Idle No More was started by four First Nations women as a peaceful Canadian grassroots protest against the passage of C-45, a bill that dilutes tribal sovereignty and environmental protection. One of the most recognized voices was Theresa Spence, Attawapiskat First Nation Chief, who went on a six-week hunger strike to force a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about indigenous treaty violations.
The mission statement reads: “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water.” And one of the most quoted summaries comes from the Haisla/Heiltsuk writer Eden Robinson:
“If I understand the Idle No More movement correctly, it’s for people who believe Canada is more than a resource extraction pit for the world, that our potential is only limited by the scope of our vision. It’s a joyful, hope-fuelled embrace of your culture: whoever you are, you are proud of it so you sing, you dance and you drum. In the middle of a dark winter when all our worries and fears about the land we love are scorned as naïve, INM is the promise of summer. Fight on, cousins. Fight on.”
In terms of strategic communication, INM quickly embraced social media and also used online interactivity strategies. Activists such as Shelly Johnson, a UBC assistant professor of School of Social Work, quickly noticed that reading the comments sections on news article about INM showed that people were really trying hard to understand the movement but needed help. Mainstream media continue to highlight the movement’s purpose as well as global expansion; for instance, this NPR story on 1/9/13 focused on treaty rights, while this 2/4/13 Rolling Stone feature frames INM as opposing the tar sands pipelines. For instance, when reporters shifted coverage to a focus on divisions within the movement, the group’s website began to poll visitors about whether media was playing up the perceived divisions. There are publicized rallies and “teach-ins” about the event, such as this event sponsored on February 1 by the UBC First Nations House of Learning. (Click for live blog transcripts.)
Common media themes of Idle No More:
“In this room…people come together with different views…but it from that diversity we achieve a better understanding.” (The Terry Project)
“The land we know might be a little bit different from the land you know.”
“Consider committing to this movement for the long haul. The healing of this land is deeply connected with the liberation of the descendents of the ancestors of this land. If we are to be in a good way with the land, we must be in a good way with the ancestors and the spirits of the land. Colonization is the voice that tells us that one life is worth more than another. Colonization is the weapon that drove our ancestors away from right relationship with the earth and each other. Coming into right relationship with each other is critical for the healing of the earth.” (Six Sacred Considerations in Solidarity with Idle No More)