'Idle No More' reaches Navajo Nation

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

GALLUP, January 10, 2013

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: "Idle No More" singers sing a round dance song Saturday during the Idle No More gathering in Gallup over the weekend.

SECOND FROM TOP: A protestor holds her hand written sign up in the air Saturday at the Idle No More gathering at the Gallup Flea Market in Gallup.

THIRD FROM TOP: Activist Norman Patrick Brown speaks to the crowd Saturday during the Idle No More gathering at the Gallup Flea Market in Gallup over the weekend.

I t's safe to say the Idle No More movement has reached the Navajo Nation and environs.

Since its national day of action on Dec. 10, the movement galvanized by a 30-day hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has inspired protests, flash mobs and other actions.

Last Saturday afternoon at the Gallup Flea Market, "mobsters" under the environmental umbrella organization Nxt Indigenous Generation organized the latest Idle No More round dance in the area in an effort to draw attention to the issues of First Nations in Canada, tribes in the U.S. and indigenous people around the world.

Nxt Indigenous Generation, led by Mercury Bitsuie and Nae Yellowhorse, gathered on Saturday to honor Spence and their First Nations relatives, who are under threat by an omnibus bill, called Bill C-45, in Canada's Parliament that would impact indigenous sovereignty and exploit land and water resources under protection.

The proposed legislation, sponsored by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Canada's Parliament, sparked the Idle No More movement. Idle No More, founded on Nov. 10 by four indigenous women in West Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, is the biggest grassroots social movement in North America since Occupy, and has reached people as far away as New Zealand.

The flash mob on Saturday also centered on local issues such as the protection of sacred sites, water rights, coal and uranium development on the Navajo Nation and a 1,000 Family Hozho Walk/Prayer for Unity, Peace and Change scheduled from April 19-21.

"We don't want no more exploitation of our lands and people," Norman P. Brown, founder of Dine Bidziil and sponsor of the Hozho walk, said to the 50 or so mobsters round-dancing. "We want to tell our people we're one people."

"Our brothers and sisters are doing something very brave," shouted Mark Charles, of Fort Defiance.

Charles, creator of the wirelesshogan.com website, also informed the circle of protesters and random flea market passersby about a petition he started, calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to retract his "inadequate apology to Native Peoples that was buried in the 2010 DOD Appropriations Act."

Charles said the apology by the U.S. is disrespectful and inadequate because it's written in an appropriations bill, contains no specific acts or repentance, mentions no specific injustice, tribe or broken treaty, and ends with a disclaimer. The White House press release has no mention of an apology and since the bill was signed into law three years ago, neither the White House nor Congress has announced, publicized or read the apology.

"It's not mistaken Native American communities are marginalized as we are," Charles added.

According to wirelesshogan.com, the petition has until Feb. 1 to reach the goal of 25,000 signatures. To date, there are about 100 signatures.

In honor of Spence and Idle No More, Bitsuie, of Sanders, Ariz., made an offering of cedar. To make the offering, he first placed abalone shell on the ground in the center of the round dance, filled the shell with cedar and lit it, and used his eagle feather to motion the scent of the cedar and energy of the protest into the universe.

"It's to support our relatives in Canada, Chief Theresa Spence and her fasting," said the 28-year-old, who also sang Native American Church peyote songs.

While watching Bitsuie conduct the offering, Desire Nez, of Prewitt, N.M., said she found out about the Idle No More event in Gallup from Facebook and came to support for her First Nations relatives.

"I know its happening in Canada and I'm here to support the unity of Native Americans and First Nations to come together," she said.

Another woman who made the trip to Gallup was 21-year-old Tristin Moone, of Teec Nos Pos, Ariz.

Moone, a third-year Columbia University student, told the crowd of supporters about the need to form a united front.

"I know we don't know a lot about Canada, but it's important we are united as indigenous people," Moone said. "Our voice is getting stronger. Together, we can do this."

Moone is correct about Idle No More's momentum. In response to the movement, Harper announced he would meet with Spence and other First Nations leaders on Friday to talk about sovereignty, water and land.

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