Posts Tagged ‘Idle No More’

Feb20

First Nations #ShutDownCanada Demanding Justice

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

 

This article has been reposted from Cultural Survival, originally publish on February 18, 2015

By Emily Sanders

In what promised to be the most widespread protest by First Nations in Canada since Idle No More, Indigenous peoples staged a massive boycott intended to temporarily freeze the nation’s economy. At least twenty-two scheduled rallies, peaceful protests and events were held in various counties, communities and cities around Canada including Vancouver and Toronto on Friday February 13, 2015, in order to spread knowledge and educate passersby of the violations committed against Indigenous Peoples in Canada and demand justice. The purpose of these events was to further the legacy of Indigenous resistance against the violence and robbed autonomy tribes have suffered since colonialists began their reign of subjugation.

Participants in the nationwide protest #ShutDownCanada want to inform the public about numerous incidents of institutionalized racism and cultural genocide committed by the Canadian police forces and government. The issues covered include land dispossession, disproportionate homelessness of native peoples, and numerous causes of environmental destruction such as the tar sands, pipelines, fracking, mining and energy developments like the Site C mega-dam, which drastically affect the traditional livelihoods of Indigenous peoples. “This government blatantly oppresses Indigenous peoples in a calculated effort to create dysfunction within communities to maintain control of the land and exploitation of natural resources,” reads the #ShutDownCanada Facebook event page. The event aims to prevent further cultural disintegration and the fracturing of Indigenous communities, the goals of a corrupt democracy where “systematic racism and structural violence are connected to the needs of this illegal colonial state to maintain control of the land for exploitation.”

Canadian communities and grassroots organizations were called upon to blockade their local railways, ports or highways on Friday with the goal of paralyzing the Canadian economy for a day and demanding attention towards these issues. Protestors also hope to draw attention to the devastating consequences of unconsented development projects on native land, such as severe disruption of ecosystems and the Dene way of life invoked by the expansion of tar sands extraction, the public health crisis spurred by the byproducts of this development, the loss of exported jobs as a result of pipeline construction, the destruction of the wild salmon habitat and unconsented fish farming in native waters, and issued grants for open pit mining despite the outcome of the Tshilqot’in Supreme Court decision. The Facebook page reminds readers that, not dissimilar to the tactics of “biological warfare” used in colonial times to steal land from Indigenous peoples, the crippling effects of unsustainable resource use destroy a way of life that is crucial to Indigenous resistance and survival on their traditional land.

The dramatic over-representation of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s prison system was also a focus of attention. In 2013, the correctional investigator for Canada reported during a news conference in Ottawa that there is “no deputy commissioner dedicated solely to and responsible for aboriginal programs, planning, implementation and results. And worst of all, no progress in closing the large gaps in correctional outcomes between aboriginal and non-aboriginal inmates.” Despite that Indigenous peoples make up only four percent of the population in Canada, “in federal prisons nearly one in four is Metis, Inuit, or First Nations.” First Peoples Worldwide reported in 2014 that Aboriginal women represent 33 percent of all women imprisoned, a number that has increased 90% in the past decade.

Members of the United Urban Warrior Society held a protest in the intersection of highways 17 and 6, with its Manitoulin and North Shore organizer Isadore Pangowish voicing her concerns as the traffic halted for five minutes each hour. Among these were Bill C-51, an Anti-Terrorism Act that would heighten the power of Canada’s intelligence agency and allow the RCMP the ability to make excessive arrests based on fears of terror attacks that “may” happen, as opposed to attacks that “will” happen. “What we are doing right now, this will be illegal,” said Pangowish of the picketing.

Perhaps the most prominent issue that this and all #ShutDownCanada protests demand to see addressed is the lack of justice and inquiry into over 2,000 cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has dismissed cries for investigation into these crimes by claiming that the issue “is not on their radar.” The delegitimizing of Indigenous women’s safety by the Canadian government and police forces reared its head at the protest itself: Audrey Siegl was injured during the action when an officer bumped her with his shoulder as he walked by, thrusting her hand drum into her face. “A VPD shoved Shannon & Savannah aside, and as he marched forward, looked right at me as he shoved my drum into my face with his shoulder. We three women were standing still, drumming n singing. He could have gone around instead of using aggression to intentionally intimidate and harm three unarmed and passive women,” Siegl posted on her Facebook page. Siegl, a Vancouver COPE Council Candidate and Musqueam First Nation activist, has mentioned plans to press charges.

Indigenous protestors want the public to know that all of the issues addressed by #ShutDownCanada, including a history of excessive police involvement and force deployed during peaceful demonstrations to which Siegl’s assault can be added, fall under the umbrella of one underlying fact: that “the system has failed us all miserably.”

 

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.

 

 

Jan16

At A Loss: The Unmentioned Social Risks of Keystone XL Approval

Ignoring public opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline is a lose-lose for the US Government and TransCanada Corporation

[photo credit: IVN.us]

[photo credit: IVN.us]

Washington, DC – Protests of the Keystone XL Pipeline over the past two years have sent a clear message to the U.S. Government – a message that Congress persistently ignored as pro-pipeline legislation progressed toward the White House this week. By voting for the Pipeline, Congress is creating a volatile business environment for extractive companies, which ultimately has and will cause profit loss for corporations like TransCanada. Indeed, TransCanada Corporation has already increased estimated capital investments for the Pipeline by $2.5 billion since 2008 due to “lengthy delays”, many of which were caused by community protests and opposition from environmental groups. A recent study by First Peoples Worldwide found that governments that ignore public concerns over resource extraction (the U.S. not excluded) foster community opposition and protests, which in turn increase site closures, production costs, and damaged reputations. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a lose-lose for communities, corporations, and the U.S. government.

Arguments for the Keystone XL Pipeline claim that it will create jobs, increase domestic oil supply and lower gas prices. President Obama’s biggest argument against the Pipeline is the opposite: “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

However, congressional approval for the Pipeline is a moot point as long as TransCanada Corporation lacks a social license to operate, or the acceptance of the project by local communities and affected stakeholders. Without a social license, TransCanada Corporation faces a future of continued protests, site closures, and diminished shareholder ratings – ultimately amounting to profit loss. Ernst and Young rate the “social license to operate” as one of the top three business risks to the extractive industry sector, citing that “the frequency and number of projects being delayed or stopped due to community and environmental activists continues to rise.”

What’s more, the recently published Indigenous Rights Risk Report shows that extractive companies couldn’t care less about the communities their projects affect – only 6% of publicly-held US oil, gas and mining companies utilize adequate risk management tools when working with communities. Moreover, only 8% of extractive companies implement any policy that remotely addresses community relations or human rights. At this rate, TransCanada has two options: either expect profit loss due to community opposition, or adjust their community engagement policies.

