Idle No More: Where do we go from here?

“Canada is a test case for a grand notion – the notion that dissimilar peoples can share lands, resources, power and dreams while respecting and sustaining their differences.  The story of Canada is the story of many such peoples, trying and failing and trying again, to live together in peace and harmony.

But there cannot be peace or harmony unless there is justice.  It was to help restore justice to the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada, and to propose practical solutions to stubborn problems, that the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was established.” – page ix, A Word From Commissioners

Aaron Paquette has been providing lovely visuals and his thoughts on the movement.

Aaron Paquette has been providing lovely visuals and his thoughts on the movement.

The quote above comes from a publication that is 150 pages in length, and in my opinion should be read by every single Canadian.  This publication is called “People to People, Nation to Nation: Highlights from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples“.  If you never manage to wade through the five volumes of findings and recommendations published by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), please at least make your way through the Highlights.  (If you want something even less dense, there is a 51 page document [PDF] that does a bang up job of summarising the report and its main recommendations.  Included at the end is a nice breakdown of financial estimates for implementation of these recommendations.)

Backing up a little…the RCAP was established in 1991 and engaged in 178 days of public hearings, visiting 96 communities, commissioning research and consulting with experts. In 1996, the RCAP released a five volume report of findings and recommendations.

“We directed our consultations to one over-riding question: What are the foundations of a fair and honourable relationship between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people of Canada?– page x, A Word From Commissioners

This was the central purpose of the RCAP.  To figure out what went wrong, how it went wrong, and what can be done to correct the problems identified.

Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike for 16 days. She is asking for the relationship between indigenous peoples and Canada to be reset.

Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike for 16 days. She is asking for the relationship between indigenous peoples and Canada to be reset.

A lot of people seem to feel lost when it comes to the huge diversity of issues faced by indigenous peoples in Canada, and with the obviously dysfunctional system of relationships between natives and settlers.  You will see this reflected in comment sections, or falling from the mouths of politicians and reporters, or yelled out in frustration over and over again whenever there is conflict between us.  What you are witnessing is hopelessness.  Helplessness.  Confusion does this to people, and that is why I think the RCAP is so incredibly powerful and important.

You see…people really do sit down and identify the problems and try to come up with solutions…and if you feel like you have no idea where to begin to address these problems, then I want you to know that you have a good place to start.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here folks.  So much work has already been done to come up with practical solutions to identifiable problems, and it’s a damn shame that most Canadians have never read a single word published by this Royal Commission.  So let’s get to it, shall we?

What’s the big picture here?

“Our central conclusion can be summarized simply: The main policy direction, pursued for more than 150 years, first by colonial then by Canadian governments, has been wrong.– page x, A Word From Commissioners.

I  know a lot of people reading that conclusion are going to roll their eyes and say “well duh!  We know that things weren’t done in a fair fashion, but holy! Let’s get over the past and live in the present already!”

Except that’s not what the Commission is saying.  They have not absolved current government policy, or indicated that things have been fixed and now we have only historical injustices to address.  Please understand this very clearly.  Current government policy continues to be wrong.  The RCAP was quite adamant about this when they released their final report in 1996, and not enough has changed since then to warrant a pat on the back for making things all better.

Indigenous peoples all over Canada and the US are trying to remind settlers of their own Treaty obligations.

Indigenous peoples all over Canada and the US are trying to remind settlers of their own Treaty obligations.

I recognise that this is too vague for you right now, but I want you to understand that it is incredibly important to simply admit this one thing.  Admitting that historical AND current government policy towards indigenous peoples is wrong, is no light thing.  You will find strong resistance to this concept, particularly in the contemporary context.  The Canadian government certainly does not accept this as true.  The vast majority of Canadians probably do not accept that this is true.

So before you ask, “why belabour the obvious, âpihtawikosisân?” I want you to remember that getting people to accept this premise on a wide scale is something we have yet to accomplish, and that the rejection of this as truth is the number one reason we have yet to resolve our problems, people to people, nation to nation.

So what do I need to know?

I think the first thing all Canadians need to have firmly rooted in their consciousness is…we’re not going away.  Ever.  Never ever ever.

“Successive governments have tried – sometimes intentionally, sometimes in ignorance – to absorb Aboriginal people into Canadian society, thus eliminating them as distinct peoples.  Policies pursued over the decades have undermined – and almost erased – Aboriginal cultures and identities.

This is assimilation.  It is a denial of the principles of peace, harmony and justice for which this country stands – and it has failed.  Aboriginal peoples remain proudly different.

Assimilation policies failed because Aboriginal people have the secret of cultural survival.  They have an enduring sense of themselves as peoples with a unique heritage and the right to cultural x, A Word From Commissioners.

Many Canadians are still clamouring for assimilation.  You can see this again in all those comment sections, in all of the dialogues about ‘how to fix the Aboriginal problem’.  The solutions are invariably, “Make them more like us!  Private propertyGet them out of isolated communities and into the cities with the rest of us No special rights!  No differences!  Treat them the same!” and so on.

Settlers wanted us to assimilate and 'just become Canadian' before. Not only did this policy not work, it created so much damage in our communities that we are still struggling to recover.

Settlers wanted us to assimilate and ‘just become Canadian’ before. Not only did this policy not work, it created so much damage in our communities that we are still struggling to recover.

It’s all been tried.  It really has.  You might not know all the history yet so perhaps you think your ideas are novel.  I suggest starting with Volume One of the RCAP Report, titled “Looking Forward, Looking Back“.  Go ahead and skip to the sections on the Indian Act, Residential Schools, and Relocation of Aboriginal Communities.  Pretty much every suggestion currently being given to assimilate native peoples has been actively tried before, with disastrous results and ultimately, a failure to actually assimilate us.

Stop it.  It didn’t work, and it isn’t going to work, no matter how much cooler you think  you are than the policy makers of the past.  Accept the fact that we are here, and we aren’t leaving, and that we recognise you aren’t leaving either.  It would do us all a world of good if we could be on the same page on this one.

Where do we go from here?

“After some 500 years of a relationship that has swung from partnership to domination, from mutual respect and co-operation to paternalism and attempted assimilation, Canada must now work out fair and lasting terms of coexistence with Aboriginal people.” – page 1, Looking Forward, Looking Back.

