I’ve been starting to feel a little tired. Like thousands of other relatives across Turtle Island and the world, I have been participating in actions and dialogue around #idlenomore. I’ve helped organize events, shown up at events organized by others (in four different cities), written articles, tweeted my thumbs off, performed at events, sent emails, and answered a hundred questions. I don’t list these things for credit. I list them so you know that I get it. And, I get that you get it. Lots of us get it. I mean, c’mon, the movement is called Idle No More. What did we expect?
Lots of us are doing lots of things. That’s what mass mobilization needs. But, as I start to feel tired, I think of all of the people I know who are doing even more. And, I know that for many of us, we were never idle to begin with, and so INM has just ramped up our actions to the nth degree.
Now that INM is being recognized as a continuous, persistent voice, it is becoming increasingly necessary to consider the sustainability of our work. We don’t want people burning out and we do want people doing work that is best suited to their talents.
“It’s time to put our Indigenous governance skills to the test.”
Traditionally, Anishinaabe nations had shifting, diverse, and emergent leadership. This means that leadership could emerge from various issues – including seasons, diplomacy, and ad hoc responsibilities. There are many benefits to this model. Firstly, leadership is based on context and accounts for a leader’s strengths and aptitudes. In this way, leadership is somewhat specialized. I think this makes sense intuitively. Just because someone’s a doctor doesn’t mean you want her to do open heart surgery on you. Similarly, just because someone’s a good orator doesn’t mean you want that same person leading you to war.
Secondly, having more than one recognized leader disperses power. Thirdly, this model encourages the teaching of leadership skills to a larger segment of society. It does this not only by increasing the “odds” of someone becoming a leader (by virtue of more leadership positions), but also because it is a form of leadership that favours aptitudes and encourages the selection of leaders based on skills instead of social or economic status.
I favour the principles of Anishinaabe governance because I’m Anishinaabe. It makes sense to me. And, the fact that so many of us are at work suggests to me that we still have elements of our traditional governance in our communities – we are witnessing the acting out of a certain kind of diverse and emergent leadership.
But, how do we ensure this is sustainable? I think INM offers an opportunity to be more intentional in our Indigenous governance practices. What principles of governance do you take from your nation? What principles do you see being acted out in INM? What kind of leadership is exhibited in your community? How do we foster leadership skills in a broad segment of our communities?
For me, Idle No More is about nationhood. Not nation-state-hood, but nationhood – the ability to take care of the land, our children, and our families in the way we best know how. While the Canadian government currently plays heavily into our ability to function as self-determining nations, we know that true self-governance has to come from ourselves. This could be one of the most tremendous gifts of Idle No More: we have in front of us the perfect opportunity to re-invigorate and re-invent our governance practices from the ground up. The best way to demand self-determination is to be self-determining.
Follow Tara on Twitter: @WilliamsonTara
Tara Williamson is an Anishinaabe/Nehayo (Ojibwe/Cree) woman who was born in Winnipeg, raised in Swan Lake Manitoba and is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. She has more roots in Beardy’s Okemasis in Saskatchewan, has lived in BC, Quebec, and Manitoba and is currently based out of Peterborough, Ontario. She is an aunty, musician, writer, organizer, and professor.
FURTHER READING: http://decolonization.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/we-are-all-treaty-people/5