What started as a First Nations protest against a Canadian Bill has grown as tribes in Montana and beyond join the so-called “Idle No More” movement.
Activist Charles Walking Child says the issues being brought up by Canadian tribes resonate across borders. The Blackfeet-Cree-Chippewa man lives in Helena today and I reached him via cell phone. Missoula and Helena have seen “Idle No More” demonstrations in the past few weeks, and Walking Child says there will be more. He says Native Americans in the United States are getting involved because they’ve faced the same issues “and we don’t want them to happen again, and there’s a point in time where you’ve just got to say enough’s enough.”
It started with the Canadian parliament’s passage of Omnibus Bill C-45. It’s a budget bill which, among other things, makes changes to water, fisheries and environmental acts, as well as the Indian Act. The Idle No More website says the changes in Bill C-45 represent an attack on the land base reserved for indigenous people. Walking Child says they see it as a treaty-breaking land-grab to free up indigenous land for resource development like hydraulic fracturing without proper environmental study. The Canadian press reports the government is aiming to simplify processes with the changes, and encourage economic development. Walking Child says the movement is spreading quickly through online social media and is growing down through North and South America.
“The internet has bridged these, is building bridges from one campfire to another to build one big fire,” Walking Child said “Idle No More” is also about getting native voices heard in government. He wants to see issues like poverty on Montana’s reservations addressed, and wants the tribes to have seats at the table to work on creating jobs and protecting the environment.
“We’ve all got to come together and find ways to keep Montana in harmony; not just Montana, but the northwest region, America, best damn country in the world though we’ve got our flaws, but we’ve got to start changing them together,” Walking Child said another Idle No More march on the Capitol is planned for February 18th.