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Motivated by Tradition, Indigenous Women Take the Lead in Idle No More

Kristin Moe - YES! Magazine
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February 8, 2013



A woman stops traffic at an Idle No More event in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Tamara Herman)

Late last year, amid the the rallies, dances, blockades, and furious tweeting that accompanied the burgeoning Idle No More movement, a young native woman was kidnapped by two Caucasian men in Thunder Bay, Ontario. It was two days after Christmas. They drove her out to a remote wooded area where they raped and strangled her. According to one report, the men told her that they’d done this before, and intended to do it again. They allegedly said, “You Indians deserve to lose your treaty rights.”

The story was not widely reported in the press, maybe because the woman, publicly known as “Angela Smith,” is indigenous, or maybe because violence against indigenous women happens so frequently that it’s rarely considered news.

Which is what makes the very fact of Idle No More’s female leadership so significant. Across Canada, indigenous women are continuing a tradition of leadership that existed before colonization, and in spite of a political system which, over the last 150 years, has made every attempt to prevent them from having power. While the stated goal of Idle No More is “education and the revitalization of indigenous peoples through awareness and empowerment,” according to a press release issued by the group on January 10, the rights of indigenous women appear to be an inherent part of that revitalization.

The movement - which has swept North America and inspired solidarity actions all over the world - was initiated by four women: Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdams, Sheelah McLean, and Nina Wilson. It gained early momentum around the hunger strike maintained by another woman, Chief of the Attawapiskat, Theresa Spence.

“It’s not coincidental that women are initiating this movement,” says Kiera-Dawn Kolson, 26, a Dene activist from Northwest Territories who has spoken at and helped organize Idle No More events since the movement began. She’s Greenpeace’s Arctic Campaigner, a motivational speaker, facilitator, singer/songwriter, and performer.

Read the whole story at YES! Magazine

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