K'jipuktuk (Halifax) – Round dances, highway slowdowns and even a press conference swept across Mi'kma'ki this weekend, as the energy and vibrancy of the Idle No More movement captured the attention and efforts of the Mi'kmaq and their non l'nu allies.
Weekend traffic slowdowns in Millbrook and at Auld's Cove demonstrated the peaceful nature of the movement, as drivers were supplied with information regarding the manner in which bill C-45, the Harper government's latest omnibus bill, stood to render their lives less enjoyable.
A drum circle and round dance at the grammatically incorrect Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth saw hundreds link arms at all levels of the mall, as l'nu and non-l'nu danced to the rhythms and joyous singing emanating from the first floor.
Friday's press conference at the World Trade and Convention Centre was an effort by Idle No More organizers to seek out and identify allies from the non-l'nu community. Those in attendance included representatives from unions, academia and activist circles, and suggests the potential of the movement to not only overturn bill C-45 and the Harper government, but hints at the greater possibility of a long-overdue, total de-colonization of Mi'kma'ki and beyond.
Friday's speakers at the Idle No More press conference included Kevin Christmas, from Membertou First Nation, and Emmett Peters, from Paqtnkek First Nation. The following are their speeches, lightly edited for space and clarity.
Kevin Christmas – Councillor, Membertou First Nation
When we talk about Treaty, we talk about a sacred relationship between ourselves and our Creator. When we talk about this treaty relationship we're talking about the depth of the love and the commitment that we have to one another and to our land. Our land defines who we are, and our land gives us what we need.
But I want to tell you what the history is, so that you understand it properly. And this is the appropriate place for you to hear about this because Halifax is the only city in the British Commonwealth that was created by treaty.
The only city.
And the 1,500 acres that were granted to your forefathers gave you what we call a 'Freedom of Settlement.' That means that we would not bother you in your peaceful settlement on our lands. And this 1,500 acres that you call the 'Commons' in the North End here, is your land. We gave it to you.
So you do have a treaty right; to occupy those lands, and settle freely upon them.
But let me remind you of something. When the hatchet was buried on the governor's property for peace, there were two things said to the governor before that hatchet was buried. Number one, 'We never truly believed you to be human.'
And the second thing they said to him was 'You're going to pay for everything you use.'
Those words are the preamble to your freedom of settlement. Remember, we had 13 wars. You slaughtered thousands of our people. But you did not beat us. We fought your people, and we warred with your people, and you did not beat us.
So remember, everything you have comes from us. Everything. There is nothing you have that didn't come from us. Now be grateful.
These things we're talking about today have been framed in hatred and are un-Christian and are directed at our extermination from the earth. Why? Because there's 33.4 trillion dollars of our money sitting in the Bank of Montreal right now. And if the government denies us our presence and our rights and our entitlement then they can claim that the heirs exist no longer. We have enough money to buy back every square inch of Canada if we wanted to. But why should we buy back something we own already?
So call us what you want. But go ask the Bank of Montreal why they won't give us our money back. We paid for your Second World War. We paid for your settlement. We paid for your economic development.
And what do we have? Nothing. And the nothing we have, you spitefully give to us, as if we're the newcomers. Shame on you. Shame on Canada.
There was a time in this land when there was severe drought. And it lasted a long time. It lasted almost five years. And our people were dying. And our people were angry with Creator. They told him 'How can you create a perfect society and then watch as we are destroyed?'
And there was tremendous death in our lands. The fish were gone, the animals were gone. The woods were ablaze, there were fires everywhere.
And our people gathered for the last time. They gathered upon the shoreline down the Eastern Shore. And they thought that this was apocalyptic. That they were the last people on earth. And they went through all the emotion that one goes through when approaching death. Disbelief, anger, frustration.
And our sacred woman had a visit by the Creator and the Creator told her “The Creator has heard what you said and he say that he loves the true human. And he would never allow the true human to be gone from this earth. But you need a new teaching.'
And he gave a new teaching to this sacred lady. And he said 'If you believe this then the rain will come.
And this is what he told them:
'Every true human has three spirits. The first one is called safe journey, that means that this is a holy pilgrimage on this earth. That's why you're here. And the spirit is given so that no matter where you are you may talk directly to Creator.'
The second one was called wise council. And he said 'Whenever you gather to offer help and assistance to somebody, you pray to this spirit, and you must promise that you will get the best advice before you act. Because there's going to come a time when you are going to live in something called a community. And in order to maintain peace in that community you must get the best advice before you act. That's the basis of peace.'
