By Michele Bourdieu
Participants in the Jan. 11, 2013, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Idle No More Rally/Walk set out from Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College and walk to the KBIC Senior Citizens' Center in Baraga to express their solidarity with the global movement for indigenous rights and environmental justice. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)
BARAGA -- Brightening up the end of a wet, drizzly day with their colorful regalia, signs, drums, songs and chants, participants in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
(KBIC) Idle No More Rally/Walk in Baraga expressed their solidarity with indigenous people asserting treaty rights and environmental justice on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.
At Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Elder Donnie Dowd (center, with hat) offers encouragement to participants in the KBIC Idle No More Rally/Walk on Jan. 11, 2013.
About 50 or more people joined together for the event, which began at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College with prayers and encouragement, some in the Ojibwa language, offered by KBIC Elder Donnie Dowd. Despite very recent open-heart surgery, Dowd also led the walk down to the Ojibwa Senior Center for ceremonies, dances and songs, followed by a feast of chili and corn bread.
The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Idle No More Walk begins at the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. Walkers head through Baraga to the KBIC Senior Citizens' Center to continue their Rally, dance, sing and enjoy a feast. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)
A group of Lac Vieux Desert youth from Watersmeet, Mich., joined the walk, adding their chants of "Idle No More" to the songs of the leaders.
The number of participants increases when youth from the Lac Vieux Desert Chippewa community (Watersmeet, Mich.) join the KBIC Idle No More Walk as it progresses through the streets of Baraga.
The Idle No More indigenous movement is gaining supporters around the world, many of whom held events on Friday, Jan. 11, the day First Nations (Aboriginal) leaders in Canada were scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston to discuss Bill C-45 -- recent legislation that First Nations leaders in Canada say violates claims to self-governance and control of traditional land bases and also threatens the environment by reducing federal protection for bodies of water and fisheries.
Idle No More walkers in Baraga carry signs to show support for the Canadian First Nations protests against Bill C-45 and to express their own concerns about water issues and treaty rights. (Click on photos for larger versions.)
According to an article in TheProvince.com, "The bill significantly reduces the number of federally protected bodies of water, which critics fear will leave them open to harm from major resource projects, such as Enbridge's proposed $6-billion pipeline from Alberta's tarsands to Kitimat. Changes to the Indian Act will allow aboriginal people to sell or lease their land to non-natives. Critics say that the changes, which were done without consultation, violate aboriginal treaty rights."*
Toward the end of their walk, Idle No More participants gather for a circle dance before continuing to complete their rally and share a feast at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Senior Center.
Charlotte Loonsfoot, one of the organizers of KBIC's Idle No More, says Bill C-45 can also affect natural resources in the Great Lakes Basin and treaty rights of tribes living in the United States as well as in Canada.
"We share Lake Superior with Canada so what they do there affects us here in the UP, northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota," Loonsfoot said. "And since the bill C-45 has protection for lakes and streams at the 2 digits instead of millions I am very concerned for our freshest water in the world. This will also affect our treaty rights to hunt, gather, and fish because if our food and medicines are contaminated from Canada's pollution it is a violation to the tribal governments of the United States."
After the feast in the KBIC Senior Citizens' Center, organizers of the Idle No More event pose for a photo: from left, Jessica Koski, Nancie Lamb, Margaret Boyer and Charlotte Loonsfoot.
The youth group from Watersmeet joined the KBIC Rally/Walk at an invitation from Marisa Van Zile of the Sokaogon Chippewa of Mole Lake, Wis. (some of whose family members were involved in the struggle against the Crandon Mine in Wisconsin).
Van Zile, now a student at Northern Michigan University, where she is studying sociology and Native American studies, said she had attended several Idle No More events in Minnesota as well as Wisconsin before helping to organize the Jan. 6 event in Watersmeet, Mich.
"I was inspired to bring that home," Van Zile said.
After Watersmeet, she returned to Mole Lake for an event on Jan. 10 and then returned to Michigan for the Jan. 11 Idle No More in Baraga. Van Zile also said she was happy to meet KBIC's Charlotte Loonsfoot at the Watersmeet event last week.
