Archive forDecember 2012 - Peter Sibbald's Blog About Photography and Filmmaking

At the Idle No More Spiritual Epicentre with Chief Theresa Spence

Yesterday afternoon I spent a few precious moments with Chief Spence within her hunger strike encampment, the spiritual centre of the Idle No More movement on Victoria Island near the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. (Much footage to edit.) Despite her evident weakening, she remains strong in spirit, a selfless human being still full of great humour 12 days into her hunger strike.

Chief Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation has pledged to starve herself, to death if necessary, in an effort to get Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper to come and meet with her to discuss the plight of her community which first entered the national news a little over a year ago when the state of emergency that was declared in October 2011 was flagged by NDP MP Charlie Angus. In the wake of Federal /Provincial government bickering and inaction the still ongoing crisi sparked emergency airlifts by Canadian Red Cross. Now, surrounded by a small army of dedicated supporters, Chief Spence shelters from the oncoming Canadian winter in a canvas teepee on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River just minutes from the granite Parliament Buildings and the Prime Minister’s Office, waiting.

In both form and function, her teepee reminds me of  the mountain, Devils Tower, in the Stephen Spielberg’s 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, mysteriously drawing people in from around the continent who sense that something mysterious and uncommon is afoot.  My drive was 6 hours. Others are flying in. It would be a roughly 12 minute motorcade ride in an armor-plated limo from the Prime Minister’s residence.

Speaking of geography, according to this Google map by, Idle No More—spread through the power of social media—has already spawned over 110 events throughout North America and Europe  since it began a few weeks ago:, which, given how fast this is developing, I have not had time to verify.


The use of social media provides such an interesting study in contrasts. On one hand one can see that the current count of Youtube Video uploads pegged to keyword “Idle No More” is approximately 10,400, mostly in the past week or so. A video of an Idle No More flashmob at West Edmonton Mall more than halfway across Canada has over 50,00 views. Meanwhile,  it would appear that Prime Minister Harper is still tuned to a different channel, developing his Flickr stream  and getting his pet Chinchilla Charlie ready for Christmas, which at this time of writing has 4,063 views: Charlie the Chinchilla gets into the spirit of Christmas at 24 Sussex


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Understanding “Idle No More”… Not Just an “Indian Thing”

While many are writing, reporting, broadcasting and blogging on this already the past few days, this may be the my first of many related posts on my blog about this new movement across Canada. There is something about it that has the same raw authenticity that the Occupy movement did a little over a year ago. The singular difference, I sense, is that the sentiment and knowledge that fuels it has been hundreds of years in the amassing and the pent-up anger driving it—rightly in my opinion—is generations old, residing in the hearts of four or five generations of people currently extant.

On the surface at least Idle No More is the creation of four young women, 3 Native and one non-Native, in response to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s, ham-fisted Omnibus Bill C-45—with (among many travesties) its rights grab of First People’ land rights and annihilation of protections to Canada’s precious clean water. But beyond that, The PM’s apparently blithe and nakedly insulting unconcern about Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike, now in it’s 10th day (tbc), merely a stone’s throw from the PMO has jabbed already raw nerves from sea to sea to shining sea.

 Idle No More’s official web site is the go-to place on matters and information related to the movement. Please beware: immitators and other’s attempting to forward discreditable agendas are already springing up.

It’s a lot to wade through though so as I begin to get up-to-date on what the movement is myself, I thought I would focus what I’m learning. Rather than attempting to interpret, here is the beginning of a compendium of what the people themselves are saying.

To begin with, and perhaps of greatest importance to the greatest number, in the words of University of Winnipeg Director of Indigenous Inclusion Wab Kinew in the Huffington Posta couple of days ago: Idle No More is “more than just an “Indian Thing””.

And even if here and there the odd Canadian might be so calous and colonially imperial in his or her way of thinking as not to give a damn about social justice, First Nations or First Nations land rights, perhaps they’ll sit up and take notice of the new threats to their treasured cottage properties and country retreats and their own now threatened rights.

For these and other reasons, I think Idle No More may grow wider and endure to become, ironically, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s enduring legacies. But wait, there is still time for him to do something about fixing this.

Meanwhile, here is lawyer and Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam, who in 12 minutes gives us a pretty clear idea of what is at stake:

[youtube][/youtube] ©IdleNoMoreAlberta


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