Photo by Nadya Kwandibens of Red Works Studio, redworks.ca
Mista Wasis addresses the crowd at the Idle No More rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 21. Photo by Nadya Kwandibens of Red Works Studio, redworks.ca

Isolated No More: Idle No More and the United States

Robert Chanate
December 28, 2012

How different would life be for Native Peoples if more of our Nations had stood together in defense of our homelands in the past?  That’s a question I think many of us Natives have pondered alone or discussed with one another. What compels one to re-imagine a different Native past is the modern consequences of the divide and conquer legacy.

Look at a map of Indigenous Cultures in North America and you will see that some of the cultures on the map are grouped as Plains, Plateau, Northwest Coastal, Great Lakes, Woodlands and others.  If the Cultures are broken down you will find Native Nations and Confederacies like the Blackfoot, Ojibwa, Iroquois, and Cree, to name a few and others.

What the map does not show is the history of those areas. One cannot see the songs that were sung nor the dances which were held. The winter stories told are not on the map. The annual visits between Nations of those areas are invisible as are the ceremonies that renewed the People. Not shown are the relationships between our Peoples in which we shared knowledge and support. The cycles of life, continuous and connected, do not appear on the map images.

Cutting right through all of the Cultures, Confederacies and Nations is an invisible but sharp line. This borderline is known as the International Boundary and its origins lie with the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The separation created by the line was not so great in the beginning because it could not divide people who had lived with one another for as far back as their collective memory stretched. We were still relatives. Over time, that separation grew as Native People on both sides grew more accustomed to the division.  Many of us became strangers to one another.

On both sides of the line, our Native Nations fought the tyrannical forces of colonialism. Though the degrees differed, we all experienced massacres and victorious battles, the theft of our lands, broken promises, boarding/residential schools, language destruction, etc. These policies were not just of the past, and they continue to be issues for Native Peoples in Canada and the United States.

Over the past month, we in the south have witnessed a mass mobilization by the First Nations to the North. The tipping point came in the form of Canadian legislation that poses numerous threats to the First Nations. On December 10, thousands of First Nations Citizens took to the streets and launched a movement that has continued to grow. The well known name of this movement is of course Idle No More. The initial concern over the legislation is still paramount, but  more deeply rooted issues are fast becoming focal points for Idle No More.

One way the movement  has spread is through the Round Dance. Round Dances are being held in public spaces far and wide and are uniting people who attend them. These Dances have crossed that invisible line and are now being done in the lower 48.

Those of us in the lower 48 are moved by an awareness that we are still related to those in the north. We recognize the policies they are fighting are similar in aim to the ones that imposed the Allotment Act on us. We can see that the environmental destruction of their lands will put them in a state of dependency that many of our nations are fighting to overcome. We hear their languages and wish for them to remain strong, even if some of us have lost ours. We feel the power of their songs and witness how they are moving the young ones and elders alike and we are inspired to do the same for our people. Just as we did in the past, we are learning new lessons and creating networks of support.

If you look at the dividing line on the map, try to see the developing circles of native unity and instead of asking what would have happened if we had united more in the past, ask what will happen if we unite in the present to be idle no more.

Robert Chanate is a member of the Kiowa Nation and can be reached at [email protected] and twitter.com/rckiowa. He is from Carnegie, OK and currently lives in Denver, CO.

The photograph above was taken by and is copyright Nadya Kwandibens of Red Works Studio; to see more of her Idle No More photography visit the galleries on her Facebook page.

 

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Great article Robert, I would also include Mexico and all of South America. Native Nations of North and South America suffered and still do..... Thank you for all you do!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wonderful call to action, Chanate! Good to see a call for Arab Spring and Occupy in the American Indian style. As a mixed race caucasian, I cheer you on.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Great article, May I add, First Nations are uniting not only Indigenous people but all people for all walks of life, from all races, all nations. This is a call to arms and many non-natives are looking towards Natives to find their way back to sanity, peace and relationship with each other and the earth. Thank you for all you have suffered and endured. It is time for a change in our world and Creator is using First Nations and Indigenous people everywhere to bring the people back to the Earth.

Submitted by Anonymous on

WHERE'S THE LINKS TO THE MAPS? LOVE TO SEE SOME MAPS SHOWING THE CULTURAL MOSIAC OF NORTH AMERICA. IF YOU CAN SEND ME SOME LINKS I'D APPRECIATE THAT LOTS! [email protected]

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am a grandson of Italian . This is a question that has always been in my mind. And a thing that I have always wished would have happened, ever since I started learning about how awful things were for the original citizens of this land. It never even dawned on me that a bad thing had happened till the movie LIttle Big Man. That movie started me thinking about these things. I guess technology still would have come, but what if the Nations had gathered together and held the settlers to honour the treaties, and to make fair treaties in the first place. (I am assuming the settlers schwangled the treaties a lot).

Submitted by Anonymous on

For those below the medicine, it's time to be aware of the Mixed blood nations like the Metis in different forms in Canada and the U S ,
Look for our infinity flags Most are white on Blue, we are there in support of Chief Spence and our first Nations Cousins, In our history is the two (so called Rebellions) or resistance wars against Colonial Canada. We have to take the same crap as First Nations, so we know what is really going on, Most of us will be out in the Streets with placards , drums and our Flags, most of us will be there for whatever it takes.

Submitted by Anonymous on

i am a CHIRICAHUA APACHE, MY NAME IS TULAC COCHISE, AM OF THE 38 CLAN MEMBERS OF TAHZA COCHISE...MY PEOPLE ARE FROM PAY-GOTZIN-KAY OUR STRONGHOLD AT THE SIERRA MADRE IN MEXICO. I WAS BORN AT RIO GRANDE CITY, TEXAS.I HAVE SAID FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS WITH NEED TO UNITED..LIKE MY GRANDPA-UNCLE GERONIMO ''WE WILL NEVER SERENDER; TO NO ONE.WHITE EYES DO NOT HAVE LEGAL RIGHTS ON THE LAND. LOOK AT THE TREATIES ; THEY DON'T SPEAK OF WAR THEY HAVE WON ON A NATIVE TRIBE,THEY SPEAK OF PEACE ONLY... IN CANADA... AND IN THE ..UNITED STATES. BUT LET'S REMEMBER ONE THING AS VERY OTHER CITIZEN SERVED IN THE ARM FORCES WE NATIVES DID AND DO SERVE,SO THE U S CONSTITUTION BELONG TO ALL OF US.WE EARNED WITH SERVICE OUR BLOOD; & OUR FALLEN NATIVE... WE NEED TO UNITY AS ONE. AHO... EDICHO...

Submitted by Anonymous on

Awesome artical Mr. Chanate!!! I am a Cree woman from the Canadian plains but have ALWAYS felt a strong connection to all my Aboriginal brothers and sisters, near or far..I thank you all for your support and hope we can all unite as the proud, amazing, resilient and beautiful people we are!

andre's picture
Submitted by andre on

The idea of unity is and was a nice one. However, all throughout the Indian Wars there was always a group who would "sell out" others become scouts for the invaders sacrificing their people.

Unity like we see today with the Idle No More movement were uncommon with nomadic tribes back in the day of conquest. The invaders proved then and now, he is practiced at the art of division of people.

Then as now, the song remains the same.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wado.

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