As long as protests continue, a social license to operate won’t materialize – and there is no end in sight for community opposition to this project. Recently, the Sioux tribe of South Dakota vowed to close their reservation’s borders, through which the Pipeline is set to run, if construction is approved. Right before the Senate vote on November 18, environmental activists installed an inflatable pipeline in Senator Mary Landrieu’s yard, one of the most outspoken proponents for the Pipeline. The First Nations-led Idle No More movement in Canada has been protesting the Pipeline north of the border for nearly two years. Those that would be directly affected by construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, including landowners and ranchers, are some of its strongest opponents – and the most systematically ignored by both Congress and TransCanada.

TransCanada severely underestimated social costs on the front end of the project, taking a reactive rather than proactive approach to community opposition – which has resulted in a $2.5 billion dollar loss before the project has even started.

At the same time, Congress’ pro-Pipeline votes have been little help – governments that ignore public concerns over resource extraction and suppress democratic systems for participation in resource decisions create a dead-end for extractive companies, whether operating in Canada, Nigeria, or the United States. Bad governance is bad for business – governments and corporations alike must start respecting communities and their right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) when working with extractive industries.

For media inquiries, contact Katie Cheney at communications@firstpeoples.org

Apr26

Standing Our Sacred Ground – First Nations, Tribal Leaders & Land Owners Send Message To Canada, Stop Tar Sands At The Source

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Press Statement

April 23, 2014

Standing Our Sacred Ground – First Nations, Tribal Leaders & Land Owners Send Message To Canada, Stop Tar Sands At The Source

*Link to HD photo and video below

Washington DC – Northern Plains Tribal leaders and land owners representing the Cowboy and Indian Alliance joined in cross-border solidarity yesterday with their First Nations counterparts on the steps of the Canadian embassy. Their aim was to send a clear message to the Canadian and US governments to Honor the Treaties. Representatives of the Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, Ponca, Ojibway, and Cree Nations stood alongside ranchers and farmers to hold up huge letters spelling out “Honor The Treaties” and blown-up images of Treaty 8, Treaty 6, and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which cover Indigenous people’s lands affected by the controversial Canadian tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline.

It’s time for our people to start developing our own policies and enforcing our inherent Treaty rights. It is time for us to start defining what that relationship looks like for our visitors and remind our visitors that they came here and we are the ones, as Indigenous people, that gave them the permission to settle here on Turtle Island,” said Crystal Lameman, member of Beaver Lake Cree Nation.

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation is currently engaged in a landmark constitutional Treaty rights challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada that has named tens of thousands of Treaty rights violations of Treaty 6 by the provincial government of Alberta, the federal government of Canada, and dozens of oil companies operating in the controversial Canadian tar sands. The Beaver Lake Cree Nation case represents a growing understanding that through Aboriginal Title and Inherent and Treaty Rights, the Native rights-based strategic framework is the strongest legally binding strategy to stop the expansion of the tar sands at the source, including all of the associated pipeline infrastructure coming out of Alberta to bring this land-locked resource to international markets.

Oglala Sioux Nation President Brewer and Rosebud Sioux Nation Tribal President Scott were both present and reiterated their sovereign nations official position that their governments and peoples would not allow for this “Black Oily Serpent Pipeline” to cross sacred Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota lands. Faith Spotted Eagle of Protect the Sacred, a grassroots movement based out of Yankton Sioux Nation stated, “Half of the state of South Dakota was given by one of our grandfathers because these homeless people had come to our lands. We gave them homes and this is what we get in return. Enough is enough. This is our stand into the future that no more of these Treaties are going to be violated.”

Oklahoma-based Ponca Nation member, actor, and American Indian Movement activist, Casey Camp-Hornik, who was in attendance with her sons, stated, “We are demanding that the United States government and the government of Canada understand that we have the right to air. We have the right to breathe. We have the right to eat food that is nutritious; the food has the right to grow. The four legs has a right to live, to breathe, and drink, and eat. The wings have a right to fly in clean air. The creepy crawlers have a right to live in balance. We have the right to stop climate change on behalf of all our relatives in all directions.”

Lower Sioux Nation member and activist Dallas Goldtooth stated, “We are here to remind that we are not just small ethnic groups, we are sovereign nations. We have a relationship that supersedes states and corporations as sovereign nations.”

Heather Milton Lightening, co-director of the Indigenous Tar Sands campaign of the Polaris Institute, stated, “We need to stop tar sands at the source. We are going to do that as a solid movement from coast to coast from east to west. We are going to shut down the tar sands. We are going to stop it!”

The Canadian government is currently spending 20 million taxpayers’ dollars in a public relations campaign in the United States aimed at attracting investment into Canada’s tar sands and other harmful developments in Native lands titled Connect2Canada. Today’s direct action at the Canadian embassy marked a launch of the #Connect2Truth twitter campaign to counter this propaganda.

 

Links to high resolution photos from yesterdays action: https://www.flickr.com/photos/123793724@N04/sets/72157644264554044/ 

 

Links to HD Video from yesterdays Stand On Sacred Ground action: http://youtu.be/usMtIawlw30


Media Contacts

Clayton Thomas-Muller

Idle No More

Cell: (202) 294 8357

Email: monsterredlight@gmail.com

 

Anna Lee-Popham

Idle No More

Cell: (404) 916-3527

Email: annaleepopham@gmail.com

Mar21

All Can Participate in Making Change: Revolutionizing Indigenous Media

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By Jenna Winton, Cultural Survival

An opening song by Blackfeet Cherokee performing artist Maria Gladstone kicked off the The Indigenous New Media Symposium sponsored by the School of Media Studies hosted at the New School in New York City on February 21, 2014. The event brought together prominent Native American and First Nations media makers and creative activists to discuss how new media is being used in Indigenous communities to educate, organize, entertain, and advocate. The panel addressed topics such as confronting the ongoing Native stereotypes in mainstream media, the resurgence of Indigenous ways through new media, and discussed how this new outspoken generation is using their artistic endeavors for cultural, economical, and political change.

Panelist included: Dr. Jessica R. Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), founder of the Beyond Buckskin Boutique who wrote her doctoral dissertation on Native designers of high fashion;  Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), an EdD candidate at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and founder of Native Appropriations –a blog dedicated to pushing back against stereotypes and misrepresentations of Native peoples; Chase Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux), Tribal Judge, Lakota Peoples Law Project Staff Attorney and founder of Last Real Indians, a media resource for original Indigenous content; and Jarrett Martineau (Cree/Dene), a Ph.D. Candidate in Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria and co-founder and Creative Producer of Revolutions Per Minute (RPM.fm), a global new music platform to promote Indigenous music culture, he runs the Decolonizing Media blog and is an organizer with the Indigenous Nationhood Movement (NationsRising.org); and Clayton Thomas-Muller (Mathias Colomb Cree “Pukatawagan” Nation in Northern Manitoba, Canada),  organizer for the Defenders of the Land & Idle No More and the co-director of the Indigenous Tar Sands (ITS) Campaign of the Polaris Institute.

New media has changed the way we relate to each other and the way the community relays information as activists by being able to communicate across vast geographical differences.  Indigenous youth “navigate exceedingly difficult complex, social, economical, and political realities but new media allows  for all to participate in the change,” said Dhillon, the assistant professor of global studies and anthropology at the New School.