The truth is, the status quo isn’t working.  I have repeatedly talked about the need to form new relationships, but I’m not just pulling this out of thin air.  This is something many people have recognised over the years as they have examined the history and the current reality of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relationships.

The Commission quite conveniently outlined four reasons to commit to building this new relationship:

  • Canada’s claim to be a fair and enlightened society depends on it.
  • The life chances of Aboriginal people, which are still shamefully low, must be improved.
  • Negotiations, as conducted under the current rules, has proved unequal to the task of settling grievances.
  • Continued failure may well lead to violence.

Don’t buy it?  Then perhaps you can explain how repeating the mistakes of the past (assimilation, relocation etc) is a more intelligent approach?  I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely ready to try something different.

What did the Commission have in mind?

“The first and perhaps most important element is the need to reject the principles on which the relationship has foundered over the last two centuries in particular — principles such as assimilation, control, intrusion and coercion — and do away with the remnants of the colonial era. As a beginning, we need to abandon outmoded doctrines such as terra nullius and discovery. We must reject the attitudes of racial and cultural superiority reflected in these concepts, which contributed to European nations’ presumptions of sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands. The renewed relationship needs to be built on principles that will return us to a path of justice, co-existence and equality.” Chapter 14 of Part 3, Volume 1.

I know I keep coming back to this, but it’s important.  The way forward needs to be guided by accepting these two related points as true:

  • The main policy direction, pursued for more than 150 years, first by colonial then by Canadian governments, has been [and continues to be] wrong.
  • We need to reject the principles on which the relationship has foundered over the last two centuries in particular — principles such as assimilation, control, intrusion and coercion — and do away with the remnants of the colonial era.

Until we have that firmly set in our minds, we are all going to spin our wheels, because a great many of the people ‘coming to the table’ will continue to hold on to ideas that will actively sabotage any attempt to create new relationships.

But let’s pretend we all agree, and move on.

Restructure the relationship?  How?

Volume Two of the RCAP final report deals with precisely this issue.  The Commission makes concrete suggestions about restructuring and renewing treaties, for example, to return them to living agreements rather than historical artifacts.  This includes changing the approach to so called ‘modern’ treaties which are still very much based on a model of ‘we talk about this once, we sign, and we never ever discuss it again’.  No other kind of treaty works that way and the Commission provides some good recommendations about how to change the process both of addressing historical treaties, and approaching modern treaties.

Idle No More is also a rallying call to our allies. We are asking settlers to join us in restructuring this relationship.

Idle No More is also a rallying call to our allies. We are asking settlers to join us in restructuring this relationship.

In-depth discussions and recommendations related to governance, lands and resources, economic development, can also be found in Volume Two.  If you are curious about any of these things, please use this resource to learn more about the issues.  Again, the important thing about this report is that it does not just leave you with the problems identified (a step that is undoubtedly important), but also provides you with concrete solutions that you can roll around in your head for a while to see how you feel about it.

Volume Two is very much about building a vehicle for change.

Even if we change the relationship, how is that going to fix the problems Aboriginal communities face?

Volume Three of the RCAP is titled, “Gathering Strength”.  It deals with many of the issues that have been raised recently in the context of Attawapiskat, such as housing, education and health.  It also addresses family, arts and heritage, and social policy in general.

Volume Three is about how where we’re going to drive that vehicle for change.

Volume Four provides us with a diversity of indigenous perspectives on a range of issues, providing us with historical information, current issues and needs and recommendations for integrating these different perspectives in a way that ensures any sight-seeing we do along the journey doesn’t leave anyone out.

What if I just wanted to see a roadmap for how any of this would actually work?


Indigenous women have been instrumental in initiating and sustaining this movement.

Volume Five lays out a twenty year plan to implement all the recommendations of the Commission.  It provides the sort of cost/benefit analysis that seems to tickle some people to no end, so if that’s your thing, feel free to skip straight to the ‘nitty gritty’.  If you simply want to overload on practical suggestions for identified problems, then mosey on over to Appendix A, which contains all 444 recommendations for change proposed by the RCAP.

Wait, 20-year plan?  But this report was released over 15 years ago, surely we’re close to implementing all these recommendations?

Ahahahahahahhaaa…….ha.  No.  Even if we’re generous and start the clock ticking after the release of the final report in 1996 rather than with the creation of the Commission in 1991 (in which case 20 years would be up), we have seen precious little improvement in 15 years.

The Assembly of First Nations released a Report Card (PDF) 10 years after the RCAP, detailing the dismal implementation record to date.

I also attended a conference in 2006 that basically discussed Life After the RCAP, which was pretty disheartening.  That conference provided some very interesting information on what impact the RCAP has had, even absent full implementation, so if you want a quick discussion on the pros and cons of how the Commission went about fulfilling its mandate, and on how the report has been received non-officially in the courts and so on, please take a gander!  In particular, I suggest reading the summary of Alan C. Cairn’s breakdown of some of the inherent problems with the Commission’s approach to nationhood.  The RCAP was not without its flaws.

Why hasn’t there been more progress?

Aaaaand this is why I take you back to those points I kept hammering away at earlier.  You know, these ones:

  • The main policy direction, pursued for more than 150 years, first by colonial then by Canadian governments, has been [and continues to be] wrong.
  • We need to reject the principles on which the relationship has foundered over the last two centuries in particular — principles such as assimilation, control, intrusion and coercion — and do away with the remnants of the colonial era.

It is my firm belief that Canada has not yet accepted these two points as true, and because of this, there has been little in the way of progress.

If we haven't disappeared by now, isn't it time to try to actually work towards solutions so we can live together harmoniously?

If we haven’t disappeared by now, isn’t it time to try to actually work towards solutions so we can live together harmoniously?

If you actually believe that native culture is inferior, then you don’t value it and you sure as heck aren’t going to take it seriously.  If you don’t understand the history of relations between indigenous peoples and settlers, then you aren’t going to believe that current conditions faced by native peoples aren’t almost entirely self-imposed.  If you know nothing about indigenous governance and think Indian Act governance is ‘traditional’, then you probably aren’t going to have much faith in native self-government.  If you don’t know what has been attempted before (assimilation, relocation, etc) then you’re going to think that you’re coming up with something really radical when you suggest similar things in the current context.

