About 30 men, women and children, with and without native blood, held a march and rally in McBride last week in support of the Idle No More movement.
Idle No More began several months ago in Saskatoon and has since become a global movement asking for government accountability for environmental protection, native rights and freedom for all citizens.
While native-led, the movement encompasses many non-natives who wish to see reform in their country and their government.
McBride resident Terry Pallagi says he thinks everyone should be concerned about where the country is going.
“It’s for everyone to stand up and say ‘Enough is enough.’ There’s so much corruption in our government and the way they’re running things; it’s time for the people to join together and say ‘Hey, let’s all stand up and start arresting these problems before they get worse.
He says Canada is mis-managing its natural resources, for instance.
“You look at how many natural resources we have and how much poverty there is, and it doesn’t compute.”
He says the citizens of this country should have more say into government decision making, and corporations less.
After the rally, participants held a talking circle in the McBride Library Annex, where everyone had a chance to speak. Some people said they had come simply to listen, or support the work of the movement. Others spokes about their frustration with the government’s approach to environmental, democratic and native rights.
Dunster resident Rod Reimer said he had come out to support his native brothers and sisters.
“I came today to support native rights. There hasn’t been a lot of resolution to a lot of native issues.”
He says McBride is a small place, but the voices here join with the bigger voice.
McBride historian Marilyn Wheeler gave an account of First Nations history in the Robson Valley based on her research. Julie Marlow said she wants her children to grow up with a better understanding of their native ancestry than she did. Others spoke about their struggle to develop a relationship with native people as non-natives. Some spoke about their belief that as Canadians, our shared ancestry is that of First Nations people.
Eric Gauthier, one of the organizers of the event, was 19 when the Oka crisis occurred at the home reserve of Kanehsatake near Montreal, and was one of the warriors on the barricade. The Oka crisis was a land dispute where the town of Oka’s proposed to build housing development and golf course on a Mohawk burial ground. The burial ground was marked by standing tombstones. The Mohawks had filed a land claim for the disputed area, but their claim was rejected in 1986, leading to a standoff, where police corporal Marcel Lemay was shot and killed. The standoff lasted 78 days, but eventually the Mohawk warriors were successful and the golf course expansion was cancelled by the mayor of Oka.
Gauthier brought his Mohawk Warrior Flag to the McBride rally. The flag first came to international prominence during the Oka standoff. Since that time, it has been used by native groups all over the world to represent unity and resistance, he says.
Gauthier says active resistance is not something he nor other native people look forward to.
“When we do stand up like that we don’t like it. We look like the bad guy. But that’s the only way the government listens.”
He would like to see more teaching of First Nations values and traditions in schools.