Outspoken activist Adrienne Keene stood at the podium to present first. Keene’s blog Native Appropriations calls out stereotypes still rampant in our society and addresses the need for the accurate portrayal of the contemporary Native person in media.  She set the stage for the discussion of representation by sharing slides of the Urban Outfitters Navajo line, the “Sexy Native American Indian” costume, Indian mascots, “Fire Water” Whiskey, the hipster tribal/headdress trend, and a box of fireworks called “Trail of Tears.”  “These were the things that I saw in my everyday life, these were the things that were really problematic to me, these were things that inspired my blog and things that I write about today. These images are everywhere and they cross every realm of pop culture, of media, of things that are just in our face constantly,” she says. “I realized the reason my classmates thought that Indians didn’t exist and couldn’t understand that I was a Native person… was these were the only types of images they ever saw of Native people.”

Keene’s blog grew from a webpage used to catalog offensive images to a community of over 40,000 participants who share her passion for ending the misrepresentation of Indigenous people in the media. “It’s grown into this really robust community online. This community has become really amazing too… When you have all these people who are interested in issues of representation…then when something happens, we can mobilize that support and things happen and change happens and it’s really exciting.”

Keene gave examples of how by uniting and acting through new media, communities can influence the representations presented in the media.  Outcries from social media over problematic images like No Doubt’s “Looking Hot” video, Victoria’s Secret’s use of a headdress on a runway, and racist fast food signs led to the quick removal of these images. Keene discussed the need to have positive representations to replace the stereotypes with and shared the work of 1491’s Represent Campaign and Matika Wilbur’s Project 562 as first-rate examples.

On her blog, Keene reached out to her followers and asked them why they think pushing back on stereotypes is important and what their work affects. From the responses, she came up with three themes: creating a global community of Indigenous activist and allies, creating vocabulary, resources, and support to speak out, and creating challenges to deeper issues of white privilege, colonialism, and power.“These images offer an entry point to those conversations.  And it’s been such a learning experience even to say ‘Yeah that image is problematic not just because it’s a stereotypical representation of my people, but because that is a vestige of colonialism. And we need to move past that.’”

Jessica Metcalfe spoke next. Her website Beyond Buckskin started as a blog spotlighting Native American designers and fashions. The blog evolved into a website with Native designer profiles and artist interviews displaying the diversity of Native American fashion designers. The website also showcases historical traditional clothes with stories of their own to tell.

Metcalfe also critiques the appropriation of the Native imagery she sees in the fashion world.  She criticized Oprah for “cooing over Ralph Lauren, praising him, calling him the epitome of the American dream. This is very problematic because Ralph Lauren has built his empire off of selling the Native. The problem with that is if you think about him as the best example of the American Dream. It excludes us from that story. It actually turns us into objects that can be sold, commodified, consumed”.

In response to her reader’s inquiries of where they could buy actual Native-made clothing and accessories, Jessica created the first online platform for Indigenous designers; she founded Beyond Buckskin Boutique in 2009. Metcalfe mentioned how Indigenous designers like Bethany Yellowtail incorporate images and elements from their ancestral heritage into their work. “We’re looking at ideas of authenticity without buying into stereotypes.”

Metcalfe also spoke of ancient artistic practices that predate contact, like quillwork, that are being used by Native designers and the positive effect consumers could make by buying from these artisans. “When you purchase something like a pair of porcupine quillwork earrings you are supporting the continuance of those traditional artistic practices.”

Concluding her presentation she stated that the challenges of stereotypes, cheap-knock offs, and industry constraints are being countered in the fashion world by successes in recognition, collaborations and more events. “By being able to create a blog I was able to reach a broader international audience. And I was able to educate about the history of Native American adornment practices, share the stories and experiences of contemporary Indigenous designers, and to critique and discuss Native appropriations in the fashion industry. I was also able to create and provide a space for people of all backgrounds to easily access and purchase Native made items. When Beyond Buckskin launched in 2009 there was no one critiquing Native American stereotypes in fashion…When Adrienne launched Native American Appropriations, I was relieved because I wasn’t alone. I could become more vocal.”

Standing next to the title of his presentation “Indigenous Media, Remix, and Revolution,” panelist Jarrett Martineau opened with his excitement about the event. “The fact that we’re having an event like this, that I think a few years ago we couldn’t have been able to have.  There’s a particular time that we’re in that’s about a real reemergence, a real resurgence of our people that’s producing all of this new media, this new artistry, this new culture, which is amazing.”

Martineau’s presentation put an emphasis on new media’s influence in political engagement and the four essential elements of community, strength, representation, and control that he sees across the variety of platforms Indigenous media activist are working in. “This is what I think a lot of Indigenous media is seeking to do, it’s about building community, it’s about really exerting our strength it’s about taking charge of representation which flows into different forms of control. “

These elements inspired Martineau’s website RPM.fm (Revolutions Per Minute), launched in 2011 as a platform to showcase the wide array of Indigenous music from all over the world. The site’s huge database of artists crushes stereotypes and crosses all genres. Martineau said the tag line for the site, “Indigenous Music Culture” is not only referencing Indigenous music and Indigenous culture, but it also represents the emergence of a new vein of Indigenous culture created through music. “It’s this culture of us all making and creating together.” Martineau continues, “On the one hand it’s an inward facing work that’s about cultivating that relationship with one another, recognizing one another, and celebrating ourselves and at the same time saying to people that don’t know that there’s this wealth of creativity happening in our communities, ‘Look at all the crazy amazing music being made by Indigenous artist that you had no idea existed.’”

Martineau spoke of the mark colonialism has made on Indigenous media.  “There is a political reality that we are engaged with by virtue of being Indigenous peoples asserting ourselves in the ways that we’ve been talking about… so everything that we do is political, everything that we do is already informed by the fact that there’s a background, and in many cases a foreground, of a political, a social, a cultural, a spiritual experience of being colonized people, of being dispossessed of our lands, of our territories, of our life ways, of our forms of creativity. So Indigenous media is always working in some capacity to address the reality of the need that we have to decolonize.”

Martineau suggested resisting the forces of colonialism while at the same time ushering in resurgence with the art form of remix. “What we’re advocating for is the resurgence of our ways across all these different platforms. One of the ways I see us navigating that through the idea of remix. I see Indigenous people particularly working with this idea of taking these pre-existing materials and combining them into new forms as being fundamental to our work of both resistance and asserting resurgence. It’s a particular moment that we’re in where we’re trying to attack and counter all of these negative representations that have happened to us and do something with them, take them and transform them, and make something new, while at the same time reaffirming those elements of our culture that are central to who we are.”

