Speakers brought the goals of the movement to the public
Sitting in a large open circle, it was obvious that the so-called “teach-in and discussion” was more than an average meeting of like-minded people. There was no stage and no microphone, and everyone could see each other’s faces. The gathering allowed people to participate as equals in the sharing of knowledge, and look and respect each other while they talked.
The Idle No More grassroots movement came to the University of Guelph on April 3, and invited people of all interests and ages to join in on the discussion. Food Not Bombs supplied sweet potato and pear soup.
The teach-in included a panel discussion moderated by Canadian musician and activist James Gordon, and featured four guest speakers who each shared their perspectives on the vibrant awakening among indigenous people and their allies. There was a heavy focus on getting people to understand what is taking place in Canada in respect to the Aboriginal peoples and their nationhood, and sovereignty to protect water, land, air, and all creation for future generations.
Guest speaker Myeengun Henry, an elder and Aboriginal Traditional Counselor spoke of his hopes for the movement and emphasized the need for the education of young people so that they may understand the history of the First Nations people.
“I want people to ask real hard questions,” Henry said, “because then I can start to find the answers.”
Originating among the First Nations, Inuit and Métis and non-Aboriginal people of Canada, the Idle No More movement was founded November 2012 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The movement aims to safeguard Canada’s responsibility towards the Native Peoples, particularly in regard to the Post-Confederation Treaties that were signed between the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada and the reigning monarch of Canada from 1871 to 1921. These agreements recognize First Nations rights as stewards of the lands, and acknowledge their connection to the earth and their own inherent responsibility to protect it.
The movement was created in response to the numerous legislative changes pertaining to the recent introduction of Bill C-45, a product of the Conservative Government and the Department of Indian Affairs (also known as the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada). The ominous bill threatens to bypass the Treaties and the indigenous vision of sovereignty and environmental protections, as it will revise the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) that protects and regulates the numerous waterways that pass through traditional First Nations land.
“What’s guiding our country is short-term plans that make money and don’t consider the future generations,” said Gordon. “People don’t realize the impacts of that.”
The panel’s second speaker was Jean Becker, an advocator for women, children and the revitalization of Aboriginal traditions and who is of Innu, Inuit and English ancestry. She spoke of the enduring trauma that continues to exist in these communities, as well as the importance of sitting down and talking openly.
“We’re very concerned for our children and our grandchildren, but so should you be, so should all people be concerned,” explained Becker.
“Its about how we begin to protect this land that we all live on and share,” said Kim Anderson at the discussion. As a Cree/Métis writer, researcher, and educator at Wilfred Laurier University, Anderson encouraged supporters to help influence change by simply showing up and being present.
“Maybe then there will be some sort of will to listen,” Anderson said.
The movement is mostly coordinated through the use of social media and draws inspiration from the hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. The liquid-only diet took place in early December 2012 and was successful in raising considerable awareness of the infringement of Aboriginal rights. Since its formation last year, the movement has been able to educate and empower indigenous peoples through the encouragement of knowledge sharing, flash mobs, blockades, and numerous demonstrations across Canada with the support of thousands of people.
“What all of us here demonstrate is that there’s something happening in our communities,” said Becker, “and we are it.”
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