Social Movement Idling
In speaking with a number of social activists recently, I have been noting a widening trend into their statements and what they have been seeing in their own “theatres of operation.” They report witnessing the highest levels of exhibited frustration in both younger, as well as more seasoned generations of outspoken people that they network with. Furthermore, they intimate that underemployment is primarily feeding the levels of frustration, and giving rise to disharmony in wider social networks than the activist groups themselves. These statements forced me to think about how this undercurrent is playing out in Indian country today.
Idle No More has had approximately a dozen weeks of select media coverage behind it, and certain factors have been irrevocably altered. The founders of the movement are not being as heard from as much. Chief Theresa Spence is no longer fasting, nor is anyone else publically. Canadian Bill C-45 has lately been overshadowed by parliament scandal; finessed underground by Canadian policy shapers.
With the onset of approaching spring weather, the attentions of homebound families will change once again to sporting events and pedestrian pursuits. In short, the movements’ critical mass required to tap into the wider bystander population will be challenged to sustain itself, let alone continue to grow.
The bottom line is that for any social movement to have the legs to eventually change the status quo, the people who support and comprise the movement must themselves change, to bring that transformation.
Another way of saying this is that it is one thing to start a fire, it is wholly another to keep that same fire burning.
As a larger Onkwehonweh (original people) race, we cannot hope for the existence that we once collectively enjoyed, through our forebears and their achievements, without recognizing the cost of that endeavor.
Opposition forces also are reacting to this pause, retooling. North American elected governments take this very seriously. Canada draws upon a British intelligence gathering model that necessitates “do more with less,” with better rounded personnel, leading to deeper, longer undercover operations. The United States takes a wider intelligence collection approach, harnessing modern technology to filter SIGINT (signals intelligence like texting and cell phones) as data feeds that are mined for network mapping purposes. Federal employment in the Patriot Act era is now on the decline, but the past ten years of hiring have left available significant undercover operatives to assign to what might be deemed a short term endeavor.
Information sharing between Canada and the United States also has become generally more reciprocal. A cozy American taxpayer funded relationship has been fostered by the U.S. on its northern border, seeing immigration and law enforcement data readily made available by Canada, through initiatives such as Beyond the Border and Shiprider. Wikileaks diplomatic cables from 2004 showed Quebec requesting assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning Mohawk “gun slingers from Colorado” arriving to support the embattled Mohawk community of Kanesatake, then amidst a police standoff.
U.S. drone aircraft border overflight into Canada is routine. Unmanned aerial vehicle technology is being ever miniaturized, further refining surveillance capacities by using many units together. American domestic restrictions on military operations within the U.S. have no such confinement within Canada.
Documentation of the cycle of infiltration of the nascent Occupy Wall Street movement has been available, almost from that movement’s beginnings, showing agent provocateurs being employed in agitating fashion. Idle No More would be looked upon as a similar movement for planning purposes.
There are limits to applying mainstream disruption to a racially focused, grass roots movement however. Dropping non-natives into demonstrative round dances to obstruct the people’s will would be promptly addressed, I have no doubt. Law enforcement command presence psychology relies heavily on the expected compliance by subjects of implied jurisdiction. Superiority of numbers also stiffens operational resolve. Idle No More demonstrators have outnumbered the security services during some events. Similarly, the interglobal nature of some events, such as the Akwesasne International Bridge crossing, saw a gamut of participant nationalities involved, lessening jurisdictional continuity.
Onkwehonweh empowerment, I believe, has come a long way since the American Indian Movement era, when federal agitators began the defacement of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building to discredit that occupation. Smartphone recording capability of such actions undertaken today would have left little to dispute what was taking place as a retributive smear job, according to eyewitnesses on scene I have met.
Names of social movements may change frequently, but the fire within the people involved stays the same. Youth with no future, joined by displaced elders, have created a social mosaic that has bound Turtle Island far stronger than it has been in a generation or more. For that reason, Idle No More still has tread on the tire, as well as gas in the tank.
Charles Kader (Turtle Clan) was born in Erie, Pennsylvania to a World War Two veteran. He attended Clarion University of Pennsylvania, earning degrees in Communication and Library Science, as well as Mercyhurst College where he earned a graduate degree in the Administration of Justice. He has worked across Indian country, from the Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Montana (where he married his wife) to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, and now resides in Kanienkeh.