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Local Native American tribes gather in solidarity
'Idle No More' peace rally offers support
A crowd of approximately 250 Native Americans have pledged that they will be “Idle No More.”
The group gathered to pray, sing, dance and show support for their Canadian brothers and sisters during an ‘Idle No More’ Yokuts Flashmob Round Dance and Support Rally Wednesday afternoon at Centennial Park.
The event was in direct response to Canada’s recent Indian Act legislation changes — the passage of Bill C-45 on Dec. 14 — which changes land use and resource policies and undermines environmental laws while dramatically undermining the abilities of Indigenous communities.
“We’re here to support the First Nation and what they have been going through because what has happened there can happen here,” said Willie Carrillo, former tribal council member and co-founder of the peaceful gathering. “We’re here to support them in solidarity.”
A prayer by Joey Garfield, Tule Tribe, followed, with Garfield praying for “our relatives up river from us” and asking for a blessing upon them for healing and health.
As the drummers begin drumming softly, a speaker stepped to the microphone.
“I go by Wabiassin. My reservation is Tule River Reservation but when I was 19 years old, I moved up to Canada,” he said and added that he is a U.S. Army veteran who served just prior to Vietnam. He added that he has worked in the area of international law with international lawyers in Canada.
Wabiassin was in town to visit his daughter for the holidays, he said, not specifically for the rally.
“Everyone knows what happened in 1492. That’s when the terrorism began against the tribal people of Turtle Island,” he said, referring to the term used by Native American tribes to identify the continent of North America. “The main part has been about property. The indigenous people of Turtle Island have sovereign land rights. The White people can spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on building their home but they’ll never own the land due to sovereign land-based rights, recognized in international law.”
Wabiassin went on to talk about the Bill in Canada.
“We didn’t ask the government of Canada for anything that wasn’t already ours,” Wabiassin said and added that he works in the area of international law with international lawyers in Canada. “The treaty says that as long as the grass grows, water flows and the sun shines, the land will be ours. But one thing [Canadian Prime Minister] Stephen Harper and the Canadian men don’t realize is that the Tribe’s elders used a sacred pipe when they signed the Treaty.”
Wabiassin thanked the crowd for their support for Canada.
The Bill has caused numerous protests throughout Canada and the United States.
In addition, the group supports Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation as she continues with her 20th-plus day of fasting, continuing with her hunger strike at her teepee home on Victoria Island, near Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, with a promise to starve herself to death unless the government respects First Nations concerns and treaties.
“This is something we all have to stand together on — no matter where we’re from,” Wabiassin said. “We’re all American Indians, from the tip of South America to Canada.”
People in the crowd agreed, including Tule Tribe elder and education outreach coordinator Linda Peterson.
“Most Indians feel Indian people worldwide are related and we try to support each other whenever we can, bringing awareness and showing we are all one — even though there are borders,” she said. “They’re taking away prime forest and contaminating it away. We came down to support — to show support for other natives world wide.”
Natives of all ages, from young children to elders, joined in the song and round dance as drummers continued with the music. Also joining in the dance were members from tribes in San Francisco, Springville, Tulare, Bakersfield, Fresno, Lindsay, Lemoore and Clovis.
“I’m here to support the Canadians and what they are going through,” said Jesenia Martinez, 12, the 2012 Tule River Jr. Pow Wow Princess.
Jesenia, dressed in a fancy dance outfit and wearing her royalty crown, joined in the dance, moving clockwise in a large circle as she danced with hundreds of others.
“The event is to support and encourage grass roots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to our Nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media,” said Linda Hinojosa, co-founder of the local event. “The purpose is to show our Canadian brothers and sisters we support them. ‘Idle No More’ calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.