Article: Women rising, the drum sounding: the restorative power of Idle No More

Detroit organizer Charity Hicks on why a movement led by the "marginalized of the marginalized" can reset our relationship to each other and the Earth.

by Charity Hicks
           A procession into the anti-fracking and land defence encampment at Rexton, New Brunswick near Elsipogtog First Nation on October 7.
A procession into the anti-fracking and land defence encampment at 
Rexton, New Brunswick near Elsipogtog First Nation on October 7.
Charity Hicks
Charity Hicks

This is an exert from a longer interview conducted with Charity Hicks by Martin Lukacs in Detroit, Michigan, in the summer of 2013.
When Idle No More broke out in December, 2012, in Detroit we said "wow". Indigenous peoples are just blossoming.

We've been under all these flowerings, with social movements rising all over the world – from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Greece. But what's so special about Idle No More is women's leadership. Indigenous women’s leadership is leadership from the most marginalized element inside of a marginalized element.

When you have leadership coming from the marginalized of the marginalized, the interlocking pressure of race and class and ethnic and gender hierarchies are shattered. Such women in leadership, those who have been subjected to wounds and trauma, represent a caring and concern. It's a beautiful place to be in, because as Idle No More idles no more, they're waking up and repairing relationships.

The first relationship you repair is the self to the self. So women that see themselves as the leadership, memory keepers and healers.

The second relationship of self to other selves. And here they're representing not just a returning but also a kind of reclaiming of the authenticity and relevancy of women, in the public space, in popular dialogue.

And the third relationship is of self to the earth. What's our relationship with our lakes and our streams and our waters and our food system and our ways of knowing? Everything about human beings and our culture are ways of being, but they're also ways of knowing. How do we know a tree, how do we know a plant, how do we know the fish are running at any particular time? It's because of memory, and women represent memory, the ancient memory flowering in the moment, being transmitted to future generations.

So Idle No More is profoundly restorative. It's what Canada needs. It's what the world needs. It's re-Indigenization.

But it's not just a movement, it's also a lived experience. Normally, when you're marginalized and you've been traumatized, you have normalized that. It becomes a part of your cognitive process. So to step into the public space and to really affirm your narrative is a huge risk. It's a profound leap from the margins, moving out from below the radar, and affirming a lived experience that we'd never heard, that we'd never known. So sometimes the biggest pushback comes from you. Sometimes you doubt your own voice; you doubt your own agency; you doubt even your own lived experience. To hold that, and to push back on it, is an empowering thing.

It's like the nervousness you feel when you know your people have been victimized, genocide has been wrought against your people, and here you are, with your mouth open. And you're somewhere beating a drum, or you're in public space, and you're like, this is what it is.

Indigenous peoples have been, just like African people, under twenty-five generations of root-shock. We relegated Indigenous peoples to the margins, placed them on reservations, treated them like children. And in that root-shock is pain, is profound depression, is hurt. And how you normally live with it is you drink, you self-medicate it.

In Indigenous communities, just like in African communities, there's this spectrum of reaction. Some of it is highly resilient and quiet and forever like embers, constantly on the burn. Some of it is non-resilient and extremely destructive. And you see all of that, the full spectrum in communities, in urban America. And what is beautiful about women, and authentic, is that in their standing, in their agency, in their voice, is the memory of all of our mothers, nurturance, re-connection. They're not only healing themselves, they're healing the most depressed parts of their communities.

Indigenous peoples are the ancestral memory of this place, they're the relationship translators of every piece of ecology in North America and all over the world. That memory, that voice, that leadership is what we need right now. Where-ever in the world Indigenous peoples are, to affirm themselves from positions of the margins, to take leadership and be authentic, rooted, and relevant, is so important.

It's a repairing on multiple levels. We're going to affirm ourselves, we're going to affirm our relations, and we're going to bring our values, our principles, our wisdom, our myth, our healing to the public space.

So Istanbul blows up, Tunis blows up, Cairo blows up, all of these public movements where people are en masse, a multitude. But it's the Indigenous multitude that is the most potent. Worldwide, there's like a movement of Indigenous peoples to reaffirm our humanity. It's saying: everything is not a dollar bill or currency, everything is not a consumer transaction. Wherever you are, on a reservation or not, the land is valuable. There's no hierarchy on the earth. There are ecosystems, and these exchanges, and they're all beautiful.

For people who are trying to re-Indigenize, and trying to question the social, political, economic order, Idle No More is like a harbinger.

That's not an easy thing to carry. Normally, if you're already marginalized, you have double and triple the amount of weight on you. So I'm very moved by Idle No More. I'm touched. I see it as a wonderful space to be in. It's healthy for us in this moment of economic and environmental crisis. It's beautiful to witness it, to hear drumming, to see round-dances, to hear the voice of women speaking traditional knowledge and memory and living a culture that speaks another language, that speaks of another way of being. We've gotten so far away from our roots.

