This column is usually reserved for happenings that take place within the community of Barrio Logan and the surrounding Historic Barrio District. On occasion I will deviate from that if there is an issue that is near and dear to my family and I. This is one of those times.
My wife Olympia, her teenage children, and her mom Glo Andrade have been involved with Native culture most of their lives. Olympia has been a danzante Azteca since she was a teenager, most recently dancing with Danza Mixcoatl until she was pregnant with our toddler son Sandino. Her mom and family have attended sweat lodge ceremonies over the years as well as Sundance ceremonies in Arizona. Native culture and ways are a vital part of their existence. And the Idol No More movement is something they are in solidarity with.
On the first day of the new year Olympia, Glo, my son Dino, stepdaughter Ouseli and I, along with 75-100 other people, attended a flash mob drum circle/round dance at Horton Plaza in Downtown San Diego. All of us came together on short notice to stand in solidarity with the indigenous people of Canada and the Idle No More movement.
Those gathered near the Lyceum Theater recognized that people Native to the Americas have become invisible to the powers that be. But they refuse to be invisible no more. They will no longer be idle while treaty and indigenous rights are whittled away by governments that are bought and paid for by multi-national corporations whose sole goal is to make capital off of Mother Earth’s natural resources at the expense of Native people.
Of the people in attendance at this peaceful demonstration many have been involved locally in various Native issues, Chicano issues and in the Occupy San Diego movement. It was a good, multicultural, cross section of San Diego humanity. All coming together to respect Native treaties, rights and ways. Some came with drums and rattles. Others with signs. Many participated in the round dance while others watched up close as members of local tribes sang tribute to the First Nations people of Canada where the Idle No More movement started.
“Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth,” says a statement from the Idle No More website.
The Idle No More movement was founded by four female activists (Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon) during a teach-in in Saskatoon, Canada called Idle No More in November of 2012. The teach-in was held in response to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s introduction of Bill C-45 that implemented numerous measures which would weaken environmental protection laws. Specifically, measures that would affect Canadian waterways. Many of which pass through First Nations land.
Eventually, word spread throughout the various First Nations of Canada and more teach-ins, rallies and protests were organized through Facebook and Twitter under the hashtag #IdleNoMore (which was first used by Canadian activist Tanya Kappo). Protests were launched in conjunction with the announcement that on December 11 Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat would begin a hunger strike to demand a meeting with the Prime Minister. Due to pressure from Idle No More and the various First Nations of Canada Harper has agreed to meet with Chief Spence and other First Nations Chiefs on January 11 to discuss treaty rights. Chief Spence, who has conducted her strike inside a traditional teepee within eyesight of Canada’s parliament building in Ottawa, will decide after the meeting wether to continue the hunger strike or call it off. It all depends on the words and actions of the Prime Minister.
Many in Canada have used flash mobs and civil disobedience to highlight the tragedy of Canadian Bill C-45, including holding round dances in numerous shopping malls as well as blockading highways, roads and border crossings. As word of Idle No More and the hunger strike of Chief Spence has grown people from all over the globe have stood in solidarity with the indigenous people of Canada by holding demonstrations in their respective areas. Including those of us here in San Diego who gathered on January first and plan on gathering again on January 11.
While at the Idle No More demonstration I had the opportunity to interview a few of the people in attendance. Here is what some of them had to say about their reasons for being there:
“I’m here to unite and help the people and the sister [Chief Spence] in prayer from the First Nations. It’s a spiritual journey and it’s a spiritual walk of healing. Of uniting the people together of all races and all people.” – Dennis Alto, Native activist
“I’m here today to support Chief Spence and I’m here to support the reawakening of indigenous people on this continent.” – Ericka Zamora, counselor
“I’m here to support our brothers and sisters from up north. I’m here to support them because of the broken treaties that have been going on for too long. Especially now. It’s all about capitalism and it’s all about slow genocide. Ya basta! That’s enough. Honestly, to me, it all starts with us here being wasteful. Wasteful because we are the ones putting out the demand to Canada because we get most of our fuel from Canada. And so we’re the ones putting out the demand.They’re putting up the supply. It starts here at home with us. We need to stop being so wasteful. And because of the money hungry capitalists they are the ones breaking these treaties and they’re screwing up the environment for everybody. It starts with us. That’s the bottom line.” – Birdie Gutierrez, activist
“I’m here in support of the indigenous first nations. I read that they are being denied some rights in Canada. And they started this movement called Idle No More. They are being supported nation wide.” – Pat Gracian, member of Occupy San Diego
“I feel this is a new era that we’re all part of. The issue of land and what the indigenous people have been dealing with all over not only Canada but Aztlan is the same issue. This is where I live. It could be Kumeyaay. It could be Chicano. Whatever you want to call it. This is our land. I felt like today you got to kick off this new period on a positive. The circle always makes me feel unified with other people. It’s always real positive.” – Victor Ochoa, artist/activist
“We’re here to stand in solidarity with the compas up north in Canada, the indigenous nations up there. They’re tired of always having to give up their lands and resources. Those are things that their families have depended on for generations and cultivated and respected. They’re doing it and we’re here to support with solidarity. Just like our brothers and sisters down south the EZLN. They’re walking and marching in silence for dignity, for human rights, for their land. Basic human rights.” – Enrique De La Cruz, Chicano activist
The most recent post on the Idle No More website states: “Idle No More activities will not stop until we reach our two goals: Indigenous sovereignty (Nation to Nation relationship) and protection of the land and water (Social and Environmental Sustainability). Once we reach these goals, we will continue to work to protect them. In essence, Idle No More is here to stay.”
This is but another beginning of a resurgence of Native people demanding what is rightfully theirs. We’ve seen it in South America where the indigenous people of Bolivia stood up and elected Aymara indian Evo Morales as the President. We’ve saw it in the Mexican state of Chiapas 19 years ago when the Mayan people took up arms under the Zapatista banner. We saw it in the 1960’s and ’70’s as the American Indian Movement stood up demanding to have their concerns heard and met within the United States. And we see it again today as the First Peoples of Canada have declared that they will be Idle No More. This is but another beginning towards justice for Native Peoples. Hopefully sometime soon there will be no more beginnings. Only an end.
On Friday, January 11, 2013 there will be an Idle No More round dance in Ocean Beach on the corner of Newport Ave. and Abbott St. The gathering will start at 11am with the round dance to commence at noon. Show your solidarity and stand with the First Nations of Canada and the indigenous people of the Americas.
Idle No More Manifesto
We contend that:
The Treaties are nation to nation agreements between First Nations and the British Crown who are sovereign nations. The Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two Nations. The spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that First Nations peoples would share the land, but retain their inherent rights to lands and resources. Instead, First Nations have experienced a history of colonization which has resulted in outstanding land claims, lack of resources and unequal funding for services such as education and housing.
We contend that:
The state of Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by using the land and resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are the most powerful in the world due to land and resources. Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land but do not get a share of the profit. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned – the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada. We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land.
We contend that:
Currently, this government is trying to pass many laws so that reserve lands can also be bought and sold by big companies to get profit from resources. They are promising to share this time…Why would these promises be different from past promises? We will be left with nothing but poisoned water, land and air. This is an attempt to take away sovereignty and the inherent right to land and resources from First Nations peoples.
We contend that:
There are many examples of other countries moving towards sustainability, and we must demand sustainable development as well. We believe in healthy, just, equitable and sustainable communities and have a vision and plan of how to build them. Please join us in creating this vision.
For more information on the Idle No More movement visit www.idlenomore.com.