After mentioning organizations that have had a positive impact such as the 1491’s, Kimiwan Zine, VIMAF 2013, The W.A.Y.S, Decolonize, and Beat Nation, Martineau compared the two photo projects of Jimmy Nelson and Matika Wilbur to demonstrate the conflicting ideas of absence versus presence. Nelson’s coffee table book “Before They Pass Away” is a collection of photos of Indigenous tribes from all around the world and puts a big emphasis on the idea that these cultures are vanishing. Matika Wilbur’s photo collection has Native Americans representing themselves in their own way and asserting their presence in the contemporary world.  As Martineau concludes, “Representing ourselves on our own terms, not as vanishing but as present, continuing, and strong people.”

Chase Iron Eyes runs Last Real Indians, a website that highlights Indigenous artists and current events through the lens of Indigenous perspective. He talked about song, dance, storytelling, and dreams as traditional Indigenous media and said that being subjected to colonization has led, not just the Indigenous community but all people, to the separation of spirit from mind, and meaning from labor. “What Indigenous media does is what art does. It’s what any movement does.  It’s trying to express something spiritual, something from inside, that comes from the land, it comes from the language. For me that’s what Indigenous media is about.”

Iron Eyes continued, “Media is not a passive thing. We cannot be passive in making media content. The thinkers, doers, warriors, philosophers, leaders–people who are gifted, we have a responsibility with media to create the future. That’s a huge responsibility. We have amazing potential as creators of our own content.”

Iron Eyes discussed how social media has allowed causes to garner international attention. In 2012, Chase and members of Last Real Indians launched a social media campaign on Indiegogo that raised close to one million dollars to re-purchase a sacred site connected to Lakota cosmology known as Pe’Sla, situated in the Black Hills of South Dakota.“In the first campaign we had contributors around the world. For a person to consider the concept that land is sacred for me, that’s a hallmark of true civilization. And for 12,000 people from around the world, probably 20 different countries, to contribute to this effort. It just blew me away.”

Iron Eyes went on to discuss the role media has to play in prompting change. “We’ve been subjected to this imposed poverty culture which changed our value system. It changed the way, I think, our ancestors would have intended us to be. We are not victims and you can see that when we take over the narrative with media. We’re using media to actually try to change the way that people live. Who knows how big it can go. The world is looking to us to lead the way.”

The last panelist Clayton Thomas-Muller had transit delays from Ottawa to New York and did not make it in time to present. However, he sent a video from the plane sharing some of what he would have contributed to the event. Thomas-Muller is one of hundreds of organizers of the Idle No More movement, which works for the sovereignty and resurgence of nationhood. “Part of our success has been through the embracement of social media and technologies to get our message about defending the sacredness of our Mother Earth and the sacred treaties and inherent rights base that our Indigenous peoples have here in Turtle Island. Indigenous Peoples are using social media to revolutionize our activism, to reach even more people than ever before. And I guess the main thing that’s important about this social media revolution that’s happening is that it’s normalizing the conversation around America and Canada’s controversial colonial past. And there’s a quickening that’s taking place in terms of reconciliation over colonization, genocide, and maybe a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of justice for the first peoples of this sacred land.”

During the Q&A portion of the symposium the question of “Where do we go from here?” was offered up to the panel. Martineau responded, “We need more of everything. We need more media makers, more artists, more music. We need all of our people to join in and all of our allies as well.” Metcalfe added, “I encourage people, if they have an idea, to just do it, just launch it. Don’t be afraid if you don’t know what you’re doing. Just launch it anyways, you can learn as you go.”

Watch the whole event here.

 

Feb14

Idle No More Supports the 23rd Annual February 14th Women’s Memorial March

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From Idle No More

The February 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March is held on Valentine’s Day each year to honour the memory of Indigenous women, including trans and two-spirit women, who have died as a result of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence. Now in its 23rd year, the March remembers and honours murdered and missing women, and seeks to organize against ongoing gendered violence that women face.

There are hundreds of organizers who work daily on community campaigns that address the issue of murdered and missing women. Idle No More and Defenders of the Land have issued a statement demanding a national inquiry into the high number of murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada. We also acknowledge the extremely high rates of violence that trans and two-spirit women face and the need for more awareness and research. Idle No More and Defenders of the Land call for active community resistance to gendered violence and reiterate the importance of a call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The inquiry must be defined, designed, and implemented by Indigenous women and be recognized as a step toward initiating a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan.

We understand that the federal government plans to release a report about missing and murdered Aboriginal women in the coming weeks. We are concerned that this report will not address the significant impact that systemic racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty has on violence and the lives of Indigenous women.

As stated by Marlene George, a Memorial March organizer:

We are here to honour and remember the women, and we are here because we are failing to protect women from poverty and systemic exploitation, abuse and violence. We are here in sorrow and in anger because the violence continues each and every day and the list of missing and murdered women gets longer every year.

For more history and context of the women’s memorial march originating in the DTES, check out “Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside,” a short film that documents the 20 year history of the annual women’s memorial march for missing and murdered women in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories.

Read marchers’ stories of Why I March.

Marches will also be held in over twenty Canadian cities including (from east to west): Montreal, Ottawa, Oshawa, Orillia, Toronto, Peterborough, Hagersville, Owen Sound, London, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Kenora, Winnipeg, Lebret, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, Nelson, Kelowna, Prince George, Vancouver, and Victoria. In Vancouver, the march lead by Indigenous women, friends and family members of Missing and Murdered women, will move through the Downtown Eastside and stop at sites where women were either last seen or died, to offer prayers, medicines, and flowers in remembrance.

Here is the website and cities that have Memorial Marches:

http://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/national/

Montreal: Friday February 14th, 6pm at Place Emilie Gamelin (Berri Metro, corner Berri & Ste. Catherine). Annual March for Missing and Murdered Women. https://www.facebook.com/events/666987913323993/

Ottawa: Thursday February 13th. 4th Annual Day of Justice for our Sisters in Spirit.https://www.facebook.com/events/543491765731982/

Oshawa: Friday, February 21, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 1 McGrigor St., Oshawa ON. Honouring the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women’s Walk.

Orilla: Friday February 14, 4 p.m. at 11 Albert Street South, Orillia ON. 1st Annual Orillia Memorial March for Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women https://www.facebook.com/events/706584199365722/

Toronto: Friday February 14th, the march starts at 12:30 with Strawberry Ceremony with Wanda Whitebird at the Police Headquarters 40 College Street at Bay. This will be the 9th Annual Strawberry Ceremony in Honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and those who have died Violent Deaths by Colonialism. https://www.facebook.com/events/578758638867662/

Peterborough: Friday, February 14 – meet at corner of Marina Boulevard and Water St at Noon– Walk in solidarity to Trent University

Hagersville: Thursday February 14, 2014. 5:15 pm – 6:00 pm start 659 New Credit Road Community Centre (Intersection of Queen and Main). Strawberry Ceremony and 3rd Vigil for Missing/Murdered Aboriginal Womens and Girls at Six Nations

Owen Sound: Friday, February 14th starting at 5pm. Ceremony and Teach-In at St. George’s Hall, 1049 4th Ave. East in Honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Feast to follow. https://www.facebook.com/nomoresilenceowensound

