Native People Unite Across the Continent
By LISA MOREHEAD-NEUNER, TRT Contributing Writer
At any given time during shopping hours, in any given shopping mall in the world, you might be hearing a drum beat these days. Over the sound of teeny tunes, over the sound of ringing cash registers it beckons steadily.
“Oh, yeah,” started the young hairdresser Michelle Sanus, a Cow Creek tribal member, who was at her place of work at the Medford Rogue Valley Mall when the drum began to beat on Sunday, January 5. “My mom was talking about this. She’s a singer and drummer, and she said there was going to be something going on. I forget what she called it…”
Was it “Idle No More?” Yeah, yeah, she thought so.
Flash Mob demonstrations with little or no real organization have flared up in public places, mostly through last minute grass-roots efforts found in social media. Common to all of these rallies seems to be the beat of the Native community drum. Even those from as far away as the Middle East, Europe, and New Zealand have taken up the drum roll in support of the aboriginal peoples. Protest marches have taken place; bridges and highways have been blockaded; radio waves have been garnered – all in support of the Idle No More Movement.
“This is an exciting time to be Native American,” shares Maymee Preston-Donahue, a Karuk tribal member attending the Flash Mob in Medford.
What is “Idle No More?” The Medford hairdresser couldn’t say. For those of you in the same boat, here’s a quick summary:
Who: Last autumn, four women in Saskatchewan began exchanging emails about Canada’s Bill C-45, an act which modifies legislation contained in 64 acts or regulations. The most concerning changes were the ones to the Indian Act, the Navigation Protection Act, and the Environmental Assessment Act. They were afraid these changes would further erode the rights of the indigenous peoples.
The women decided to organize an event in Saskatoon, set for Nov. 10, and to help spread the word they turned to Facebook. They chose to call the page “Idle No More” as a motivational slogan. Those who joined were angered by the Canadian government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was accused of solely providing lip-service to the concerns of First Nations peoples.
In the meantime, Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, has become the poster child for the Idle No More Movement. Already in her fifth week, Spence has been on a hunger strike to protest the lack of consultation with her people by the Prime Minister with regard to the serious environmental issues surrounding the proposed diamond mining on aboriginal territory.
What: The movement’s mission statement reads, “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water.”
The Idle No More Facebook group, which now boasts over 45,000 members, says its purpose is “to support and encourage grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to our Nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media.”
When and Where: Although the movement started in Canada last autumn, it’s drum beat now reverberates ever louder all over the world. Last Sunday, the Seventh Generation Fund loosely organized a demonstration at the Arcata Plaza, which found about 70 spectators and participants. Hoopa Valley tribal members graced the peaceful event with a demonstration Flower Dance.
“Because women started the Idle No More Movement, it seems right that their voice is represented with the Flower Dance song,” explains Annelia Hillman, a Yurok tribal member who participated in the Arcata Plaza Idle No More demonstration last Sunday.
Next Saturday, another Flash Mob event is scheduled to happen at the Rogue Valley Mall in Medford. Interested followers can find future locations of Flash Mob demos through Facebook notices or by adding “#IdleNoMore” to their tweets.
Why: The movement originally started to “stop the Harper government from passing more laws and legislation that will further erode treaty and indigenous rights and the rights of all Canadians.” Now, indigenous peoples everywhere are moving to the beat of a much broader campaign – the right to more self-governance, especially with regard to environmental and social rights.
“It’s far overdue for indigenous people world-wide to join in solidarity against the destruction of the earth,” contends Hillman. “It’s time for us not only to support the Canadian movement, but also to take action for our own communities – and for ourselves.”
And now for the last question word, How.
It is not easy to find out information if you are not hooked into one of the major social networks. Internet access is a must unless you have someone who can relay dates, locations and times to you. Members from the Hoopa Valley, Yurok and Karuk Tribes are organizing a weekend of meetings to address local actions from February 8-10 in Weitchpec. For more information, contact Molli White at (530) 627-3051.