Students and staff support New Westminster rally
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
On Tuesday, February 19, an Idle No More rally took place in the New Westminster campus’ concourse. The event was intended to help inform those in attendance about the various new bills being passed by the government and their impacts, as well as to educate onlookers about Aboriginal traditions and culture.
Organizer Madison Paradis-Woodman noted that the event was made all the more important by the fact that it was the first in New Westminster. Along with this, he said that, “It makes sense to hold an event at Douglas, an institution that prides itself on creating an environment for intellectual engagement in and outside of the classroom. This event in turn provided the perfect opportunity for students to apply theories and perspectives learned in the classroom to real life situations.”
Moving onto the rally itself, Mique’l Dangeli, a UBC doctoral student doing a Ph.D. in First Nations studies, speaking on the omnibus bill C-45, said, “This act is pretty much going to erase all of our strides as Aboriginal People. They pretty much clear the way for Enbridge to exploit our lands without consultation with the First Nations, especially on our reservations.” She would go on to mention that, “These huge bills bury the issues.”
Dangeli’s husband Mike, an artist, carver, dance group leader, and business manager, also spoke on the issue: “They’re getting rid of protected lakes and streams to make way for pipelines. It’s not about yes or no [to the projects], it’s about asking, ‘How would you feel if they wanted to put it right through your backyard or your front yard for that matter?’”
Douglas College Elder Skiljaday (Merle Williams) gave an emotional speech along with some traditional songs. “Even with the bills that are being thrown at us to try and stop us from being who we are as a people, we have to take that and turn it around and turn our back to those horrible things that are happening and have faith that we can prevail like we have already so far. We are a strong people and many people are looking to us to join us. To stand beside us. To say ‘we’re walking with you because we believe what you’re doing.”
One of her closing remarks was on a more spiritual level, “We always have to invite spirit in no matter where we go. Because without spirit, without creator, who are we? Spirit is very important to open up inside ourselves because in order to love mother earth, we have to first love ourselves.”
BC Métis Federation board member Beverly Lambert also spoke at the event, as did Douglas College faculty member Artemis Fire, on the Métis struggle and how despite having a different culture from the First Nations, the two should use Idle No More as an opportunity to find unity.
Amongst the speakers there were also traditional dances, drumming, and songs. Paradis-Woodman estimated that over the event’s duration there were about 350 people. He would go on to comment that, “The Idle No More movement, as a whole, has given me a renewed sense of pride to be an indigenous person in Canada. Personally, I have experienced the power and pride achieved through standing in solidarity with all peoples of Canada. As an indigenous person and a Canadian, I felt that it is my obligation to support the belief of basic democratic rights for all peoples.”
Sonia Keshane, another of the organizing trio, quoting one of the popular sayings throughout the movements said, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” In keeping with that quote, she would mentioned how First Nations women and grandmothers (of which she is both) are “Strong leaders within the First Nations community” and “keepers of the land.”
The proud Ojibway finished by expressing her feelings about the event, “We looked up and there was a hawk flying above the concourse. The hawk felt our energy and brought forth our vision to share with others. To see every nation stand side by side was worth the effort for the event. I felt very happy inside and felt I did my job to bring awareness. It’s a start.”