London: Friday Feb 14th at 4 pm, 4pm in the front community room of Atlohsa (343 Richmond St.) to commemorate our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters. Welcoming with the Naahii Singers. Dinner at 6pm and Moon ceremony at 7pm. Everyone is welcome! Please remember to bring your tobacco and water, and wear a skirt for the moon ceremony.https://www.facebook.com/events/215455275313215/

Sault Ste. Marie: Friday, February 14. 426 Queen St. E. Memorial March for Missing Women in Canada

Thunder Bay: Friday, February 14, 12 noon. City Hall, 500 Donald St. E. 6th Annual Valentine’s Day Memorial Walk. Full Moon Memory Walk for Missing and Murdered Anishinabe and Métis women

Kenora: Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5 pm at Women’s Place Kenora. Strawberry Ceremony to honour the spirits of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. https://www.facebook.com/events/248672321977978/

Thunder Bay: Friday February 14th. Full Moon Memory Walk for Missing & Murdered Anishinabe & Metis women. https://www.facebook.com/groups/26511170481/permalink/10152167964430482/

Saskatoon: Friday, February 14 from 6 to 7:30 pm, starting outside of City Hall. Annual Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. https://www.facebook.com/events/1419555814957206/

Edmonton: Friday February 14th, 2014 Start Time: 6:30pm. Memorial March of Edmonton at the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples. 10821-96 Street, Edmonton, Alberta. Wear Red or Purple For more information: memorialmarch@live.com or on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/events/620507241330221/

Edmonton: Friday Feb 14th at noon. University of Alberta Campus Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The march will begin in front of Pembina Hall with speakers and a prayer and will follow a path through campus that will end back at Pembina hall for tea and bannock. https://www.facebook.com/events/271818386306192/

Calgary: Friday, February 14, 2014, will mark Calgary’s 6th Annual Valentine’s Day Women’s Memorial March. The event will take place at Scarboro United Church and will begin at 6:30pmwith speeches. The march will begin at 7pm and light meal will follow.https://www.facebook.com/events/477787738994034/

Nelson: Friday February 14 at noon. Gathering at the Nelson Court house (corners of Ward St. and Vernon St, Nelson BC). https://www.facebook.com/events/241354959379729/

Kelowna: Friday February 14 at noon in downtown Kelowna in front of the Courthouse on Water Street. 3rd Annual Women’s Memorial Vigil.

Vancouver: Friday February 14th, march starts at noon from Carnegie (Main and Hastings). Feb 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March – https://www.facebook.com/events/649903748374268/

Victoria: Saturday February 15th, gather at 11am and the walk will begin at noon. Stolen Sisters Memorial March 2014 – Lekwungen Territories. https://www.facebook.com/events/1433280240236673/

 

Dec19

Top 10 Indigenous Stories of 2013

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It’s that time of year again – time for Top 10 lists. It’s been quite a year for Indigenous peoples around the world, filled with stories of success, hardship and almost always inspiration. First Peoples enjoyed covering many of them on our blog so here is our Top 10 blog posts of 2013, ranked by the number times you, the reader, read them. The topics range from GMO to football to women’s rights and more, enjoy! (Click on the title to read the full story.)

  1. Three Reasons You Need to Support Indigenous Peoples, Even If You Are Not Indigenous: Look, we get it – everybody has an issue that they care strongly about. For us, that issue is the rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world. For you, it may be something different. You may even be of the mindset that if you are not Indigenous, then you have no reason to be concerned with Indigenous issues. But we strongly believe that the values and beliefs of Indigenous Peoples can be effectively applied to a wide range of modern-day concerns. Here are the top three reasons to support Indigenous Peoples even if you are not Indigenous.
  2. Proud To be Indigenous Week Starts Next Week – May 20th! : Indigenous Peoples from around the world will be descending on New York City for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). While most of us can’t make it to New York, our voices need to be heard! Proud To Be Indigenous is an online campaign for Indigenous People to share their stories. The Proud To Be Indigenous coalition includes over 40 Indigenous and Indigenous-friendly organizations, large and small and from all over the world, that will be sharing photos, videos and stories about Indigenous, Native and Aboriginal people online during UNPFII (see the full list of coalition members below). But most importantly, Proud To Be Indigenous is about you, the Indigenous People from around the world, and sharing your story and voice.
  3. Idle No More Calls for Day of Action, Oct. 7th 2013: Idle No More is calling for an international Day of Action to be held in communities around the world on October 7th, 2013. The announcement comes towards the end of the popular Sovereignty Summer campaign, launched on June 21, Aboriginal Day in Canada. Sovereignty Summer is a campaign of coordinated non-violent direct actions to promote Indigenous rights and environmental protection in alliance with non-Indigenous supporters.
  4. Dine Nation Declares GMO and Pesticide-Free Zone: The Diné Nation has now been declared a GMO and pesticide-free zone. The declaration is the result of the “Corn is Life” Gathering held September 19-21 at Diné College, Tsaile, Arizona. The conference was hosted and presented by the Black Mesa Water Coalition, the Diné Policy Institute, Traditional Diné Farmers, and the International Indian Treaty Council. The conference’s stated goal was to discuss the impacts of climate change, genetic modification, pesticides, and extractive industries on traditional growing practices. At the end of the conference, participants agreed to stand against these harmful practices.
  5. First Nations Sign Treaty to Protect the Sacred From Tar Sands and Keystone XL: Representatives from indigenous nations across the United States and Canada recently met to reaffirm a centuries-old collective-security treaty in defense of their homelands and reassert its authority in the face of a modern-day threat. These representatives, participants in the January 23-25 event “Gathering to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands and Keystone XL,” formally agreed to “mutually and collectively oppose tar sands projects which would impact [their] territory, including but not limited to the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, the Enbridge Northern Gateway, Enbridge lines 9 and sixty-seven, or the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline and tanker projects.”
  6. Aboriginals Create the World’s Newest Government: The world is welcoming its newest government – the Republic of Murrawarri, a nearly 82,000 square kilometer territory stretching across northern New South Wales and Queensland in Australia, has declared its independence as a sovereign nation. Murrawarri’s independence comes after a long diplomatic process. The republic, which has around 4,000 residents, officially declared their continuing independence and statehood on April 3, 2013.
  7. Top 10 Indigenous Must-Reads for Summer: It’s summer  – the perfect time to start working through that pile of books you “meant to read” a long time ago. Forget about that pile. We have a reading list for you unlike ones you’ve likely seen before – gathering suggestions from our staff members, we’ve compiled a “must-read” list for Indigenous issues. This list is by no means comprehensive – we’ve tried to include books that are geographically diverse, engaging, and easy to read (no textbooks here!). I am sure we have missed some of your favorites – please comment below and let us know!
  8. “Redskins” Is a Racial Slur Dating Back to 1755: The Washington Redskins are again facing criticism over their racially-insensitive name.  Both a case with the Federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and a bill originating in the House of Representatives are urging the team to rethink the name. The team has long been under fire from Native American organizations who claim the team name is a shameful racial slur, and that it should not be allowed to remain the football mascot of the nation’s capital. Opponents of the change say that the name is meant to honor, not disparage, Native Americans.
  9. “They Have Been Loved, and Now They Are Missing” – New Exhibit Honors 600 Murdered Indigenous Women: In the past 20 years in Canada, over 600 mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, cousins, aunts, and best friends have gone missing. That’s six hundred lives that have suddenly, mysteriously ended – no note, no motive, sometimes hardly even a clue, leaving behind questions, uncelebrated birthdays, motherless children, heartbroken partners, and emptiness. 600 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered, and often it seems as though nobody even cares. “There has been an awful silence around this,” says Otipemiswak/Michif Nation artist Christi Belcourt, of Espanola, Ontario. “There has been a silence by the government, by police and by dominant society; it’s as though Indigenous women’s lives aren’t considered important.”
  10. Violence Against Women Act Adds Protection for Native American Women: But Is It Enough? : The newly-reauthorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) includes new protections for Native American women who are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. Despite attempts by House Republicans to pass a watered-down version of VAWA that limited these Native American provisions, as well as eliminating protection for lesbian and gay victims, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Obama on March 7th, just in time for International Women’s Day.

