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Idle No More: The Awakening of The Sleeping Giant

Definition of IDLE 1: lacking worth or basis : vain 2: not occupied or employed: as a : having no employment : inactive b : not turned to normal or appropriate use

(Authors note:  I fully acknowledge that I am cisgendered Anishinabek man, born into a colonial, capitalist, male dominated patriarchal society.  I further acknowledge that I am in no way shape or form considered and expert in any matter, for I do not carry any university degrees, nor am I recognized as a pipe carrier, a medicine man or a spiritual advisor.  I am simply a humble Anishinabek man, who recognizes all the harsh dysfunctional realities in myself, and in the world I live in.  I listen to my Good Heart and Good mind, and try to live the Seven Grandfather teachings to the best of my abilities.  Lastly I would like to also state for the record, that we call ourselves the Oshkimaadziig as mentioned in Dr. Leanne Simpson’s books most notably, Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence and a New Emergence.  In no way shape or form, do I or any of us at Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp harbor the term “Oshkimaadziig” solely for ourselves.  In the time of the Seventh Fire, we recognize that we there are “Oshkimaadziig” people everywhere. On no authority do I speak for anyone but myself.  I am writing solely on what my heart and spirit are directing me to say.)  

When I first heard of Idle No More, I had already fully participated in a rally, not knowing that it was part of the “Idle No More” movement.  At that specific rally held at Queens Park in Toronto, Union of Ontario Chiefs Patrick Madahbee and Issac Day were at the forefront.  One week later, both of these Chiefs along with several others including Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo, were seen on national television storming the Parliament Building in Ottawa.  Later it was discovered that the Assembly of First Nations and the Ontario Union of Indians had fully endorsed the “Idle No More” movement, including the one that I had participated in.  It wasn’t until later, that I learned that the movement had originated from four grassroots women from Saskatchewan.

At first thought when I had heard the term ‘Idle”, I understood it as being stationary or not moving. As an organizer for Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp who has been very active and managing a reclamation site for almost a year already, I was a bit insulted at the thought of being considered idle or stagnant. I am also aware of and have been in contact with various nations who are not even close to idle. In fact, the two women who started the blockade in Grassy Narrows just celebrated their 10 year anniversary. Let us not forget the Haudenasaunee women who reclaimed their land in 2006, which also continues to this day. Other courageous efforts could be listed off, but I will press forward with the topic of this article.

It wasn’t until I was on the chartered bus to Ottawa for the Idle No More Rally, that someone opened my mind to a completely different take on the word “idle”. She said that she viewed the word “idle” as being inferior or less than. When it was put to me that way, I was able to understand the term and meaning a bit clearer.

This movement with its friendly flash mobs, and peacefully protests, rallies and marches has come under some criticism for being too peaceful. Or for protesting in the first place. As one such individual I was talking to, summed it up as “No one, in the history of arguments or fights, has ever won, by throwing a temper tantrum in someone elses face.” (That is what he summed up protest to).

Some arguments suggest that blockades are too aggressive and that protesters shouldn’t inconvenience the general masses. Other arguments would suggest that nothing short of an armed standoff between nations would suffice, for our oppressors carry guns, tear gas, pepper spray, riot gear, own the jails, police judicial system and the army. This suggestion indicates that peaceful protest and flash mobs are ineffective.

To be quite honest I’m not sure where the answer lies. It could be, that we will need to use all forms of resistance. Not everyone was born a militant warrior, an articulate journalist, or academics with doctorate degrees. The solution I think will be finding everyone’s strengths and capabilities and utilizing and mobilizing all peoples, Indigenous and non Indigenous alike. Rallies, marches, protests, petitions, phone calls to the Prime Minister, emails, blockades armed resistance are very useful tactics, and I believe that in the future, all forms of resistance will need to be applied.

For the time being, flashmobs, one day blockades are necessitating the need to at least become aware and educated on what is going on. Most importantly, people are proud to Anishinabek/Native/Haudenasaunee/Indigenous once again.

In the interests of Unity, I will try not to be over critical, and try to focus on the positives.

