Should Pagans Idle No More?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 27, 2012 — 24 Comments

Earlier this December a new movement began when a coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous women in Canada came together out of concern for bills put forward by the Canadian government (specifically Bill C-45) that they feel are attacks on the environment and sovereignty rights of First Nations peoples. Dubbed “Idle No More” the movement has gained high profile attention thanks in part to an ongoing hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who wants Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and representatives of the crown to sit down with First Nations leaders.

“Conceived in November by four Saskatchewan women frustrated with the Tories’ latest omnibus budget bill, Idle No More is a First Nations protest movement looking to obtain renewed government guarantees for treaty agreements and halt what organizers see as a legislative erosion of First Nations rights. The movement’s most visible spokeswoman is Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, the Northern Ontario reserve struck by an emergency housing crisis last year. Since Dec. 11, Ms. Spence has been on a hunger strike while camped on an Ottawa River island only a few hundred metres from Parliament Hill, vowing not to eat until she has secured a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Since early December, protests spurred by Idle No More have included a 1,000-person demonstration on Parliament Hill last week, a blockade of a CN rail spur near Sarnia that continued for a sixth day on Wednesday and a variety of brief demonstrations and blockades across Canada and parts of the United States.”

In the wake of these events Idle No More and Chief Spence’s actions have gained worldwide attention, sparking a wider call towards respecting the sovereignty rights of all indigenous peoples alongside greater attention to environmental and sustainability concerns.

idle no more image aaron paquette

“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.”

Given the themes of responsible environmental stewardship and respect for indigenous rights this is a movement that seems custom-made for Pagans to support and get involved in. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, solidarity with native and indigenous peoples is a natural stance for those trying to revive, reconstruct, and re-imagine pre-Christian faiths (so long as we do so with integrity). Of course not all Pagans will want to involve themselves for a variety of reasons, but it’s rare for a global movement to emerge that is so in line with our stated values. So in the months ahead I plan to look for, and document, Pagan reactions and involvement with Idle No More, and hopefully chart how this movement changes the narrative of indigenous sovereignty rights, a topic often ignored in global politics.

For those interested in learning more, and getting involved, here’s a link to a resource page. If you are a Pagan already involved, please contact me with your thoughts, and how you see your Pagan values lining up with Idle No More’s values. For my readership, what do you think? Should Pagans Idle No More?

Send to Kindle

Jason Pitzl-Waters

Posts

  • SAMI

    My participation has been small, as with most things, writing letters, signing petitions. I live in Ottawa so my family to time out of our busy Solstice Celebrations to join the walk on Parliament Hill before racing home for our own Proto-Grove Ritual. Since then we have watched the end of one round dance flash mob, on Boxing Day at a local mall, traffic was hard, and continue to share as much information with those we talk to via Social Media or family Holiday Video Calls. I feel it is important to Walk our Talk, and support all those looking out for the future of Mother Earth.

  • http://twitter.com/AnnaSoleil86 Anna Soleil

    Why WOULDN’T we want to stand with the indigenous (and non-indigenous) peoples in this? This is about the environment AND justice, why would we NOT take part?

  • http://twitter.com/lysana Brenda/Lysana/either

    Let’s just make sure not to co-opt the movement. It’s too easy for white people to take the concerns of people of color and make them about us. Support, yes, please. But always, always we must keep THEIR voices as the ones on the forefront. We should be there to help, not to take over.

    • Northern_Light_27

      This, thank you. Support, as allies, yes. But there’s a disturbing tendency in parts of Pagandom to co-opt the concerns of First Nations and Native American people out of the idea that we’re also “practicing indigenous religion”, so therefore we’re more or less the same. That’s just plain not so.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Hard to practice an indigenous religion when not in that religion’s homeland, don’t you think? All religions are indigenous to somewhere, after all.

        • http://www.facebook.com/paul.pearson.5494 Paul Pearson

          “Hard to practice an indigenous religion when not in that religion’s homeland, don’t you think?” That hasn’t stopped countless people profiteering from native spirituality.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Agreed. Can’t say it’s a good thing, though.

    • Peter Dybing

      I agree don’t take over, however, History teaches that it is when people of privilege come forward that real change follows. Think Freedom Riders, Trevon Martin etc. By confronting our own privilege publicly much can be gained. Turning privilege on its self has shown to be one of the most effective forms of creating social change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/candis.murphy1 Candis Murphy

    This feels like a call to the people of the rainbow to stand up for mother earth. The earth is our mother WE MUST TAKE CARE OF HER!!!

    • Coldwind327

      We must pay Her due respect or She will kill us. We have a tendency to talk about ‘saving the Earth’ – but it’s us we’re putting at risk.

  • Meiichii

    I identify as an Aboriginal person (and a Pagan), so let me take the time to thank people who have devoted time to helping to raise us up and have our voices be heard. This means those of you attending flash mobs/protests, and those of you setting social media abuzz with talk of it. Thank you for doing what everyone SHOULD do by recognizing the value of others’ rights and of the environment. Honestly and sincerely, thank you.
    To address Mr. Piztl-Waters’ interest: I personally am not interested in the movement simply because of my heritage or religion, but as a person who chose to have her spiritual practice defined by the integrity and fairness with which she interacts with the world and with others. I see Harper’s disregard for Section 35 of our country’s Constitution Act, and for the quality of life of all Canadians (beginning but not limited to Aboriginal persons) as a matter of injustice with which I do not choose to be complicit.