And one more, our favorite feel-good story of the year:

11. Cree Youth Journey 1,100 km For Unity:  On January 16, seven Cree youth, led by two experienced guides, departed their community of Great Whale on the Hudson Bay to begin The Quest of Wisjinichu-Nishiyuu (Quest For Unity), a journey that will take them across 1,100 km to reach Parliament Hill, Ottawa, the seat of Canada’s federal government. Inspired by the Idle No More Movement, they seek to promote unity and a refocusing on traditional values.

Which one was your favorite story? What would you like to see us reporting on in 2014? Let us know, and have a happy New Year!

 

Oct31

In Canada, Aboriginal Tension Erupts Over Resource Development

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Cross-posted from The Huffington Post, Canada

Canada has been singled out as the country with the most risk of conflict with aboriginal communities in a new study examining treatment of indigenous rights and resource development around the world.

“Canada is a developed country and it is having an implosion of the sort that we’ve only seen in the developing countries,” said Rebecca Adamson, president and co-founder of First Peoples’ Worldwide, the group that conducted the study.

“We’ve always seen this erupt when a government refuses to be clear in upholding indigenous land tenure.”

The Indigenous Rights Risk Report studied 52 U.S. resource companies and 370 projects around the world, including 16 companies and 76 projects active in Canada. The aim of the survey is to assess how likely it is that conflict with indigenous communities could result in costly shutdowns.

Canada is home to six of the 21 projects deemed to be at highest risk of collapse according to the group’s analysis — more than any other country. Countries such as Argentina, Indonesia and Ghana are its peers on the list.

The Canadian government is “operating like a third-world country,” Adamson said, adding that its approach to indigenous rights more closely mimics the Philippines and Brazil than the U.S and Australia.

Signs are pointing to an increasing number of protests and possible violence in the country, she added.

First Nations have been on a legal winning streak in Canada, with nearly 200 court victories recognizing their right to be consulted — and in some cases accommodated.

But companies operating in Canada have no clear regulatory guidelines for how to deal with aboriginal communities, creating an uncertain business climate.

“Canada is caught in a moment of schizophrenia because the Canadian court systems are upholding these cases the way that would be expected from all of the developed countries that uphold the rule of law,” Adamson said.

The Harper government’s stance on First Nations and resource development has been called into question in recent years, particularly in the wake of controversial changes to native rights in Bill C-45, the Idle No More protests and after violence erupted at a protest against fracking in New Brunswick this month.

Canada’s risk level was graded three out of five — medium risk — higher than other industrialized countries like the U.S., New Zealand and Australia, which had a risk level of two.

Canada’s risk level started at a two when the study began two years ago, but after a series of flare-ups the group moved its risk factor higher citing an inconsistent enforcement of indigenous rights.

The group said Canadian projects scored so poorly partly because of the government’s failure to uphold its obligations to First Nations, which is in turn inflicting financial and reputational damage on companies trying to do business in the country.

“The Canadian government may be pro-business but its policies towards First Nations will have very anti-business results,” Adamson said.

“You can already see this in the fact it has the highest number of risky sites. Eventually the companies pull out.”

Houston-based Southwestern Energy’s project in New Brunswick made headlines earlier this month when violence broke out between police and First Nations protesters. That project was ranked highest of the Canadian projects with a risk rating of 4.2 out of 5, the same score as a project in Nigeria.

The company has said the blockades have cost it as much as $60,000 per day. It’s a consequence the report said shows why it makes good business sense to respect indigenous rights and work with their communities and a perfect example of what happens when governments ignore aboriginal sovereignty.

The report concluded that Southwestern “executives were ill-prepared and uninformed for how First Nations in Canada can impact their operations, thus leaving investors and shareholders at risk.”

Cliffs Natural Resources oft-delayed chromite project in Ontario’s Ring of Fire region also ranked highly on the list, with a score of 4.1 out of 5.

The surrounding First Nations in northern Ontario have many concerns about the impact of a giant mining development on their land and traditional way of life. They say an environmental review of the project was too weak.

Cliffs has cited frustration with hold-ups from government and First Nations fordelaying and potentially cancelling the project, saying if it is forced to walk away, it will send a bad signal about Canada’s mining climate.

Some ever-controversial oilsands projects rounded out the riskiest Canadian projects.Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Apache/Chevron/EOG Pacific Trails Pipeline, as well as Murphy Oil’s Alberta Bakken project and its Peace River Oil Sands project were assigned a risk rating of four.

Canada’s oil industry looks to governments to settle issues on land claims, treaty rights, traditional territories, consultation processes and royalty/revenue-sharing positions, said Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers spokeswoman Geraldine Anderson, adding CAPP wouldn’t comment specifically on the report.

A spokesman for the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada said existing regulatory frameworks are strong enough to protect the rights of Aboriginal peoples, though he didn’t directly address the allegations in the study.

Such policies “can lay the groundwork for industry, government and Aboriginal communities to benefit from the development of mineral resources,” said Nadim Kara, PDAC’s senior program director.

The clash between resource extraction and indigenous rights is expected to become more pronounced in the coming years as indigenous people increasingly see their rights enshrined at national and international levels and exercise them more effectively.

At the same time, a shrinking number of available resource discoveries means companies are pushing into more remote regions and Indigenous lands.

The study found that most of the 52 companies studied were ill-prepared to engage and work with indigenous people — a whopping 90 per cent of them had no clear indigenous policy at all.

The report says the moral imperative alone has not been effective in forcing companies and governments to respect indigenous rights. The group aims to show companies that there are good financial reasons to accommodate aboriginal communities, namely avoiding protests, bad press and legal battles.