*Nothing is quite what it seems: Everyone is a Windigokaan these days*

*NOTE – Windigokaans, in the Anishinabek Nation are a the contrary society whom are often gifted with great spiritual powers. They are often humorous, and do things “contrary” to what others are doing, for the sake of showing people “what not to do, by doing it.” In the interest of time and space, I will not go into great detail explaining the roles and responsibilities of contrary’s. Instead Click here for Kaikains article explaining more on contraries.

Biskaabiiyang. BISKAABIIYAANG. I have said this word in other articles I’ve written. I say this word when I talk to people. I say this word to myself when I have no one else to talk to. I will say this word over and over again, until it is genetically programed into every DNA molecule in my body. I will live and breathe this word, so much so, that my children’s first words will be biskaabiiyaang. It will be so ingrained into my DNA that my children’s children first words for Seven Generations will be biskaabiiyaang. (insert laughter here)

In English biskaabiiyaang loosely translates to “we are returning” or “we will return”. This is the only word that we have that resembles the word “decolonization”. It is the fundamental basis of everything that we do at Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp. We are returning. We are returning, to our lands, our culture and our ways of life.

Hereditary Chiefs One of these ways of returning, is to return to our Hereditary Clan Governance System. This is the system that we used to govern ourselves before the Colonizers implemented the Indian Act Band Council System. In our Anishinaabek Clan Governance system, there are 7 Clan Mothers, and 7 Clan Chiefs (I have been told that there are 7 clan I just mentioned are the “head” clans, and under these head clans there are 7 other sub clans, totalling 49). The Clan Mother is the title holder, and who carries all the responsibility of the families within her clan. She chooses the Chief of her clan, who is only the spokesperson. The Chief’s position is generally viewed as a position for life, but the Clan Mother can remove him if he viewed as being delinquent. Should the Chief have sons, he will groom them to be like him, and that is to be a good spokesperson for his Clan. This is the role of the Hereditary Chief

Shawn Atleo is the Hereditary Chief of the Ahousaht First Nation. He also serves as the Assembly of First Nations Chief who speaks on behalf of all Band Council Chiefs in what is known as Canada

*Hereditary Chiefs can be bought and sold too*

The following is an excerpt from Resist the Atleo/Harper White Paper by Indigenous Anticapitalist posted on the Media Co-op website

“Atleo has always given the false impression that we are willing to cooperate with our own exploitation and destruction. He sold us out by supporting the Olympics, flaunting his own political agenda by stating to Bay Street that our communities are “open for business”, publicly supports the erosion of our Treaties by pushing for private ownership of reserve land.

The Atleo/Harper White Paper furthers this agenda to further exploit us and undermine our resistance to projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline, a $5.5 billion dollar mega-pipeline project opposed by 61 First Nations in BC alone. Atleo’s cozy ties with Enbridge guarantee him a piece of the pipeline pie, as he coaxed native groups in December 2010 to “explore ideas on how they can benefit from resource development projects they support.”

With over 500 years of colonization under our skin, we refuse to be sold out by Indian Agent Shawn Atleo: Our survival depends on resistance, unity on the ground in order to protect, defend and advance our sovereignty and our Treaty rights by every means by which our ancestors resisted and the coming generations deserve.”

For those that are interested the, entire article can be viewed here

Lawyers (Defined by Urban Dictionary) A zealous advocate acting as an agent for a client. The duty to the client is a fiduciary duty, the highest duty the law can impose. As a result of this duty a lawyer is required to obtain extensive knowledge of the law along with a high level of legal research and analysis skills. Another result of the fiduciary duty is that the attorney must act in the client’s best interest regardless of personal interests or moral objections. The lawyer must use any tool given by the law to ensure the most attractive outcome for the client, including technicalities and vague language.

Judges, Crown Attorneys, and Criminal Defense Lawyers all swear an oath to something called the Canadian Bar Association. The Canadian Bar Association is supposed to be the level of competency in which the judicial system sets its highest level of standards. What common people don’t know, is that, the entire judicial system is designed to rob people of their freedoms, and to enslave them into the oppressors pyramid scheme of power and corruption. They swear an oath to the Queen and the Canadian Bar association, that they will never tell this secret. The payoff, is the vast amounts of money, status and prestige one gain from being in this exclusive club.

