Idle No More is an ongoing protest movement originating among the Aboriginal peoples in Canada comprising the First NationsMetis and Inuit peoples and their non-Aboriginal supporters in Canada, and to a lesser extent, internationally. It has consisted of a number of political actions worldwide, inspired in part by the hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and further coordinated via social media. A reaction to alleged abuses of indigenous treaty rights by the current federal government, the movement takes particular issue with the recent omnibus bill Bill C-45.

idle no more

Vision and goals

The founders of Idle No More have outlined the vision and goals of the movement in a January 10, 2013 press release as follows:

The Vision […] revolves around Indigenous Ways of Knowing rooted in Indigenous Sovereignty to protect water, air, land and all creation for future generations.The Conservative government bills beginning with Bill C-45 threaten Treaties and this Indigenous Vision of Sovereignty.

The Goal of the movement is education and the revitalization of Indigenous peoples through Awareness and Empowerment. IDLE NO MORE has successfully encouraged knowledge sharing of Indigenous Sovereignty and Environmental Protections.

The press release also states: “As a grassroots movement, clearly no political organization speaks for Idle No More”.[10]

Idle No More’s vision has been linked by some commentators in the press with longstanding leftist political theories of indigenism. During the protests of late 2012 and early 2013, the theoretical framework of Idle No More has been frequently articulated in the Canadian press by Pamela Palmater. Palmater has denounced what she perceives as the federal government’s “assimilationist agenda”.It has been pointed out by others that the definition of “nation” is itself problematic.

Sylvia McAdam, a co-founder of the movement, has stated that she does not condone the rail or road blockade tactics that some demonstrators have used, but has spoken in support of peaceful protest “within the legal boundaries”.[14]


The movement was initiated by activists Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon in November 2012, during ateach-in at Station 20 West in Saskatoon called “Idle No More”, held in response to the Harper government‘s introduction of Bill C-45.

C-45 is a large omnibus bill implementing numerous measures, many of which activists claim weaken environmental protection laws. In particular, laws protecting all of the country’s navigable waterways were limited in scope to protect only a few waterways of practical importance for navigation. Many of the affected waterways pass through land reserved to First Nations.

Law blog writer/observer Lorraine Land,[15] and Idle No More itself,[16] have identified the following current bills as affecting natives or native sovereignty:

  • Bill C-38 (Budget Omnibus Bill #1)
  • Bill C-45 (Budget Omnibus Bill #2)
  • Bill C-27 First Nations Financial Transparency Act
  • Bill S-2 Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Right Act
  • Bill S-6 First Nations Elections Act
  • Bill S-8 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations
  • Bill C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
  • Bill S-207 An Act to amend the Interpretation Act
  • Bill S-212 First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill
  • “First Nations” Private Ownership Act

This led to a series of teach-ins, rallies and protests that were planned by the founders in a National Day Of Action on Dec. 10th which coincided with Amnesty Internationals Human Rights Day.These coincided with similar protests already underway in British Columbia over the Northern Gateway and Pacific Trails pipelines.

The protests were timed to coincide with the announcement that Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat was launching a hunger strike (no solid foods, limited to tea, water and broth) to demand a meeting with Prime Minister Harper and the Governor General of Canada to discuss Aboriginal rights. The Assembly of First Nations then issued an open letter 16 December to Governor General David Johnston, calling for a meeting to discuss Spence’s demands. Edmonton Activist Shannon Houle donated a blog and volunteered her time on the blog which became a much needed central resource for people wanting to connect with the visions and goals of Idle No More.

Also on 17 December the Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 First Nations issued a press release saying that they did not recognize the legality of any laws passed by the Government of Canada “including but not limited to Bill C-45, which do not fulfill their constitutionally recognized and affirmed Treaty and Aboriginal rights; as well as the Crown’s legal obligations to meaningfully consult and accommodate First Nations.”

