WAB KINEW: Ojibway from Onigaming First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, director of indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, award-winning writer and hip-hop artist, 2012 host of CBC's 8th Fire.
Hi, I'm Tecumseh. You know, the "Indian Moses," the Shawnee leader whose warriors held off the Americans in 1812. That's right, without me, Barack Obama would be your president. That might not sound bad, but trust me, it's for the best.
Anyhoo (which means "regardless" in Shawnee), I've decided to return some 200 years after my death to answer questions about Idle No More. Ever since Apple released the iPhone in 2007, I've thought, "Wow, just imagine what I could have done with one of those things." Imagine Instagrams of my brother's visions. Imagine tweets of my speeches. Imagine FaceTiming Wifey.
Now I imagine no more. My descendants in the Idle No More movement are showing what I would have done with an iPhone. Using social networks and text messages, they have marched my cause - our cause - back into the national conscience. I figure the least I can do is clear up some misconceptions from beyond the grave.
"What do they want?"
Preservation of the great outdoors, an equal shot at success for our children, and the freedom to celebrate our heritage. Idle No More doesn't seem so divisive when you boil it down to those terms, does it? Nature, doing the right thing and multiculturalism. Sounds pretty Canadian to me. In fact, it sounds like Molson Canadian to me.
Idle No More has been pretty consistent on these points since the beginning. If that's not clear, is it the fault of the movement or of the media? Regardless, the movement should make the message as easy to understand as possible - challenging for a movement led by lawyers and PhDs, but not impossible.
"Wait, ‘indigenous nations'? Didn't I read somewhere that indigenous people aren't nations any more?"
The Great Spirit and I had quite a chuckle when we read Christie Blatchford's column in the National Post where she wrote, "Smudging, drumming and the like do not a nation make." Actually, "smudging, drumming and the like" make up culture, which along with a land base and language, are exactly what constitutes a nation.
This raises another concern best expressed by Tom Flanagan. He wrote in the Globe and Mail, "Canada is not going to last long if it really contains more than 600 sovereign Indian bands." I understand his concern for this great country. However, it's based on a strictly European perspective of nationhood. Luckily, the Supreme Court has ruled that you must also consider the indigenous perspective on these matters. In our world view, it is entirely possible for two nations to share the same territory: we did it for millennia pre-contact within our confederacies. Of course, for Canada and indigenous nations to co-exist, we would need some sort of legal instruments that would set the terms for that relationship.
Oh, yeah, we do have those. They're called treaties. Sheesh! Can't believe I forgot about the treaties. How Canadian of me.
"Is Idle No More running out of steam?"
Media reports of Idle No More's demise have been greatly exaggerated. They began in early December. Here we are getting ready to make Idle No More Valentine's Day cards. This is not the time to send a Dear John valentine, no matter how clever you think "I Do No More" is.
The facts are these: rallies last week drew crowds in dozens of cities comparable to those earlier in the month and in December, video conferences continue to draw thousands of viewers, and teach-ins at universities are filling lecture halls and auditoriums.
A deep truth underlies Idle No More's continued strength: the twin motivators of love and pain. Love for our relatives and pain for those we have lost. My people face shorter life expectancies than other Canadians. My great-great-grandchildren are killing themselves and being apprehended by child welfare agencies more often than other children. My young brothers are more likely to go to jail than to finish high school in some parts of this country. The status quo is not working.
We love our relatives too much to turn back now. It is too painful to lose another one. That is why we are Idle No More.
Perhaps, you should be, too. Anyway, I've got to run. Elvis Presley is telling people up here that he's part-Cherokee again.