Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam, and Jessica Gordon, in a land where visionaries seem to be as scarce as are lush green pastures during an extended drought, you descended onto and into the hearts and souls of the grassroots people like a rejuvenating, purpose of life, invigorating rain. And look at what you have grown! The crops of pride in oneself for being of Indigenous blood and of being an agent for activism and peaceful protest have sprouted to life and are flourishing coast to coast, from sea to shining sea. You did it, hurrah! History will note it and we, the grassroots people, will never forget you for it.
Idle No More has shaken up the chiefs. Our leaders who slept with eyes wide shut on the job, have had the ice water of reality thrown in their faces by the Idle No More movement. Whether they are chiefs of small impoverished bands, or lead one of Canada’s rare wealthy bands, the chiefs have been put on notice by the grassroots and have been told to “shape up or ship out”. Fair warning has been given. What supporter of Idle No More did not believe that a major reason for this movement being founded was to force our chiefs to act courageously and wisely on our behalf? After all, the chiefs are our recognized leaders and like it or not, it is the chiefs who are going to be in direct negotiations with the Prime Minister and government officials at bargaining sessions in the future. Like most other grassroots individuals, I am an “everyday person”. But what credentials do I, or most other grassroots people possess that would qualify any of us to negotiate treaty rights for the communities of today and for the generations of tomorrow? I would prefer to leave such complex negotiations to our duly elected chiefs, the strongest of the strong, like Chief Theresa Spence.
I was privileged once again, 2 January 2013, to speak with Chief Spence. She spoke of the importance of unity. Listening to her, I was reminded of a memory of when I was serving as a firekeeper and the fire spoke to me about what is gained by being unified and of what is lost when division occurs. The fire told me this: “Only when the sticks of wood touch each other will a fire have a definite purpose. The fire can then do what is necessary to bring security and comfort for all who gather around it for that purpose. When the burning logs are pushed apart, the flames will cease to be seen. Alone, the logs without the touch of other sticks of wood will only smolder for a short while before expiring, leaving smoke behind to blur the people’s vision of something which had once been great.”
Chief Spence said that love and unity are the answer to all the world’s misery. She added: “Without unity, we won’t get past the poverty we find in our communities now.”
Chief Spence was calm, her physical energy level is low. But still, the teepee where she is making her stand pulses with the strength of her spirit. Her sense of what is just for all the First Peoples of this country is greater than mine, or yours or the Prime Minister’s. There is no doubt that all who have sat with Chief Spence in the teepee have felt it, and are in awe of it.
Division has cost us too much already. Need proof? Take a long hard look at our impoverished communities. Do you not see it?