Idle No More – A radical two-spirited Indigenous view

By Tami Starlight – Cree  (Pegius Nation)

Idle No More march to city hall, January 12, 2013 (pic. Tami Starlight)
Idle No More march to city hall, January 12, 2013 (pic. Tami Starlight)

Written on unceded and occupied Coast Salish territory.

The Idle No More movement was initiated by activists Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam, and Jessica Gordon in November 2012. It began with a teach-in at Station 20 West in Saskatoon called “Idle No More”, held in response to the Harper government’s introduction of Bill C-45.

C-45 is a large omnibus bill implementing numerous measures, many of which activists say weaken environmental protection laws. In particular, laws protecting all of the country’s navigable waterways were limited in scope to protect only a few waterways of practical importance for navigation. Many of the affected waterways pass through land reserved to Indigenous peoples in the colony called Canada. Some have also said that the few protected waterways run mostly through Conservative politicians’ ridings.

Bill C-45 is only one of nearly a dozen pieces of legislation that directly impact Indigenous peoples and their life-ways. Certainly some of these could be interpreted as showing concern for the Indigenous people of Canada, however, this is far from the truth. This is political campaigning. This is the Conservative government seeking to look good to their “base” and to entice Indigenous people to vote for them. In the end, it is more of the same -. the federal government of Canada seeking to control the lives of Indigenous peoples. The Government of Canada creates genocide with racist policies like the Indian Act, The White Paper, Residential Schools, and a boat load of Bills that adversely affect Indigenous peoples, and now the Conservatives claim to be acting in their best interest as the saviours?

Mainstream media play their role well by misinforming the general public of the history of this colony and the intention of the Idle No More grassroots movement. Round dances, other Indigenous cultural practices, teach-ins, road blockades, and rail blockades have taken place to bring attention to the injustice of proper protocols not being followed, treaties being ignored and corporations taking resources without consent and without compensation to the nations.

Thankfully many who do not follow or support mainstream media have been covering stories and people are catching onto the systemic problems of mainstream media’s role in mis/disinformation.

As time has passed for this long-time community organizer, activist and Cree two spirited person, my views have changed. Certainly I believe very strongly in change and especially in  grassroots community movements. I do find some similarities of Idle No More to how Occupy unfolded, like the use of various online tools to “spread the word”, especially on facebook. However, what is fascinating is that Idle No More is almost the opposite because of how much of Occupy (even the word is offensive because colonialism is occupation) failed to grasp the history of Indigenous struggles on Turtle Island.

However, Idle No More is not without criticism. Like the rest of us, it still has a long way to go in addressing systemic internalized oppressive colonial structures of class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and so on. I posted this at the beginning on their blog that is now a website. If we believe in decolonizing, we need to look not much farther than the main pillars of Eurocentric colonial beliefs, such as heteronormative, sexist, racist, patriarchy, ableism, gender normative, classism, and there are plenty more. I believe we should have these discussions and deconstruct these tools of division and oppression.

I have much hope for Idle No More. My involvement is that I bring my long experience of decolonization and anti-oppression/intersectionality, as well as my experience with grassroots community organizing.

Please do continue to get involved, challenge unbalanced power dynamics, oppressions and most importantly colonial capitalist structures that may just be the end of us all.


All our relations

Tami Starlight – Cree  (Pegius Nation)

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