This country is woefully ignorant, on a grand scale, and we will never succeed in rebuilding relationships until we address that ignorance.  I can’t stress this enough…without education, there can be no justice.  And until there is justice…there will be no peace.

My purpose here was to introduce people to the RCAP, both as a starting point for further investigation into the many issues faced by native peoples in Canada, and also as proof positive that practical solutions have been suggested.  That latter part is important, because people need to stop believing that there is no other way ‘out’ besides just assimilating us once and for all.  It might seem so much simpler to just legislate us out of existence, make us all ‘the same’ to satisfy liberal notions of equality, but it won’t actual solve anything.  The RCAP is a good place to start if you want to know why such attempts are doomed to fail, and what alternatives have been proposed.

I have never before republished one of my own articles here on my blog, but I’ve done this today. People have been asking, “what is it Idle No More wants to accomplish?” and as I sat writing about this, I realised that I’d actually gone through a fairly detailed breakdown of some of the main goals as expressed in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. I offer this article then as a way to move us forward and as a way to remind us all that a lot of thinking and work and research has been done, and we don’t necessarily need to do it all over. So with my apologies for perhaps reaching you twice with this article, I try to in part answer the question of “where do we go from here?”

A much more concise version of this article was published by the National Post on December 31st, 2012.

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Categories: Culture, Decolonisation, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Representation of natives, Residential schools

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93 Responses to Idle No More: Where do we go from here?

  1. Pingback: Where do we go from here? | finding development

  2. lproudfoot says:

    Excellent – now if we could just make the people who need to read this article – and the materials you’ve linked to …sit their butts down and READ IT. Starting, of course, with Mr. Harper and Mr. Duncan.

  3. Nijii says:

    Keep on keepin on sister, your good real good.

  4. Sounds and looks like everything I see on the American side. It’s amazing the things that are so in common with the Doctrine of Discovery and broken treaties everywhere.

  5. Thank you for this tonic of knowledge! I look forward to hearing your words and sharing them far and wide.

  6. Gail McPhail says:

    Your writing is interesting and informative, keep up the good work….there are those of us who want and need to be better educated in this subject.

  7. Brock says:

    I try to remember passages like the following (in Thomas King’s new book ‘The Inconvenient Indian’) when educating people: “A great many people in North America believe that Canada and the United States, in a moment of inexplicable generosity, gave treaty rights to Native people as a gift. Of course, anyone familiar with the history of Indians in North America knows that Native people paid for every treaty right, and in some cases, paid more than once. The idea that either country gave First Nations something for free is horseshit.”

  8. Wounded Knee 1973 Demand to the United Nations System: That the Treaties between the Indigenous Nations and the Government States of the Americas be accepted, archived, recognized, respected and implemented on an EQUAL BASIS in the OFFICIAL ARCHIVE of the UN as fundamental elements of global jurisprudence of INTERNATIONAL LAW in present terms.

  9. The Law of Exceptions – NAFTA and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Open letter to the Ministers of State and Public Constituencies of Canada-US-Mexico

  10. atma says:

    very well said.
    so simple – go back to the treaties.

  11. A video presentation of this piece would prove useful to spread the word.

  12. John Blades says:

    I support Idle No More based mostly on a gut feeling that FN’s have not been dealt with in a fair and equitable manner. I have great difficulty rationalizing this to my other members of none FN society. This blog has gone a long way to helping me intellectualize what my gut has been telling me. Thank you very, very much

  13. As a non-aboriginal I also need educating. Governments since 1746 have not been truthful about terrible decisions and injustices that have been heaped on the aboriginal community. Please tell us how we can support your efforts. Give us the words we need to inform other Canadians. I agree the time for change is now !

  14. Cory says:

    Thank you so much for re-publishing this article here. I didn’t see it the first time and this is such a clear, patient, and generous introduction for folks like me who want and need to learn more. Many many thanks for all your writing.

  15. Gayl Veinotte says:


  16. Gayl Veinotte says:

    …on Facebook…

  17. sunday says:

    Fantastic article. Thank you! A clear tactical approach to educating non-natives about indigenous rights would be to include the RCAP Summary document you mention in mandatory middle-school curriculum. Most of the language, as you’ve shown, is very accessible and this is the age at which children are supposed to be learning history and geography as part of social studies. (There’s new curriculum coming on line in Ontario that appears slightly better than the old stuff, if only because they have increased the Aboriginal content and brought it forward to a younger age – but still falls woefully short of teaching kids what we know they should be learning about nation-to-nation relationships and treaty rights.) Maybe you’re thinking, yeah, but it will take so long to change curriculum – true, it will take a few years – but if non-natives were better educated, younger, we would all be many steps closer to a new relationship built on respect.

  18. fem_progress says:

    I am “white*”. I am from Quebec. I speak French as a mother tongue and English as my #2. *I am a mixture of all kinds of people, some of whom I know, some I don’t. I am a Pagan and Mother Earth matters much to me. I am deeply attached to Montreal Island, to Québec and also to Canada. I have visited a fair part of it and I have gone further north than many people I know. I know how expensive food is up there (and it got worse thanks to our “good friend” Harper, a man I despise).

    I lived in Chateauguay when the bridge was closed for 91 days. I have no anger, I understood why.

    Every time I look at a picture of Chief Spence, I cry. My job as a translator (yes, I am one meant to build bridges between cultures) has led me to read a lot of federal documents over the years. I am appalled. My sense of justice and human rights is deeply hurt. When I think of all the missing and murdered First Nations women the police ignored, I cry. I don’t understand well what would happen if all the land claims were honored, but I don’t think the First Nations want to throw me out of the country.

    What can you say of a government who sends body bags, but no vaccines or medicines when there is an epidemic? I am still outraged every time I think of that. Nevermind Aglukkaq, she is an incompetent pawn like Dundan. She lends an undeserved veneer of fairness to this government. And when the minister for Status of Women votes for M308… but I rant.

    I worked as an auditor in Ottawa for a few years and I don’t believe the crap Harper and his puppets are saying about FN band management. But we know how Harper runs his ship : tout croche (going haywire). And when he is cornered, he smears and demeans people. He did it to the veterans, to civil servants (Mr. Colvin who denounced torture, and others too… and his own Budget Officer), to women, to seniors and of course to First Nations and their leaders. Just about everyone.

