As I write this, I’m listening to an Elder speak. He’s streaming live – a digital town hall meeting. He’s recounting his experiences in Residential School as a boy. As his gentle voice speaks I relive the horror. I’ve been hearing these stories for years now and they never get easier.
He’s talking about the babies they burned at school that were fathered by the priests on the young native girls. He’s worried that telling his story will offend his neighbours.
Today there were road blocks across Canada.
Now, I’m not an advocate for these road blocks, I feel there is a chance of putting innocent people in danger and it only fosters animosity, makes enemies of people we want as friends; gives license for violence against indigenous people in the court of public opinion. I understand the arguments for them, but I am still uneasy.
Like the Elder, I don’t want to offend my neighbour. I want to befriend my neighbour. And I want to share my love of the water, the land, the air we breathe. I hope my neighbour will come to care about these things, too. That they will see how it affects us all. However, if standing up and speaking offends you, then I guess we’ll all just have to live with that.
Over the past few weeks we’ve seen animosity grow, hatred and racism reveal itself, unashamed.
But we’ve also seen the good in people, and that has far outweighed the bad.
By now, if you don’t know that Idle No More is about protecting the waters for our children, the land, the air…well, you do now. How we protect it is by honouring the Treaties that Canada was founded upon. It’s like honouring the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in America, or retaining legitimacy as a nation through the British North America Act.
The Treaties are fundamental to the founding and the continuance of Canada as a nation, both legally and spiritually.
So yes, we should all care.
I’m not going to give you a primer of all the issues we face, all the history, you can find that quite easily with Google.
Instead I’m going to tell you a little bit about what this Idle No More movement is really about, so that next time you watch the news, you’ll do so armed with a little more clarity.
First, there are no leaders.
Theresa Spence is not a leader of Idle No More.
Neither is Pam Palmater, or Wab Kinew, or Chief Nepinak.
The four women who founded Idle No More don’t claim leadership.
And these are all good hearted, intelligent, powerful people making huge contributions to the national discourse.
INM is lead purely by the will and actions of the people. Someone has an idea and they go for it. Others join in. It’s really that simple.
Next, these could be said to be the values of Idle No More:
In addition, there is the guidance of the Four Directions: Right Mind, Right Body, Right Spirit, Right Emotions.
When you see any action being taken under the banner of Idle No More that doesn’t fit those qualities then it’s a knock off. It’s just someone using the banner for their own means.
The founders of Idle No More have very few guidelines that they hope we follow, but the paramount consideration is that all things must be done peacefully. After that comes the necessity of education and extending an invitation to all people to join us for the good of all our children’s future.
Back to the blockades. They don’t really follow the spirit of Idle No More, do they? There’s a telling reason why: it was a call from a few of the Chiefs. They have used Idle No More as a weapon. The aim: to cause disruption.
Don’t blame them for it. They are part of an antagonistic system. Their office is an adjunct authority of the Federal government. So what do you do when you want your way if you’re government? You use whatever leverage you have available.
And I’m not saying blockades aren’t legitimate actions of civil disobedience. They are.
But I know the founders of Idle No More would hope folks who want to engage in that sort of thing take their actions under a different name, a different banner. It’s not fair that so few should be able to cause so much anger in the realm of public opinion while using the name of an idea founded on peace.
To put it into perspective:
At the INM round dances and teach-ins, you get hundreds to thousands of people.
At the blockades, you get dozens.
Let’s remember that.
It’s time for another way of doing things. It’s time to let the values we hold dear, that have defined our lives for millennia, to come to the forefront. This is a problem hundreds of years in the making, let’s allow at least a few months for real change to get moving. There are many recourses available: Public opinion, elections, legal, and so on, ways that are relatively new to the process.
We all want to build a better world, a peaceful world, a new world.
We can’t do that using all the old, worn out methods based on fear, anger and force.
Persuasion is a long term, winning strategy.
Sometimes being a warrior means protecting the women, the children, the elders. And the best way to do that is to create an atmosphere of calm, of companionship, of safety.
The women lead us. It’s their time. We should listen.
And we invite everyone to join us.
If you want to read some of the things I’ve written over the past year, that have in some ways foreshadowed the events we’re seeing now, here you go:
About the painting: Like this movement, this piece is a work in progress. It’s depicting the 8th fire and okicitaw (9 clan mothers/warrior women during Treaty making). There are 8 figures, the ninth is represented by any female viewer, reminding us that we are all necessary to keep Treaties alive.