations (there’s no way around that fact), and we must be the first to extend that offer because if society understood our true intentions with this movement is for their future as well, we could find new ways of working together for the benefit of all and the use of violence would be counter-productive, and only serve to create the conditions you are seeking to stop.

      If they are still not willing to listen, then the whole world is watching anyway as a result of Canadian and American society supporting our rights.

      • Here you go brother:

        “We seem to be getting a lot of support (against) Bill C-45… Canadian citizens are starting to hear about it, and I don’t think they’re happy with the way this government is proceeding either with this omnibus bill,” said Batise. “Where is the democracy in all of this? We have a unique opportunity, if we can get Canadians on side, to begin to affect some change.”

      • And your point is what?

      • This video is from Montebello and it’s the SQ, not Montreal police, who admitted to using undercover cops posing as militants, who were in fact exposed by masked militants. If you are going to make extraordinary claims, ie that people wearing masks are cops, you need extraordinary evidence. One case cannot be taken as proof that applies to every situation. Whatever your interpretation of treaties is, they were used by the state to impose reserves and “legally” expropriate vast swaths of your peoples traditional territory. Violence is a part of life and it is an integral part of colonization, but you want to pacify and disarm the people in the face of this violence. No one said “everyone” has to leave N. America, that’s your own assumptions about what real grassroots people are about. The whole world can watch and that won’t change anything. You are simply appealing to the powers that be, and hoping “public opinion” will force change, which is naive.

  6. Thanks for the article & lively discussion. I also had a bit of trouble with the naming (both “idle” & “occupy”), while supporting the general drift.
    I wonder if you’d consider adding the tag “Indigenous Women” to this post–acknowledging the four founding women and as a nod to the endless discussion of respect, what it means and how to express it.
    (Thanks also for the book reviews)

  7. Who speaks for the aboriginals that have no rights under the Indian Act, especially for many Metis people that have been excluded from groups, organizations that are supposedly geared to assist all aboriginals.
    I for one remain silent on this Aboriginal Spring.

  8. Your words are so true. Band natives are generally peace niks.Action nteds to be done. Coordinated action. We here at Six nations r in the process of kicking out our band council. We have a traditional council here that has the voice of out people.

  9. I don’t think we’ve ever met, and you may just brush off what I’m about to say, as I’m not indigenous and not particularly familiar with indigenous law.

    That said, I have consistently received the impression that the Idle No More movement is about waking up the “sleepers”, so to speak, regardless of race/ethnicity (i.e., some are indigenous, some are not), to take action and demand sovereignty and justice for First Nations. And you may think I’m quite nuts for saying this, but I had a vision about just that today.

    I’ve written about it here:

    I am happy to concede to indigenous people for leadership, as it is their sovereignty and justice I am fighting for. I am delighted that there are grassroots movements blocking highways, pipeline projects, and more. I am excited that there are so many people mobilizing in pacifist demonstrations as well. Some philosophy guy said something about how a diversity of tactics (I know… I know what that term connotes in some circles) like the diversity we’re seeing with everything painted as INM, is necessary to shift the greater cultural tolerance to receive the message at all — it’s called the Overton Window Theory, and that’s about the best I can explain it without referring you to some random internet page you may not even be interested in reading.

    The point is that I felt a lot of mixed feelings about specific parts of your analysis — specifically concerning who is being described as idle to begin with, and the tactics being used by different groups of people. I don’t think INM is attributing idling to indigenous peoples. It’s everyone else who is idling. Settlers who need to be shaken into their spinal columns and called to action to start acting like vertebrates.

    Well, that comment turned out longer than I thought, somehow.

    • With all due respect I must disagree with you interpretation of Idle No More (INM). When they say “Idle” they are referring to Indigenous peoples who have, in their minds, been asleep and are now “waking up.” In regards to diversity of tactics, the INM doesn’t have any, it is instead focused on strictly legal, pacifist acts of civil disobedience. It is real grassroots movements who use a diversity of tactics, as was seen for example at Six Nations in 2006.

  10. As an Urban Aboriginal, non status, non treaty, I personally see both militant, radical direct action as well as “legal” peaceful protest, as being important parts of Indigenous struggle and resistance. I don’t believe that one or the other is always appropriate/effective for every situation. I think we need both and that if we use both strategically we are better off.

    It’s like when I think about the civil rights movement vs the Black power movement. I respect Dr. King and Brother Malcolm, freedom riders and Black Panthers.

    I agree that Idle No More is very focused on the rights of treaty Indians, but as a non treaty Indian I don’t necessarily feel excluded by it.

    Just my 2 cents.

  11. Only heard about this today and just read the post and the comments. I am happy to see more happenings.

  12. Good writeup. From what I understand Zig Zag is completely correct about the cynicism of most of the chiefs re: INM. The comparison with Occupy, especially the naivety, seems very apt to me. On the other hand, several speakers at the rally in Edmonton cut against this naivety by stressing that women had not given consent to the men who signed treaties and by naming capitalism and colonialism, not just the current govt, as the enemy. In this sense, there is a far more radical analysis already present in INM than Occupy (not surprising considering Occupy was dominated by white college kids most places). That said, there’s no shortage of naive and embarrassing talk about ”our voices being heard” in Ottawa, etc, from what I’ve seen in Alberta. And there’s much more energy around the Athabasca Fort Chipewayan FN and Beaver Lake Cree lawsuits than direct action.