As the oldest cultures that are place-based and rooted in ecosystem-based knowledge and exchange and reciprocity, that wisdom is like a roadmap. I'm not saying everything is with Indigenous people, but when we're all immigrants and all transplants and all in rootstock, they represent a way of knowing and being in place that we've lost. We pave over the environment to create roads so we can drive, we live in houses instead of in temporary structures, we heat them, we pool them, we place-make them on a human scale, but we never fully, unless we're camping, live in an ecological environment that challenges us to adapt and to be resilient.

So a lot of the abuse on the earth, on the fisheries, on the animals, on crops, on air and water quality, is going to have to be rethought on the basis of the question: what is our relationship to place?
The answer will not come from the elites. The international financial institutions and the United Nations are talking about carbon markets. But everything cannot be commodified. We're pimping the earth, we're externalizing the abuse, we're establishing markets so we can game nature. And the question from Indigenous communities is: "is that right?"

Why should the ecology “service” us? The arrogance, the narcissistic personality complex of humans to even craft a term like "ecological services"! That is just shocking. And we think we get to be the arrogant earth stewards of it all? We engineer water-ways, we are cloud brightening and geo-engineering. Excuse you, jet stream, you're not enough, we're going to value-add on you. Excuse you, mountain range, we're just going to blow you up.

So there's this profound question of integrity and ethics and principles and values afoot. Imagine that. Do you get to make money and abuse ecosystems at the same time? Some are now offering us the "rights of mother earth," led by Bolivia, from the south of the south. That helps us understand that we are a part of creation. We are part of energy exchanges. We're all feasting from the sun's energy. We're all living and breathing and dying in ecology.

To me, the earth is going to win in the end, because nothing trumps nature. Not even us and our arrogance. We're going to find out real quick what passing 400 ppm in the upper atmosphere of methane and carbon means. We're going to discover, particularly in our agricultural systems, on every continent, what climate shift means.

We're going to be billions of people in eco-adaptation strategies. And I don't know if we're all going to make it to those islands of elite eco-resiliency and 1% hoarding. But we're all going to be in trouble.

Now is the time when the women have to rise up. Now is the time when the drum has to be sounded. Now is the time to ask what do your mothers and fathers of generations of old have to say, about us being human and our relationship to everything.

Charity Hicks is the policy fellow for Eat 4 Health Detroit and the policy coordinator of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council. She is a writer, researcher, healer, artist, grower, organizer, cross-pollinator and sits on the board of several local and regional social and environmental justice organizations.

Article: Protests Sweep Canada Following Paramilitary Assault on Indigenous Fracking Blockade

'Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone'

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Police raid on New Brunswick fracking blockade (Photo: APTN reporter Ossie Michelin, via Twitter)
Protests are sweeping Canada following Thursday's assault by paramilitary-style police on members of indigenous Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq First Nation and local residents as they blockaded a New Brunswick fracking exploration site.

The group had barricaded a road near the town of Rexton in rural New Brunswick since September 30 to block shale gas exploration by SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of the Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co, that is moving forward without the community's consent or consultation.

Thursday morning, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stormed the protest, donning camouflage uniforms, wielding rifles, and bringing police dogs to the site. Kathleen Martens with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reports, "[a]t least four RCMP cruisers were burned" in the chaos following the raid.

The RCMP announced that 40 people had been arrested, citing a court injunction against the protest.

"The RCMP is coming in here with their tear gas - they even had dogs on us," Susan Levi-Peters, the former chief of the nearby Elsipogtog aboriginal reserve, told Reuters. "They were acting like we're standing there with weapons, while we are standing there, as women, with drums and eagle feathers. This is crazy." The media is reporting that some protesters threw molotov cocktails at the police, who reportedly tear gassed the crowd.

In the immediate aftermath of the violence, people across Canada mobilized to show solidarity for the besieged blockade, with APTN reporting that First Nations people across the country are putting a call out for an immediate show of support for the Elsipogtog members.

APTN reports that solidarity activists blocked a bridge in Listuguj, and supporters from Six Nations blocked part of a highway near Caledonia on Thursday. Organizers with IdleNoMore in Lethbridge, Alberta held a march through the city immediately following the raid. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Washington, DC and New York on the doorstep of the Canadian consulates. lists over two dozen actions across the country, including solidarity flash mobs and mass marches.

“Protesters in Rexton are standing up to a Texas company that wants to profit on the backs of New Brunswickers while placing the water and the environment at risk,” stated Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone, and this should not be criminalized.”

Article - Protests Sweep Canada Following Paramilitary Assault on Indigenous Fracking Blockade | Common Dreams

Poem: Idle No More, Youth

Idle No More,
Youth voice,
Youth power,
Youth visibility,
Youth speaking,
Youth listened to,
Youth honored,
Youth uplifted,


Dynamic processes,
The hands,


Be proud of your culture,
Native pride,
Show up,
Howeva you wanna be,

Retrofit the ill formatted system,

The parts of the system,
That don't fit with decolonizing youth,

As you build,





Idle No More,

Idle No More,
Seventh generation,

Idle No More,

Tribal Mining Forum at Keweenaw Bay

The KBIC Mining Outreach & Education Initiative is hosting its first ever Tribal Mining Forum on Friday, May 11th – Saturday, May 12th.

