Yeah, this could be part of the reason. But #IdleNoMore is not just a Canadian thing. There have been flash mobs in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and other major cities, as well as in states from Alaska to Florida and from Maine to Hawaii.
Democracy Now has covered the movement, and a local CBS channel covered the flash mob at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, but as of today (January 1, 2013), but there has been nothing on CNN, ABC, NBC, The New York Times, or NPR. The first flash mob was on December 17, 2012.
But this is part of the brilliance of #IdleNoMore. It was organized to coincide with Xmas shopping in malls across Canada, and it spread very quickly to malls across the US. Besides, with all those new iPads floating around out there, surely someone is watching YouTube videos of flash mob round dances?
Sure. Racism plays a huge role in the invisibility of settler colonialism, the invisibility of Native Americans, and the invisibility of #IdleNoMore. But Canadians are racist, too! And the inevitable comparisons between Canada and the US allow most Canadians to avoid facing the racist structures and foundations of our own society. At least we’re not American (even if slavery did occur under French and British colonial rule, even if we did practice racial segregation in schools and movie theatres in Nova Scotia and Ontario, even if we did engage in genocidal practices and policies against First Nations, even if we did turn Omar Khadr over to the Americans, etc., etc., etc.)
The question is not whether Canadians and Americans are racist, or who is more racist, but rather whether and how non-indigenous Canadians and Americans will respond to the invitation of #IdleNoMore. Will we acknowledge, confront, and overcome our own racism and work together with indigenous people to restructure our societies, our governments and our economies to work in partnership with the first peoples of North America? Or will we not?
Well, have I got a story for you! It’s called the Keystone Pipeline, and it’s hell-bent on bringing foreign crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to a refinery near you. And it happens to run through a dozen First Nations reserves in Canada and across over 100 miles of Native American reserves in the US. It has been the target of many protests by First Nations and other environmental activists. You can expect to see this protest movement grow along with the #IdleNoMore movement.
Now we’re getting warmer. Glen Coulthard makes an excellent point in his blog post, #IdleNoMore in Historical Context:
“If history has shown us anything, it is this: if you want those in power to respond swiftly to Indigenous peoples’ political efforts, start by placing Native bodies (with a few logs and tires thrown in for good measure) between settlers and their money, which in colonial contexts is generated by the ongoing theft and exploitation of our land and resource base. If this is true, then the long term efficacy of the #IdleNoMore movement would appear to hinge on its protest actions being distributed more evenly between the malls and front lawns of legislatures on the one hand, and the logging roads, thoroughfares, and railways that are central to the accumulation of colonial capital on the other. For better and for worse, it was our peoples’ challenge to these two pillars of colonial sovereignty that led to the recommendations of RCAP [Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples]: the Canadian state’s claim to hold a legitimate monopoly on use of violence and the conditions required for the ongoing accumulation of capital.”
#OWS was pretty easy for Americans to get on board with, in spite of the inevitable haters. Who wasn’t upset about CEOs getting hefty bonuses while middle class Americans were losing their jobs and their homes? The collective subject of #OWS could accommodate everyone from vegan anarchists to upper middle-class white people who were sick and tired of narrowly missing out on their boss’s corporate bonuses.
There have been some excellent critiques of the whiteness and maleness of #OWS, and some thoughtful analysis of the very different scenario at Occupy Oakland and the Oakland Commune. In fact, I would hazard to say that not many people paid attention to Occupy Oakland until they shut down the port by placing black bodies (and unwashed white bodies) between the middle class and their money.
My point is this: If the Occupy Movement is to become more than a spirited celebration of enlightened self interest on the part of the middle class, and particularly white middle-class men, then we need to take up the challenge of #IdleNoMore.
#IdleNoMore is not a movement of the 99%.
It’s bigger than that.
It’s a movement of treaty people.
And we are all treaty people in Canada and the US.
The historical condition for anything that happens in North America today – from Wall Street to #OccupyWallStreet, from corporate bonuses to the Rolling Jubilee from Christmas presents to welfare payments – is the colonization of Native land.
American corporate greed presupposes colonization. So does American anti-capitalist organizing. Of course, to presuppose a condition is not necessarily to affirm it! But unless we recognize colonization as a condition of everything that we do and everything that we are today, then we cannot work together with indigenous people towards the decolonization of our minds, our governments, our pocketbooks, and our social movements.
What would it take for non-indigenous Americans and Canadians to get as excited about #IdleNoMore as they were about #OccupyWallStreet? To understand that the current movement goes further than #OWS and demands more of us? And to see that this demand is also an invitation, a teaching, and a gift?