Idle No More a unique, unprecedented moment in history


By Barb Nahwegahbow - Windspeaker - February 28, 2013

The Toronto Aboriginal community has not been idle. In the week leading up to the Jan. 11 meeting with the Prime Minister, many people were hard at work organizing events.

On Jan. 8, one of the two Toronto Idle No More groups held the first of scheduled weekly teach-ins at Toronto Council Fire. About 100 participants showed up and they reflected the diversity of Toronto’s multicultural population, as well as the diversity of the Aboriginal community in the city.

One by one they introduced themselves, identifying their cultural roots. Men and women of all ages with family origins in the Balkans, South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, India, Egypt, Poland, United Arab Emirates sat side by side with First Nations and Metis from Couchiching, Moose Factory, Serpent River and M’Chigeeng First Nations in Ontario, and communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Artist and political activist Wanda Nanibush promised the group they would learn “a different story of Canada.” People shook their heads in disbelief as she gave a short history of the Indian Act, events leading to and resulting from the legislation, and some of the atrocities committed in the name of civilization. The next speaker, Hayden King from Beausoleil First Nation and assistant professor of Politics at Ryerson University, spoke about the history of Aboriginal resistance over the past 150 years, taking either diplomatic or provocative means to resisting legislation or encroachment of land.

The Northwest Rebellion, establishment of the League of Indians in 1923, the Red Power Movement and emergence of leaders like Harold Cardinal in response to the 1960s White Paper, the American Indian Movement, the Oka Crisis and various legal challenges were some instances of Aboriginal resistance that he discussed.

But Idle No More, King said, is “a moment in history that’s never occurred before.” It’s “a remarkable movement,” he said, that has inspired Indigenous people all over the world.

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