The Mining Forum will take place at the Niiwin Akeaa Center (Ojibwa Community College) Gymnasium starting at 1pm on Friday and 9am on Saturday. On Friday, a Community Potluck Dinner will also take place at 6pm.

The purpose of this forum is to educate the community on mining in order to increase awareness of its historical and contemporary impacts within the Lake Superior basin and Ojibwa ceded territory.
An informed community will have more capacity for protecting the environment and envisioning sustainable solutions for our future.

The Keynote Speaker will be Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr., whose community recently succeeded in preventing rollbacks to Wisconsin mining law that would have permitted a large taconite mine upstream from their community.

The event will also include guest speakers from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority, National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Department of Interior.

Anyone who is curious or concerned about the new wave of mining interest throughout much of the western U.P. and the Lake Superior watershed should definitely come to this event to learn more.

Interested in kick-starting the Mining Forum? You can also catch the next “Mining Impacts on Native Lands” Film Screening of Tar Creek on Wednesday, May 9th, 6pm at the Ojibwa Casino Chippewa Room. Tar Creek is a must see highlighting significant environmental devastation from one of the world’s largest lead and zinc mines in northeastern Oklahoma.

For more information, contact Jessica Koski, KBIC Mining Technical Assistant, at 524-5757 ext. 25. 



Friday, May 11th
1pm Welcome and Opening Prayer
Keynote by Mike Wiggins Jr., Chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lessons from the Crandon Mine by Tina VanZile of the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community
Historical Environmental Impacts of Mining in the Lake Superior Basin by Mike Ripley of the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority
4:30pm Sand Point Stamp Sands Restoration Tour (optional)
6:00pm Community Potluck Dinner & Drumming

Saturday, May 12th
Sunrise Water Ceremony
Light Breakfast
9am Opening Remarks
Lake Superior Basin Mining Overview by the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission
U.P. Mining Updates & Issues by Chuck Brumleve, Environmental Mining Specialist for the KBIC
Student & Community Presentations
12-1pm Lunch
Sulfide Mining Policy & Regulation by Michelle Halley of the National Wildlife Federation
Tribal Natural Resource Damages by Mark Barash with the U.S. Department of Interior
Implications to Treaty Rights by George Newago & Brian Goodwin from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
4:30pm Closing Remarks

Article: Corporate Personhood and Sulfide Mining in Anishinaabeg Country

In early 2011, Protect Our Manoomin (Weweni Ganawendan Gi-Manoomininaan), an Ojibwe-Anishinaabe grassroots group in Minnesota, was established to raise awareness of the threats of sulfide mining on the ceded lands under the treaties of 1854 and 1855. The main focus of Protect Our Manoomin has been to educate and inform people about sulfide mining and its detrimental impact on the environment – particularly the impact on manoomin.

The English word for manoomin is wild rice. However, the English translation doesn’t convey the deep meaning that manoomin has for Ojibwe-Anishinaabe people. Manoomin means “Good Berry.” Manoomin is rooted in Ojibwe-Anishinaabeg prophecies and origin stories. It is a special gift given to the Ojibwe-Anishinaabeg by Gichi-Manidoo (the Creator). Manoomin is the food that grows on water. Manoomin not only provides food and an economic base, it also provides a cultural, spiritual and ceremonial connection. To the Ojibwe-Anishinaabeg, manoomin is a living being that has been an inherent part of Ojibwe-Anishinaabe culture for nearly a thousand years.

Manoomin is also an environmental resource. Healthy stands of manoomin are the barometer of a healthy ecosystem. But sulfates, which are released through the sulfide mining process, enter into rivers and lakes. The sulfates drift into the sediment where they convert into hydrogen sulfide that enters the root system of manoomin. Concentrations of sulfates that are over 10 parts per million of sulfate impairs the growth of manoomin resulting in withered leaves and smaller seeds; high concentrations of sulfates suffocate and kill manoomin. Macroinvertebrates, vegetation, flora, fish, waterfowl, and wildlife are impacted. Additionally, sulfate-reducing bacteria transforms into methyl mercury that leads to mercury fish contamination. Minnesota state law limits sulfate to 10 parts per million to protect manoomin. The extractive resource colonies proposed for northern and central Minnesota will exceed the limits of the law.

That sulfates can kill manoomin is evidenced by the Wild Rice Dead Zone – a stretch that begins where the Bine-ziibi (Partridge River) enters into Gichigamiwi-ziibi (St. Louis River) and extends 140 miles to the Anishinaabeg-Gichigami Maamawijiwan (Lake Superior Basin). The Wild Rice Dead Zone is the result of extremely high concentrations of sulfate released by U.S. Steel’s Keetac and Minntac taconite mines. Sulfide mining will add yet more sulfates into rivers and lakes thereby affecting the food that grows on water.

Read more here.