Idle No More is a protest movement started by Aboriginal peoples in Canada in November 2012. The protest movement originally consisted of the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples and their supporters, and has grown throughout North America. Today, Friday January 18, members of the Idle No More movement will meet in front of the Grand Avenue Mall at 11 a.m. and march to Lake Michigan in protest.
The protest movement is a reaction to alleged abuses of indigenous treaty rights by the federal government, with specific dispute against the recent omnibus bill Bill C-45. Environmentalist and First Nations groups take particular issue with the Bill overhauling the Navigable Waters Protection Act of 1882, and changing it to the Navigation Protection Act. Protestors fear this change will deregulate waterways passing through traditional First Nations land, and deconstruct any barriers to industrial development such as oil pipelines.
The founders of Idle No More (Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean, Nina Wilson) outlined the vision and goals of the movement in a press release on January 10, 2013 stating:
The Vision revolves around Indigenous Ways of Knowing rooted in Indigenous Sovereignty to protect water, air, land and all creation for future generations.
The Conservative government bills beginning with Bill C-45 threaten Treaties and this Indigenous Vision of Sovereignty.
The Goal of the movement is education and the revitalization of Indigenous peoples through Awareness and Empowerment. Idle No More has successfully encouraged knowledge sharing of Indigenous Sovereignty and Environmental Protections.
In the past, Idle No More members have utilized civil disobedience, demonstrations, direct action, flash mobs, hunger strikes, internet activism, nonviolent resistance, picketing, and raasta roko. Co-founder Sylvia McAdam does not condone the rail or road blockade methods, but supports legal, peaceful protests.
Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat began a hunger strike on December 11, 2012 drinking only tea, water, and broth, to demand a meeting with Prime Minister Harper and the Governor General of Canada to discuss Aboriginal rights. On January 4, 2013, Prime Minister Harper announced a meeting with a delegation of First Nation leaders for January 11, though he made no mention of the Idle No More movement. After the meeting, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan announced that "high-level dialogue" would follow between Harper and Shawn Atleo, the Assembly of First Nations leader. Former Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Matthew Coon Come, stated that Harper furthered discussions on treaty process and land claims and showed willingness to consult with First Nations on environmental issues and legislative matters that impact aboriginal territories.
When asked about this afternoon's Milwaukee Idle No More march, a protester expressed her hope for raising awareness about treaty issues, sovereignty, and environmental issues that affect all North Americans.
I personally find this important because I have been spending a lot of time in a Yupik village in Alaska that is going through a battle over a mine that is set up there. The natives own their land through native corporations, so they need projects and businesses in order to keep their land. A lot of the natives want the mine so that they are supporting the corporations and have jobs, but most of the natives also really disagree with the detrimental impact it is having (and will have) on the environment. The lake in the village, Lake Iliamna, is home to a very rare breed of freshwater seals. If they officially open the mine, the lake's water supply will be damaged to the point that the seals will be endangered. There are some environmental groups that are concerned, but aside from that no one really talks about this. It's just one of many indigenous battles that do not receive mainstream news coverage or attention.
For so long now, indigenous rights and issues have been placed on the back burner, made a last priority, and the First Nations are tired of sitting back and waiting. We will be Idle No More.