ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: “Do you drink water? Welcome to Idle No More.”


8 March 2013
you drink water?  Welcome to Idle No

by Kathy
Moorhead Thiessen

I grew up in
the Canadian north of Watson Lake, Yukon. My elementary years were spent in a public
school with children of the Kaska nation.  As I became an adult I was pretty proud of my
exposure to and knowledge of indigenous people. But it took a return to Canada
after a seven-year sojourn away to make me realize that I knew very little. I
did not like the discomfort I had as I walked the city centre streets in Winnipeg,
Manitoba, home of the largest urban indigenous population in Canada.

It was then I
decided I had to learn. Over the last two years I have pushed myself to read
and sit and listen.


Round dance, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 31 December 2012

photo by the author

Since early
December 2012, the Idle No More movement has entered our city, province,
country and world and has provided many opportunities to do just that. It was
amazing to join the round dance that stopped traffic at Winnipeg’s biggest
intersection, especially since two weeks before I had never even heard of a round
dance. Indigenous and non-indigenous alike were welcome and joined in the
joyous event.

On 24 February
Winnipeg Peace Alliance organised a public forum. Six local indigenous
leaders from different walks of life shared their personal stories and why they
were excited about Idle No More (INM). Learning and connecting together emerged as
themes over the three hours. Jerry Daniels of Long Plain First Nation saw INM
as a time of coming together. There are people in his own community who do not
know about the treaties and their culture. Information needs to be easier to
understand, both for indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Chickadee Richards
of Bear Clan sees that “it is a way to rebuild relationships. We have
forgotten how to care for one another.” 
Michael Champagne, who grew up in North Winnipeg,
clarified that by saying “If you are hurting, I am hurting. If I am
hurting then we all are hurting. Idle No More hopes to connect our young people
to the [indigenous] teachings. Then they can share these teachings with the rest
of the world.”

Mainville, who is involved in INM as a mother and grandmother, stated, “We
are all learning together. We are running to catch up on hundreds of years of
history.” Leah Gazan, an indigenous professor, sees INM as being about “waking
up”. “We are only as strong as we find a way to stand together.”

All six
speakers stressed that this movement is essential for all who live on this land
called Turtle Island. “We need to work together as People.” They have
a dream that “people of African heritage, of Chinese heritage, of Indigenous
heritage, of Ukrainian heritage” (to name a few) will one day all sit
together at the table to hear each other’s stories and work together to provide
a safe and sustainable world for all those to come.

closed the meeting with the call, “Do you drink water? Welcome to Idle No

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