(Photo: Taryn Scammell, Innocent Thunder Photography)
We’re at a crossroads on our planet right now. There are no two ways about it. We need change, and we need it now. Capitalism has failed the world’s people, and most of all Indigenous people. It’s caused people who happily lived in harmony with nature to lose their lands, their cultures and their identities. Consequently, it has caused those of us who come from European roots to be denied a way of life which could bring us a world of peace and allow us to connect to the planet and to one another in ways which we never knew possible.
As a European settler in Canada (although my family has been here for at least four generations), I have not been brought up with the deep sense of connection to our land which many Indigenous people were raised with. Many of us have done ourselves a disservice by not learning about the medicine plants that grow around us naturally, or which animals give signs of what is happening around us. Our settler ancestors did us a disservice by imposing Western European foreign policies upon a land that provides us with so much without needing our ideas to enrich it. This lack of place- based knowledge has created a situation which could become very dangerous to us if our global system collapses. What happens if our grocery stores begin to run dry? How many of us know which plants around us are edible and which may poison us?
Questions like this are questions which should be at the forefront of every Canadian’s mind as turmoil begins to increase globally. Questions like this are also the reason that all Canadians should care about Idle No More.
Although Idle No More has begun primarily as a movement to stand up for First Nations treaty rights in Canada, any time people choose to stand up for the protection of natural environments, they are standing up for the rights of all people. If Indigenous waters are left without protection, and sacred waterways are poisoned, everyone who depends upon that waterway is affected with no question of what their ethnic background is. Our Canadian government is beginning to violate all of our human rights and First Nations people are simply the ones with the deepest connection to this land. However, as Canadians, we all have a deep connection to this land and we all depend on its survival for our survival. It is time for us to start realizing that and standing up for it. We need to support First Nations people in this fight, as their culture contains knowledge which we all need to survive. First Nations cultures hold the knowledge of which plants cure which ailments, which animals give signs to the arrival of which species or which weather conditions, and which ways can connect us to mother earth and deeply to one another.
Possibly even more important at this moment is that these connections give First Nations movements the most staying power in this moment in time. Occupy is another movement which has been similar to Idle no more in the aspect that it has spread across countries. In Canada, however, Occupy was a movement that saw itself appear on the ground and then dissipate within a month or so. However, unlike Occupy, which was mostly run by people who have lived in the Canadian capitalist system with moderate success, many First Nations people do not fit into this system, and with the loss of land rights, they are quite literally risking the loss of their lives. People on reserves have lived with fewer rights than other Canadians, and with the loss of land protection rights they may very well be losing everything. They are in this fight for their very survival.
It is time for all of us in Canada to begin indigenizing ourselves in a way that is specific to this land. It is no longer a matter of choice; it is a matter of life or death. If we don’t learn to change, the planet is going to continue to change around us in a way that is going to destroy us. Those of us who continue on with the status quo way of Canadian living are going to be incredibly unequipped for surviving these changes. It is time to do what should have been done when the first European settlers arrived on this continent: It is time for us to stand next to our First Nations brothers and sisters instead of either against or above them. It is time for us to quiet ourselves and learn something from each other. It is time for us to change.
– By Taryn