The Survival of our Planet: What Idle No More Means to Me
by Neal McLeod
The actions of Idle No More are helping me begin to believe in Indian politics again. These politics are not the same old “Old Boys Club” politics of the past. The Idle No More movement is being led by women. Women like Sylvia McAdam who speaks amazing Cree, and is very humble. By Chief Spence – who is literally putting her life on the line. kinanâskomitinâwâw. I thank both of these women for helping me to believe in Indian (sorry I use the old fashion, politically out of fashion term when I speak English- but this is the word that people of my late father’s generation used) politics.
I am not a singer, and I don’t have that gift. But, there is nothing that moves me more than hand drum music (although John Lee Hooker and Son House would be a close second). I was moved when I saw those young Indigenous people singing in the West Edmonton Mall. It is like they were singing people back – to think about the world and where we are; it is like they were singing our presence into being, reminding shoppers that there is more to life than buying a 20-foot big screen (please excuse some of my narrative liberties that I may take with my depiction of mall shopping).
I believe that we have to consider the world and what we are doing to it. My late father always talked about this. The world is talking to us now. The winters are not the same any more. There is no snow where I live now, and it is not very cold. When I first moved here 6 and a half years ago- there was snow at this time of year and it was cold.
I think about all of the Old People who were prevented from doing the nipahkwêsimowin (Thirst Dance) years ago. I have heard these stories from the late Beatrice Lavallee and others. Those old people lifted their pipes (e-kî-itâskonikêcik) for the land and people. When the Indian Act – section 114 – kicked in, these prayers were in essence banned. It was felt that these ceremonies were the threads that held Indigenous consciousness together. It seems that the provisions in the Bill C-45 would function in a similar fashion, to cut the threads between the land and the people.
The Idle No More movement is not only about Indigenous rights. It is about the survival of our planet, and ecological justice. And it is our Indigenous women leading the way. How amazing it is – that it is our women who have been affected so deeply and profoundly by violence, yet they are the ones leading things.
The Arab people had their spring in 2011. It seems that our time has come, and we are having our Indian winter – I suppose it would be too much of a cliche if it were an Indian summer.
Please excuse any spelling and grammatical errors. I grew up with people whose first language was not English, and I also have dyslexia. I just wanted to share with you my thoughts about all of this, after thinking about it.
I am not by nature a protestor. My calling is to work with stories and language. I will keep doing those things, and dig deeper into the language that my late father gifted me with.
I just wanted to thank all of the female leaders who have given me hope again, and who have reminded me and the world that we need Indigenous rights and respect of the Indigenous people to collectively survive as a planet.
Neal McLeod is half Cree and half Swedish from the James Smith reserve in Saskatchewan. He teaches Indigenous Studies at Trent.