    I hope I have the right to say I stand with you, that I consider you to be my brothers and sisters. I apologize for all the idiots who demean you. But stepping out of ignorance takes effort and some people are just too lazy to bother so they feed on ideological pablum served by the Lame Street Media.

    I pray daily for Chief Spence. I pray, very very hard for Harper to lose power (and I invested a bit in the court challenge) as soon as possible because he and his party are undoing the little good there was. Not out of hatred. It is righteous and rightful anger I feel.

    Maybe I am ridiculous but I bought myself a drum and I will go and protest along anyone who will be there, because this sh!t has to stop. NOW. Earth is dying and we have no other place to go. Maybe the rich will build rockets or special houses. The 99% will die.

    I come in peace. Please accept me.

    And your blog is added to my blogroll.

  19. Rob says:

    I disagree with the in-blog-post assertion that “no special rights” has ever been tried, and when tried failed miserably. This is not historically accurate, since First Nations and colonialist Europeans were never on equal footing, and treaties since then have done nothing but entrench the different treatment of First Nations/Metis (by definition Metis are not First Nations, since they did not exist until after the first Europeans) compared to all other Canadians. This continues to be the biggest stumbling block of true Canadian unity. Not natives feel resentment because of the special treatment afforded First Nations (eg. special hunting rights, free housing, cheaper university), while many Natives feel resentment because the quality of their lives is clearly below that of the average Canadian. What we have in Canada is a very strange form of apartheid, where there are different rules for First Nations. Please don’t confuse what you call “assimilation” with what is now (yes of course assimilation was a long-running goal, but no longer) a quest for greater Canadian unity.

    I believe all Canadians should be equal under the law, as this is the only way to achieve real unity. First Nations people should be less concerned with what the government can do for them, and more concerned with what they can do for themselves. It’s a lot easier to walk down the street shouting angry slogans than it is to take the time and effort required to affect real change from within.

    • You have misread. Nowhere in this article did I assert “no special rights” has ever been tried, and I’m not sure that statement even makes sense. Canadians believe they have the right to govern themselves, yes? This is not considered a ‘special right’? We governed ourselves for thousands of years, never gave that right up, so saying we will continue to exercise it is not a special right.

      What I did say, and I’ll quote, is this:

      Many Canadians are still clamouring for assimilation. You can see this again in all those comment sections, in all of the dialogues about ‘how to fix the Aboriginal problem’. The solutions are invariably, “Make them more like us! Private property! Get them out of isolated communities and into the cities with the rest of us! No special rights! No differences! Treat them the same!” and so on.
      Settlers wanted us to assimilate and ‘just become Canadian’ before. Not only did this policy not work, it created so much damage in our communities that we are still struggling to recover.

      Settlers wanted us to assimilate and ‘just become Canadian’ before. Not only did this policy not work, it created so much damage in our communities that we are still struggling to recover.

      It’s all been tried. It really has. You might not know all the history yet so perhaps you think your ideas are novel.

      You commit two major errors that I am specifically trying to rectify in this article.

      – You erroneously assert that there is no longer an attempt to assimilate us and;
      – you ignore that ‘equal under the law’ as you frame it, is a farce that perpetuates historical and present day colonialism by ignoring said colonialism.

      Assimilation is absolutely still the goal, even if you dress it up as a desire for Canadian unity. The goal is still to absorb us ‘into the body politic’, and you have stated your support for this quite well. What you call it doesn’t matter, if the intent is for us to finally lose all rights to the the land and to our socio-political structures…and let’s be clear. That is exactly what you’re suggesting should happen. This is assimilation. You wish for us to ‘become Canadian’ without acknowledging the power imbalance between Canada and indigenous peoples, and without acknowledging that colonialism continues to exist.

      You also seemingly failed to read the entire article, or grasp its significance. You speak of ‘walking down the street shouting angry slogans [rather than taking] the time and effort require to affect real change within”. In fact, this entire article is about affecting real change from within…the within includes you, as a Canadian. If you want all Canadians to be equal, you need to acknowledge systemic inequality and understand why those inequalities exist…and you are coming to conclusions not supported by the RCAP, which, with all due respect, has much more background information than you do on the subject. We are asking for REAL change. This article attempts to give you details on what that change would look like, and I promise, it doesn’t look anything like what you’ve stated here.

      I highly suggest you read it. At least the Highlights.

    • DKing says:

      The federal government provides $3.3 Billion (2 cents from every federal tax dollar) in public transfers under Bill C-48 for post-secondary education, public transit and affordable housing, on top of this they get money from the gas tax for these purposes, which boosts it to $3.9 Billion. (all figures based on 2006 data). You may want to look into the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to see the total amount they receive for social and not for profit housing.

      First Nations on reserve and northern education is significantly underfunded, for example, Ontario averages $11,000 per child grade JK to 12, while it is $6,000 for children attending schools on reserves. While post-secondary funding is available, it is capped by the federal government. Some FN’s are wealthier than others and provided funding from their own revenues, while other have to limit recipients, often it means off-reserve Band members are the first not to receive it, nonetheless, the monies saved by under-funding elementary and high school students not only is far greater than the funding provided for post-secondary schooling, I find it ironic that those who claim the post-secondary funding First Nations receive is unfair, yet, have never once complained about the gross under- funding at the elementary and high school level. Having taught numerous First Nations University and College students, in my experience most were a few years behind as a result. Faculty had to really “go the extra mile”, but in time, those students were able to rise to the appropriate level and compete with all other students; nonetheless, it was evident that the second class level of education they received had created self-esteem issues that had to be overcome, and in the vast majority of students did.

  20. I’m not sure why this person decided to use the Contact form to send me this nonsense, but since I don’t want his or her message, I’ll put it here and block his/her IP:

    Name: R Darr
    Comment: Come on Chief….go home. Your $70M salary and 90Mill from Feds should be spent on your people NOT your Bureaucracy. No sympathy here for that nonsense!!!!