  • Sparrow

    Jason, I am involved as is most of my family. My siblings have been at various IdleNoMore protests. My brother created the black/purple poster for IdleNoMore. We will be discussing the movement on The Wigglian Way as well. I think that Pagans should definitely be involved. If not for anything else…at least as stewards of the Mother. No First Nations are going to think that non FN people are appropriating this movement. They want it to grow. It’s not just about Aboriginal people in Canada. It is so much more than that. EVERY ONE should be involved. It’s peaceful and it won’t work if lot of people and organisations don’t get involved. BTW…as Jason knows, I am White (looking). I have spoken to my Brothers and Sisters who have spoken to Elders. This is one time when you won’t be co-opting. However, work WITH FN leaders. Let the Grandmothers lead. That is important. I apologise for the sloppiness of this comment but I just got in the door from a trip North for Yule. I am exhausted.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I love the concept, but am unsure how it can really become global.

    The concept of ‘indigenity’ tends to apply to people other than Europeans. Living in England, I am unsure just who could be called indigenous.

    • Coldwind327

      ‘Indigenous’ means ‘born from the land’. So an indigenous person is literally anyone who was born in a place.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Not everyone agrees with that definition.

    • Kathryn NicDhàna

      There is global support for the sovereignty of the First Nations people in Canada. The actions happening in other countries are in support of the struggle in Canada.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I thought that the implication was to make it bigger than just the Canadian First Nations and to promote the rights of indigenous peoples across the globe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1537716003 Kathy Engle-Dulac

    This movement is timely, and falls directly in line with concerns we all share. Following the leaders of this movement, supporting their efforts, and allowing the legitimate concerns of native peoples the press they deserve can only help. The importance of listening to and working with the leaders of this movement, rather than trying to make it about “us”, is of the utmost importance.

  • Kathryn Price NicDhàna

    I want to thank the people who’ve spoken about the need to support and add to the numbers, while making sure that non-Native voices do not take over. Many of us who could be considered “Pagan” are participating by supporting our Indigenous friends and relatives, and following their lead. We are making phonecalls and writing letters, using social media, making graphics, etc, but we are working in partnership with, and respecting the leadership of, Indigenous people.

    One clarification, you wrote: “a coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous women” – Idle No More was founded by three First Nations (Indigenous) women and one non-Native ally. It is an Indigenous movement.

    Here’s some feedback from a non-Native involved in this: If you want to do a local action, or join a local group, find out what Native people have already organized groups. We actually *are* seeing a problem with non-Natives wanting to form and lead Idle No More groups. While I’m seeing that the support is very appreciated, we need to make sure this is truly solidarity and not appropriation. I’ll link here to the long post I did earlier this year, with lots of links to writings by Native people, about what has happened as #Occupy/#Decolonize got overrun with appropriators and pretendians.

    Again, support is great; let’s just make sure we don’t duplicate the mistakes that have been made with #Occupy/#Decolonize.

    • Kathryn NicDhàna

      Apologies for the duplicate post. Disqus was being wonky. Jason, could you delete this one? Thanks!

  • Kathryn Price NicDhàna

    I want to thank the people who’ve spoken about the need to support while making sure that non-Native voices do not take over. Many of us who could be considered “Pagan” are participating by supporting our Indigenous friends and relatives, and following their lead. We are making phonecalls and writing letters, being another body at demos, using social media, making graphics, etc, but we are working in partnership with, and respecting the leadership of, Indigenous people.

    One clarification, you wrote: “a coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous women” – Idle No More was founded by three First Nations (Indigenous) women and one non-Native ally. It is an Indigenous movement.

    The Canadian government has violated the treaties. The initial agreements were for the colonists to deal with the already-existing First Nations on a nation to nation basis. But the Canadian government is now trying to strip away their last rights as sovereign nations. This is a grassroots movement to keep that from happening, and to return to respect for the treaties. The priorities are grassroots action, nonviolence, and the treaties.

    Here’s some feedback from a non-Native involved in this: If you want to do a local action, or join a local group, find out what Native people in the area are doing – in most cases they have already organized groups. For the most part, so far things are overwhelmingly Indigenous at the demos. But we actually *are* seeing a bit of a problem with non-Natives wanting to form and lead Idle No More groups (in some cases, they are misrepresenting themselves as Native and forming a group where there is already a Native one). While I’m seeing that respectful support is very appreciated, we need to make sure this is truly solidarity and not appropriation. For instance, if people are doing a solidarity action that does not involve Native spiritual leaders, for them to pray and sing in the ways of *their own* culture, not imitate the ways of NDN people or try to use their sacred songs or ceremonies (including smudging).

    I’ll link here to the long post I did earlier this year, with lots of links to writings by Native people, about what has happened as #Occupy/#Decolonize got overrun with appropriators and pretendians: Americans and “Indigenous” Identity

    Again, support is great. This movement is becoming international. Let’s just make sure we don’t duplicate the mistakes that have been made with #Occupy / #Decolonize.

  • Kathryn NicDhàna
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1456758389 William Grimm Kingsbury

    There is a new petition on the White House website asking President Obama to call on PM Harper to meet with Chief Theresa Spence: http://wh.gov/QtD5 . Please sign and share.

  • Janet

    Please help us get more women in office. “Vote Your Gramma In Office” will be our focus for 2013-14. Join us…we need your help around the world. You can check us out at http://www.mintpress.net/still-searching-for-peace-recognizing-five-heroes-from-2012/ (Janet Wilson)