(Photo: Protestors face off against police in New Brunswick, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/30/canada-aboriginals-resource-development_n_4178464.html?utm_hp_ref=canada#slide=3021545)

Sep17

Idle No More Calls for Day of Action, Oct. 7th 2013

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Idle No More is calling for an international Day of Action to be held in communities around the world on October 7th, 2013.

The announcement comes towards the end of the popular Sovereignty Summer campaign, launched on June 21, Aboriginal Day in Canada. Sovereignty Summer is a campaign of coordinated non-violent direct actions to promote Indigenous rights and environmental protection in alliance with non-Indigenous supporters. The campaign focuses specifically on six calls for change which the movement would like to accomplish:

1) Repeal provisions of Bill C-45 in Canada (including changes to the Indian Act and Navigable Waters Act, which infringe on environmental protections, Aboriginal and Treaty rights) and abandon all pending legislation which does the same.

2) Deepen democracy in Canada through practices such as proportional representation and consultation on all legislation concerning collective rights and environmental protections, and include legislation which restricts corporate interests.

3) In accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (UNDRIP) principle of free, prior, and informed consent, respect the right of Indigenous peoples to say no to development on their territory.

4) Cease its policy of extinguishment of Aboriginal Title and recognize and affirm Aboriginal Title and Rights, as set out in section 35 of Canada’s constitution and recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

5) Honour the spirit and intent of the historic Treaties. Officially repudiate the racist Doctrine of Discovery and the Doctrine of Terra Nullius, and abandon their use to justify the seizure of Indigenous Nations’ lands and wealth.

6) Actively resist violence against women and hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and involve Indigenous women in the design, decision-making, process and implementation of this inquiry, as a step toward initiating a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan.

Sovereignty Summer also saw the launch of a new Idle No More website, with the important new feature of a contact database of over 100,000 volunteers, allowing people to get involved more easily and providing a fast way for the movement to spread information and news.

The upcoming Day of Action coincides with the 250th Anniversary of the British Royal Proclamation, which led to the founding of Canada with no consultation from the extensive Aboriginal population already living in the country. The call for action is a result of a conference held on August 17 by Idle No More-Toronto and Defenders of the Land on traditional Anishinaabe Territory in Ontaria, Canada. As organizers say, “we encourage local autonomous groups to join in this call for a national Day of Action with messages and tactics that are appropriate to your local struggles. We must collectively send a clear message that our movement will not stop intervening in Canada’s attempts to conduct business as usual, until our right to free, prior, and informed consent is universally upheld, until all provisions of Bill c-45 are repealed, until justice is served in the dealings over our murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and until our lands and our treaties are respected!”

Some upcoming Idle No More events include:

  • September 21 – Draw the Line against the KeyStone XL! On September 21st many groups across the US including regional Idle No More solidarity groups will be organizing actions to show President Obama that it’s time to draw the line, and stop Keystone XL for good.  Learn more and organize a local action in your community!
  • October 4 – Join the 3rd Annual Families of Sisters in Spirit Vigil 2013. Families of Sisters in Spirit  believes that no decisions can be made on behalf of Indigenous women, families, communities and Nations without our free, prior, informed consent. This demands our DIRECT leadership in any/all processes. Help FSIS bring as many families as we can to Ottawa to have our voices heard!! In our own words! In our own ways!  Learn more and join the action!
  • October 7 – Call for Unified National Action – Everywere! Idle No More put out a call to all Native and non-Native supporters to join in a mass day of action on Oct 7th, 2013. This day marks the 250th Anniversary of the British Royal Proclamation, which lead to the founding of this country they call Canada – a country founded on indigenous lands.  If you believe in the spirit of Idle No More and the 6 calls for change of #SovSummer then we ask you to stand up and be counted this October 2013. Organize an event in your community.
  • 4. October 12-20 – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, Visits Canada.  James Anaya, who recently called on all countries to respect treaties with Indigenous Peoples, will be visiting Canada in October to examine the human rights situation of Indigenous peoples. Anaya, whose request to visit Canada was ignored by the Harper government for over a year, will be issuing a report on extractive industries and Indigenous Peoples in September.

 

To join existing Day of Action events or to organize your own, please visit http://www.idlenomore.ca/events.

Photo: People march along Wellington St. in Ottawa as they take part in National Aboriginal Day. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Mar20

Nishiyuu Walkers Near Their Destination

By Britnae Purdy

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When seven determined Cree youth set out from Great Whale on the Hudson Bay to walk 1,100 km to Parliament Hill, Ottawa on January 16, they expected to promote unity and indigenous identity within their community and the territories they passed through. They could not have expected to inspire a nationwide movement supported by thousands.

The Journey of the Nishiyuu has swelled to include over 170 walkers, sponsored by 24 different community groups.  Their Facebook group boasts 31,000 members and already 1,300 people have said they are joining the Nishiyuu for cultural performances, traditional soups and stews and honorary speakers at the welcome ceremony when the walkers reach their destination on March 25th. The Nishiyuu are asking area schoolchildren to join them for the final portion of their journey into the city, so spread the word to young people.

Though the mainstream media has reported little on the journey, supporters are utilizing social media to its full potential, with amazing photographs, blog posts, digital recordings, interactive mapping, and YouTube videos following the walkers and telling their stories.

“[The walkers] want to change the contempt with which they are treated, they want to end the blockage placed in front of them designed to quash their aspirations and heritage, they want to end the mentality of relegation that sees so many First Nations forced into to the lowest status imaginable by the political and cultural mainstream,” says Cathryn Atkinson, writer for Pique News Magazine.

Youth who decide to join the journey must provide their own start-up costs and supplies, agree to “walk and work hard every day,” and most importantly “be prepared to set their goals and vision for the reason why they are joining this journey.” There is an adult leader for every five youth walkers and medical personnel are always on hand. To encourage a sense of community and unity the walkers make all efforts to stay together during the walk and stay at cultural camps along their route. Despite the difficult conditions and grueling physical demands, the youth who join this journey are guided by an important goal.

“This is the message of what they want as a future,” says Marilyne Jerome, whose daughter joined the walkers in Lac Simon. “The future they want is to know who they are and where they come from.”

(Photo Source: Marie-Elaine Boucher http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.373995526041162&type=1)

Feb25

Movements of Survival: A Conversation with Rebecca Adamson & Bill McKibben about Idle No More & 350.org

by Dan Morrison

Idle No More
A few years ago, I wrote a piece titled, The Art of Slacktivism about how young people were Tweeting and Facebooking away from their dorm rooms and sofas to support causes they believed in. Millions donated $10 to relief efforts in Haiti from their cell phones and then went on with the rest of their lives feeling as if they changed the world. Slacktivism seemed a perfect philanthropic transaction for the ADHD-riddled 21st century – fast, convenient and cheap.

Then all of a sudden people filled the streets Tunisia and a dictator fell. Wael Ghonim, a Google employee in Egypt, started a Facebook page that rallied Egyptians to oppose the now fallen Hosni Mubarak regime. The Arab Spring spread and dictators tumbled in Libya and Yemen, and uprisings and protests continue throughout the region.

