SUQUAMISH — A few Suquamish tribal members hope their participation in an upcoming rally sheds light on the recent clash between First Nations and its Canadian government.
The grassroots movement called Idle No More, which started in October, is over Canada’s recent passage of Bill C-45, a 400-page piece of legislation that contains 64 regulations. It’s also known as the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012.
First Nation members say the bill not only violates longstanding water and environmental treaties between Canada and its indigenous tribes, but also criticized the Canadian government for excluding tribal voice in the process.
The movement has attracted international media attention, especially in the case of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, who has been on a hunger strike since early December until a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and First Nations leaders occurs.
The collective Idle No More efforts and sentiments resonate loudly for some Suquamish tribal members. Some relate the Idle No More movement to the Civil Rights movement that aimed to eradicate racial discrimination, among other injustices.
If longstanding treaties are broken in Canada, other governments might copy it, Gyasi Ross, a Suquamish and Blackfoot tribal member, said of the Idle No More movement.
“Decisions Canada (is) making now, I have a feeling would affect US tribes,” Ross said.
Rallies, flash mobs and demonstrations have been popping up across the US in recent weeks in support of the movement.
Ross plans to participate in a rally Saturday near Pike Place Market in Seattle that supports the cause. This is the second rally he’s participated in recent weeks; the first one packed Westlake Mall, and an online video produced by Ross and a few of his friends has since received more than 35,000 views.
“We better get involved in the discussion because it affects both sides. We see land as a complete whole. When we see something that affects upstream, it also affects downstream,” he said.
Suquamish tribal elder Marilyn Wandrey will give the opening remarks at the rally on Saturday.
The 72-year-old said she knows many tribal members affected by Canada’s recent bill change through annual canoe journeys along the Canadian border.
“These are our friends and relatives that are part of us,” Wandrey said. “I know what hard work it’s going to take to bring everyone to the table and pray that all goes well with them. It’s going to have an impact on lots of First Nation families and generations to come.”
James Old Coyote, a Sto:lo and Hidatsa tribal member who lives in Squamish, hopes his attendance at Saturday’s rally will shed light on the movement.
Like Ross, he’s concerned about what sort of precedent Canada’s recent law passage could mean for tribes elsewhere.
“It’s not just a native issue. You see a bunch of Indians get all radical and fight the government… but it’s a much bigger picture. It’s our earth and we live in it. If the government up there has the ability to eliminate those treaties that were signed… is that going to be a trend happening down the states?” he said.
Check out a video Ross and his friends created during the flash
mob in downtown Seattle.