There's a third spirit, and it's called full provision. And he said that whatever you need has already been provided for you on your lands. There is nothing that hasn't been provided for you. Those three have the same symbol, and it's three crosses.
When the French showed up here, we were known as the cross people. There were crosses everywhere. This was in the year 350. One thousand two hundred and sixty years later you showed up with this book called the Bible.
Your coming here was prophesied to us fourteen generations before you arrived. When you showed up here it was the fulfillment of these prophecies.
And the same bear, the same spirit, that spoke to the woman said, 'When they arrive, after seven generations, you're going to be in the same situation you were in at the time of the drought, where you will have lost faith; everything will be taken from you, you will have nothing but your beliefs.'
And lo and behold here we are, seven generations later, and we're treated like dirt. There's no gratitude in that. We promised Creator that we would take care of you. We promised that we would show you how to live in peace with one another. We promised that we would give you everything without question, unconditionally.
That's why we're still here.
If any man wants to call our Creator a liar and say 'No, your destiny is termination,' let him stand before your God and say 'No, I'm more powerful than you.'
That is the original treaty. That is the sacred way. And no law can take away that promise and our commitment and your presence. No law.
So you need to stand with us against these un-Christian people. When our chief said that we never truly believed you to be human, he was talking about that, that you don't deserve to be regarded as a true human being. You must earn the gratitude that Creator has promised for you. You must behave.
That's why this land was never sold to you. That's why you have to pay 1% of your taxes every year to the government for what they call security of title. Because they can't sell to you something they don't own.
So all of your mortgages are unlawful. All of your economic security is illegal. Now why wouldn't the government want us to go before a court to testify to what I just told you? Because we can deliver the proof if we need to.
So it's about time that we were treated with some respect. It's about time that you had some measure of compassion.
Emmett Peters – Paqtnkek First Nation
The only thing I know for sure, absolutely 100%, is that I know nothing.
I'm a traditional Indian, Native, or whatever you want to call me. But number one I'm a human being. We're all human beings.
Our people a long time ago, we had protection against corruption. It was a sacred law, it was a great law, that we forgot all about because we got greedy, we got selfish. And that great law was Nation First.
You look at all our leaders, they all followed that doctrine. Nation First. Nation first. And we forgot that. It protected us against corruption and all the other stuff that comes with politics.
And they turned that great law around into First Nations. So the only people that law benefits are those in power. The rest of us just get piecemeal. So we have to go back to that great law. And it is a sacred law. Nation First.
You look at Chief Joseph, go home and google chief Joseph. How he looked after his people with a handful of warriors.
And to me we have to stand together. Because to me Harper is nothing but a power hungry, perverted, rapist, and all he wants to do is rape the land. He seems to have no compassion.
So we have to make a stand somewhere. And part of that stand has to be no drilling for gas and oil in Nova Scotia. You can't un-poison water. And unfortunately we treat our women the way we treat mother earth. In our culture women aren't equal to men. Not even close. They're 10 times better.
Who in their right mind wants to be equal to man?
And the only thing, for the rest of my life, I'll never be able to fully appreciate a woman, because I'm a man. But I'm also talking about mother earth. So in our culture, when you come to our community centre, we sit the women down and we feed them, and then we clean up afterwards. So we have to bring that respect back to our women. Then maybe, just maybe, we'll learn to look after mother earth.
And I love you guys. Even some of you guys know how to speak.
You guys talk good, but are you committed to this process? Are you willing to back it up? Are you committed? Are you willing to do something? Are you going to act on your talk, or are you just going to have words and drop? You guys all sound good. But are you committed?
This is what you have to decide. If you're committed to this process, are you committed to your children? Are you committed to your grandchildren?
Earlier, when I was praying in Mi'kmaq, some of you understood probably. Part of that prayer was that I asked our grandchildren that are still in the spirit world; I asked them for forgiveness.
I said I'm sorry. We let them down as Native people. Because when they get here there's going to be nothing here. There's going to be nothing here because we have no shame, and we allowed ourselves to become selfish and lazy.
So if you people have any commitment, somebody organize something to let them know that we're serious. And I'm serious when I say there's going to be no fracking in Nova Scotia. There's people willing to lay their lives down, and fight with guns if we have to.
Don't just come here and talk. Do something about it. Because I've waited. I'm a hereditary chief. My grandfather was chief of PEI and part of Nova Scotia. I didn't know that. I'm a recovered drunk. This is part of my destiny. I'm a cancer survivor. And I am willing to die if I have to, fighting for this land, for the water, and for the generations that are coming.
And what I'm asking, 'Are you guys committed? Or are you all talkers?'
Are you going to hide behind your job? Or are you going to get our there and do something.