Cheol Joon Baek
Idle No More round dance at Yonge-Dundas Square New Year’s Day.
Idle No More isn't just for people of near-indigenous heritage or those who have been affected by failed treaties. There has been a longing in this country for for justice and natural respect for the land by many more than our numbers. It is certainly a wake-up call for the present First Nations leadership that their acquiescence to domination isn't a legitimate political position any more.
But don't be confused; Idle No More means as little to the likes of Stephen Harper and his followers as did Martin Luther King's letters to George Wallace (governor of Alabama). Harper could probably care less whether Theresa Spence lives or dies. She doesn't stand in the way of his economic agenda. But Theresa means everything to us. Her life is our life.
As a movement, Idle No More will leave in its wake a legacy. Its content and quality will depend on how the movement unfolds, what people do, who will emerge as leaders and what stories will be told about the heroines and heroes of the movement. These leaders do not stand alone, but are raised by the mass of individuals whose life force anonymously buoys humanity, expressing it in simple but heroic gestures often conceived in a moment and forgotten with a change in mood.
While Idle No More lives, it will thrive. Like an animate creature, it will turn and twist, laugh and cry, piss and vomit, smash and condole, but it will live. And it will connect the threads of the timeless struggle for freedom. In doing so, it will create a new narrative, new stories, and the remembering of old ones that should never have been forgotten.
In asymmetrical struggles there must always be martyrs. No matter how stringent the risk-management strategies conceived, sacrifices must be made. It's just the way it is.
The earth and our humanity are too precious to be put on the market. New leadership is what Idle No More is seeking, and I hope we find it.
As a people, we've been told that our poverty is the consequence of our lack of education. We haven't had enough, not nearly as much of colonial economy and social hierarchy as we need to be full-fledged members of an affluent society dependent on sucking the earth dry and desolate. Perhaps it's time to turn the tables.
Well, let Idle No More be instructive. Let's do everything we can to educate Canadians about the spiritual and cultural poverty they endure. Join the movement.
Robert Lovelace is a retired chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and an adjunct lecturer at Queen's University. In 2008, he spent three and a half months in prison for his part in defending the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation from uranium exploration and mining.
IDLE NO MORE MANIFESTO
• The Treaties are nation-to-nation agreements between First Nations and the British Crown, who are sovereign nations. The Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two nations.
• The spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that First Nations peoples would share the land but retain their inherent rights to lands and resources. Instead, First Nations have experienced a history of colonization which has resulted in outstanding land claims, lack of resources and unequal funding for services such as education and housing.
• We contend that: The state of Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by using the land and resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are the most powerful in the world due to land and resources.
Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land but do not get a share of the profit. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned - the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada.
• We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land.
• We contend that: Currently, this government is trying to pass many laws so that reserve lands can also be bought and sold by big companies to get profit from resources. They are promising to share this time.... Why would these promises be different from past promises?
We will be left with nothing but poisoned water, land and air. This is an attempt to take away sovereignty and the inherent right to land and resources from First Nations peoples.
• We contend that: There are many examples of other countries moving towards sustainability, and we must demand sustainable development as well. We believe in healthy, just, equitable and sustainable communities and have a vision and plan of how to build them. Please join us in creating this vision.