"She's my hero," Van Zile said.
KBIC Idle No More co-organizer Charlotte Loonsfoot carried this wolf flag during the walk. The proposed wolf hunt, recently passed as legislation in Michigan, is another of her concerns. "I walked for the wolf," Loonsfoot said, "because the wolf is our brother and we're brothers and sisters with Canada, so it all ties together."
Jessica Koski, KBIC member, was also an organizer of the Jan. 11 Idle No More event in Baraga. At the gathering of the participants in the Senior Center, she read her statement of solidarity with the Idle No More movement.
Jessica Koski, KBIC member, reads a statement of solidarity with the global Idle No More movement for indigenous rights and protection of land and water.
"Today, we are standing in solidarity with people across the globe for First Nations and indigenous peoples in Canada. The movement calls upon the government of Canada to honor and implement Aboriginal Treaty rights of First Nations. This call echoes throughout the world in many indigenous communities and nation-states, including our own right here at Keweenaw Bay," Koski stated. "This movement began with the hearts and courage of indigenous women. It is about the land, water, healing, and justice. Corporate profits have been privileged over our lands and waters for too long. Indigenous peoples, deeply rooted in place, continue to carry ancestral knowledge and wisdom of how to walk a good way of life, what we call Mino-Bimaadiziwin, on Aki, Mother Earth. With our youth, Elders and women, we are stepping into our leading role. Many say we are the last chance of saving the planet."**
KBIC's event was also held in support of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has been on a hunger strike for more than a month to call attention to this bill and other problems between First Nations peoples and the present Canadian government under Harper. She had requested the meeting with Harper and Johnston, but ended up boycotting it, along with other leaders from Ontario and Manitoba, when Harper said he would meet only a half hour and Johnston refused to attend.***
However, a Jan. 12, 2013, Canadian Press article said the meeting lasted four hours and "National Chief Shawn Atleo declared that Harper has finally agreed to top-level talks to modernize and implement the ancient treaties that were always supposed to bring peace and prosperity to First Nations."****
Spence and other leaders, however, were not satisfied with the results of the talks, and she is apparently continuing her hunger strike (a liquid-only diet) despite requests by some First Nations leaders that she end it.*****
Idle No More founder Sylvia McAdams says the agenda from the Jan. 11 talks between the government and First Nations leaders is too narrow, since it doesn't include removing the C-45 legislation. She says the peaceful grassroots movement, now worldwide, will continue. They are calling on a worldwide Idle No More event, co-ordinated with other groups, on Jan. 28.******
Margaret Boyer, who also helped organize the Jan. 11 KBIC Idle No More event, explained her own connection to the movement in Canada: She is from Batchewana First Nation, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, under the Robinson-Huron treaty of 1850. Boyer moved to this area two years ago to attend Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, but she has family in Canada and concerns about her children and grandchildren.
Co-organizer Margaret Boyer speaks to the group of KBIC Idle No More participants about First Nations issues in Canada and her own concerns for her family there.
"I am Canadian but have lived most of my life here in the States because I love living here," Boyer said. "I first heard about the Idle No More movement from Facebook in November. I followed the movement's actions from the beginning to present."
Boyer said she has no T.V. or radio in her house, so all her outside communication is from Facebook.
"The quick uprising is due to social networking," Boyer added. "There are a lot of things going on with this movement. My main concern is the dismantling of the Indian Act without any regard to First Nations."
Georgenia Earring of KBIC, who also participated in the Idle No More visit to Eagle Rock on Dec. 28, was among many who joined the Walk in support of Theresa Spence.
"I'm here in support of Chief Spence," Earring said, and the power of prayer -- coming together for indigenous people and their treaty rights."
KBIC Tribal Council Member Elizabeth Matthews also mentioned support of Theresa Spence's effort.
"Just like everybody else it affects us down here in the States, and we are in support of Chief Theresa Spence," Matthews noted. "And I hope she accomplishes what she set out to do."
