The more Idle No More grows, the more White folks seem oblivious. The movement has grown into an international movement of Indigenous solidarity and activism, yet average White folks don’t even know what #IdleNoMore is. Further, I would expect to see more support of the movement from mainstream White feminists, yet it’s all but crickets! After all, the movement is largely female-led, and Chief Theresa Spence could not be a more powerful and inspiring feminist leader!
I can’t help but think this is related to the ways in which White people have been conditioned to ignore Indigenous people and movements. We’ve been taught to see “Indians” as a remnant of a bygone era, as an extinct, monolithic culture of bows and arrows and headdresses. “Indians” in the White psyche are not modern nations, tribes, or families. “Indians” in the White psyche are not living, breathing, changing, and growing cultures of tremendous diversity. As such, “Indians” in the White psyche are not capable inspiring and enacting a grass-roots movement for racial, economic, and environmental justice in Canada that has spread throughout the world.
But while Idle No More’s goals have nothing to do with changing White people’s perceptions of Indigenous people and struggles, this is one powerful side effect that can come from the movement. In the words of Andrea Landry, “I think it’s definitely redefining the stereotypes of aboriginal people in Canada and in the States and around the world on a global scale.” It is clear at this point that the movement is not going away. It will undoubtedly change and grow; it already has greatly. But it ain’t going nowhere.
So progressive White folks . . . It’s time for us to start acting like better allies. Here are a few simple ways that we can do that.
So what is #IdleNoMore anyway? According to the official Idle No More website:
On December 10th, Indigenous people and allies stood in solidarity across Canada to assert Indigenous sovereignty and begin the work towards sustainable, renewable development. All people will be affected by the continued damage to the land and water and we welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies to join in creating healthy sustainable communities.
Idle No More began with 4 ladies; Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean who felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters.
The focus is on grassroots voices, treaty and sovereignty, it began in the early part of October when discussing Bill C-45. All 4 women knew that this was a time to act, as this bill and other proposed legislation would affect not only Indigenous people but also the lands, water and the rest of Canada.
With the focus on the most urgent bill knowing it would initiate attention to all other legislation, the 4 ladies held rallies and teach-ins to generate discussion and provide information. They then decided a nation wide event was garnered so all could participate, thus, The National Day of Solidarity & Resurgence was called for December 10th, 2012, to oppose all legislation and to build solidarity while asserting inherent rights and nationhood while protecting our lands for all people.
These colonial forms of legislation that the government expects to unilaterally impose on us has brought us together, to stand together
In short, Canada’s government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, passed a series of omnibus bills that drastically reduce environmental protections and violate numerous treaties with Indigenous tribes. Among other things, the bills eliminate federal protections of tens of thousands of lakes and rivers to only 97 lakes and 62 rivers, opening these waters up to pollution and degradation.
In response, First Nations people, primarily led by four women, began organizing grassroots actions to pressure the Canadian government to reverse these decisions. Protests and direct action activism have been taking place on a daily basis since October of last year, and the movement has grown rapidly. One of the most important actions around which people are rallying is the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence who has consumed nothing but water with lemon, herbal teas, and fish broth since December 11, 2012. Since its inception, solidarity actions have sprung up all over the world.
For some fantastic perspectives, check out Adrienne Keene‘s interviews from an LA #IdleNoMore Solidarity Rally:
Support and Participate in Solidarity Actions
Solidarity actions have been taking place regularly throughout the world. Just this past Monday there was an global day of action and solidarity with Idle No More. In my home city of Minneapolis there was a Round Dance Flash Mob at the Mall of America. Check it out:
A simple google search can help you identify some nearby solidarity actions for you to attend and support. If you can’t find anything happening nearby, reach out to some of the local Indigenous nations or tribes to see if they have anything planned.
Lobby Your Elected Officials
One of the reasons Idle No More has grown so quickly into an international movement is that the problems of environmental degradation and violation of Indigenous sovereignty are not unique to Canada. In the United States, the federal government has countless treaties that were made with Native tribes that have been and continue to be violated. There’s a reason that Aaron Huey uses the term “prisoners of war” to describe the Lakota people in the United States.
One simple way that you can support #IdleNoMore is to contact your elected officials. If you live in the U.S., consider that the United States and Canada have an incredibly close relationship, and if U.S. politicians start asking Canadian officials to respond in policy to Idle No More, it’s going to go a long way. Then, while you’re at it, you can ask them to take steps to return some public lands in the United States to the Indigenous tribes that land was stolen from.
Seriously. Write them. It will only take you 5-10 minutes.
Spread the Word
Finally, make sure that White folks can no longer ignore Idle No More and other Indigenous struggles for justice. Bring it up in conversation at your next dinner gathering or party. Talk to your family and friends about the movement. Doing so can not only help create more allies, but it can help change the perception among many White folks that Native people are simply relics of the past.