The last fifty years of Indian/non Indian interaction has run the gamut of protests, occupations, shootouts, and imprisonments. These all combined into a tectonic shift in the way government and society has viewed the Aboriginal peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Policies regarding adoptions, forced sterilizations, and resource rights slowly but surely changed along the way as old stereotypes gradually changed and the old moors got chipped at their edges.
All of this, however good and even important the improvements have been, represent the polishing only of the edges of the problem. The ten percent of the Indian iceberg above the water got a dressing up but below the surface remains the lion’s share of the issues. Indian poverty rates, suicide rates, drug and alcohol addiction rates all remain far higher than other racial groups. Indigenous women remain far more likely to be sexually assaulted by men of a different race than other women. And perhaps most importantly, the very idea of American Indian sovereignty continues to be a 400 pound elephant that we say good words about but is still not a reality.
In Canada, the conservative Harper government has proposed a number of bills, most notably the Omnibus C-45, that is seen largely as a threat to First Nation’s sovereignty, and just as importantly, an assault of the health of the land and water resources available to all Canadians. This proposed legislation has served to accomplish a very rare event in Indian Country, perhaps only evident once before-the uniting of Indian nations into a pan-Indigenous support Movement.
Forty three years ago, The American Indian Movement and similar groups such as United Native Americans, became a flash fire of Indian unity and Indian activism. The BIA building takeover, the Trail of Broken Treaties, Wounded Knee Occupation, and various incidents of confrontational politics would soon follow as Native Americans recognized that our very survival was at risk. Government infiltration, violence, imprisonment, and the passage of time would eventually stem the tide of these efforts and their leaders, despite the many gains made.
As Canada proposes to remake much of their First Nations and environmental legislation, a new, dare we call it, Revolution has begun in Indian Country and has in a few short weeks received expressions of support by Indigenous people throughout the Western Hemisphere, Europe, and Native communities as far away as Australia and New Zealand. On December 10, 2012, International Human Rights day, four young Canadian Indian women launched Idle No More. In American Indian communities women often lead our social change, and so often in history we look back at compelling change brought by such humble beginnings. These young women and their impact on American Indian communities and perhaps the world in such a short period of time has been nothing short of amazing.
Calling on the expression of First Nation/American Indian sovereignty through education and peaceful activism, this new IndioRevolution has been enacted via an uniquely Indian social practice called the round dance, conducted by Indian Flash Mobs at shopping malls across Canada and the United States. Indians singing traditional songs and engaging in a simple traditional dance at the enormous hubs of capitalism strike the simplest but loudest chord of our traditional concerns juxtaposed against our modern complexities. Hand drums echoing against the tiles of consumerism as onlookers look on in amazement….Yes, this is Indian pride in action, and it is rapidly spreading like a chorus of Indian angels across this land. Coming soon to a mall near you, Indian Flash mobs and the round dance. Indian or not, you are welcome to dance and sing with us. After all, our survival, our traditions, our health and well being affects us all. And we are….Idle No More.