Idle No More: Bulletins from the Battlefronts

Today we published a piece introducing the Idle No More movement. Here we post some reports from some of the thousands of solidarity actions that have taken place worldwide, and some statements from the movement and other First Nations voices in solidarity with it.

Idle No More movement comes to Chattanooga

Among the hundreds of events across the globe that occurred as part of the January 11 Global Day of Action, Solidarity, and Resurgence in solidarity with the Idle No More Movement, was a small corner demonstration in Chattanooga, TN. Throughout the day, about ten people, including Indigenous people and their allies, held signs and talked to passersby to raise awareness about the Idle No More Movement itself and the issues addressed by the Movement.

Idle No More demonstration in Chattanooga

In addition to raising awareness about the illegal selling of mineral rights and pollution of water and soil on Indigenous lands in Canada and the Northwest U.S. where the Movement originated, demonstrators drew local connections to the recent announcement of the leasing of 900 acres in Hamilton County, TN to Atlas Energy for fracking.

Following the January 11 demonstration in Chattanooga, a larger demonstration was planned for Sunday, January 20 at Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga. The Prayer Gathering for Chief Theresa Spence and Idle No More planned to include prayer, dancing, drumming, and fellowship in support of Chief Theresa’s Spence’s hunger strike and the Idle No More Movement, starting with prayer at “The Passage,” a public art project that celebrates Cherokee history and heritage and commemorates the Trail of Tears.

It is significant that Indigenous folks chose to raise the issue of Indigenous sovereignty at Ross’s Landing. Ross’s Landing, now the centerpiece of Chattanooga’s multi-million dollar waterfront tourist area, was Chattanooga’s name before the forced removal of the Cherokees and was named for Cherokee Chief John Ross who settled at the site in 1816.

Visiting Ross’s Landing today and seeing children play in the water feature of “The Passage” meant to represent the tears of the Cherokee forced from their native lands in the 1830s by the U.S. Government, belies the tragic and brutal history of Ross’s Landing where thousands of Cherokee were warehoused in stockades for months awaiting departure to “Indian territory.” Hundreds died from disease in the stockades and thousands more died on the trek West. The Idle No More movement seeks to reassert Indigenous sovereignty and protect the land and water.


The Idle No More movement has swept over the border from Ontario and was joined in solidarity by Occupy Toledo, and a group of concerned citizens fighting back against the increasing refining of Tar Sands in Oregon, Ohio on the shores of the Western Lake Erie Basin. Occupy joined forces with people from a variety of local organizations including Move to Amend, the Sierra Club, the Green Party, the national lawyers guild and the University of Toledo’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

On Friday the 11th of January these forces converged on a BP gas station on one of the busiest corners of the city and proceeded to shut it down. Citizen’s used caution and danger ribbon to cordon off the entrances to the station and shut down the business completely for well over an hour. Several Anishinaabe were on hand for the action.

Idle No More demonstration in Toledo

Photo by Andy Morrison/Toledo Blade

Occupy Toledo has been developing a strategy to stop the increasing flow of tar sands from Saskatchewan to the greater Toledo area where the BP/Husky refinery belches out poison 24 hours a day. “The Idle No More movement has inspired us to join with the uprising to our north to put a stop to the decimation of our planet by the corporatocracy,” said occupier Alyx Kendzierski. The cops didn’t make a show until after 45 minutes of the station being shut down. When three cop cars showed up and ripped down the ribbon, the police presence kept the station down for another half hour. The action was covered by the local newspaper the Toledo Blade.

Another blockade is set for next Friday January 25th from 5 to 7 pm. There has also been a sticker campaign launched targeting gas pumps with small stickers that say Boycott BP, Tar Sands in Toledo google “tar sands”. The solidarity with Idle No More for the planet and future generations continues.

New York City

On January 16, a Wednesday night, around 50 people gathered at a community space called Brooklyn Commons for a fundraising dinner to support an Arizona struggle to preserve sacred sites from desecration. The event had been called and organized in just over a week, by folks from the Native Resistance Network.

The program kicked off with drumming and songs from the Rhode Island-based Wachamchick Warrior Society, which set the mood very effectively for a presentation by Klee Benally, a young Dine’ musician and activist who joined the event via Skype projection. He spoke powerfully about the struggle to stop a private firm, Arizona Snowbowl, from expanding its Flagstaff-area ski facilities onto peaks in the San Francisco Mountains sacred to 13 separate First Nations. The company brags that it is running the first ski area in the US where the snowmaking will be done with 100% reclaimed waste water, i.e. sewage!

Benally’s presentation directly spoke to the new situation that Idle No More has created, with many thousands of people in the US and Canada suddenly awakened by the movement. Addressing himself to the non-native people in the room, somewhat more than half the audience, he made some very sharp points about being allies in this struggle, points that should be taken up and dug into very widely.

Clearly speaking from experience, he warned of dangerous tendencies that arise among non-native anti-imperialists: invisible-ization of First Nations struggles, romanticization of indigenous people and unconsciously assuming the role of “white saviors.” Support. he explained, is different from solidarity, which is learned and built through action-in solidarity the parties have each other’s backs, and aren’t free to withdraw it lightly. “Allies,” he explained, “aren’t self-appointed.”

