On Friday, January 11, 30 activists gathered at the Massachusetts State House to participate in a global day of action in solidarity with First Nations, a collection of over 600 indigenous communities in Canada, and its new, protest-centric offshoot, Idle No More (also commonly known by the Twitter hashtag #idlenomore).
The protest was led by the United American Indians of New England (UAINE), and featured speeches by several group members. In addition to performing a traditional dance accompanied by chanting and drums, UAINE representatives updated those gathering on the status of First Nations’ ongoing conflict with the Canadian government over indigenous sovereignty and water rights.
“It is important for us to let this government of the White Man know that they must honor our treaties,” a representative said. “If we don’t stop this destruction, we might not pay the price, but our children and our children’s children will.”
Idle No More—an umbrella name for the decentralized series of protests and blockades launched by First Nations-affiliated activists—exploded onto the political scene in November of last year, partially in response to a new law passed by the Canadian government in early December, Bill C-45. Critics of the bill have said that it erodes the sovereignty of Canada’s native populations (by amending the Indian Act, which dictates Canada’s legal relationship with its tribal populations) as well as removing protective oversight from Canadian waterways, including those on First Nation territory.
Representatives of First Nations met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday afternoon to discuss, among other things, the impact of Bill C-45.
Idle No More has operated independently of First Nations, and in the last month has organized a number of high-profile actions. In Sarnia, Ontario, protesters set up an encampment on an industrial rail line for two weeks; in Edmonton and Valleyview, Ontario, short-term blockades were set up on a bridge and major highway; and dozens of small- and large-scale marches have broken out under the Idle No More banner since November.
Perhaps the most well-known protest in support of the group’s efforts has been the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence, of the Attawapiskat tribe. Although Chief Spence has drawn criticism for refusing to attend Friday’s meeting with the Prime Minister, her solid food hunger strike has helped to serve as a major catalyst for the movement’s growth.
(Photos: Dan Schneider)