Victoria College’s Aboriginal Awareness Week began this Tuesday with a panel discussion on the roots, nature, and impact of the Idle No More movement. The discussion featured Jamais DaCosta and Susan Blight, respectively Executive Producer and host of the CIUT show ‘Indigenous Waves’ -- a creative, community-focused “celebration of Indigenous cultures.” Hosted by Victoria College Students’ Administrative Council’s Education and Equity Committee, the event welcomed students and members of the larger community -- Indigenous and settler alike -- to engage with larger questions surrounding the movement.

To begin the discussion, both women introduced themselves in their Indigenous languages and identified their respective backgrounds: DaCosta as mixed settler and Mohawk of the Bear Clan, and Blight as a Couchiching Anishnaabe, Turtle Clan.

Blight also thanked the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation for allowing the discussion to take place on their land. While Idle No More has many sides, representing legal, cultural and political battles, it is this demand for respect for Indigenous identity and land rights that lies at the heart of the movement. Begun by four women in Saskatchewan, Idle No More is based on resisting the recent unilateral legislative decisions of the Conservative government, including the notorious Bill C-45 which stripped legislative protection from thousands of bodies of water in Canada. The movement has expanded its focus to include education and awareness, while rooting itself in a strong history of Indigenous resistance that began, in DaCosta’s words, “long before Idle No More was a hashtag.”

The movement differs not only in its particular struggles -- the recent infringement on Aboriginal rights by the Conservatives -- but also in its insistence on Indigenous creativity as its fundamental driving force.

From the beginning, the movement has been led by a wide cross-section of the population (women, children, elders, etc.) and has strictly rejected tactical aggression, such as blockades, in favour of active creativity: round dances, drum circles and teach-ins. Tuesday’s informed discussion was part of that creative drive.

The Idle No More movement is about questions of aboriginal identity and, as DaCosta stressed, it must be led by Aboriginal people. It can also, however, be a catalyst for non-Indigenous Canadians to “start their own decolonizing process” and overcome what DaCosta sees as the dominant eurocentrism of the public education system. Blight emphasized that the movement is meant to be inclusive; issues of land and water, while holding a particular significance to Aboriginal peoples, are also central to wider Canadian identity.

Idle No More has successfully gained staggering momentum as a cohesive resistance movement largely because of social media. Liking and hashtagging have not only been a vital factor in spreading awareness, but they have also minimized the movement’s dependence on mainstream Canadian media -- a medium that over the past few months has given voice to ill-informed (often, racist) views while silencing Indigenous perspectives. Blight and DaCosta were clear in emphasizing that Idle No More is still going strong, even if it isn’t being covered by the mainstream.

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  • Subtitle: Idle No More isn’t going anywhere, say host and producer of CIUT’s Indigenous Waves
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