#IdleNoMore Provides Us With Opportunity to Examine Nationhood

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Opinion

Tara in Havana

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.

pf065085I 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/

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  1. Elaine Alec
    January 15, 2013

    I feel like you are in my head 🙂 This is exactly where we need to go. For the past six years we’ve been talking about re-building our nationhood in the Okanagan (Interior British Columbia) knowing that there would be a day that the government would say – we don’t negotiate unless the whole nation comes to the table.

    Every time we have moved forward.. there has been another band that halts it.. or another band moves forward and we feel its not in our best interest, we halt it…. we have to re-build from the inside if we’re going back to our traditional way of governing things and it’s been important and I think with the Idle No More Movement it has woken people up, like our prophecies said was going to happen. It’s very exciting to see this all happening.. exactly the way it’s supposed to.

  2. (Blue) Kim Anderson
    January 15, 2013

    Is really valuable perspective, thank you. Have been daydreaming up roles filled by councils, rather than individuals, short/sharing “terms”, individuals encouraged and supported in filling roles which not only utilize, but maximize and hone natural skills, inclinations and interests.

    Well… I thought I was just daydreaming. Maybe blood-memory resurging, though, in time of need. 😉

  3. wes elliott
    January 15, 2013

    I’m Houdenosaunee at SixNations of the Grand River. Home of our Confederacy Council. And yet since 1924, when with guns and assult, the RCMP overthrew our Confederacy and installed an elected council, here in our territory we still have a band council. Now here only 4% of the people vote. 96% don’t. Finally after all these years, the Houdenosaunee people here, will have our band council out this year. Ask no details pls.Just be aware that our nationhood, which has always been here, is grassroots driven to stand up.The time is now!

  4. tommynomad
    January 15, 2013

    Excellent piece, Tara. Reflection like this is what will keep #idlenomore sustainable.

    The one point I’d add is that it is not just FN nationhood that needs to change. I’m only just dabbling into the knowledge, but John Ralston Saul has made a compelling case that the Canadian nation itself (despite claims of Europeanness) is much more a FN model in its *current* operation and organization than most admit. What that means for INM is that there is, deep in every Canadian, a seed, a kernel of knowledge that FN-model governance is the best path for the whole country. Tap into that and you’ve got radical, sustainable, progressive change.

  5. Wendy
    January 16, 2013

    Tansi Tara
    For the life of me I cannot find your email from way back then. I really like your article. Thank you for writing it. I hope we can catch up sometime soon. I been thinking about my experience in grad school a lot, I wish I was doing my thesis now, rather then back then. Wow. I love this movement. I hope your well.

  6. Johnny SunDog
    January 16, 2013

    Leadership is based on the needs of the People and the ability of individuals to respond.
    Leaders are those who either seize power or are designated such by forces outside of the People (i.e. the Media, etc).
    Leadership is temporary, not based on Titles or heredity, but on performance and identification with the People.
    Leadership is like the morning mist that comes and goes, bringing sustenance and then vanishing when it has done its job…
    Thank you so much for your article and for your Leadership in these times.

  7. how to convey your adore
    January 21, 2013

    This is without doubt a site that people need to get behind. The problem is, no one desires to do a huge deal of reading not have something different to stimulate the mind. This is the internet, after all. Maybe if you added a video or two to emphasise your point. Ill stick around, FOR SURE. But, I dont know if others will.