Local First Nations and their supporters brought the Idle No More movement to Nelson this week. On New Year’s Day, protesters rallied at City Hall for speeches, before marching through the streets, towards the shore of Kootenay Lake where they made a spiritual offering at the water’s edge. At the same time, across the country Idle No More protestors were blocking major highways and rail lines.
Meanwhile, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence sits in a teepee near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where she’s been subsiding on nothing but lemon water, medicinal teas and fish broth since December 11. She intends to continue her hunger strike until Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnson agree to meet with her to discuss how government actions impact First Nations treaty rights.
The Idle No More movement is particularly concerned with the federal government’s recent adoption of a large omnibus budget bill, which includes changes to environmental protection and reviews for lakes and rivers, including ones that pass through First Nations land reserves.
Activists began organizing teach-ins about the bill in November, and when Spence started her hunger strike, public demonstrations were organized across the country to show solidarity. As weeks pass, more First Nations groups and their supporters have become involved. Even people outside our borders are holding demonstrations in supports of the movement. Something garnering so much attention certainly deserves ours.
Protesters intend to continue taking action until First Nations rights are respected. In Nelson, members of the Sinixt Nation and other Idle No More supporters are already organizing their next protest, set to converge at City Hall on the morning of January 16.