As of January 4, 2013, the main goals have been narrowed down to (1) the establishment of a Nation to Nation relationship between First Nations and the Government of Canada, rather than a relationship as defined in the Indian Act to address issues and (2) social and environmental sustainability. 

Solidarity protests

Indigenous protesters at an Idle No More event in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The protests have also spread outside of Canada. On 27 December an online source reported that there had been 30 protests in the United States, and solidarity protests in Stockholm, Sweden, London, UK, Berlin, Germany, Auckland, New Zealand, and Cairo, Egypt. On 30 December, approximately 100 people from Walpole Island marched to Algonac, Michigan.[33][29] CBS reported that “hundreds” attended a flash mob at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[34] The Twin Cities Daily Planet called it a crowd of “over a thousand” and stated that it followed another similar protest week earlier where Clyde Bellecourt was arrested, and another flash mob at the Paul Bunyan Mall in Bemidji.[35]On January 5th, the International Bridge was closed again from Mohawk protests from New York. 

Within the United States, protests have been reported in many states: Michigan, Minnesota, New York , Arizona, Colorado, Washington, D.C. and Texas…. Now all along California















December Issue of the San Juan Star

The past few weeks, I have asked many friends, family members, strangers, and you, my readers, to ask me questions – generally about Natives. I understand, some questions may be hard to ask in person, maybe it’s not the right time, or maybe you just never had a chance to ask these questions. I am here to clarify what I know. My goal here is to share my knowledge, and my network of family/friends/relatives’ knowledge, by honoring my ancestors in clarifying the truth – not misinformation.
And I would also like to invite you to review my new blog, just for this. I will only print the “Ask a Native” column a few times. For ongoing questions, please visit http://www.askan8v.wordpress.com

So here are some of the questions I received…

How to Address Natives?

Personally, I believe it is a matter of preference to the Native one is talking to. I do know that the word ‘Indians’ is commonly less tolerated among the Natives that I have encountered – it has the stigma of Columbus ‘discovering’ or mistaking the Native people of the territory of being people of India. (This story that Columbus named Native People “Indians” because he thought they were in India, is incorrect – India was known as “Hindustan” at the time.) In the late 20th century, some American public figures suggested that the origin of the term was not from a confusion with India, but from the Spanish expression En Dios, meaning “in God,” or a similar one in Italian. More information can be found online about this issue.

When you analyze the verbiage, if the people residing on ‘Turtle Island’ were here before colonizers (Turtle Island being what we know as the Americas); What were the people that were originally there called? I just respect the word “Native.”
“When I use the word “Native,” I am referring to the original inhabitants of the Americas, who are also known as Native Americans, American Indians, First Nations, First Peoples, and Indigenous Peoples.”

Indigenous is also a commonly respected term used around Native people. Indigenous Peoples of “_____”. First Nations, Aboriginals, Original people of Turtle Island… though some do prefer American Indian (for that was the first term used to describe us once Turtle Island became known as ‘America’).

Some Native people don’t like any of these words, and prefer to just be known as a member of their tribe – ie, “I am Diné.” (A Navajo individual from the tribe of the Diné)

So I say – there is no “one answer” to this question. Please do be respectful when you are addressing a Native, maybe asking them, if you were to be announcing them in some fashion. (I do find it presumptive and rude when someone announces me as being an Indian – yet that is my preference, I’m just sharing my perspective- same thing when someone claims that I live on a reservation- which I do NOT, I live on trust land… but that is another discussion ^_^)

If you really are Native, don’t you receive federal/government money?

