Tribal, Environmental Groups Hold Rally Supporting ‘Idle No More’ Movement

Tribal and environmental organizations are holding a noon rally on Friday in Anchorage to show support for Canadian tribes fighting legislation they call a direct attack on First Nations. The legislation reduces environmental assessment requirements, and cuts the number of waterways protected by the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

The “Idle No More” movement in Canada has prompted dozens of actions in Canada since November, including rallies, protests, mob circle dances and blockades of major highways, bridges, and rail lines. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began fasting a month ago, demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He’s agreed to a meeting, which is scheduled for Friday.

Lisa Wade is Health and Social Services director for the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council. She says the “Idle No More” movement has used Facebook, Twitter and other social media to call on people around the world to show their support.

“There have been places as far away as Poland that have been responding, Japan, indigenous people all around the world are watching what’s happening in Canada,” Wade said. “Because when you strip away treaty rights and relationships that have been founded on principles of trust, and take those away with one legislative action, that can happen elsewhere.”

“So everyone in the world is paying attention to what is happening in Canada right now, and this action on Friday was short notice but it was very important in that we wanted the Canadian government to know this is being watched around the world.”

The “Idle No More” movement began over objections to legislation tribal leaders say removes protections for tribal lands and waters, lowers the threshold of community consent in the surrender of tribal lands, and violates treaty requirements to protect their traditional lands. Two Canadian tribes have filed suit over bill C-45 on First Nation lands.

Lisa Wade says the rally is to show support and to protest how Alaskan tribes are treated.

“The state of Alaska does not have the relationship with tribes that the federal government has and so they proceed with leasing lands, and coal mines, specifically here in our area, lands without consultation with tribes and don’t take into consideration necessarily the health of the individuals in our community,” Wade said.

Rally organizers are the group Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands; Alaska Community Action on Toxics; Alaska Rising Tide; and the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council. The program includes speakers and several dance groups. It’s scheduled for noon Friday at Town Square in downtown Anchorage.

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Joaqlin Estus is a reporter at KNBA in Anchorage.

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