Renewal: What Idle No More Means to Me
Today is the winter solstice. Every day after this one will have a little more sunshine, bringing us an extra minute closer to spring renewal. It is no coincidence that today marks another round of nation-wide and international rallies in support of Idle No More and Chief Theresa Spence. For me, this movement represents renewal.
Nonetheless, we still have a long, hard winter ahead of us. Despite the fact that for many of us the Idle No Movement is everywhere all at once, filling our social media feeds and being discussed over tea and coffee, we continue to face obscurity. I have been asking people, at office parties, at local cafes, at the grocery store, “Have you heard of Idle No More?” Almost all of them ask if it has something to do with cars. Although the mainstream media has been providing coverage, the movement has not quite entered the Canadian consciousness. Yet.
I have long believed that education is the most important factor in creating change in this relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. So for me, the slogan “Idle No More” is not a chastisement or accusation of laziness on the part of native peoples, many of whom have been labouring for years for their communities. It is a rallying cry that can be taken up by all of us living in these lands. It says, “time to be active, time to put in the effort, time to learn, time to grow, time to make change.” For those who have been doing this work all along, it also means, “you are supported, we will stand with you, you will not be alone in this.”
As the Occupy movement and the Maple Spring have shown us, there is a great desire for change to the fundamental structures of Canadian society. This desire is not so geographically isolated, but I like to speak to those structures I am most familiar with. Indigenous peoples are not alone in feeling a great dissatisfaction with the political process which alienates so many of us, and leaves us feeling helpless and unrepresented. Indigenous peoples are not alone in feeling a great dissatisfaction with the low value put on the integrity of the environment that sustains us. Nonetheless, Indigenous peoples do have very unique issues that have been so far vastly unrepresented in these other movements. The time for linkage is now.
There are many issues to speak to and to clarify. I cannot do that in such a short space. I have not even been able to speak to them all in a full year of blogging and reaching out. Rather than frustrate myself and the reader, I want to make this point: what Idle No More needs most, is people willing to learn and teach. We need to spread more than just ‘the word’. We must spread the will to work for deeper understanding.
No petition, no rally, no sign being waved on the side of a road is going to effect the change needed. If you believe that this is the intention of any of these things, then you have missed the point. When we rally and block roads and dance to the unexpected heartbeat of the drums, we are saying to you, “Perhaps you have forgotten we are here. Perhaps you never knew us. Please remember. Please learn. We are through with being invisible.”
Idle No More asks Canadians to be active participants in this relationship. We have become estranged. Our interactions will be strained and awkward and uncomfortable at first. Sometimes we will not get along, and sometimes we will be thwarted by misunderstandings and ill feeling. Oh, we can put this off and make our children or our grandchildren face this again down the line…but I’m not willing to wait.
âpihtawikosisân is Métis from the Plains Cree speaking community of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. She currently lives in Montreal, Quebec. Her passions are: education, Aboriginal law, the Cree language, and roller derby. She holds a BEd, an LLB and is working on a BCL. You can find her writing at www.apihtawikosisan.com