NO! Contrary to popular belief, Natives do not receive payments from the federal government simply because they have Native blood. Funds distributed to a person of Native descent may represent mineral lease income on property that is held in trust by the United States or compensation for lands taken in connection with governmental projects. Some Native tribes receive benefits from the federal government in fulfillment of treaty obligations or for the extraction of tribal natural resources — a percentage of which may be distributed as per capita payments among the tribe’s membership. And only if a tribe is federally recognized. Only tribes who maintain a legal relationship to the U.S. government through binding treaties, acts of Congress, executive orders, etc., are officially “recognized” by the federal government. Once “recognized,” a tribe has a legal relationship with the United States. There are currently more than 550 federally recognized tribes in the United States, over 100 State Recognized, including some 220 village groups in Alaska. However, there are still hundreds of unrecognized tribes undergoing the lengthy and tedious process of applying for federal recognition. Some sources say that there are over 1000 Native American tribes in the US, I don’t doubt it (I would venture to say there are quite a bit more.)

A map of California of native tribal territories - precontact

Pre-contact Tribal Territories

Do all American Indians and Alaska Natives speak a single traditional language?

No. American Indians and Alaska Natives come from a multitude of different cultures with diverse languages, and for thousands of years used oral tradition to pass down familial and cultural information among generations of tribal members. Some tribes, even if widely scattered, belong to the same linguistic families. Common means of communicating between tribes allowed trade routes and political alliances to flourish. As contact between Indians and non-Indians grew, so did the necessity of learning of new languages. Even into the 20th century, many American Indians and Alaska Natives were bi- or multilingual from learning to speak their own language and English, French, Russian, or Spanish, or even another tribal language.
It has been reported that at the end of the 15th century over 300 American Indian and Alaska Native languages were spoken. Today, fewer than 200 tribal languages are still viable, with some having been translated into written form. English, however, has become the predominant language in the home, school, and workplace. Those tribes who can still do so are working to preserve their languages and create new speakers from among their tribal populations. Cited from the Bureau of Indian Affairs

While Native language use is not as widespread as it once was, some Native people still use their language every day. The most widely spoken Native language in the United States is the Navajo or Diné language, with over 170,000 reported speakers in 2007, 2.9 percent of whom were monolingual with no knowledge of English.” [Cited from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo_language%5D

Have you seen REEL INJUN the documentary?



I love that documentary, I recommend it to everyone, and I wish I could make it mandatory in schools. If you have not seen it, please, try. Plot summary: REEL INJUN:a documentary about the history of the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood films. Native American and Aboriginal peoples have long played a part in Hollywood filmmaking, but the picture presented of them was not always flattering or accurate. Most westerns of Hollywood’s Golden Age presented “Indians” as either ruthless savages with no sense of honor or fools who were lost without the help of the white man. (Adding insult to injury, they were usually played by white actors in makeup.) However, as issues of Native American rights came to the forefront in the 1960s, more filmmakers stepped forward to offer a more positive and thoughtful portrayal of Aboriginal characters on screen, and Native American performers were given a greater opportunity to present the story of their people in television and the movies.

Rights of native children – taken away!?!

“What actions are being taken today to stop the treatment of Native American children as it hasn’t been shown in the news?”

Lakota Peoples Law Project - protect the children - image of native family staying together

Keep families together, protect Native children’s rights

Amazing efforts are being made by the Lakota People’s Law Project – but they need our help:

About Lakota Law Project-

Since 2005, the Lakota People’s Law Project has been partnering with tribes and leaders in South Dakota to challenge more than 150 years of injustice against Native American families. We combine law, research, education and organizing in a unique model for social reform.

Currently, our efforts center around the Lakota Child Rescue Project as we fight for the return of more than 2,000 Lakota children illegally taken from their homes by state authorities. We are compiling court-admissible evidence and preparing a federal civil lawsuit on behalf of Lakota tribes and families to free the children and stop South Dakota’s egregious abuses of the Indian Child Welfare Act. In the long-term, we are building toward the renewal of Lakota culture and society through the realization of Seven Strategic Objectives.

Our work is led by a experienced team and guided by an advisory board of leading experts on Native American issues. We are a project of the nonprofit Romero Institute, and our work is sustained through the generosity of our supporters.

To learn more about us, explore this site. And please donate to support our work.