As Idle No More has grown, fed by left-wing activists desperate for attention and a consensus media desperate for a story, one would forgive First Nations' Chiefs if they began to convince themselves that it was all about them.
After all, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's "hunger strike" (which isn't really a hunger strike at all, as she's managed to maintain a... let's say "healthy"... weight by eating fish broth) has garnered a significant deal of attention. At first demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston, she received visits from celebrity guests like Justin Trudeau and former Prime Minister Joe Clark while refusing to meet with the Minister of Indian Affairs, or even Senator Patrick Brazeau (who himself is formerly Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples). Now apparently Spence will settle for a meeting between Harper and other First Nations chiefs.
But as it turns out, maybe Idle No More wasn't that into Spence after all. After all, they recently began scrambling to distance themselves from Spence and other First Nations Chiefs.
It's not hard to see why. As it turns out, the Chiefs are the weak link of Idle No More, and everyone within that burgeoning "movement" -- in which First Nations activists have taken to being idle no longer by hanging out at shopping malls -- knows it. To examine the history of aboriginal self-governance on many reserves across Canada is to explore a seedy history of corruption, where Chiefs were able to rule with an iron fist and ruthlessly punish anyone who dared speak out against them.
If one is to take Idle No More on the word at some of their objections to Bill C-45, one would almost suspect that they want things to remain pretty much this way. But I digress.
“The Chiefs have called for action and anyone who chooses can join with them, however this is not part of the Idle No More movement as the vision of this grassroots movement does not coincide with the visions of the Leadership,”declared a statement on the Idle No More website.
In other words, Idle No More isn't going to take its directions from the Chiefs -- which is especially curious considering that Idle No More has stood up in defense of the Chiefs' interests far more than they're standing up for the interests of anyone else, or even themselves.
It seems Theresa Spence doesn't like that. The non-hunger-striking Chief urged "solidarity."
"We need to continue to encourage and stand in solidarity as Indigenous
Nations," Spence announced. "We are at a historical
moment in time, and I ask that grassroots, chiefs and all community
members come together in one voice."
Certainly she'd prefer that this "one voice" be in fact her voice. But this is almost enough to make someone think that one of the reporters at the attention-hungry (not hungry-hungry) Chief's teepee turned to her and asked: "just why do we care about you at this point, again?"
Certainly, Spence must be hoping that Concordia University professor Daniel Salee is wrong when he says that Idle No More is now rejecting their traditional leadership, who have accepted so much money on behalf of First Nations and spent so much of it, accruing so much benefit for themselves, while managing to accomplish so very little for their own people. After all, if Salee is right, Spence will be among the first Chiefs that will be promptly disposed of (politically speaking, of course).