    Time: Thursday December 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm
    IP Address:

    • Bob Hearns says:

      My misinformation is NOT misinformation until I SEE it as the misinformation that it IS. My prejudice is NOT prejudice until I SEE it as the prejudice that it IS. There is an enormous amount of misinformation, prejudice and misunderstanding that we need to overcome.
      As many First Nations people know, this is more than a movement to preserve First Nations. It is a movement to preserve this planet, which obviously includes all of us and in the process of achieving this, First Nations, along with the rest of us, will be treated with the dignity and respect that we all deserve.We deserve it because we exist.

  21. Why even talk about “Treaties” … it’s the land of the native peoples … of course killing of your neighbors and taking over their land is not limited to nonnative peoples …. really sad that we [ human beings ] are just like that .. I guess its just like that … but at the very least everyone should be treated with respect …………..

  22. Judy Gouin says:

    The Liberal leadsership race should be a forum for this discussion, as party policy will emerge from the convention next spring. Constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne published an essay entitled “A Way Forward For Aboriginal Canadians” on her web site, when she announced her candidacy on June 27. She also was the first candidate to comment on the Idle No More movement, with a posting on her blog entitled, “We must stand against omnibus changes to indigenous rights” on December 15.

  23. Miriam Devlin says:

    radar is exactly the person that needs prayers for only that will open a closed mind. Closed to the real world surrounding him/her, the seed falls on barren ground. Education may help but only if the heart/mind can be opened.

    i stand with you, my Sister. The things you speak about are on both sides of the border and on both borders!

  24. fem_progress says:

    I see this person radar is on a fact-free diet. Nevermind your hours of research.

    Why is there so much hatred towards the First Nations? Why are too many voices in the media uniting to spread falsehoods? Colby Cosh wrote a piece in Maclean’s which is just as bad as Christie Blatchford’s. I tried to correct some facts and I got attacked quite viciously.

    Why the hatred? There must be a powerful emotion underneath… I will venture there is more than one, and one of them is fear of change. The striking Québec students were also demeaned, but it did not go as far, by a long way.

  25. Pingback: Eradicating Ecocide in Canada - RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS: A history of residential schools in Canada

  26. Daniel Nikpayuk says:

    I’d like to make some decolonising considerations about the concept of “History” that so many of us take for granted (inspired by having read only 50 pages so far of the RCAP):

    We begin with some general considerations about “memory”, but instead of human memory we look at something currently a little bit more tangible, that of computer memory:

    Any computer programmer worthy of the title knows that there is no one best way to access computer memory, which is why there are many well thought out “data structures” (as the terminology goes), the simplest being “arrays” and “linked lists”. Are you looking to access memory quickly ? use arrays. Or are you looking to change memory frequently ? use linked lists.


    There is a branch of math called “graph theory” which comes into play here (don’t worry, we won’t be doing actual math here): graph theory generally looks at “networks” in the abstract. Its main conceptual tools are what are called “vertices” (dots) and “edges” (lines). A collection of dots connected by lines are called “graphs” which gives a set of relationships without context (math people like to abstract out context, it’s what we do): if two dots are connected by a line, they have a relationship. Who knows what that actual relationship is, its taken for granted (its arbitrary), so long as the relationships remain of the same “type” within a single graph.

    When one looks at graphs visually:

    there are graphs that look like “hierarchies” which are called trees:

    These trees are ideal for speed of access; they are minimalistic (no redundancy) with a unique path from one dot to another (navigation is as simple and as quick as it can be). There are many other graphs that have enough “regular” structure to be given names, but otherwise most just look like complex networks and of course are simply called “graphs”. The graphs that do look like “networks” are ideal for robustness: Their decentralisation and redundancy makes it hard to remove all possible paths from one dot to another. The internet works this way by the way.


    With the background set up, I’d like to say my point is, in the world of computer memory, there is no one superior structure to access memory.

    Now, human memory and computer memory aren’t the same thing—although in fairness “science” doesn’t yet have a good working model of the brain (including memory)—but my arguement doesn’t hinge on the nature of human memory itself, rather it hinges on the fact that we express human memory with words, and in this “space” of contexts, words and their relationships act a lot like these graphs (though this time not in the abstract). My point is, that with words, there is no best way to represent “memory”.

    I bring this up because the idea of History at its most basic level is a representation of human memories. Its main semiotic sign (i.e. means of representing and navigating historical memory) is the concept of an “event” (generally a collection of human memories).

    We so readily take for granted mainstream notions of History and that “non-Western” societies (even those that speak English) might not represent History and historical events in the same cultural way. What’s more, is we take for granted that different ways of doing the same thing isn’t necessarily a bad thing—or can even be a good thing.

    So I ask: What is History? What is an event?

    In many indigenous worldviews an historical event is primarily a cycle of renewal. Certainly this idea isn’t foreign to Westerners, we’re just about to celebrate the New Year after all (Happy New Year by the way). There are seven days a week, 12 months a year, each of these historical events are cyclical in nature. They are a way of remembering a specific passage of time, of history.

    Certainly there are events that are represented and perceived as things other than cycles of renewal (One’s road trip across the country maybe?), but many Westerners take for granted that when putting these historical events together into a big collection they impose a linear ordering of time on it: “[This] event occurred first, then [that] other event occurred after it…”. As for linear representations, that is the absolute simplest approach. A slightly delineated approach would be to say that some events overlap and it’s best to think of them as “branching out” but still moving forward in time (evolution of species maybe?). Such “Tree Structure” approaches to accessing historical memory are useful in many ways and are quick.

    In contrast, in many indigenous worldviews not only are historical events primarily cycles of renewal (One’s road trip across the country…and back), but there is less emphasis on linear orderings. “This historical event is related to [this other one], and [that one] is related to [this other one] …”. If one were to write such events down and draw a line from one event (dot) to another the “graph” would look like a complex network.

    What’s the point of all this complexity? Why not a simple historical tree? Wouldn’t a network be harder to remember (as a non-minimalistic approach) ? Wouldn’t it be harder to navigate these memories (many different paths to access the same memory) ?

    As an aside actually, I’ve heard that many scientists have a hard time working with Elders when exploring indigenous historical knowledge.

    There are many advantages, but I will note one in particular: Oral Tradition. If one doesn’t write these things down, how easy is it to remember? Is oral memory really less reliable than written memory?

