The Idle No More Movement for Dummies (or, ‘What The Heck Are All These Indians Acting All Indian-Ey About?’)

Gyasi Ross, Indian Country Today Media Network,


Lately, Native people have taken to the streets malls in demonstrations of Public Indian-ness (“PI”) that surpasses the sheer volume of activism of even Alcatraz and the Longest Walk. There’s a heapum big amount of PI going on right now! Many people, non-Native and Native alike, are wondering what the heck is going with their local Native population and how this so-called #IdleNoMore Movement managed to get the usually muffled Natives restless enough to be Indian in public. I mean, like Chris Rock said, he hasn’t ever even met two Indians at the same time. He’s seen “polar bears riding a tricycle” but he’s “never seen an Indian family just chillin’ out at Red Lobster.”

Yet, now people can’t seem to get away from us.

And that’s cool—but isn’t that what pow-wows and November is for? People (non-Native and Native alike) can only take so much PI, right? Is that what the Idle No More Movement is—an extended Native American Heritage Month, where non-Natives have to act like they’re fascinated by Native culture?

In a word, no. It is much more. Please consider this a fairly exhaustive explanation of the Idle No More Movement, what it is not and what it is. If for some reason you cannot read the next 1000 or so brilliant words, I can be summed up thusly: the Idle No More Movement is not a new movement. Instead, it is the latest incarnation of the sustained Indigenous Resistance to the rape, pillage and exploitation of this continent and its women that has existed since 1492. It is not the Occupy Movement, although there are some similarities. It is not only about Canada and it is not only about Native people. Finally, and probably most importantly, it (and we) are not going away anytime soon. So get used to it (and us).


“The ground on which we stand is sacred ground. It is the blood of our ancestors.”

Chief Plenty Coups, Apsaalooke

“…you have come here; you are taking my land from me; you are killing off our game, so it is hard for us to live.”

Tasunke Witko (Crazy Horse), Oglala Lakota


As the above quotes display, the Indigenous Resistance to the raping and pillaging of the Earth is not new. Likewise, Indigenous peoples’ efforts to protect the mothers of our Nations—the women—are not new either. The Idle No More Movement is simply the latest chapter in that resistance.

It’s About: PROTECTING THE EARTH. Idle No More is an inherently grassroots and localized movement, informed by the founders, but with local flair.

Photo art by Steven Paul Judd
Photo art by Steven Paul Judd


First and foremost, the Idle No More Movement is about protecting the Earth for all people from the carnivorous and capitalistic spirit that wants to exploit and extract every last bit of resources from the land. Therefore, anybody who cares about this Earth should be interested in the Idle No More Movement. The engineers were Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon. It was a response to Canada’s Bill C-45, which overhauled the Navigable Waters Protection Act and removed protections for many waters that go through First Nations. Changing the Act literally moves the emphasis of the protection—it morphs from protecting the waterways to protecting the navigation on those waterways. Now, instead of 30-some thousand lakes being protected under the old Act, only 97 lakes will be protected. As Canadian Parliament Member Kirsty Duncan eloquently states, “The days when Canadians take an endless abundance of fresh water for granted are numbered…”

These mobilized Native people wanted to ensure that children two, three and twelve generations from now would have clean water. The children who will benefit from the Native mobilization are not just Native children—it’s for all children. Lakes and rivers tend to be either clean or dirty for Native and non-Native children alike.

It’s not a Native thing or a white thing, it’s an Indigenous worldview thing. It’s a “protect the Earth” thing. For those transfixed on race, you’re missing the point. The Idle No More Movement simply wants kids of all colors and ethnicities to have clean drinking water. It’s also not a “Canada” or “United States” thing. Multinational corporations do not care about borders and neither should we. Despite legislation to intended to prevent pollution, corporations pollute freely with almost complete impunity and our children are the ones who suffer. We likewise should not care about borders—we are mobilizing on both sides because we understand that what we do affects one another.

We will continue to aggressively organize and be Idle No More about the attempts to destroy our sacred lands, whether its Keystone XL Pipeline or Tar Sands Mining in Canada. We will be Idle No More on SSA Marine’s attempts to create a deep-water shipping terminal for water and air poisoning dirty coal in the Lummi waters near Puget Sound, WA or any disrespect to our lands.

