The year 2013 began with the promise of a revitalized Indigenous resistance movement. Most agree resistance has been ongoing since contact, however in this instance it was happening as the phenomenon of Idle No More, and was in some ways, the most unifying Indigenous led movement social media had ever seen. Which is how and why it touched the nerve centre of the Canadian political body, challenging settler Canadians to consider the reality of Indigenous Nationhood, which includes Nation to Nation relationships and at the same time extends an invitation to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to participate together in protecting the water and environment for the benefit everyone.
There are many politically imposed issues impacting Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. The catalyst for Idle No More was the 450 page omnibill C-45. With its unprecedented changes to long standing environmental protection acts and other changes to the Indian Act, it was the voice of four women spreading awareness of this bill in local teach ins that started the global campaign for action. The phrase “Idle No More” began as a hashtag (#) on twitter, and related information has most often been shared through social media. The Indigenous twitterati combined with those in other networks like tumblr and facebook, are a massive and savvy social network. And while the issues are quite serious, they have been framed within some of the most compelling and satirical hashtags.
Some highlights include #Ottawapiskat (via @aaronpaquette) referencing several issues in one satirical spin – firstly the problematic and hypocritical lens with which mainstream media approached issues related to Attawapiskat, including the assigning of third party management by the government of Canada. It also spoke to the multiple scandals of the Harper government, suggesting that it is in fact Ottawa who is in need of third party management. #Upsettlers from ally @SettlerColonial was another favorite as a response to racist commentary on Idle No More, Chief Spence and other Indigenous issues via social and mainstream media.
#J11 (January 11, 2013) was the second National day of action for Idle No More. Thousands gathered across the globe on that date to show support for Chief Theresa Spence and Idle No More, and yet, despite the global outcry, Stephen Harper maintained his steadfast indifference. On that same date, AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo met with Harper, undeterred by massive community pressure and Harper’s unwillingness to include Chief Spence, as well as other Chiefs in the meeting. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the promise of “high level talks” between Ottawa and First Nations. Specifically the AFN received $400,000 to set up a senior oversight committee and do research, however, in early January 2014, the high level talks came to an official close and were deemed a failure.
Though there are political failures all too often tied to colonialism, there have also been victories, such as #FlanagansLastStand when Levi Little Mustache and Arnell Tailfeathers challenged former Harper advisor Tom Flanagan during a public lecture on the abolishment of the Indian Act. Little Mustache asked Flanagan about an off cuff comment made in 2009 to student paper The Manitoban, in which Flanagan stated “what’s wrong with child pornography — in the sense that it’s just pictures?” Flanagan’s response was filmed by Tailfeathers and posted to youtube where it went viral, leading to the University of Calgary announcing Flanagan’s early retirement, and CBC’s Power and Politics dropping him as a commentator.
As Idle No More breathed life into the political landscape, there have been other resurgences occurring. Walks such as the youth led Journey of #Nishiyuu walkers traveled for 1,600 kilometers from Whapmagoostui First Nation to Ottawa, starting with six plus a guide and ending in Ottawa with over 500 people, where they were greeted by hundreds more on unceded Algonquin territory. Language spreecasts and apps have emerged and more people are participating in ceremonies with a renewed sense of pride. Documentaries, feature films as well as grassroots media continue to produce stories that are all too often obscured in mainstream by a colonial white wash. #RockYourMocs highlights the pride of not only wearing moccasins but if you can, making them and setting them apart from the mass produced moccasins that have made their way into mainstream fashion, and of course if that is the case, you might see the NativerThanYou hashtag.
Jeff Corntassel, Professor in Indigenous Governance at University of Victoria coined the#EveryDayActsOfResurgence for asserting Indigeneity be it learning and speaking language to renaming/reclaiming projects like #PKOLS in WSANEC and Songhees territory and the#OgimaaMikana project in Toronto.
Looking ahead into 2014, #IdleNoMore continues to be a touchstone for various political and cultural movements. If one were to rely solely on mainstream media to follow the evolution of Indigenous resistance it could easily be missed. Social media networks however, prove that Indigenous resistance and resurgence is alive and well, and continues to flourish and express itself in dynamic ways, most of which can be followed via a hashtag revolution.