*All Lawyers are not cut from the same cloth*

Dr. Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaq lawyer whose family originates from the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University. In addition to her faculty appointment as an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration, Dr. Palmater is Chair in Indigenous Governance, and Academic Director of the newly-created Centre for Indigenous Governance, housed in the Faculty of Arts. She is also a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies, affiliated with the MA program in Public Policy and Administration. (Ryerson University Website)

Dr. Pam Palmater, who was a runner-up to Shawn Atleo in the Assembly of First Nations elections last year, and who is the spokeswoman for the Idle No More movement was recently quoted as saying,

“First Nations are the last best hope that Canadians have at protecting land for food and water for the future-not just for our people, but for Canadians as well…So this country falls or survives on whether the acknowledge or recognize or implement those Aboriginal or treaty rights. So they need to stand with us, to protect what will be essential. And what we’re talking about, is having food and water for future generations.”

It is unclear if Dr. Pam Palmater has a hidden agenda to sell more books, or to ride the coat tails of what is now an international movement. On the surface she she seems legit, and there is absolutely no mistaking her intellect, education, and innate understanding of the law. For the time being her efforts merit the benefit of the doubt.    (Click here to see her dissect Omnibus Bill C-45)

Band Council Chiefs The Indian Act of 1876 that enforced The Band Council system designed specifically to remove Clan Mothers as head of the lodge, and as the title holder to the land. And to replace it with the oppressive and repressive patriarchal system that we see today. Furthermore when one takes offices as a Band Chief or Band Councilor, they sign a declaration to the “Dominion of Canada” that declares they will “well and truly serve the Sovereign Lord King” that they will “strictly obey all laws and regulations of the Sovereign Lord King” to “report all infractions of the laws and regulations at the earliest opportunity” to the Indian Agent over them. They will also “strive to advance the interest of (their) band morally and financially, both by precept and by example.”

In plain English it appears that they are swearing an oath to relinquish their sovereign status as a member of their Nation, become a subject of the Crown, assimilate their morals and financial interests to that of the Crown, and to lead by example so that those they lead, will do the same.

With the recent Coldwater Narrows Land Claim Settlement that my reserve was affiliated with…more than enough was said about our Band Chief and Councils, from all sides of the coin. At Oshkimaadziig, we’ve even written articles about Band Councils and the interests they serve. The fact is everyone, on every reserve will have something negative to say about their Chief and Councils. It is a divide and conquer tactic used by the colonial state. Give a few of us, money, power and prestige, and let the others crawl over each other fighting to be the next in line for the job.

*There are exceptions to every rule*

Chief Spence is quoted as saying, “I know it’s hard for people to understand what I’m doing but it’s for this pain that’s been going on too long with our people,” and “It has to stop and I’m willing to suffer until the meeting goes on. Even if I don’t make it, people will continue my journey. Like I keep saying, I’m willing to die for the people of First Nations because the suffering is too much,” (She is currently on day 18 of her hunger strike)

The truth of the matter I don’t know Chief Spence. People will speculate about the mismanagement of funds in Attiwapiskat. Or they will poke fun of her weight, or call her foolish for sacrificing herself needlessly… anything they deem necessary to continue to oppress her. The truth of the matter is, she could have been behind a multimillion dollar scandal. But that wouldn’t matter now. Whatever she may or may not have done in the past, has been atoned for and then some. She is doing something completely unprecedented in my lifetime. Never in my life, would I have ever imagined that a Band Council Chief, would risk her life for the entire nation of Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island. Never.

This is the power of Indigenous Women. Our strength as a Nations lies within the strength of our women. They have sustained us for over 500 years of genocide, oppression, disease, spousal abuse, rape, gender discrimination, male dominated patriarchy, etc., etc, etc,…the list goes on. It is this strength that us men need to once again acknowledge and support at all costs. In some cases, we need to get right out of the way, and to let the women lead. In other cases we will need to pick up our women from the ground where our patriarchal society has designated them and to return to whom they were always designed to be…as our Clan Mothers, our title holders and our sacred carriers of life.