We’re not going anywhere, we’re not going to be silent, we’re Idle No More !

It’s About: PROTECTING WOMEN.  Similar to the sustained, capitalistic effort to exploit and pillage the Earth, the carnivorous, capitalistic nature has also exploited and abused women since the founding of both America & Canada. That is something else about which Indigenous people have vowed to be Idle No More. America’s first marriage and property laws, or ‘coverture,’ stipulated that married women did not have separate legal existences from their husbands. Indeed, a married woman was a dependent and could not generally own her own property or control her own earnings.  “…once she married she became a legal nonentity. Her husband not only assumed her legal privileges and duties but certain rights to her property as well.” (Women, Family, and Community in Colonial America: Two Perspectives, Linda E. Speth, Alison Duncan Hirsch, Pg. 8.)

And that was for privileged white women. Obviously for Native women, Black women and any women of any other color who were unfortunate enough to live in the United States, it was much worse.

Deborah Parker speaking about Violence Against Women Act at Seattle Idle No More rally. Image courtesy Alex Garland Photography
Deborah Parker speaking about Violence Against Women Act at Seattle Idle No More rally. Image courtesy Alex Garland Photography



That pattern of condescension and indeed hatred for women has continued until the present. From the case Bradley v. State which affirmed a man’s “right” to “moderately” beat his wife to the Indian Health Service’s pattern of forced tubal ligations of Native women, the United States has shown a consistent trajectory of hatred and destruction for Native women.

Congress’s recent failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act—specifically because Republicans did not want tribal law enforcement to be able to prosecute non-Native sexual deviants—is a continuation of that exploitation of our  women.  Similar to the “clean water” discussion, above, the protections afforded by the Violence Against Women Act protected women of all colors—not just Native women.  Conversely, Congress’s failure to act on the Violence Against Women Act hurts all women. Strong Native women leaders like Deborah Parker and others are advocating for safety and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act for all women, not just a few.

It’s not a Native thing.

It’s a “NO women, of ANY color, should have to worry about getting raped” thing.

It’s a “NO women, of ANY color, should get beaten and battered” thing.

Those who are transfixed by race, again, are missing the point.

And we will continue to organize and be Idle No More about this attack on the women within our communities, as well as all communities. That is not new and it’s also not just about Native people.

We’re not going anywhere, we’re not going to be silent, we’re #IdleNoMore !

It’s Not an OCCUPY MOVEMENT.  The Occupy Movement was powerful and necessary—yet the foundation was frankly not strong enough to sustain.  Occupy was about a slowed-down economy and a lot of folks who were, unfortunately, out of work from that slowdown. As the economy began to improve in 2012 and also, significantly, the weather got colder, the Occupy Movement got noticeably weaker.  As the economy got stronger, the sheer amounts at the Occupy events got smaller.  Now, it looms very strong in everyone’s psyche, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not; Occupy emboldened the Idle No More Movement, just like Syria, Egypt and Libya emboldened the Idle No More Movement.  Absolutely.  Still, Idle No More is NOT Occupy for these reasons:

The Primary Reason #IdleNoMore is Not Occupy—Native economies are NOT getting any better. In many of our communities, there is 70% PLUS unemployment—more than a simple “boom and bust” economic upturn can fix. There are structural problems that will prevent a quick-fix, and therefore most Indigenous Idle No More will not have an economic incentive to stop their activism.

#2 Reason #IdleNoMore is Not Occupy—We’re Native… Hello? You’re not going to scare us off with the cold weather.  My friends have literally texted me pictures of sisters and brothers in Alberta and Saskatchewan standing outside with #IdleNoMore signs in -35 degree weather; I have spoken at events where it is freezing and brothers and sisters are outside in t-shirts.

If we’re mobilizing 2,000, 2,500 people at an event in the freezing cold in January, just imagine how that number is going to multiply when it’s 65, 70 degrees outside.

#3 Reason #IdleNoMore is Not Occupy—Occupy was snapshot response to a 3 year economic downturn.  #IdleNoMore is a continued response to more than 500 years of destroying the Earth and exploiting women. The foundation on which we’re building is literally centuries of resistance.

