More Idle No More and the Two Row Wampum

1 Feb
The Two Row Wampum

The Two Row Wampum

Earlier this week, I went to an event organized by Idle No More at our city hall as part of an international day of action to press their demands now that parliament is back in session. It seemed like a good opportunity to listen to what some of the movement’s participants had to say.

The first person I spoke with wasn’t even supposed to be there, she told me. A teacher at a Six Nations Reserve school – and officially an employee of the federal government — she had been obliged to sign a new “code of ethics,”  she told me, “or we’d lose our jobs. And it had in there no protesting.” That’s why she couldn’t tell me her name she added.  “We can’t talk about it. We can’t talk to our kids about Idle No More when it has everything to do with their future.”

But she was also the first person who spoke to me about the Two Row Wampum. This is a belt with two rows of purple beads and three rows of white, which codified the relationship, first for Iroquois but later for other native groups as well, set up between them and European colonizers in the 17th century.

The purple rows represent two boats, the native canoe and the European ship, sailing the same waters on their own independent trajectories. “The two lines are never supposed to touch each other or intersect,” she said, meaning neither could pass laws that would interfere in the steering of their craft.

Whether Canadian governments of the past have respected the intent of such an agreement is certainly open to argument but now, with the Conservative government and their omnibus bills, that policy of non-interference or imposition of dependency has certainly gone by the wayside.

Rather, said one speaker, “We are being run off a cliff by people who don’t know what they are doing.”

But what kind of movement is this exactly? This is a question I am still trying to answer. I got much closer after speaking to a young man named Earl Lambert.

INM’s goals is not so much to devise native-led solutions to endemic native poverty in Canada, he said, but “to bring awareness of specific issues that are being ignored by our provincial and federal governments, and poverty is one of them.

So we want to raise awareness around those issues, but we don’t want to stray from the core unifying theme of Idle No More, which is to stand up for our land, our territories, and our right to make decisions about our environment.”

Different communities have different agendas and priorities, especially if one has resources an another does not. “You’re going to have  two different outlooks on how they want to be dealt with on a nation to nation basis by the fed government,” said Mr. Lambert, “ but it’s not something you can put a band aid on and say, ‘okay, everything’s fixed now.’ I think it’s  something that has to be individually addressed, from province to province, region to region or nation to nation.”

So what is next for this movement? “This is just another seed being planted today,” said Mr. Lambert. “This is my 13th rally, so I see the seed being nurtured, and what we want to see is different nationalities come together, so people understand that this is about our children. It’s about our future. It’s about protecting our environment. It’s not just an Indian thing; it’s something that affects all of us.”

“Hopefully, he added, more and more people “will come on board and  say, ‘Right  on. Thanks for taking a stand, for not being afraid to get out there and speak up.”

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One Response to “More Idle No More and the Two Row Wampum”

  1. Novella April 19, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    I was curious if you ever thought of changing the layout of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only
    having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

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