    The more redundancy the less likely it is to be less reliable. What are the advantages to using Oral Collective Memory at all? That would be a different post altogether…

    In the world of human memory, there is no one best way to access human memory. In the world of human history, there is no one best way to access human history. With that said, I’m not saying we need to throw “evidence” or “verification” out the window, but one needs to realise, if we’re gonna have discussions about how to move forward, we need to understand and respect each other’s intellectual differences.

    Thank you,

    Daniel Nikpayuk

  27. Taddy says:

    kinanâskomitin, for all your work on this site. I am dead impressed by the clarity and incisiveness of your comments, and in fact the charity of your critism. In the mire of misinformation, prejudice and muddled thinking out there, your site is a very welcome relief. So thank you. That’s really my entire message, unless you have any brilliant, or even not so brilliant, ideas about how to go from having information available for people who look for it, to having information where people can’t help seeing it whether they want to or not.
    A non-plains-Cree speaking Métis woman in Montreal.

  28. Sean says:

    Thank you for your tireless efforts and meaningful words. I’ll let the above post speak for me. On a side note: Danny Metatawabin–Chief Spence’s colleague and spokesperson I believe– and wife Sylvia are my son’s godparents (we worked in Fort Albany FA for a couple years). Danny and Sylvia are elders to our son and we are blessed for it.

  29. andyro says:

    wrt: Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples – it should be easy enough to make this available as a PDF for offline tablet or phone/reader/ebook viewing – has anyone done this? (am I about to volunteer?)

    • I believe Daniel Nikpayuk has done this…I can’t find the email, Daniel?

      • Daniel Nikpayuk says:

        Hi andyro, Hi âpihtawikosisân,

        I wish I could claim it was me, I was working on it myself but some-one/people did it before me. It is currently distributed as five PDFs of the separate RCAP volumes by Queens university:

        It was originally converted by these people:

        Although their format consists of many many more smaller PDFs. Queens did the extra work of combining them together.

        I am trained to be skeptical about such things and so my disclaimer is that I have not verified that the conversion of formats preserved the content. I have no reason to assume it didn’t—or any lack of competence on the part of CAID—but it is a big document to convert which means any way one looks at it error of some sort is likely to be introduced in translation.

        I figure though if Queens is willing to put its name to it it’s probably pretty good. At the very least if one is to reference it for some academic reason they can always go to the source and verify the portion they are referencing.

        I myself have downloaded the HTMLs and relinked them so they are self contained on a local hard-drive. If anyone is interested in that I’d be willing to share.

        Not to make this about me, but I was working on an open-source automated system to download and convert formats en masse for other documents online that are in similar user-unfriendly formats: part of the automated process would be to automatically generate documentation of exactly what was downloaded and exactly how it was translated, which is to say I aim to provide “open-source” translation itself (open to scrutiny of format translation), but I’m not quite there yet. But, with respect, maybe your better versed than I am andyro? and if you know of anything like that already out there please share. Tools to uphold Democracy are always good after all.

        Thank you.

          • fem_progress says:

            Daniel Nikpayuk merci du fond du ♥ for posting this! I will try to download the whole thing before Harper takes it down. I recommend everyone does. It never happened before Harper but, now, reports Harper does not like disappear from federal websites. He has a 1984 approach: rewriting reality to his liking. First Peoples are the first hit but most ordinary Canadians are.

          • Daniel Nikpayuk says:

            Oh oh oh! RCAP audio files:


            I would like to give credit to those who pointed these new links out to me. I found them as tweets on the feed as such:

            Clayton ThomasMuller ‏@CreeClayton
            PLS RT! Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (Audio Files) Listen!!! #IdleNoMore #CNDpoli #RoundDanceRevolution

            As for the recent gov’t archive pdf RCAP above:

            Anne J ‏@anneriitta
            Hey folks, RCAP in PDF! Bookmark it, retweet it, above all – read it! … #idlenomore

            Thank you.

            As for the Queens and CAID links, I’m proud to say I googled those all by myself 😛

            âpihtawikosisân, to be so bold, I have a request to make for which I would be eternally grateful:

            Please update your Online Learning Resources section to include these links.

            For those of us who specialize in “media space” and interaction, I will always say content trumps format, always! (why stare at the finger that points to the sky?), yet—and although subtle—format isn’t insignificant. As Marshall McLuhan famously said: “The medium is the message.”

            Thank you.

          • This is confusing me. Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Appendix C: How We Fulfilled Our Mandate, states:

            “A list of commission staff appears in Appendix H and a breakdown of expenditures in Appendix I.”

            However, that seems to have been replaced with Appendix I: About the Logo….

          • Daniel Nikpayuk says:

            (Blue) Kim Anderson,

            I thought I’d try to help and find said “breakdown of expenditures.”

            The advantage of having the whole collection of html files on one’s hard-drive is they can run searches through those files.

            Under the assumption that the “Appendix I” reference was a typo and the content of interest was simply elsewhere within the document, I ran a few pattern matching searches on words and phrases like “expenditure”, “breakdown”, “breakdown of expenditures” etc. with no luck.

            I also tried some of the usual online routes such as google and wikipedia (which often has nice links to related resources at the bottom of the page) but again no luck.

            Given it’s a government document I’m assuming one could query the government for that information but I myself sadly am unfamiliar with the landscape and toolset one actually has available in interacting with them about these things.

            If anyone can find the “breakdown” please share 🙂

  30. Mary says:

    I want to thank you for the work you are doing to educate all of us. I read your article in the National Post and began to read through the Royal Commission report, I promise to read the whole thing. I made a terrible mistake and began to read the comment section. The ignorance makes my heart ache. Such an uphill battle to educate closed minds.

    The other evening my ten year old son and I watched Aboriginal History: “Did You Know?” He was very interested in this documentary, as was I. The thought occurred to me, as I’m sure it has to many others, that to move forward the children today have to start the dialogue. It would be wonderful to see indigenous children and non-indgenous children invited into each others classrooms to have a conversation that adults seem to have so much difficulty with. Grade fours speaking to grade fours, grade eights to grade eights and so on, all the way through the public school system. Who knows maybe the children can help educate their parents.

    Here is hoping 2013 is the year of change, brought to us all by the peaceful, inspirational Idle No More movement.

