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Native American Activism: Environmental Issues Take Priority

Environment  (tags: Idle No More, activism, indigenous rights, native rights, Canada, world, politics, humanrights, 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', interesting, news, society, media )

- 1967 days ago -
A dynamic environmental activism movement pioneered by highly engaged youth from native communities is spreading across North America


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S J (130)
Tuesday May 28, 2013, 3:36 pm
Keep up your good work kids, I m on your side! Thanks Cal.

Angelene B (148)
Tuesday May 28, 2013, 3:53 pm
truly wonderful!

Philip Heinlein (474)
Tuesday May 28, 2013, 5:26 pm
It's great to read about some good news for native americans. Usually all you hear about is problems with addiction, poverty, etc.

Keep up the good work kids!

lee e (114)
Tuesday May 28, 2013, 5:36 pm
The indigenous peoples of the US and Canada are among the most oppressed, and the most poverty stricken. Every time a Plutocrat wants to empirically invade a territory within North America, he starts on indigenous people's land, assert his industrial strength, without regard to humanity or even national allegiance! These are the voices that waken the conscious of even the most cynical or ignorant of youth, they speak out truth and we all listen!! I certainly hope that truth will prevail.

Aletta Kraan (146)
Tuesday May 28, 2013, 5:39 pm
Great , keep it up !!!!

Christeen A (342)
Tuesday May 28, 2013, 6:58 pm
Kudos for doing a great job. Please keep it up. Thank you.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday May 28, 2013, 10:03 pm
GO Young Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Great article!

Carol H (229)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 5:52 am
noted, thanks Cal

roxy H (350)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 6:09 am
Thanks for your support IDLE NO MORE! , and if I can add this Since Dec 10th its been a whirlwind and the movement has grown. We are in a serious battle to save the land, water , wolves, animals and the Ojibwa Tribe off Lake Superior ( there is only 800 people left) is under attack from Governor Walker and the State of Wisconsin and the Worlds largest Strip mine now. So, this is really personal to me, I am an Ojibwa and involved with this 100%. Thanks for posting any and all the coverage :)

pam w (139)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 7:01 am
Best of luck to you, Roxie....we stand alongside!

Susan Clay (0)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 7:30 am
Good luck and best wishes for you all.

Ben O (140)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 7:34 am
Right on; -Don't mess with Mother Earth! Idle No More:

TOM T (248)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 7:37 am

Awesome article
Noted & Shared
Thank You for bringing to OUR attention !

cynthia l (207)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 8:34 am
Awesome well written article that made my heart sing with joy. Kudos to Rose Bear Dont Walk and her collegues. Hats off to Idle No More and thanks to the Cultural Consevancy I admire each and everyone involved. yes, education will make a differance with internet access.Most impressive is it is all done peacefully. Join in with singing praises for there efforts and determination

Yasmeen E (1)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 8:59 am

S S (0)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 9:11 am
Thank you.

Alan Lambert (91)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 9:23 am
A dynamic environmental activism movement pioneered by highly engaged youth from native communities is spreading across North America. Ben Whitford reports......

Last winter, 18-year-old Rose Bear Don't Walk made herself a drum.

At her family home on the Flathead Indian Reservation in the grasslands of western Montana, in a tiny community nestled between a bison range and the Rocky mountains, the 18-year-old Salish tribal member carefully stretched a deerskin over a round wooden frame. A few days later, she said goodbye to her family and hauled the drum east, catching a plane to New Haven in time for the start of her second semester at Yale University.

The drum wasn't just for making music: it was a tool for social activism. In January, Bear Don't Walk - clad in moccasins and a brightly patterned Pendleton coat - and about 15 of her native American classmates converged on a snowy campus courtyard for a "flash mob" protest. While their bemused classmates rushed between classes, Bear Don't Walk and her friends beat out rhythms, sang, and danced a traditional round dance. "It was kind of a spectacle," Bear Don't Walk laughs. "We got a couple of weird looks."

The attention-grabbing stunt worked: many students paused to watch and to take flyers, and that night 60 or so of Bear Don't Walk's classmates gathered for a teach-in organised in collaboration with Canadian indigenous movement Idle No More. Many more tuned in from Columbia University in New York via a Google video-chat the organisers publicised on Facebook, and subsequently distributed via YouTube.