  13. Zig Zag nails it. I’m sure we’d all love to see Idle No More make and shake some shit up. What I see at the grassroots level is people say’n that Idle No More is a real slap to the grassroots brother’s and sisters that been trying to shake shit up, sometimes for decades. It ain’t easy being a militant or activist because for years been thrown in jail or at the very minimum don’t get any money or funding…. and there are families that need to be fed. I hear my Metis sister’s saying: hey how come this thing is just about Treaty. I hear Derek Nepinak saying that he’s being pushed by the young people from his community, sorry to say, this is not true because there is no youth resistance on the Minegoziibi-ens Ishkonikong Reserve, his home…. wish there was. Maybe this is a start, we’ll have to see ……or maybe this is FB virtual reality revolution. First Nations peoples are 2 % of the Canadian population….. there is going to have to be a lot of people out for the streets to shake any shit up. And I so agree with Zig Zag, I hate to say it, that how come Atleo/Nepinak and crew were not beating the war drum on Bill C-45 until after their funding got cut. It does look suspicious, maybe these cuts are going to wake up Native leaders that are on government of Canada payrolls. Thanks to Zig Zag for getting some real dialogue going. I believe that it is this kind of dialogue that’s going to hopefully start to wake people up…. so yes, thanks Idle No More too, every wake-up yell is needed.

  14. paul seesequasis

    I reject the idea that previous generations have been idle. My moshom and his father and his wife and their aunts and uncles have worked unceasingly. Fuck the Indian Act. Respect what previous generations have done, without social media or a movement to acknowledge them.
    Cree from ‘Saskatchewan’.

  15. As Houdenosaunee people we know that peace is always sought. It’s in the way we sought it that determined our actions. And as men, our fire has the responsibility ofpeace on our shoulders. When we went to war, it was with the women giving the ofinal ok. We are their sons. We left prepared not to come back. So r we pacifists? In our first encounters yes. Do we fight? Hell yes.

  16. Now when I speak to non natives, the first thing I talk about is education 101. We are not aboriginals, nor indigenous, nor first nation. If referring to us all, we are onkwehonwe. If u want an easy word use native. When referring to a particular nation, use their name. Cree, sioux, houdenosaunee etc…. Now how many natives need to be reminded? If u read this, then learn.

  17. Jerry Daniels

    “Pacifism is opposition to war and violence, even to the point of allowing self-harm rather than a resort to violent resistance”.

    I find it interesting that the quip i made about the colonial characterization strategies often used to divide our message from that of the rest of humanity is being termed pacifist. In case you missed it, the war that you speak of is taking place on an intellectual level. Building support behind a movement requires an ability to link the interests of several groups behind our one large common interest. That interest is the ‘sustainability of our peoples’ indigenous and non-indigenous alike. The dynamics of that sustainability are numerous from our language, cultural heritage/identity and our economic/environmental prosperity.

    Radical acts that perhaps you are in favor of are to be expected and have their usefulness. I was supportive of the Blockade on Highway 1 and 16 here in Manitoba. I went there with several friends and joined with the drum i have long sat with, to sing round dance songs and a victory song for shutting down of the entire highway. However we must not fall into the trap of being isolated from the rest of Canadian society. I only aim to caution in going down a slippery slope that could dilute clarity in our message.

    My last comment is that of course i have my skepticism of leadership but they are allies and family. It is not about any one of us, its about all of us. The conversation and actions have only begun, many of us will make mistakes and learn quickly from them. This is what the movement will built upon. Alas my time shall be spent sharpening our messages like our ancestors use to sharpen their arrows. I have to go round dance now…. Hope to see ya there…

    In the pursuit of balance,

    Jerry k. Daniels

  18. I think that we need to also educate the non natives, because Bill C 45 is not going to affect just the native people. The news media is just making this a native issue but this Bill will affect all Canadians.

  19. Idle No More, now is the time. The time for hunger strikes was over two-hundred years ago. Nothing short of seizing government buildings is needed. Nothing short of reoccupying ancient lands is needed. Nothing short of provoking an armed conflict with the army is absolutely needed. Where is your victory at Little Big Horn Idle No More?

  20. Again the words Diversity of Action need to be said. I’m Houdenosaunee and Spence does not have our voice. We echo what she says and have for a long time. The boat is swamping our canoe. Heck. They want the whole river… Now look at the % of people who vote in elected elections. That’s the first clue to Indian act obediance. Here at 6 nation’s, 4% vote, 96% don’t. Here we need to get them out of here. It will happen this year. I will say no more on our plans here… So can allie with some who share the fight against the crown. We can pray for Theresa. Burn tobacco. Continue our fight. Make as many allies as possible. Brainstorm with new friends on actions. Time to kick up the heat.

  21. Stephen McArthur

    I am a Nakota from Saskatchewan and I agree with this article.

  22. Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the internet the simplest thing to
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