Why I’m Idle No More

First in a series of posts.


What is THE most important issue of our times? For me, there is no doubt. The treaty obligations of settler Canadians just have to come first and they have to come first now. Those of us who are not indigenous to this country have ignored those obligations since we entered into them. This has resulted in First Nations and Inuit people becoming the most harshly treated people in this country, across the board, on all indicators. Their access to adequate housing on reserves is appallingly inadequate and movement into urban areas often leads to urban poverty – mental illness, addiction, prostitution and subjection to state violence and street violence of all kinds. Both on reserves and in urban areas, far too many are without access to decent medical care, standard education options and community supports. The state is more likely to “help” First Nations people by stealing their children, as it did in the past. First Nations land is robbed and stripped of resources and polluted while communities are poisoned. Yes, we should worry that the poisons and pollutants run downstream. Why wouldn’t we worry first that they attack the land and people to whom we have legal and ethical obligations?

My life’s work outside my family has been a commitment to the liberation of women. In that regard, First Nations women are the most legally subjugated people in Canada, subject to the most violence, the fastest growing rates of incarceration in the country and systematic, historical and ongoing action to relieve them of those most precious to them … their children.

I’ve always believed in grassroots action, even though I was an academic. I’ve always believed in working from the bottom up because if we resolve the problems of those who suffer the worst exploitation, oppression and repression, we cannot but resolve those problems for all. Trickle UP actually works. It only makes sense. That, I suppose, is the more selfish reason for supporting Idle No More, Sisters In Spirit, the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, Chief Theresa Spence, the National Aboriginal Women’s Association and many other FN organizational and community actions. For my own children and grandchildren, and yours. I think that’s ok. Doing the right thing has those kinds of benefits.

We must also listen to those many Indigenous people who live on unceded land in Canada – those with whom the state has never negotiated treaties and whose attempts to claim their land through legal processes are backed up in the courts and dealt with unjustly.
As a white settler woman, I still have a lot to learn. I’ve made mistakes in the ways I’ve tried to be an ally and a supporter and I’m sure to make them again. But as a friend said last night, “Better to risk a flawed activism than to maintain a perfect inactivism.” I’m doing my best and that’s what we all have to do. If we want a future in this country, in relationship with those nations who lived here first, on Turtle Island, we have to do it now. That’s what I think.


Canadian Woman Artists, #3

Kenojuak Ashevak

Companion of the Order of Canada, recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation’s award for lifetime achievement, member of the Royal Academy of Arts and recent inductee into Canada’s Walk of Fame: Kenojuak Ashevak is probably contemporary Inuit art’s most famous personality. Born in an igloo in 1927, she is an artist who has lived in two very different worlds — the traditional Inuit culture, and, increasingly, the twentieth-century western culture.    more here

A New Canadian Writer


Sara Tilley’s debut novel Skin Room  alternates between Sanikiluaq, Northwest Territories (now Nunavut), and St. Johns, Newfoundland; between 12-year-old Teresa Normans crash into Inuit culture and her later life as a 23-year-old adult in the harrowing final phase of coping with the tragedy of her year in Sanikiluaq. She is an innocent victim of severe cultural misunderstanding. Sara Tilley is describing the mores of Inuit schoolchildren or the contemporary downtown St. Johns arts scene, she carries a reader close, every step of the way. TDR recently asked Tilley a few questions about her literary debut.

“I’m not really sure whose writing influences my work,” Tilley says. “It’s probably a question better left to impartial observers. I can tell you a few of the writers whose work I love, instead, knowing that I am leaving a great many out at the same time: Angela Carter.”

Tilley has been absorbing Carter’s work as of late, fresh off the heels of releasing her own debut novel Skin Room. “Actually, I’ll soon have read everything she ever wrote. I tried to start an Angela Carter Discussion Group, but no one but my boyfriend wanted to join. I think she’s strangely unknown to many readers, in Canada anyway. I also adore the book Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing by Helene Cixous and can honestly say it gave me courage to persist when I was alone and wavering. I love Salman Rushdie, Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood, Reinaldo Arenas, Jean Genet, Clarice Lispector. My magic realist habit. I grew up reading the work of wonderful writers from Newfoundland: Michael Winter, Lisa Moore, Michael Crummey, Agnes Walsh, Carmelita McGrath, and many more. Those writers made me want to write when I grew up.”

Nathaniel G. Moore, The Danforth Review