January 02, 2013

Idle No More vs. chiefs

Idle No More founders distance themselves from chiefs

By Christopher CurtisIn a matter of weeks, a series of teach-ins on a small Saskatchewan reserve took on a life of their own—becoming a nationwide aboriginal protest movement.

But now it appears the rapidly growing Idle No More movement is experiencing its first real growing pains. On Monday, the founders of Idle No More issued a statement distancing themselves from native chiefs who claim to be acting on behalf of the campaign.

“The Chiefs have called for action and anyone who chooses can join with them, however this is not part of the Idle No More movement as the vision of this grassroots movement does not coincide with the visions of the Leadership,” said the statement, released on Idle No More’s official website.

“While we appreciate the individual support we have received from chiefs and councilors, we have been given a clear mandate … to work outside of the systems of government and that is what we will continue to do.”
Attawapiskat Chief Spence urges Idle No More to unite with leadership, says chiefs ready to ‘humble themselves’Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who is on day 22 of a hunger strike, has asked the founders of the Idle No More movement to unify with First Nations leaders, saying “the chiefs are ready now to humble themselves for the people.”

The letter to Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nin Was’te and Sheelah McLean, was written on behalf of Spence by one of her closest aides, Angela Bercier, a student from Long Plain First Nation who is in Aboriginal studies at the University of Ottawa.

In the letter, released Tuesday, Spence asks the founders of Idle No More not to “shame” chiefs for their past mistakes and instead unite.

“This is Chief Spence’s message: ‘Let us come together in unity, because all of us, chiefs and grassroots, are one. If we are going to point fingers, let us point them squarely at this colonial government. The chiefs have made mistakes in the past, but don’t shame them for these. They are, after all, our people. The chiefs are ready now to humble themselves for the people,’” said the letter, which was signed by Bercier under her spirit name Apischi Kihiwikwan Iskwew.
Comment:  Interesting dilemma. I think movements like Occupy Wall Street and Idle No More need planning and leadership to accomplish something beyond making noise and raising awareness. But the established leaders, the tribal chiefs, may be more of a problem than a solution.

They've had their chance, and what have they done? Whatever they've done, they haven't created a mass movement that has the potential to change the game.

Anyway, finding talented and visionary leaders may be key to Idle No More's success. Lack of leadership is part of what caused the Occupy movement to peter out.

But how do you do that in a movement with no ownership or organization? You need leaders to find leaders.

Obviously, I don't have any answers. So it remains to be seen whether Idle No More will be a permanent force for change or a flash in the pan.

For more on Idle No More, see Idle No More's Goals and Palestinians Endorse Idle No More.

Below:  "Members of the Haisla First Nation march in Kitimat, B.C. as part of a rally in support of the Idle No More movement on Sunday Dec 30, 2012. As well as voicing support for the hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, Haisla members spoke of their opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project." (Robin Rowland/Canadian Press)

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