Friday January 11 was a Global Day of Action in support of the Canadian First Nation rights movement called Idle No More. It coincided with the day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally met with some leaders of the official Assembly of First Nations — but not Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence (who has been on hunger strike since December 11) or other chiefs who boycotted what appears to have been a perfunctory meeting.
First Nation leaders are rightly upset by the legislative changes that the Harper government has proposed, which would violate treaties and impact First Nations and their environmental rights. While over a dozen “omnibus” laws affecting native rights have been proposed, Idle No More has been organizing most strongly against Bill C-45’s attempt to erase the approval and consultation process before construction can take place in or around waterways which pass through traditional First Nations lands. C-45 and the other proposed laws would make it much easier to build the Oil Sands (Tar Sands) pipeline and other environmentally dangerous projects which pose threats to the health of all of us in North America.
Born less than 3 months ago in November 2012 in Saskatoon, Idle No More has been growing like wildfire. Tactics such as flash mob dances in shopping malls, closing border bridges between the US and Canada, and interrupting traffic on the TransCanadian highway have captured the world’s attention and highlighted the conservative Harper government’s rights abuses against Canada’s First Nations communities. Another Day of Action is being called for January 28, when the Canadian parliament opens its new session.
We in the US have our own sordid history of trampling the rights and destroying the health of Native communities. That’s why we at Hesperian were incredibly excited to work with the Women’s Wellness Program at the NARA Indian Health Clinic, an Indian-owned, Indian-operated non-profit agency in Portland, Oregon, to produce an edition of Where Women Have No Doctor adapted to the realities of Native life. Their 2 volume publication JourneyWoman: A Native Woman’s Guide to Wellness helps to identify pathways to health through the poverty and cultural oppression resulting from the ongoing policies of the US and Canadian governments. We would also like to express our sorrow at the recent passing of Sharon Fleming, a force in the production of JourneyWoman and an inspiring friend.
Hesperian has also been active in the formation of a group campaigning against Extractive Industries, which often includes the destruction of indigenous communities, as part of the Peoples Health Movement (PHM). Physical and environmental health doesn’t respect borders, and we express our solidarity with JourneyWoman and Idle No More.