This, some experts say, is the new face of indigenous activism: propelled by young, highly educated and Web-savvy aboriginal people who organise online, and who stage their protests not on remote reservations but on elite college campuses and in other urban areas. "It's been a huge shift both in the number of aboriginal people engaging in these kinds of concerns and in the way they engage," says Ken Coates, the Canada research chair in regional innovation at the University of Saskatchewan.

Whether they're protesting against the Keystone pipeline, the erosion of clean-water protections, or the use of reclaimed sewage to create artificial snow at ski resorts, indigenous youths bring a personal connection and a sense of urgency that's often missing in non-native environmental activism, Coates says. "They're aware of the situations happening in their families and their communities, and they're determined to do something about it," he adds.

Idle No More, founded in late 2012 by four women in Saskatoon, is the most visible manifestation of that trend. What began as a simple Facebook page protesting the environmental excesses of Stephen Harper's conservative administration has grown into a global phenomenon, with thousands of people around the world participating in peaceful teach-ins, prayer circles and flash-mob dance sessions.

Idle No More isn't exclusively a young persons' movement, says co-founder Sylvia McAdam - herself a grandmother, but it was the energy and social-media savvy of young supporters that turned Idle No More into a national and then international success. "I'm glad that young people have taken that on," she says. "It's empowering and amazing to see them join in the way they have."

Another factor contributing to Idle No More's success was the fact that, unlike some previous indigenous campaigns, it put environmental issues front and centre. Issues such as conservation and clean-water protections serve as gateways, McAdam explains, helping to raise awareness of broader indigenous concerns. That's important because while few non-natives appreciate the need to protect aboriginal treaty rights, everyone can relate to environmental issues. "You don't have to be indigenous to drink water," McAdam notes.

Environmental activism also taps into the cultural heritage of young native people, says Kaylena Bray, a 26 year old member of the Seneca nation, who grew up splitting her time between her family home near New York City and an upstate reservation. "Growing up, there was a certain mindset - about how we think about the plants and animals around us, and about respect and reciprocity in how we look at the environment," she says.

A graduate of Brown University, Bray has attended Idle No More protests and participated in a multinational indigenous protest march at last year's Rio+20 summit; she also works at the Cultural Conservancy, a San Francisco non-profit dedicated to harnessing traditional native knowledge to protect the environment. She says she's well aware that not all young native people get the opportunities she's had; still, her academic and professional successes don't make her a rarity. "Each year there are more people that are doing well, graduating. We're going to keep seeing native youth continue to grow and do great work," she says.

That kind of optimism is infectious, says Russ Diabo. A Kahnawake Mohawk and veteran First Nations activist, Diabo says he fell into despondency after losing too many battles and seeing federal officials break too many promises. But the rise of Idle No More, and of a new generation of peaceful but highly engaged activists, changed that. "That gave me hope," he says. "There's a younger generation that's got the energy, and that's going to put the pressure on and get some historical injustices corrected."

Young activists will face challenges along the way: the political system is rigged against native peoples, Diabo says, and the young activists' campaigns against extractive-industry projects are making them plenty of powerful and deep-pocketed enemies. It will be a long, long march to victory, and there will be many more defeats along the way, Diabo warns.

That may be true. For now, though, Rose Bear Don't Walk still has her drum, and - like many of her generation - she's determined to make some noise.

Alan Lambert (91)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 9:24 am
Good to see this sort of thing.

. (0)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 9:51 am
Noted & posted

Past Member (0)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 10:22 am
Good for them

noted thanks

David C (108)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 1:37 pm
good for them...good for all of us.

Andre Yokers (6)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 2:02 pm
So good to see Native Americans standing up for their environmental values!

Vivian B (169)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 2:41 pm
This is a great story of someone trying to make a difference! That is what is needed now!!

Jaime Alves (52)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 3:03 pm
Noted, thanks.!

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 3:54 pm
Thank you! My sweet grandmother told us when we were children that we were part Native American, but we never found out what tribe we were a part of, and when she was older, she denied it, but she was suffering from dementia by that time. Sadly, we will never know our history, but we are greatful to know what little we do know. (n, p, t)

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Wednesday May 29, 2013, 3:55 pm
I forgot the most important point I wanted to make: we have a proud heritage even though we don't know exactly what that heritage is, and we honor our ancestors.

Laura T (105)
Tuesday July 2, 2013, 7:40 am
this gives me hope
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