Indigenous protests against uranium mining, nuclear waste dumping and industrial abuse in Saskatchewan, Canada
Idle No More Rally
Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan, January 5, 2013 The Jan 5th Idle No More rally in Buffalo Narrows was a powerful introduction of INM into northern Saskatchewan. It was attended by over 200 people of all ages, mostly Metis & First Nations representing the communities of (but not limited to) La Loche, Buffalo River First Nation, Dillon, Birch Ridge First Nation, Turnor Lake, Michel Village, Buffalo Narrows, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Canoe Lake First Nation, Beauval, English River First Nation, Patuanak, Pinehouse, Green Lake and Red Pheasant First Nation. There was a great showing from our youth.
The powerhouses of Idle No More in northern Saskatchewan are the young Metis and First Nation mothers Angella McKay of Buffalo Narrows, originally from Ile-a-la-Crosse, and April Rogers of Treaty 6, with her children being of Treaty 10, Birch Ridge First Nations. These young women are a beautiful force to be reckoned with, because they are coming from a place of love for their children. Also organizing and drawing from decades of experience were Marius and Candyce Paul of English River First Nation.
The event was opened with a spirited song by the Buffalo River Dene Drummers and Singers, and a prayer by Elder Jules Daigneault of Ile-a-la-Crosse.
The rights of our future generations to clean water was an overall theme repeatedly emphasized throughout this event. Angella McKay welcomed everyone and emceed with a firm kindness, establishing the traditional values of spirituality and respect. She explained the intention of treaties to be a sharing of the land in an honourable way which means respecting the wellbeing of the people. She compared our land to a "big sponge for water", which gives life to everything and unites us all.
April Rogers gave a powerful teaching of our purpose based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs which she demonstrated with a poster. She started by defining all the stages of the heirarchy, then explained how many First Nations and Metis peoples, after 500 years of oppression, racism and attempted genocide, through re-connecting to their identity/spiritual roots,are finally making their way back after a very painful struggle through all the stages to reach their highest potential of self-actualization and contributing to the wellbeing of society.
April pointed out that now, however, with these omnibus bills, government and industry are attempting to take the First Nations and Metis back down to the stage of meeting our basic needs by threatening our access to clean water. How can we as people develop our self esteem and contribute to shaping the wellbeing of our society when we're pushed back down to struggling for out basic human right to clean water? She postulated that the reason government and industry are determined to keep Indigenous peoples down is because "they are afraid of us, afraid of our potential once we reach our self-actualization".
April called on everyone, regardless of culture and race, to fight for the right of all in our society to self-actualization because at that level we can really make a difference in protecting our water and land, the only way to survival for future generations.
This presentation by April Rogers, a young First Nations mother, is the best explanation of the purpose of Idle No More that I have ever heard. She delivered it with an absolute sincerity and poignancy that can only come from the love of a mother for her children.
There were several other speakers, including:
- Candyce Paul of English River First Nations who educated on the content of the omnibus bills passed, including c-38 and 45
- Marius Paul, ERFN, outlining the history of First Nations' struggle against industry in the north
- Jules Daigneault of Ile-a-la-Crosse, emphasizing how our land and water has always given life to all plants and animals, including us as humans, and that we need to all come together protect these against nuclear waste
- Fred Pederson of Pinehouse, informing of the Dec. 12, 2012 agreement signed between Cameco, Areva, Pinehouse mayor & council and Metis local. Fred stated emphatically that the people of his community were not informed or consulted on this agreement and are not in favor of it. He told the crowd that because of that, he and many others are starting legal action against Cameco, Areva, the northern village of Pinehouse, their Metis Local, and the governments of Saskatchewan and of Canada. He explained how just as the consequences of the agreement will affect not just Pinehouse, but all the people of Saskatchewan, this legal action is also for the sake of all people, even around the whole world. Fred appealed to all people for support in this fight. He called for Idle No More to come to Pinehouse and "show our people that we have the right to stand up and oppose our so-called leaders who are selling off our traditional lands from under our feet without our knowledge or permission". Fred's talk demonstrated a real-life, critical example of what Idle No More is attempting to establish: the rights of the people to self-determination, and to stop industry and government's suppression of that right. He had to pause several times during his talk for rounds of applause and cheers.
- Max Morin of Beauval educated on the issue of nuclear waste and the Committee for Future Generations' work, mandated by our Elders, to protect the water by opposing the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and making sure nuclear waste is never buried here. He included an explanation of the sacred staff we carry, its origin, how we were gifted with it and it signifigance to us as we continue to be carried.
- Sheena LaPlante, a young woman from Red Pheasant First Nations, stated that government is only where they are because we put them there and that the real power lies with the people because we are the 99%
- A community member from Dillon who works at one of the mines stated that what he has seen going on at the mine causes him great concern for his grandchildren. But because he wants to remain on the payroll, he has been reluctant to speak out. He compared this pressure to remain silent to families living along the Athabasca River north of Fort MacMurray, who, due to poisoning of the water by the oilsands, cannot drink the water anymore and are being provided with free jugs of water by the oil companies in exchange for their silence. "I look at my grandchildren and wonder, what position does that put them in for the future? Where will they get clean water from once the industries have pulled out, leaving our people in a toxic wasteland with no clean water? How do we stop this from happening for the sake of our grandchildren's future?"
- A Buffalo River Dene Nation drummer acknowledged and thanked all our spiritual leaders: the Pipe-Carriers, Medicine People, Sweatlodge Keepers and all peoples who recognize and call on the power of our Creator to protect and heal us
The rally moved outdoors for a peaceful march through Buffalo Narrows, including many vehicles carrying Elders who wanted to particpate but could not walk. A megaphone broadcast several voices throughout the walk, rallying the people with cries of, "We are proud to be United!", "We do this for our children!", and "We are Idle No More!", progressing through every community in northern Saskatchewan. The march concluded with a Round Dance on the highway in front of the Lakeview Complex, once again supported by the beautiful prayer songs of the Buffalo River Dene Drummers and Singers, closing with the Honour Song.
Congratulations and Tiniki, Masi, Marci-Cho , Thank You to the organizers and any others who helped put on this event. Thank you to the speakers and all who participated to make this very first Idle No More event in northern Saskatchewan a huge success.
The next INM rally has already been set for Sunday, January 27th in La Loche, with more undoubtedly to come in the near future. Please share with your contacts.
Committee for Future Generations
- media release: Signing of Cameco/Areva deal with English River First Nations ignites strong opposition from members (June 3, 2013)