The United States wasn’t immune. On September 17, 2011, people emerged from behind their laptops and mobile phones and marched on Wall Street to protest corporate greed in the wake of the economic meltdown. Occupy Wall Street soon became Occupy Chicago, Boston, Portland and spread across the world.

These people were not “slacktivists” but activists, revolutionaries and heros. Social media was finally living up to expectations – inspiring people online to take offline action.

But two of the biggest movements may be yet to come.

The first is Idle No More, a movement that caught many by surprise. What began with four indigenous women protesting Bill C 45 for violating Canada’s Indian Act became a movement of Indigenous People circle dancing in the streets across Canada, blockading rail lines, and hunger striking to speak with the Prime Minister and Governor General. By using the Twitter hashtag #IdleNoMore, the movement spread across North America and the world. It came to represent Indigenous Peoples fight for self-determination, cultural respect and a healthy environment for all. It is as powerful as it was spontaneous.

350.org‘s climate movement is different. It was a planned, concerted effort by environmentalist Bill McKibben and his students. They have worked hard over the last few years to build up a following of people concerned about climate change and asking them to act. 350 has mobilized its followers to petition the US Congress to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, “Connect the Dots” by sharing photos of the impact of climate change on social media, “Do The Math” and pressure universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry, and most recently to take to the streets in Washington, DC and pressure President Obama to act in climate change. 350.org is no less grassroots, but it has a center from which it coordinates its efforts.

With Idle No More and 350.org dominating the headlines (at least of Huffington Post), I had the chance to interview Rebecca Adamson, an indigenous leader and founder of First Peoples Worldwide, and Bill McKibben, environmentalists and co-founder of 350.org, to find out what makes a movement and what the future holds for Idle No More and the Climate Change movements.

 Rebecca: All we hear about today is that a new exciting movement has started, only to find out that it is a repackaging of something old. What is a movement in your mind and what makes Idle No More and the Climate Change movement any different?

Movements originate from a genuine community concern. Authentic members of society, not our leaders, stand up and take it upon themselves to come together and address an issue. The origins tend to be spontaneous. They don’t come out of academies, businesses, or institutions, which manage the status quo. Movements come out of us, the People, who want to affect change. In that sense, Idle No More is right on. Over the years, the environmental movement has become stale and institutionalized, but 350.org is breathing new life into it so it can become relevant again and regain itself as a Peoples movement.

 Bill, you wrote The End of Nature in 1989. What role have indigenous people played in the environmental movement and what role are they playing in 350 today?

The first thing to say is, 350.org is rooted in place in every country on earth but North Korea–and in most of those places indigenous people are at the forefront. That’s true from the Andes to the forests of India, and from northern Scandinavia to the boreal forests of Canada. Some of our closest allies in the fight against the tarsands–the people who really started the Keystone XL Pipeline fight–come from the Indigenous Environmental Network. The first person I ever heard about the tarsands in depth from was Melina Laboucan-Massimo and her great colleagues in the White Buffalo area.

Rebecca, you have been an activist for indigenous rights since the 1970s. Why is the Idle No More movement important?

Idle No More is important because it is a genuine movement. It is unique because for the first time in our history as indigenous peoples, members of non-indigenous society are joining us in mass. Peoples like Bill have joined us are waking the public up to the issue of not only climate change, but a peoples’ right to self-determination. Bill tied our movement into a global audience. Indigenous rights and climate change have always been reported on as two separate issues. Now, peoples are seeing them as parts of a larger global issue and movement.

But it is important to remember that Idle No More is not new movement. It is the latest manifestation of our Indigenous Peoples movement that we have been fighting for hundreds of years. It is human kind’s movement that fights for what every human being wants – the right to determine their own destiny and make a better world their children. 

Bill, when did you know that the 350 climate movement was taking off? Did you have a plan or did it just happen?

We had a plan, but we didn’t know it would work. We started with myself and seven undergraduates–since there are seven continents, each one took one and we went to work. And somehow a year later we pulled off a global day of action with 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries, what CNN called ‘the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.’ I think it’s because there was such unrealized demand for climate action

 Bill, you mentioned in a recent Huffington Post piece that indigenous people control the lands where much of the fossils fuels are in Canda and that, “The choices that Native people make over the next few years will be crucial to the planet’s future.” What if they choose to exploit the fossil fuels to pay for the development they often need so badly?

Well, if they do, the carbon will have the same effect as if the Koch Brothers pour it into the atmosphere. The good news is these lands are also the prime sources of sun, wind, and geothermal power in the continent.

Rebecca, a critical tenet of First Peoples is to strengthen the voice of native people and ensure they have self-determination and decision making power. An indigenous community may decide developing fossil fuels on their land is their right and the best thing for their people. Bill has a clear point of view that we must keep the fossil fuels in the ground if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change. How do you deal with this dilemma?

All of us want the right to decide their own destiny and that of our children. However, decisions about access to clean water, food security, and the allocation of resources are being made by a small, elitist group. This should concern ALL of us. Who doesn’t want a say in what happens in their neighborhood? On indigenous lands, companies and governments are stripping away our assets, polluting our waters, and selling our land to the highest bidder. Which is why for us, Indigenous Peoples, the issue is the right to self-determination. Idle No More is first a movement to ensure Indigenous Peoples have the right to decide for themselves, which is why it is spreading so rapidly from Canada to around the world.

Indigenous Peoples are the miner’s canary in a development process gone haywire. Indigenous Peoples have a sense of enoughness and equitable distribution. But development takes all of our land, water, food and other life supporting assets away and sends them up market to make iPhones and Big Macs for the consumer society. If we are stripped of our life-sustaining assets, there is not much else we can do but profit from the oil beneath our feet so we can survive.

Personally I feel and intrinsic affinity for the land. It heals me. It sustains me and I am obligated to sustain it. The Indigenous paradigm for conservation is one of protection-production and production-protection. You take care of your place because it produces for you. And it produces for you because you take care of it. Not every indigenous person acts in this way, but I strongly believe that ensuring the right of self-governance for Indigenous Peoples will bring about new, sustainable ways to live in harmony with Mother Earth.

In order to do what Bill is saying, we have to come up with a radical new way on how to distribute benefits and wealth equitably. But the fix is not having indigenous peoples be over-romanticized tree-huggers. Bill and I both agree that the reality of climate change is that if we don’t fix it, we are all going to die. 

Bill, How does 350.org work with and support other movements like Idle No More? How do you ensure there is not competition?

We’re not really an organization, we’re more like a campaign. We try to just set up ways for everyone to play together. And we always pay attention to great leaders–like, say, Clayton Thomas-Muller who is one of my absolute favorite allies. Or Tom Goldtooth, or Reuben George, or Bill Erasmus, or Melina Loubacon-Massimo, or any of the other great indigenous leaders we get to work with. There’s no group of people I’ve learned more from.

To learn more about First Peoples Worldwide and 350.org, visit www.FirstPeoples.org and www.350.org.