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Reflections on Idle No More, Indigenous Activism, and Canadian Settler Colonialism

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In the winter of 2012, the Canadian political scene was shaken by the emergence of ‘Idle No More', a collection of protests directed by and largely comprised of Indigenous peoples

Originally, a response to a variety of legislation that was being passed through the Canadian government at the time, Idle No More spread across the country and around the world.

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To my mind, the most explicit theorization of the Indigenous resurgence paradigm can be found in the writings of two Indigenous scholar/activists working here in Canada: Mohawk political scientist Taiaiake Alfred and Anishinaabe feminist Leanne Simpson

Like Fanon’s quasi-Nietzschean invocation of self-affirmation in Black Skin, White Masks, both Alfred and Simpson start from a position that calls on Indigenous people and communities to “turn away” from the assimilative reformism of the liberal recognition approach and to instead build our national liberation efforts on the revitalization of “traditional” political values and practices. “We [must] choose to turn away from the legacies of colonialism,” writes Alfred in Wasáse, “and take on the challenge of creating a new reality for ourselves and for our people.” For Simpson, decolonization requires that Indigenous communities reorient our collective labor from attempts to transform “the colonial outside into a flourishment of the Indigenous inside.” In other words, we need to decolonize “on our own terms, without the sanction, permission or engagement of the state, western theory or the opinions of Canadian.

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Idle No More has created many events to raise awareness to this movement. On December 21st, 2012, there was a rally on Parliament Hill. Hundreds of First Nations Protesters had gathered together to create awareness

This rally consisted of protesters waving flags, chanting slogans, and marching through the streets of the capital (Pedwell, 2012). In addition, onDecember 30th, 2012 many gathered for a flash mob round dance in Toronto’s Eaten Centre. Some Indigenous women also chose to make a political standpoint and reject the Queen Elizabeth medal of solidarity, in order to show support for the Idle No More movement. There was many instances where Ingenious people of Canada have resisted and responded politically towards the government.

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As can be seen, Idle No More, from my perspective, had as a prime objective an ‘awakening’ of aboriginal people and their mobilization to protest their continuing colonial relationship with the federal government partly expressed in the very structure of reserve politics. Idle No More is a movement of dissent insofar as it refused the reality and truth about Indigenous peoples that are imposed by the state and the majority of the settler population.

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Northern Affairs Canada. (2013, November 07). Historic Treaties and Treaty First Nations in Canada Infographic. Retrieved from

Pedwell, T. (2018, May 11). Aboriginal protesters demonstrate against Conservative policies in Ottawa. Retrieved from Story. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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