Tromsø, Norway

A woman named Kjerstin Uhre who is active around environmental issues and indigenous sovereignty began following Idle No More and decided to call a support demonstration a few days before the New Year, the first one in Norway. She was joined by other activists, including folk from the party named Rødt (Red). Because Tromsø is north of the Arctic Circle, it is especially noteworthy that two of the speakers were Sami, from the indigenous people who have historically inhabited Northern Scandinavia and lived as semi-nomadic reindeer herders. (Today the majority of Sami have live in Oslo and other large cities, where they struggle to overcome generations of cultural genocide and impoverishment.)

Statement From Chief Allan Adam regarding Highway 63 Roadblocks

January 15, 2013 – Fort McMurray, AB – In the wake of Idle No More and the AFN’s calls for blockades, peaceful protests and a stall of the Canadian economy Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) has made waves with talk of potential long term blockades in Northern Alberta.

“At this time we have no plans to organize or facilitate the organization of roadblock on highway 63 for January 16th or any set date. However, the people are upset with the current state of affairs in this country and things are escalating towards more direct action.

As a leader I have been talking to the people, talking with governments and industry to try and diffuse the situation that is coming to the surface. However, neither government nor industry seems willing to move on the issues and the people have said that enough is enough.

Both Federal and provincial governments’ have blind sided this Country with weaken environmental legislation, weakened protection of our waters, lands and animals and a weakened public review process. These legislative changes within Bill C-45 and Bill C-38 will expedite Canada’s abilities to extract billions of dollars in profits from Indigenous lands while most of our communities live in poverty and some without basic services like clean drinking water. The legacy that will be left for our people will be nothing more then polluted lands and waterways with little left for our people to survive on.

Our people have become the canaries in the coalmine. We are all at a precipice and at a pivotal point in history. We can either sit idly by and watch as the government sanctions the right to destroy the lands and rights of the people of this country or we can stand up and protect our lands and rights.

Unless Harper, the Canadian government and industry see the necessity to repeal the Bills or at the very least, remove amendments made to and renegotiate the terms of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, The Environmental Assessment Act, the National Energy Board Act and the Indian Act, you can expect to see matters escalate not just here in Alberta but across this Country.

The blockade of Highway 63 is something that has always been a possibility even before Idle No More. For the last 50 years people in Northern Alberta have been living at ground zero in one of the world’s most destructive industrial projects, the Alberta Tar Sands. The tar sands infrastructure includes pipelines to the east, west, south and north needed to ship tar sands out and bring in solvents used in processing. It includes proposed nuclear reactors and natural gas mining to generate power for needed for extraction. It involves utilizing massive amounts of fresh water to process and leaves incredibly large toxic waste lakes that are contaminating plants, animals and neighbouring waterways. It creates vast amounts of greenhouse gases fueling climate chaos and contributing to alarming climate change.

Our community has been challenging applications made by Shell Oil Canada, has repeated asked for better environmental protections, basic third party independent monitoring, and a moratorium until further studies are done to determine to cumulative impacts of the tar sands on the people and the land. To date all we have seen is nothing more then meetings and lip service.

The Oil, Gas and pipeline industry asked the government for legislative changes to better protect their investments and assets in the name of “economic growth” and within ten months the government made sweeping changes to legislation in their favor.

Indigenous Rights and environmental protection are intrinsically tied together, our rights are contingent on thriving eco-systems and intact biodiversity. Without fresh water and pristine lands we cannot practice our cultural and spiritual way of being. By weakening environmental protection and avenues for challenging industrial development the government has weakened it’s respect and fiduciary obligation to uphold the Canadian Constitution and our inherent treaty and aboriginal rights in Canada. It’s time for Canada to negotiate the terms of adequate environmental protection in partnership with Treaty and Aboriginal rights.

If no changes are made in the coming months I guarantee we will see Nationwide peaceful picket lines set up, resulting in blockades of major highways, against all resource extraction and development that is being done in violation of the Canadian Constitution, with unjust environmental standards and in contravention of our inherent rights to live, breathe and sustain ourselves on our lands.”

Idle No More calls for Worldwide Day of Action on January 28

Idle No More grassroots Founders and Organizers from across Canada, in Solidarity with Common Causes – a new initiative bringing together social justice, environmental, labour and other Activist Groups…

– UNITED we are planning IDLE NO MORE WORLD DAY OF ACTION on January 28th, 2013 #J28.

This day of action will peacefully protest attacks on Democracy, Indigenous Sovereignty, Human Rights and Environmental Protections when Canadian MPs return to the House of Commons on January 28th. As a grassroots movement, clearly no political organization speaks for Idle No More. This movement is of the people… For The People! #IDLENOMOREFTP

The Vision of IDLE NO MORE revolves around Indigenous Ways of Knowing rooted in Indigenous Sovereignty to protect water, air, land and all creation for future generations.

The Conservative government bills beginning with Bill C-45 threaten Treaties and this Indigenous Vision of Sovereignty.

The Goal of the movement is education and the revitalization of Indigenous peoples through Awareness and Empowerment. IDLE NO MORE has successfully encouraged knowledge sharing of Indigenous Sovereignty and Environmental Protections.

This message has been heard around the world and the world is watching how Canada responds to the message sent by many INM Supporters.

INM urges the government of Canada to repeal all legislation; which violates Treaties, Indigenous Sovereignty and subsequently Environmental Protections of land and water.

INM is grateful to many leaders who have supported this vision and the movement of the grassroots people. “The Treaties are the last line of defense to protect water and lands from destruction,” stated Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs.



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