    Happy New Year with love and peace to you and yours.

  31. Pingback: Treaties Are Between Nations: An #IdleNoMore Solidarity Post « Dented Blue Mercedes

  32. Claudia says:

    Thank you for this clear, concise blog post. I’m going to share far and wide to get more Canadians out of their ignorance. I’m afraid with the Harper government there will not be much in the way of change, they need to be voted out.

  33. thank you for your posts .
    It seems to us That it is time for TheresaSpence to give up her hunger strike.She has demonstrated that Stepen Harper can not dialogue. If she continues her health may be compromised. It is so important that she does not become a victim to Stephen Harper .He renders invisible by not responding to her. We need her to lead by saying she knows Stephen Harper therefore she will not compromise her integrity by becoming his victim or martyr.She must be well enough to keep speaking her truth to the people who can hear her and spread her important message.

  34. Rob Mc says:

    As a non aboriginal person, I thank you for this very informative perspective. I think one of the biggest issues in beginning the rebuilding process is being informed. It is such a complicated issue, and one that most people ( aboriginal and non aboriginal ) do not understand.

  35. daveM says:

    We have to thank some women for the changes that are starting to occur. We have to thank the courageous who started idlenomore, the writers who publicize it, the wonderful Theresa Spence for sacrificing her health.
    Canada is in a difficult time now and our First Nations are attempting to keep us on an even path. Canadians can be pleased that First Nations are participating to benefit democracy and our country and environment.
    Personally, I salute the women who have made loud voices for the benefit of all Canadians.
    We must ALL work to make sure that ALL Canadians benefit from policies and regulations and agreements, we must ensure that our agreements are honored.

  36. Sharon Jackson says:

    I would love to hear your response to this writer from the Calgary Herald. The article is predictable and a perfect example of everything you have been talking about.

    • I don’t have the time or energy to address these kinds of articles individually. What I will continue to do is try to debunk myths when I do have the time.

      • Sharon Jackson says:

        I know you don’t have time, honestly. I just thought this was a star example of the kinds of thing you write about. There is another one in the Globe and Mail today talking about aboriginals living in “dream palaces.” There must be days when you want to bite people.

        • Fully agreed. I wish I had the time, I honestly do. It’s soooo frustrating to read this stuff and not have the energy/time to tear it into shreds, but I also determined early on that I need to avoid trying to do that because there’s just too much out there. BUT I thought you might like this piece in APTN:

          • Wally Moran says:

            Edit: I am posting this portion of a banned poster’s comment, to highlight why “Wally Moran” is very unwelcome here.

            “Don’t bother blocking the IP btw – I can easily bypass that.

            W. Moran”

            Yes. This is really his idea of how someone who actually wishes to engage in constructive dialogue behaves. Very professional behaviour for a self-proclaimed journalist.

            Keep it classy, Wally.

  37. mike says:

    Edit: wow, “Mike”, that was truly a disgusting display of racism and bullshit.

  38. correy baldwin says:

    Apihtawikosisan, your blog is packed full of good stuff. Kept me fed all Christmas. I did some writing myself, and hope you don’t mind the endorsement:

  39. Wally Moran says:

    Edit: Yup, the self-proclaimed ‘journalist’ Wally Moran continues to bluster, demand to be allowed to say whatever he wants on my personal blog, threatens to contact the Nation Post about me (ha! HA! HAHAHAHHAHAH) and says I’m really the problem. Oh. This was my favourite part of his aggressive and rude rant “Not hard to tell you’re a lawyer, a leftist and a mental midget.”

    Yup. Class all the way. Totally just me being an awful person not letting the wonderful Wally Moran post (from another IP address, just like he said he would).

    Ah, Wally, Wally. Until you can at least fake being a decent human being, your two cents are going to keep getting edited out of existence here.

  40. Margie says:

    Idle No More is a grassroots organization that does not seem to embrace any involvement from existing First Nations governing bodies – is that correct? This seems like a rather difficult starting position – going over the heads of the First Nations councils, committees, etc that have been set up to do the business of the people.

    • When a fundamental issue is the Indian Act, it doesn’t exactly make sense to have Indian Act leaders at the forefront of a grassroots movement. Even still, there are some amazing people in those positions and they have been involved in Idle No More all along.

  41. I support the Idle No More movement and (with your approval) have linked to your wonderful âpihtawikosisân site.

    • Sharon Jackson says:

      What I find interesting is the targeting of Attawapiskat for bad fiscal management. A speaker on the CBC this morning reminded us that the band financial statements are audited every year. That the allegations do not specify exactly what is missing. A receipt? A purchase order? Also, that before Chief Spence was elected, there were 250 ish “unsupported payments” but since her election in 2010, there had been only 40 or so.

      This is all so predictable. And sad.

  42. Pingback: Auditing Attawapiskat « Whoa! Canada

  43. Pingback: Solidarity Against Rape, Protection Of The Sacred Feminine | Guided To Safety

  44. Shmohawk says:

    Ironic, that the RCAP documents you link sit on the Aboriginal (Indian) Affairs website. Ironic and sad because I doubt many of folks there – including present and past John Duncans – have ever read it. Keep on keeping on…

  45. Sharon Jackson says:

    This is a good article that asks, “Should Toronto be put under third party management?”

  46. Pingback: Idle No More « Women Suffrage and Beyond

  47. Pingback: Canada, Idle No More et les revendications des Premières Nations : petit guide à l’usage des non-autochtones « MediaBeNews

  48. Daniel Nikpayuk says:

    When attempting to look at the “51 page document [PDF] that does a bang up job of summarising the report” I noticed a broken link:

    Fortunately, doing a quick google search reveals an alternate home for the same document (for anyone like me wanting to see):

  49. Daniel Nikpayuk says:

    It’s occurred to me what Harper’s current strategy of attack is:

    There’s no way he could’ve been silent for as long as he was over the holidays without planning his own offensive.

    So what would one in his position do? First of all, it is well documented he’s a master manipulator, with strengths in particular in “divide and conquer.”

    So what would one in his position do? He sets his targets on those foundations which make us powerful: moral, political, and intellectual authority, all things that could sway a greater public to “our side”. A unified Indigenous movement is bad enough, the last thing he needs is for the rest of Canada (minus the trolls of course) to join. It would be his political death, and those pulling his strings would be quick to drop him after his term was up.

