Implement UNDRIP Poster at Idle No More rally on July 1, 2017 | Image source: Erica Commanda
While 2017 marked Canada 150 celebrations across the country, there were many powerful actions across Indigenous Country that ignited an important counter narrative: Canada is our home ON Native Land. Let’s take a look at the movements that will likely continue the groundswell of work laid out for us to decolonize and reshape this country in 2018:
Crashing Canada 150
Leading up to Canada 150 celebrations on July 1st, Idle No More and Defenders of the Land organizers across the country led the “Unsettle 150 Campaign” to counter those celebrations. Their goal was to educate the mainstream public about the importance of Indigenous self-determination over land and resources. This messaged echoed that of the late prominent Secwepemc land defender, Arthur Manuel (1951-2017) whose legacy continues on through the work of his children, Idle No More, Defenders of the Land and his insightful books: Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call, and The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy.
Tiny House Warriors Assert Indigenous Land Title
In August, 2017 Kanahus Manuel, daughter of the late Arthur Manuel, led a group of Secwepemc activists and supporters, which included Greenpeace in building ten tiny houses along the route of the Trans Mountain pipeline to block its construction. Kanahus also intends that the sites be used for language camps and traditional tattooing. The land that the Trans Mountain pipeline is being built on is on traditional unceded Secwepemc territory and the Liberal government said it would use military force for anyone protesting pipeline construction. Keep an eye out for the Tiny House Warriors in 2018.
Introducing Nimkii Aazhabikong
In the summer of 2017 Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belcourt helmed the construction of Nimkii Aazhabikong, an Indigenous culture camp to help empower Indigenous youth to follow the traditional governance system and break models that the Indian Act has imposed on Indigenous people. The camp was initiated by community Elders who had visions of going back to the traditional ways of the land two years ago. “This is a camp of resurgence,” says Isaac Murdoch (Anishinaabe) who is helping build the camp. “We want it to be for the environment, for the waters and to start getting out on the land and occupying our traditional spaces. Our resurgence is the resistance.”
Over A Decade of Water Walks with Grandmother Josephine Mandamin
This year marked the last time that Grandmother (Nokomis) Water Walker, Josephine Mandamin would complete a Water Walk journey to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of the waters for future generations. An annual journey sparked by Josephine in 2013, this year’s Water Walk was completed alongside a group who canoed the Great Lakes, called Picking Up the Bundles Journey. Grandmother Josephine has now walked around each of the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence River. Grandmother Josephine was a special guest at MUSKRAT Magazine’s 3rd Annual Gchi Dewin Indigenous Storytellers Festival where she shared with audience; “When you walk with the water you have to listen to what’s it’s trying to tell you.” Ask yourself this question: what will you do to protect the water in 2018?
Indigenous Voices Will No Longer Be Ignored
Hal Niedzviecki, former Editor of Write Magazine, faced immense backlash from Indigenous writers and storytellers which led to his resignation for his opinion article, Winning the Cultural Appropriation Prize, which promoted the idea of non-Indigenous authors to write Indigenous stories and “people who aren’t remotely like her or him”. The article was published in an issue dedicated to Indigenous writers- proving Hal knows very little about the negative impacts of cultural appropriation for Indigenous communities. This cultural appropriation prize idea was supported on social media by many high profile White editors, writers and columnists from many Canadian media outlets which snowballed into a fierce nationwide conversation highlighting the need for more diversity within the Canadian media landscape. It also brought attention to the fact that Indigenous voices will no longer be ignored and cultural appropriation is not acceptable.
Walking With Our Sisters
This year, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Inquiry got off to a rocky start facing a groundswell of criticism from Indigenous women leaders with repeated calls for a complete overhaul. The criticism has highlighted the tensions that can arise between organizing frameworks grounded in the cultures of Indigenous communities and those formed within government bureaucracies. In the midst of all of this, Walking With Our Sisters (WWOS), continues to lead healing ceremonies and community art installations across Canada. WWOS honours the lives of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people who have gone missing or been murdered since the onset of colonization. For tour dates and locations go to: walkingwithoursisters.ca/events
Vegan “Activists” Fail Against Indigenous-Owned Kukum Kitchen Restaurant
Over the course of the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend a group of misinformed vegan activists started a petition that targeted Toronto based Indigenous owned restaurant, Kukum Kitchen to take seal meat off their menu. Kukum’s social media pages were even targeted with fake one star reviews. Little did these activists know that the seal meat dishes were put on Kukum’s menu to honour our Inuit brothers and sisters in the North, who have been hunting seal sustainably off the land for thousands of years. In the end, support for the restaurant prevailed with the help from Anishinaabe artist and activist, Aylan Couchie, the restaurant grew busier and seal meat is still served at Kukum Kitchen. To understand this controversy watch Angry Inuk.
Idle No More: Not One More Indigenous Child
On December 21 2017, Idle No More Toronto led a march from Indigenous Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), 25 St.Clair Street to the epicentre of Christmas consumerism: Yonge and Dundas Square where they led a round dance and then went into the Eaton Centre for more round dancing. Two Indigenous women from the group had been holding vigil space for over 150 days outside of INAC to raise awareness about the Youth suicide epidemic that faces many northern Ontario First Nations communities. “Indigenous people gave up everything so that settlers can be on these lands and they [settlers] have no idea of the issues that Indigenous people are facing” explained Quinn Meawasige (Serpent River FN) who attended the march and round dance. “For people who live in places like Toronto, where they are just focused on themselves and don’t think about how they benefit as a result of our suffering, maybe this will make them think.”
Moving Forward into 2018
Idle No More was highlighted in The Reconciliation Manifesto for the work they do as “ the basis for building a movement in Canada” and that “they are the future of our struggle and our struggle is building a new, decolonized Canada where our cultures and land rights are respected.”
If you look at all the rights that mainstream modern day society are fighting for today: women’s equality, environmental protection, LGBTQ2S rights; they were values that were instilled in the many different Indigenous cultures that populated Turtle Island before Europeans and Christians came to “civilize” Indigenous Peoples. Reading Unsettling Canada: A National Wake Up Call and The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy will help people unaware of these issues understand how deep Indigenous people’s connection to land is and how rooted racism is within Canadian policies. Indigenous people are here to protect the land, water and air we breathe for the seven generations ahead of us to thrive and not turn a quick profit that will only benefit this generation.