Pam Palmater speaks at an Idle No More protest at the base of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor in January. Photo by Steve Russell/Getstock
Mi'kmaq from Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick, doctor of law, academic director, Ryerson University's Centre for Indigenous Governance, former candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN)
You may not see the next stage of Idle No More in public - it might not take the form of a round dance. Rather, it will take the form of now educated aboriginal community members working with leaders to shut down a mine until the government consults, or withdrawing from a process with government, or opposing a business licence on aboriginal land. People won't call these actions Idle No More, but they're all connected.
The government requires us to participate in its processes in order to legitimize what it does to us. We've been participating because we're under undue duress: the most impoverished communities in the country have very little choice.
So we're trying to educate people to help each other on the ground, because we have much more to gain in the long term if we pull out of those processes. All of them require our assimilation, our surrender of land or our giving up of rights in exchange for a little bit of money.
All those federal policies - and I speak from experience, I used to be legal council for the Justice Department and worked in Indian Affairs - have surrender as their end goal. What Idle No More is saying is ‘Pull back from those processes and demand our constitutional rights.'
Canadian social justice advocates, environmentalists and anti-poverty advocates need to stand beside us because First Nations are their last best hope of accomplishing what they want, too. Our rights are constitutionally protected in the way those of non-native Canadians are not because we're the First People. Treaty rights act as a trump card over environmental destruction. If people stand beside us, we all win. We will all make sure the land is farmable in the future and the water drinkable for our kids. If it's not for First Nations, it's not for all Canadians.
We're willing to be on the front lines and take all the abuse and hatred from the right-wingers out there. But Canadians have a role, too, to help in any way they can.
The movement was grounded from the beginning in our traditions - we always have drummers and elders, and prayers and sweetgrass. It's about sharing that with Canadians, to show we have beautiful ways. Instead of our following Canadians all the time, here's an opportunity for Canadians to follow us.
Mohawk Nation, Kahnawake, Quebec, policy adviser, Algonquin Nation Secretariat
The Idle No More movement is unprecedented. There were national protests across the country in 1969 against the Liberals' White Paper, which tried to extinguish aboriginal rights. We organized to fight that policy, and that's where the modern aboriginal organizations came from.
The next was 1990, when my community, Kahnawake and Kanesatake, were surrounded by the army. That led to Brian Mulroney's Royal Commission, the acceleration of the settlement of native land claims and all that stuff. And now this wave. The third time around we've got smartphones and Twitter.
But if If Idle No More is going anywhere, it has to know more about what it's up against: the plan to terminate aboriginal title. The Conservative legislation is part of that plan and of the policy framework for current negotiating between [First Nation communities and the federal government]. The government is trying to empty the constitution's Section 35 [protecting aboriginal and treaty rights] of any real meaning.
Stephen Harper thinks he has the chiefs in his hands because he has 93 bands at the negotiating table. It would be prudent for chiefs to cease these negotiations.
By participating, these leaders are giving legitimacy to the very policies that are terminating Section 35 rights. But they are unlikely to leave the table. In British Columbia, bands borrowed money for these negotiations. It's owed to the government, so if bands pull out of talks they will be asked to pay it back. The government has them over a barrel.
The government says it wants certainty and finality in these negotiations. That's code for extinguishment.
Mohawk Nation, Kanesatake, Mohawk spokesperson during the 1990 Oka crisis, former president of the Quebec Native Women's Association, former candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations
It's unfortunate we only get together over crisis, but our people have been in crisis for over 500 years.
Idle No More is about the same things we've spoken of for centuries. During the Oka crisis we wanted to protect our land, the environment and sovereignty, only back then we were under siege and surrounded. The issues remain the same.
The residential school system has influenced every aspect of our identity, our language, our culture. Our families were ruptured by residential schools and the Indian Act, and our land base is shrinking.
We need to restore all the institutions that were attacked. The framework for reconciliation and restoration is the UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples. We also need reconciliation among ourselves. And we need more than parity with the English and French to restore and revitalize our languages and culture. It will require openness and political will, and the removal of the tyrant in Ottawa who is laughing at us all.
It took many generations for us to become the dysfunctional people we are, and it's going to take many generations to get out of it. It will require more than just money. But there's a lot of hope.
Cree Nation in British Columbia, now living at Six Nations, motivational speaker and spoken word performer
I started to write a book about my life and began to understand the complex traumas I endured. I got a sense of how the experience of the residential school era went from one generation to the next. It helped me feel compassion for the people I was a victim of, people who had inflicted hurt and pain on me, and I was able to forgive them, let go of the past and look forward to a greater future.
I started to give workshops; I wanted aboriginal kids to talk to someone in their shoes. But with the introduction of Bill C-45 and Harper's hidden agenda, I knew I had to be involved in Idle No More.
Idle No More is political, but it's grassroots-political rather than leadership-political. It gives people who feel they don't have a voice a chance to speak. The seed is being planted and nourished. In the springtime, the spirit of creation comes alive, and so will the spirit of the people. The spirit is ageless and timeless.
But we have to maintain the unifying thread that this is a peaceful movement. If we move toward acts of aggression or transgression, it will fizzle. We can only overcome darkness with light, not with more darkness.
My personal and my professional life have unified in Idle No More. My heart and my soul as well as my mind and intelligence. When the spirit speaks, it speaks passionately. My role is to allow people to scream and yell, to get out the energy that's been idle for a long time.
Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, Northwest Alberta, Treaty 8, law school graduate, Idle No More activist
Idle No More never intended to be a gendered movement; it just happened that way. We never said, ‘Let's get the women together.' The beautiful thing about it is that it's uplifting; women have such a different approach.
It's all about the kinds of things I've been taught about treaty relationships and where my ancestors' minds were at the time they signed Treaty 8. They had such a deep feeling of love. They were thinking of me 100 years ahead. That's where women are coming from in this movement: a place of love because of our children.
When I set out to do my first teach-in on the omnibus legislation back in November, I didn't expect what happened. The meeting was being streamed, and I decided to use Twitter so that those watching online could engage in the conversation. That's how the Idle No More hashtag came to be.
Now the movement is in a transition phase. People have gone back to their communities to educate, and there won't be as many public events. The February 14 day of action for missing and murdered aboriginal women will be the next.
I am going up north to speak, and I intend to say that not only do aboriginal people have to fix our relationship to the country, but also our relationships within our communities. We have to deal with the fallout of residential schools, a century or more of assimilation efforts and how that's impacted individuals, families and communities.
This movement is not just about indigenous people or Bill C-45. It's about our relationship to the whole country. First Nations people have always been willing, but we've never had a willing partner.