‘Idle No More’ movement sweeps across Canada

An on-the-spot report from a participant in the Sudbury demonstration

People from all over Turtle Island and across the world have come together in a movement called Idle No More. It began with four ladies, Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and Sheelah McLean, who felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters.

The focus is on grassroots voices, treaty and sovereignty. It began in the early part of October when discussing Bill C-45. All four women knew that this was a time to act, as this bill and other proposed legislation would affect not only Indigenous people but also the lands, water and the rest of Canada.

With the focus on the most urgent bill and knowing it would initiate attention to all other legislation, the four ladies held rallies and teach-ins to generate discussion and provide information. They then decided a nationwide event was warranted so all could participate, thus, the National Day of Solidarity and Resurgence was called for December 10, 2012, to oppose all legislation and to build solidarity while asserting inherent rights and nationhood while protecting lands for all people. That was just the beginning.

On December 21, 2012 a national rally was called for in Ottawa to support the movement, but also to support Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat. Chief Spence has been on a hunger strike for more than 10 days and is requesting a meeting with Prime Minister Harper, the Governor General David Johnston and other First Nation leaders in result of the current legislation being passed, and the treaty violations it comes with. Heidi Manitowabi of Wikwemikong attended the Sudbury Idle No More event especially for this reason. “I came to support Chief Theresa Spence in the 11th day of her hunger strike and I will not stand for what the Canadian Government is doing to us,” she said. “Mr. Harper needs to meet with Chief Theresa Spence!”

Organizers of the Sudbury Idle No More rally included Bruce McComber, Natalie Neganegijig and Cassandra Mandamin, all from Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, and they are happy to report approximately 400 people were in attendance. It began in a good way, with a sunrise ceremony at Memorial Park with locals and guests travelling as far away as Midland to participate in the day. The rally began around 11 am at Tom Davies Square with empowering words from both Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee and Deputy Grand Chief Glen Hare of the Anishinabek Nation. Many more chiefs from Manitoulin Island and the North Shore were also in attendance as well as local First Nations peoples living in Sudbury and fellow Islanders too. It was a positive, family friendly and uplifting event, filled with laughter, singing, drumming and round dancing in intersections. Yes, round dancing in intersections!

Flash mob round dances are swinging and swaying in shopping centers across Canada in lieu of the Idle No More movement, including the New Sudbury Shopping Centre, which took place the night before today’s rally. “People gather at a specific time and place, with drummers and dance in a circle, holding hands to a song or two and then disperse,” said M’Chigeeng youth Tanika Debassige, who attended the New Sudbury Mall flash mob round dance and attended Friday’s rally and exclaimed, “my favourite part of today’s rally has been the round dances and I want to do more!”

A strong message was visible throughout the day that this is for the future of the people, the children and grandchildren, and it was evident with the participation of Bonnie Nahwegahbo’s whole family in attendance. She is from Whitefish River First Nation and the wife of Chief Franklin Shining Turtle Paibomsai and with their three children, Eli, Ira and Lucy, they enjoyed the rally with their whole hearts.

It is being said the Idle No More is a youth movement as it has been largely voiced through social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook under the hash tag #idlenomore. Youth were well in attendance at the Sudbury event, with placards, posters and proudly participating as young Anishinaabe citizens. “I thought it was awesome,” shared Jacob Genereux of M’Chigeeng who came to support his culture and the land. He said he also believes it’s wrong what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing to the people. Jacob is looking forward to sharing his experience with his friends back home, as this was the first time he had ever participated in a rally. He also shared that some youth don’t know anything about Bill C-45 and what the government is doing, so we need to teach them more because this is going to affect their future and our (Anishinaabek) history needs to be in the education system within our schools.

Four women began this movement and many, many more are standing up to their roles as caretakers, grandmothers and aunties, such as Isabelle Visitor of Moose Factory, but who now lives in Sudbury. She attended the rally because she feels the fire within and is ready to make change. “We’ve been idle too long and Chief Theresa Spence has inspired me to fast as well,” she said. “I’m into my fourth day of fasting right now.” It was evident that Chief Theresa Spence’s courage in her hunger strike has really touched everyone on an emotional level.

The message that touched my heart as a young participant was from my cousin, Diane Debassige of M’Chigeeng. When I asked her what her message was for youth, she replied, “I will follow you.” As a young person that is an amazing answer to hear and it rings true because youth are leading the way forward in a creative, positive way and they need to be followed.

by Lynzii Taibossigai, M’Chigeeng First Nation