Whether you are a believe in Band Councils or are a supporter of Idle No More …you have to admire the strength, determination, humility and courage that Chief Spence is displaying. Everyone has taken notice, something truly magnificent and special is unfolding before our eyes.

In the Anishinabek oral history, we talk about the Sleeping Giant, and the 8th Fire Prophecy.

The Sleeping Giant is said to be our Original ancestor named Nanaboozhoo who named all creation, and who gave every part of creation their special gifts. (He gave the skunks their smells, the bees theirs stingers, etc.) He was a very gifted and spiritual man. He also had a keen sense of humor, and was notorious for pulling pranks on spirits, animals and people. Eventually the people relegated him to no more than a trickster or a clown. Hurt and ashamed, he is said to have gone to sleep on a silver mine in Thunder Bay. As the story goes, he may or may not wake up again. Earlier this year I was fortunate to hear Elders of the Algonquin Anishinabek Nation, speak of the waking of the Sleeping Giant. The suggested, that the Sleeping Giant is the spirit of the Anishinabek (Indigenous) people. That when we can unify as one Nation, all across Turtle Island, we will become that Giant. Once we have risen as one Nation, we can then unify all Nations of the globe, and Light the 8th and Final Fire.


I’m not sure what will happen in the coming days. I dread the thought of Chief Spence perishing. We have buried too many of our Ogitchidakwe already, we don’t need to lose any more. Having said that, Chief Spence is a warrior, and is fully prepared to make the journey to meet her ancestors.

Whether Chief Spence lives or dies, There is no denying the kindled interest of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, who have suddenly become “Idle No More”. This movement has gone global, as other nations have taken an interest, and are supporting it from different parts of the world. There really is no telling how far this can go. This could very well be the catalyst that shifts the power of the entire globe.

We the Indigenous People, whom she sacrificing herself for, should not let her sacrifice go in vain. But instead we would pay her the highest tribute, by continuing the fight, like no other has seen before, in this generation, or any generation before us. Where we successfully rally behind and for our women, our elders, our children and rise as One Nation where our collective spirits become that Awakened Giant who will not go back to sleep. But who will continue to fight, the oppressive regimes in this country, and in doing so, Unite all peoples of all nations on Turtle Island, and fulfill the Eighth Fire Prophecy, The Eagle and the Condor Prophecy, and The Rainbow Bridge Prophecy and set a chain of events that would change the dynamics of the world forever. We as a collective of Rainbow Warriors would then seek to liberate all oppressed people, where we would see in our lifetimes, the end of colonialism, capitalism and imperialism worldwide.


Many of our ancestors held ceremonies in secret due to fear of being killed simply because of their spiritual beliefs. We were and are being imprisoned due to racial profiling and institutional oppression. We were forced to forget and degrade our very way of life through educational assimilation. For over 500 years they have tried to conduct legislative assimilation. And through all that, our people still rose and stood for their culture, the land and their people.

Whether you have just awoken to the systemic and generational oppression against indigenous peoples, or you have been fully immersed for months and years; do not be mistaken – we were never idle.

Should you choose to define idle as stagnant or inferior, know that we have been neither. The spirits of our ancestors has always been within us; this movement provided the spark that was needed to remind us of the fire that burns within all of us. It’s success lies in the fact that it has reignited our passion, courage, dedication and determination currently evident by the mass mobilization throughout Turtle Island.

Chief Spence has helped awaken the Sleeping Giant.

We as the Seventh Generation of the Seventh Fire Prophecy owe it to our Ancestors, owe it to Chief Spence and to all people who have fought and died for peace. And to all those who continue to fight day in and day out.

Do not let anyone put a cap limit on your dreams.

My Dream is the liberation of all peoples of the world, living in the Eighth Fire.

Chi Miigwetch Chief Spence, for helping light that fire in all of us.

Giibwanisi Oshkimaadziig Anishinabek

For the Rainbow Bridge Prophecy Click here

For the Eagle and Condor Prophecy Click here

For the Eighth Fire Prophecy Click here

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