In Canada, a budget bill (C-45) supported by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other conservative lawmakers, would unilaterally alter treaties with First Nations people, drastically affect lands and waterways on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, and reduce jobs for all Canadians. This alarming development has caused unrest across the country. Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat is in her 18th day of a hunger strike (as of Friday December 28), which she says will last until she can speak with Prime Minister Harper and Canada's Governor General (who represents the English Crown) about the aforementioned treaty violations. She is prepared to die if her demands are not met.
Meanwhile, Indigenous teach-ins and demonstrations—including flash mobs in shopping malls (as seen on Democracy Now!, link below) and blocking of highways--have been occurring throughout the nation. Solidarity events and awareness-building have been occurring in the U.S. and in countries further to the south. Australian Aborigines have also expressed solidarity.
Pamela Palmater, of the Eel River Bar First Nation and spokeswoman for Idle No More, recently discussed the issues and situation on Democracy Now!
In Los Angeles, a weekly rally has been underway outside the Canadian consulate at 550 South Hope Street in downtown. There are highlights of the one held last week (December 21) on YouTube.
On December 28, approximately 50 people turned out in the middle of a weekday. (There were conflicting statements as to whether this number exceeded or fell short of last week's attendance.) People from several areas were present (or represented), including the Owens Valley, Morongo, and Yangna (Los Angeles).
“The Canadian government is not fulfilling their role as treaty holders/treaty makers,” said Sara Gepp of American Indian Movement. “So there's a huge disparity there, and we're standing in solidarity to let the Canadian government know, here at the Canadian consulate, that indigenous people all over North America will support other indigenous people in a very peaceful way; we're committed to non-violence.”
A common sentiment expressed by speakers was, “if we won't do it, who will?”
Paulina, of the Morongo tribe, echoed this feeling. “We all have other things to do, but if we don't stand up for our resources that do affect our brothers and sisters in Canada, then who will do it?” she said. “Who's gonna share awareness and share the truth if we all have better things to do? This is the best thing today that I can do with my time. Hopefully [this event] will help educate people on what's going on with C-45 and the treaties that are in danger of being broken. That's what inspired me.
“Also, as I was looking for some documentation, I came across a book. I thumbed through it, and there was a quote from one of the Cahuilla elders about how Mother Earth was given to us as a gift from Creator, and we have to take care of her and protect her. So that inspired me to stop looking and to get down here.
“Everyone can say, 'Oh, I'm against this,' or 'I'm against that,' but what are they going to do to help the situation? So I figured that by me coming out here I could meet some more people, and I could educate myself some more about what's going on with Idle No More and what's happening in Canada, and somehow contribute.”
Paulina arguably had compelling reasons to stay home: it had been a long week, and she was preparing to apply for a scholarship--but again, she underscored the influence of the book she was studying. “Just by thumbing through that, I saw some pictures of our people from like the late 1800s, and I was like, 'It still has an effect today, and it's tricked down, and we can't ignore that.'"
She said this was her first experience with activism. “I'm a supporter of Gene Autry (the Native events that they have there), and I try to support Rockin' the Rez. It provides propane for elders in need, like in South Dakota. But I was thinking: 'How can I contribute? What am I doing today to make a difference?'
”I'm glad I came. I was hoping to see more people...”
She wants to bring attention regarding Idle No More to the Tribal Council in Morongo.
More peaceful events are planned for southern California, including a flash mob at the Ontario Mills Mall.