A youth-oriented public awareness movement that began with indigenous nations in Canada has made its way to the Owens Valley, prompting three local demonstrations organized by young tribal members.
The “Idle No More” movement got its start in Saskatchewan, Canada with the passage of Bill C-45, an omnibus package that included a reduction in the amount of federally-protected waterways and a fast-tracked process to surrender reserve lands.
The movement began when organizers said a majority of Canadian tribal members didn’t speak out about the bill.
Organizers held an information session under the Idle No More name to discuss the bill and its impact on tribal members, and the movement began to gain momentum, crossing the U.S.-Canada border where American tribal members began to demonstrate as a show of support for the Canadian nations.
In Bishop, tribal members have organized two events under the Idle No More banner, one the weekend of Dec. 29 at the Bishop Paiute Cultural Center and a local petroglyph site, and a second this past weekend at the Bishop City Park on Main Street.
According to Thomas Stone, who organized the latest demonstration, the December event was held under the Idle No More name, but was directed more towards raising awareness about local tribal sites rather than the unification of tribal peoples and solidarity when it comes to the protection of waterways, reservation land and culturally sensitive sites.
Bishop Tribal member Jolie Varela, who participated in both events, said the first demonstration attracted about 20 people and was an introduction to Idle No More for many who attended.
Stone said Saturday’s rally on Main Street attracted as many as 50 people who enjoyed fellowship and music while raising awareness about tribal issues.
“This is happening all over, not just up there,” Stone said about struggles of the Canadian tribes. Idle No More “is kind of there to help other Native American nations to stand together, show that this isn’t happening to a select few. We want to show them that we here in California are still supporting them.”
Another objective of the Idle No More movement is to get the youth involved in politics. Stone said that was accomplished at the local demonstration last weekend.
“We had a lot of youth come out, plus we had a lot of elders,” he said. “We had about 50 people, which is pretty good for Bishop.”
Stone added that the Bishop tribe is no stranger to water wars, and it is important for tribal members to get involved. “We have our own water rights battle here, it’s happening everywhere,” Stone said.
According to its website, www.idlenomore.ca , the Idle No More movement “has and will continue to help build sovereignty and resurgence of nationhood. Idle No More will continue to pressure government and industry to protect the environment. Idle No More will continue to build allies in order to re-frame the nation to nation relationship, this will be done by including grassroots perspectives, issues and concerns.”
In Canada, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence initiated a hunger strike 30 days ago, demanding a meeting with the Canadian Governor General.
Stone said the local Idle No More movement supports her hunger strike and her efforts to create change in the way the Canadian Government works with tribal nations.
Stone said no firm dates have been made, but another rally will be held locally. He said he hopes to raise more awareness about the movement, and have more Native American singers in attendance at the next gathering.