Finally, it’s not Occupy because we are surrounding our advocacy around the specific substantive areas that were discussed earlier—protecting the environment and protecting Native women via the Violence Against Women Act. Yes, like Occupy, this is grassroots—the people are fluid and definitely can change. Indeed, the specific subjects that we choose to organize around certainly could change in the future—whatever we need to be Idle No More about. Still, for now fighting against gratuitous exploitation of our lands and fighting against violence against women are areas where good organization can make a difference.


This has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Native people did begin this movement—energized by Chief Spence’s sacrifice and sparked by the Four Founders’ initiative.  Yet this movement belongs to anybodywho wants to stand up for the Earth and women and also make a positive change in the community. That means that non-Natives are certainly welcome. We need non-Natives involved to save this Earth, to give our children and grandchildren the same quality of life that we have enjoyed. It’s about clean water. It’s about clean air. It’s about safety for all women. It’s about making a positive change in our communities. Critics seem to be so caught up on race; yet even racists want their children to have clean water just like non-racists.  Right?  Well, we want racists (and NON-racists, of course) to have kids with clean water too. Oh, and we don’t want them to get raped or beaten either.

Not too unreasonable, is it?

Here’s a little music and video to close this piece. It’s a project that we (Rock Paper Jet Productions, LLC) did with rapper and producer Brother Ali. Coincidentally, it doesn’t mention race—it mentions wanting to make the world slightly better. And when it comes down to it, that what the Idle No More Movement is about.

“I want to pass this planet to my son

A little better than it was when they handed it to me…”


Diabetes Day today at Tulalip Health Clinic from 9:30 – 3:30

By Monica Brown Tulalip News writer

Janurary 16, 2013


The event began today with and opening prayer and is scheduled to run until 3:30 p.m. Breakfast was served with the intention to inform about healthy options for people either with diabetes or wanting to ward off diabetes.  Tribal member Hank Gobin gave a informative speech about diabetic care.

Lunch will be served from noon to 1:30pm. Clinic staff will be offering comprehensive Diabetic Services for all Tulalip Tribal members and authorized patients of the Karen I Fryberg Tulalip Health Clinic.

Hank Gobin speaks at Diabetes Day.
Hank Gobin speaks at Diabetes Day.
Breakfast for Diabetes Day, fresh fruit, oatmeal, greek yogurt, eggs and tea.
Breakfast for Diabetes Day, fresh fruit, otameal, greek yogurt, eggs and tea.
Diabetes Day at Tulalip Health Clinic today
Diabetes Day at Tulalip Health Clinic today

Chief Theresa Spence will not attend Friday meeting without Governor General

Source: Rebecca Lindell, Global News

Wednesday, January 09, 2013 8:23 PM

Read it on Global News: Global News | Spence will not attend Friday meeting without Governor General

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has pulled out of Friday’s meeting between First Nations leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper because Gov. Gen. David Johnston will not attend the gathering.

The Assembly of First Nations scheduled a meeting for Jan. 11 between Harper and some of its chiefs, including Spence, but on Tuesday Johnston’s office confirmed he would not attend because it is a “working meeting” with the government on public policy issues.

Spence responded by issuing this statement on Wednesday: “We have sent a letter to Buckingham Palace and requesting that Queen Elizabeth II send forth her representative which is the Governor General of Canada. I will not be attending Friday’s meeting with the Prime Minister, as the Governor General’s attendance is integral when discussing inherent and treaty rights.”

Read it on Global News: Global News | Spence will not attend Friday meeting without Governor General

United Nations speaks out about Chief Theresa Spence to Canada

Canadian authorities must start meaningful dialogue with aboriginal leaders – UN expert

Source: United News Centre

 8 January 2013 – A United Nations independent expert today urged the Canadian Government to establish a meaningful dialogue with the country’s aboriginal leaders in light of recent protests.

“I am encouraged by reports that Prime Minister Steven Harper has agreed to meet with First Nations Chiefs and leadership on 11 January 2013 to discuss issues related to aboriginal and treaty rights as well as economic development,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya.

He continued, “Both the Government of Canada and First Nations representatives must take full advantage of this opportunity to rebuild relationships in a true spirit of good faith and partnership.”

For weeks, aboriginal leaders and activists carried out protests referred to as ‘Idle no more,’ according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It noted that the movement has been punctuated by the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation, which began on 11 December.