Matthews added the Tribal Council gave a money donation for Friday's feast following the Walk.
KBIC Tribal Council Member Elizabeth Matthews, left, enjoys the feast after the Walk with KBIC Elder Janice Shalifoe, center, and Lisa M. Denomie, KBIC member and program director for the Early Childhood Child Care Center.
Joining in the Walk and the dances that followed was Lisa M. Denomie, KBIC member and program director for the Early Childhood Child Care Center.
"The first thing they need to do is unite," Denomie said of the indigenous groups joining the Idle No More movement. "That's the only way you're going to become stronger. This is a good start to bring back the Anishinaabe way. People are making peace here."
Participants in the Jan. 13, 2013, Idle No More event at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Senior Center in Baraga, Michigan, do a dance and song to honor people fasting for Indigenous peoples' rights and environmental justice, including Chief Theresa Spence and two KBIC members who fasted for this event: Denise Cadeau, Keweenaw Ojibwa Community College dean of student services, and Nancie Lamb, co-organizer of the event.
Sheila Halverson, wearing a traditional jingle dress, and Sammi Tolenon, Miss KBIC, wearing her shawl dance regalia, do a healing dance as others sing to the beat of the Four Thunders Drum. The dance preceded a feast for all participants in the KBIC Senior Citizens' Center.
Margaret Comfort from Marquette County also attended the Walk.
"I was honored to be amidst some of the leaders, the visionaries, of their community -- Charlotte Loonsfoot, Jessica Koski, and Nancie Lamb," Comfort said. "It made my heart smile to see the mothers with their children and the teens walking in solidarity with Chief Spence. As Margaret Boyer said, this work is for our children and grandchildren. This work is about giving a voice to ALL people."
Corrie Hohli of Calumet also participated in the Rally/Walk, carrying a sign in the Ojibwa language, which she studies. It said, "Gaa Geyaabi Bizaanabi magasinoon!" Hohli said, while it is difficult to translate "Idle No More" into Ojibwa exactly, this phrase means, "No longer will we sit quietly."
"I was delighted and inspired to see the protest and (delighted) that my community is joining other nations in being Idle No More," Loman said.
Loman, who has been following the Eagle Mine issue on Facebook and who spoke at public forums held by Rio Tinto when he was visiting the area in the past, said he has no plans to leave the area now that he has moved back to Baraga.
"I have a lot of things that I want to do here. There's a lot of work to be done to protect the natural resources of the tribe and to protect the reservation environment -- all these people that live here," Loman explained. "There's a lot of litigation on the horizon."
More photos ...
KBIC Elder Donnie Dowd speaks to participants in the Jan. 11 Idle No More Rally at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)
KBIC's Debbie Williams presided over sacred ceremonies and spoke at the Rally.
Carrying colorful signs and their flag, youth from Lac Vieux Desert join the Walk and chant "Idle No More!"
A young participant in the walk carries a sign stating a major purpose of the Idle No More movement: "Protect Our Treaties, Land, Water and Animals."
Arriving at the Senior Citizens Center are some leaders of the Walk: from left, Rodney Loonsfoot, Jessica Koski, Lisa M. Denomie and Donnie Dowd.
* Click here for the article, "Idle No More: The problems with Bill C-45."
** Read the rest of Jessica Koski's statement, "Idle No More: Global Day of Action," on Keepers of the Water.
*** See "Indigenous Movement 'Idle No More' Gains Allies" on ABC News/ Univision.
**** See "Atleo: Harper commitment to treaty talks will bring fundamental change."
***** See "Chief Theresa Spence will continue to forgo solid food, spokesman says."
****** Watch this video: "CTV QP: 'Idle No More' founder speaks out."
Editor's Note: Read our two articles about the Dec. 28, 2012, KBIC Idle No More visit to Eagle Rock: "IDLE NO MORE: Returning To Our Sacred Places - Migizii wa sin" and "More photos: Idle No More: Returning to Migizii wa sin (Eagle Rock)."