Cheol Joon Baek
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: Ojibway, Curve Lake First Nation, Ontario, playwright and author, currently writer-in-residence, Ryerson University
It's a well-known fact that native people prefer to wage war in the summer, and rarely the winter. After all, we're not stupid. I refer you, for example, to Little Bighorn, which happened on a sweltering June day. And the Battle of Batoche occurred in warmish May. As well, Kanesatake and Ipperwash were summer engagements. That is one of the many reasons the current Idle No More movement is such an anomaly.
Not more than a few days ago, I saw several dozen frigid supporters outside Ryerson University trembling in the cold winter air, chanting and round-dancing. That was just one of numerous and continuous nationwide demonstrations reflecting the anger and hope of Canada's native people.
This wintertime advocacy is an example of how Stephen Harper is changing the way First Nations people operate.
I can safely say that most native people would rather be inside watching hockey (finally) and drinking hot chocolate than wandering the streets protesting yet another oppressive and insensitive political action by the federal government. There is a saying we have on the reserve: the road to hell is paved with government intentions.
An argument could be made that these current battles are substantially different in nature than the more historical and bloody ones, but the truth is, a fight for indigenous rights is a fight for indigenous rights. What's different this time is that more long underwear is being worn.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Uprisings are a generational institution. Luckily, there's a little less gunpowder being used. So far.
And the deployment of flash mobs, or more accurately, flash round-dances, provides something more positive than at most protests, for the dance is a healing mechanism. The belief is that anger by itself can achieve only so much. You get what you put into it, so a positive, healthy and healing attitude might actually make its way to Ottawa. Hopefully.
What's also innovative about Idle No More is that it's powered by social media. I will be surprised if the movement doesn't embrace the little twitter blue bird as its clan animal.
Also interesting is that this undertaking was primarily originated and organized by First Nation women. Started by four of them in Saskatoon last November, it was further empowered by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike.
It's amazing what five bossy and opinionated native women can achieve in this land, but luckily, this resource isn't in short supply in Indian country. Idle's just the first to harness them, and it's a very sustainable energy.
The movement is also expanding beyond the confines of the aboriginal community, and Canada. The Ryerson protest was organized by a non-native professor who, logically, teaches a course in advocacy as part of the child and youth care program. Additionally, there have been flash mobs across America, as well as solidarity protests in Sweden, England, Germany, New Zealand and Egypt. Politicians including Paul Martin and Joe Clark have endorsed the movement, as have Canadian musicians Blue Rodeo, Steven Page, Leslie Feist, Sarah Harmer, Gord Downie and others.
There are major initiatives planned for February 14, a day to remember murdered and missing aboriginal woman as part of the international anti-violence against women One Billion Rising protest.
And today (Thursday, February 7), a second Idle No More event is happening at Ryerson. Ironic, seeing as the man after whom the university is named, Egerton Ryerson, helmed the 1847 study on native education that became the model upon which residential schools were built. Funny, huh?