    So what would one in his position do? Whether he’s right or not, he seems to view Chief Spence as the moral authority. What’s the opposite of moral authority? corruption! hey hey now. Whether he’s right or not, he seems to view Pam Palmater as the political authority. What’s the opposite of political authority? infighting! Atleo vs. Palmater anyone?

    As for intellectual authority, he doesn’t seem to have overtly targeted anyone just yet but Chelsea Vowel with her famous apihtawikosisan blogsite is definitely a candidate. What’s the opposite of intellectual authority? silence. or rather denial of voice. It’s not like he can “smear” her intelligence as corrupt or inconsistent or just plain stupid after all.

    I will keep saying this: we can’t be reactionary but we can’t underestimate the Canadian Government either.

    • Daniel, you raise very good points here, and I confess, I am always surprised when these machinations are not self-evident to others immediately as the events unfold. (And thus, it is a good reminder to me, to keep speaking what I see, which to me, is clear as day and even somewhat pedantic to say aloud to others.)

      I completely concur with your last statement, and to me, it would seem that Harper’s Termination by Assimilation designs will hinge exactly on a combination of:

      1) keeping the general Canadian populace misinformed, disengaged, confused and irritated via mainstream media; and

      2) Native people, supporters and Idle No More becoming reactionary.

      Harper has stressed [commentary redacted] that people have a right to legally demonstrate in this country [more unhelpful commentary redacted]. For me, that was clearly setting the stage for pushing demonstrations into illegal acts. Perhaps by the blockades not occurring on Native land, but in Canadian territory, instead. (I see police violence coming, in these situations.) But given Harper’s requesting all Canadians reflect on the legacy of John A. MacDonald, yesterday, I see

      1) an assurance that “the Indian problem” will be dealt with (for stockholders, investors, average historically well-informed racist) and

      2) a threat/warning (to Natives and other Idle No More supporters) of criminalization of the public round dance since it would be in windego best interest to remove that peaceful public demonstration vehicle entirely.

      These are not pretty ideas, granted. However, like you, I consider it folly to underestimate the Canadian government (for me specifically, the corruption, greed and manipulation). I feel these are things for which we ought be prepared, both as individuals working hard to enlighten Non-Native Canadians and effect just change, and legally.

      • Also, as a bonus, with respect to painting the movement as corrupt and reactionary, is Duncan’s assertion that there will be no repealing the C-38 and C-45 omnibus bills, as they are satisfied they have fulfilled their constitutional obligations. (That is, anyone aware enough to know that constitutional rights are being violated en masse, is “making it up”.)

        I have not looked at the news today at all, though I am surmising that we will shortly start seeing the “no seriously, it’s all constitutional” sound bites / quotes in the media fairly soon, for the general public’s consumption.

      • Daniel Nikpayuk says:

        I am of the opinion that our moral authority comes from the Land itself, from the clean water and unpolluted earth. Moreover, such authority comes from the women who unite and lead us towards healthier communities and partnerships.

        As for intellectual authority, there’s too much out there to “discredit”; the alternative then is to pump a lot of misinformation out there through the media as you said.

        This is hard to say, but I think our political authority is currently our weakpoint. We’ve relied too much on the AFN without existing well defined alternatives. At the same time though, as Nations we do in fact have our traditional systems as templates if we want and need them. Not to say we can’t get our act together, but we need to commit time and resources to organising this aspect of Idle No More, or at least do a better job countering the mainstream media and bringing awareness.

        We can’t be reactionary, but I do think we need to dedicate some of our people to engaging the media side of things; providing a buffer, a shield, a safe space for other leaders to continue the education and decolonizing process.

  50. Pingback: Why First Nations calling for a Nation-to-Nation relationship might want to walk their talk first « mediaINDIGENA

  51. friend says:

    i respect your voice and opinions . and support the movement i cant stress enough the peaceful righteous approach such that a few who stray will cause the movement to tumble … and fast… stay strong and true

  52. For those of you on Twitter who would like to read some great satire, Search #Ottawapiskat. It is hilarious. The Chief of Ottawapiskat lives in a mansion while many of his people are homeless.” and much more. Made me laugh out loud.

  53. Claire Hanley says:

    Thank you for your blog post. I’m still learning and having my consciousness raised (a veteran of the woman’s movement in the 70’s :-)) on all these issues. May I say that this rising up is overdue, but is perhaps a natural outgrowth of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements. We’re pretty much all disgusted with the mess that our leaders and our system (capitalism? materialism? patriarchy?) have made of our planet and with the way in which they have impoverished huge groups of people.

    Reading your excellent explanation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, I couldn’t help but be struck with the title – and with the point of view that it assumes: the study, by an elite group, of a subservient culture. We are the Masters, we will determine what is best for you – in a highly disinterested, paternalistic way, of course.

    Might I respectfully suggest that the First Nation peoples have got to reject taking on that point of view. Their culture, their society, their spirituality, their way of relating with nature – are of equal value with the values of the Royal Commission. In fact, looking at the current state of the Planet – acidic oceans and declining fish populations, polluted waters, atmosphere loaded with carbon inexorably raising global temperatures, I would suggest that the world’s aboriginal peoples possess a better way of sustaining life and preserving the earth.

    What about an Aboriginal Commission on the Planet Destroying Peoples?

    Thanks again. I look forward to your future posts and to supporting the Idle No More movement.

  54. Pingback: Eradicating Ecocide in Canada - Council of Canadians Toronto Chapter Jan 21, 2003: Events & News

  55. Thanks for a very useful article. I have been very concerned by the tone of commentaries on the INM movement, and have tried to provide some information here:

  56. Pingback: IDLE NO MORE MOVEMENT: Resources from Garçonnière | MIXED BAG MAG

  57. Pingback: Idle No More: A Round-up of Blogs, Media, and Other Required Reading | AHORA

  58. Pingback: Solidarity Against Rape, Pillage, & Domination Culture, A Movement of The Sacred Feminine | Culture CollectiveCulture Collective

  59. myuglysweater says:

    I know I’m very late coming to this, but I found this article exceptionally useful! Thank you for writing it.

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