“I would like to add my voice to the concern expressed by many over the health condition of Chief Spence, who I understand will be joining indigenous leaders at this week’s meeting,” the Mr. Anaya said.

The independent expert stressed that the dialogue between the Government and First Nations should proceed in accordance with standards expressed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their distinct identities and cultures as a basis of their development and place in the world, to pursue their own destinies under conditions of equality, and to have secure rights over lands and resources, with due regard for their traditional patterns of use and occupancy.

In particular, Mr. Anaya highlighted one of the preambles in the Declaration which affirms that treaties, agreements and other arrangements are the basis for a strengthened partnership between indigenous peoples and States.

The Government affirmed a “commitment to continue working in partnership with Aboriginal peoples and in accordance with a relationship based on good faith, partnership and mutual respect,” when it released a statement supporting the Declaration on 12 November 2010, said Mr. Anaya, who has asked the Canadian authorities to provide relevant information on this matter, in accordance with the terms of his mandate from the UN Human Rights Council.

“I will continue to monitor developments as I hold out hope that the 11 January meeting will prompt meaningful and restorative action by the Government and First Nations leadership,” Mr. Anaya added.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs such as Mr. Anaya, are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Tulalip Tribes Diabetes Day 2013, Jan 16

Tulalip Diabetes DayProviding culturally sensitive diabetes health care to promote the overall well-being of our people

Join the Karen I Fryberg Tulalip Health Clinic staff on Wednesday, January 16 for Diabetes Day 2013.

The event is schedule for 9:20 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., and will being 8:00 a.m. with an opening prayer and song. Lunch will be served at noon.

Clinic staff will be offering comprehensive Diabetic Services for all Tulalip Tribal members and authorized patients of the Karen I Fryberg Tulalip Health Clinic.



FDA set to approve Genetically Engineered Salmon

Article by Monica Brown

The Food and Drug Administration has given their approval, pending a 60 day public debate, of the AquAdvantage Salmon developed by the Massachusetts based company Aquabouty Technology. The salmon was developed out of need from the growing human population which outweighs the current salmon population.

The AquAdvantage Salmon have been genetically engineered from Atlantic Chinook to grow at a faster rate on small amounts of food and are made specifically to be sterile females to help prevent reproducing with wild salmon. The idea behind the genetically engineered salmon (GES) to be female is a precaution to prevent escaped salmon from mingling with the wild salmon, had they been sterile males they would cause a disturbance in the spawning grounds by fighting over territory with male wild salmon. Although, Aquabounty has stated there is a slight chance that a small percentage of females may be fertile, but state the chance of them escaping to the wild are very slim.

According to FDA regulations, upon approval, the GES will be required to be grown in a physically contained system to prevent escape and at approved facilities only. When placed at the marketplace the GES will not be required to have any special labels or markings due to the fact that they are genetically the same as wild salmon and pose no threat for human consumption.

The imposition the GES will make on the environment and human diet is still dependent on the future consumption of the salmon.  As well as the impact it will make on the economy in the lives of Atlantic Fishermen. Since it is not clear yet how far the GES will be shipped, and we won’t be able to tell by labels or on restaurant menus, it prefer wild salmon to either fish for it yourself or get it from someone you know.

If you would like to comment on the Aquadvantage Salmon, the comment section for the 60 day public debate can be accessed here. Comments will be accepted until February 25, 2013!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0003

Comments by others may be viewed here!docketDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0899

Chief Spence urged to end hunger strike for her health

Article by Monica Brown

As Attawapiskat’s Chief Theresa Spence’s 17th day of her hunger strike over bill C-45 comes to an end she is being urged by the federal health minister and first nation’s leader to end her hunger strike since they fear for her health. They are suggesting she meet with Aboriginal Affairs Minister, John Duncan whom she has refused to meet and speak with stating that she wishes to meet with Prime Minister Harper. Chief Spence has only had fish broth and water for the last 17 days as she is camped out in a teepee on the island which is considered by the Anishinabe to be traditional territory.

In support of Chief Spence flash mobs of round dance protesting have begun all over Canada and recently across the globe urging this problem be addressed. People have been invited to support and join Chief Spence in her hunger strike for a four day fast.

