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Native American Idle No More

Photo by Rob and Tracy Sydor robsydor.com
Photo by Rob and Tracy Sydor | robsydor.com

Idle No More is a campaign for indigenous rights, sovereignty and environmental justice that began in Canada in part as a response to Canada’s omnibus bill C-45 that is seen as taking away treaty rights. Though neglected in mainstream U.S. media coverage, the campaign has generated rallies and flashmobs across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Flashmobs were held in Portland’s Pioneer Square Mall on Dec. 23 and Eugene’s Valley River Center Mall on Dec. 29.

In Canada, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike on Dec. 11, drinking only fish broth and medicinal tea. She has announced she will not eat until there is a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a representative of the queen of England to address Canada’s broken relationship with indigenous peoples and treaty rights.

The bill passed the Canadian Senate on Dec. 14, but the Idle No More movement is more than just that legislation, according to the INM website. The Idle No More manifesto says, in part:

“The state of Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by using the land and resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are the most powerful in the world due to land and resources. Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land but do not get a share of the profit. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned — the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada. We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land.”

Among the environmental concerns brought up by the new legislation are the tar sands, fossil fuel pipelines and other mining. According to Kayla Godowa-Tufti, Warm Springs, who attended the Portland flashmob: 

 “We are now witnessing the results of all these smaller resistances, like Jackie Thomas Chief of Saik’uz First Nations who stood against the Enbridge Pipeline. All those smaller actions have now come into one movement. The Idle No More Movement. It is good and inspiring to see our people hold solidarity rallies.”

More than 100 people, Native American and non-native, from small children to the elderly, participated in or supported the round dance at Valley River. 

Godowa-Tufti says, “If we really want to end this suffering and oppression, and truly stand in solidarity with our First Nations brothers and sisters, we must end our dependence on tar sands oil, but it’s going to take more than just a round dance and prayers. It’s going to take us all, to alter our lifestyles of over-consumption. We are all buying into this lifestyle that slowly kills us, and some it kills quicker than others.”

For more on Idle No More, see a Viewpoint by Godowa-Tufti.