What began in part as a response to the C-45 omnibus bill has now become a national phenomenon.
The Idle No More movement – founded by Nina Wilson (Nakota and Plains Cree from Kahkewistahaw Treaty 4 territory), Sylvia McAdam (Saysewahum from Treaty 6 territory), Jessica Gordon (from Pasqua Treaty 4 Territory) and Sheelah McLean (from Treaty 6 territory and is also a third generation immigrant) – has gained significant media attention beginning with the Dec. 10, 2012 nationwide protests and through #IdleNoMore on Twitter.
“We all need to learn how to dance together, to live together strongly as neighbours in communities, in our workplaces.” —Kelly J. Lendsay, President and CEO, Aboriginal Human Resource Council
Idle No More seeks to develop community and Indigenous nationhood, protect the environment and establish connections with non-Aboriginal people who recognize the nation-to-nation relationship established in the treaties.
Acknowledging the historical significance of colonization and how it resonates today is key for understanding the importance of Idle No More as a social movement for Indigenous peoples in Canada as well as for the settler population.
Although it may seem like it is only an Indigenous problem, it is not: it is far from it. If you live in Canada, you should care about what Idle No More is doing because it is an important social justice and environmental issue, and also because much of–but not all–of Canada is treatied land. Ultimately, everyone living in Canada is affected by the concerns Idle No More is bringing forward.
The movement has grown significantly over the last few months. Now not only are people in Canada involved in the movement, but people all over the world are expressing their solidarity, also holding protests, round dance flash mobs, flash mobs and teach-ins.
Kelly J. Lendsay, the President and CEO of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, explains Idle No More as follows:
“I’ve described Idle No More as this loud noise; if you listen to the noise it’s both a shout and a cry. The cry is one of women saying, ‘We don’t want to cry anymore.’ There are children committing suicide, communities contaminated with black mould, no swimming pools, no parks, no schools – it’s very dismal. I think that Canadians are confused by all this. That’s not a picture that Canadians want to see for anyone in any community – whether it’s a hamlet, a village, a town, a city or a reserve, an Inuit community or a Metis community. Canadians believe in some fairness for everybody. So that’s the cry side I see of Idle No More.
And the shout side, I see young people shouting out: ‘We want to be included, we want change, we want jobs, we want economies.’ There’s also a really positive side for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people: they’re dancing at round dances – round dances are a friendly dance – to bring people together. And in a way, maybe that’s exactly what we need to do. We all need to learn how to dance together, to live together strongly as neighbours, in communities, in our workplaces. That’s sort of the underpinning for me, for Idle No more.”
Idle No More really speaks to the importance of inclusion, respect, and working together. This is extremely relevant when considering how the Aboriginal youth population is the fastest growing demographic in Canada, and that more and more First Nations, Metis and Inuit individuals are attending post-secondary institutions.
Furthermore, non-Aboriginal students and recent grads may study and work alongside Aboriginal classmates and colleagues, and many entry level career opportunities – especially those in the natural resource industries – may involve direct or indirect contact with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.
To be blunt, no matter what way you look at it, change is coming.
As we slowly start to thaw from this cold and snowy winter, we will see how much Idle No More can help Canada spring forward into a new era of equity and respect.
Have you participated in Idle No More? Share your stories in the comments section below!
Photo credit: Thien