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus has said that Chief Spence’s hunger strike has entered a deadly phase and is reaching out to other chief’s in order to solve what has become a national crisis. Stating that, “This is much bigger than Theresa Spence, it’s much bigger than an individual community, this is across the country now and it really needs the prime minister to take action.”

Plans for protests across Canada and the U.S. are still in the works for the coming week and hopes are that this will meet an agreeable end.

Deborah Parker issues Clarion call

Press Release, Communities Against Violence Network, December 19, 2012

Today, Tulalip Tribal Vice Chairwoman Deborah Parker remains united with all 12 Democratic female U.S. Senators in demanding immediate passage of the bipartisan, Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization.

“This issue must absolutely transcend partisan politics, “said Vice Chairwoman Parker, a survivor of abuse in Indian Country, who went public with her story this year in support of the VAWA. “It is one of our fundamental human rights; the right of each and every American woman to live free from threats or acts of physical harm.”

Parker continued: “A woman’s class of origin or race and physical location at the time of sexual assault or physical abuse should not dictate her protection under the U.S.  Constitution. All women and children must be protected, especially the original women of this continent.” It is widely reported that House Leadership is holding up the bill, by objecting to provisions in the Senate VAWA that would restore to tribal governments the limited power to prosecute non-≠‐Indians who enter Indian Country and commit violence against Indian women.

I urge all of my fellow Americans to call Rep. Eric Cantor’s office and urge that he agree to guard against any more Native women being sexually or physically abused in Indian Country,” Parker concluded.

The direct number to Rep. Cantor’s Office is (202) 225-8208;2815.

Winning the fight against tobacco and drugs, one step at a time


Tulalip Tribal members, William McLean III, Tisha McLean, and Angela Davis show their support at the Walk Against Tobacco and Drugs.

Article and photos by Jeannie Briones

TULALIP, Washington –  Tulalip Tribal members and community members joined together on December 19th for a walk to honor loved ones lost to tobacco and drug-related illness and to support the many efforts taking place to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, and raise awareness of the health impacts of using drugs.

The first annual “Walk Against Tobacco and Drugs, ” organized by Tulalip Tribal member Tisha McLean and friends, began at the Tulalip Longhouse and spanned almost 2 miles, finishing at the Northwest Indian College Tulalip site. Despite the cold and rain, people showed their support, sending the message that they care about each other and share in the common goal of saying no to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

“I am walking, in part, for my son who is an addict. He has the same problem as a lot of tribal members. I am a spiritual person and our ancestors are walking with us and they’re thankful that somebody’s paying attention to the problem we have. It doesn’t have to be leaders; it has to be our community, our kids that are here today. Tobacco is the leading killer, it tops alcohol and drugs,” said Tulalip Tribal Board Member, Marlin Fryberg.

“It’s truly an epidemic. We all care so much for everybody in our community and want to help everyone,” echoed Tulalip Tribal Board Member, Mark Hatch.

Halfway through the walk, community members where greeted by the Tulalip Police Department, who rallied together to show their support, offering warm beverages.

Wrapping up the event at Northwest Indian College, participants took in a visual display, created by Tulalip police officers, outlining the dangers of addiction. Community members also enjoyed a light lunch, while sharing stories of family members and friends who are addicted to drugs, and the affects this has on their loved ones.

“I have dealt with it my entire life. My parents were addicts, my dad got better, but my mom is still an addict. And I have siblings that followed in their footsteps,” said Tisha, who went on to say that tribal members need to take the first step in wanting help and that people such as herself want to help them embrace a healthy lifestyle and say “no” to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use.


Jeannie Briones: 360-716-4188;

Santa Run collects food for families in need

Santa greets children in the Tulalip area.
Santa greets children in the Tulalip area.

Submitted by Peter Spawn, Tulalip Fire Department

Tulalip Bay Fire Department recently held their annual Santa Run/Food Drive.  Off-duty firefighters come together and volunteer their time to escort Santa around the district, spreading holiday cheer and collecting food for the local food bank. This year was a success as we gathered over 600 pounds of non-perishable food items.  We would like to thank our community for the continued support we receive each and every year during this event.

Tulalip Fire Fighters with Santa
Tulalip Fire Fighters with Santa

Credits: Eric Berwick photographs, fire dist. 15 photographer, Peter Spawn