By Rosalind Barabash
I recently moved to Terrace from the Lower Mainland.
In moving here I became acutely aware that I now live on unceded Kitselas territory and frequently travel through unceded Kitsumkalum and Haisla territory.
In being a non-indigenous newcomer to this place I feel a personal responsibility to attempt to understand these nations’ histories, the unique issues they face and the achievements they celebrate to the best of my ability.
Recently, the onslaught of colonial policies and practices pushed by the Harper government has been met with the Idle No More movement. This movement aims to use grassroots organization to join people in a revolution that honours and fulfills indigenous sovereignty that protects land and water.
Issues being brought into the spotlight by this movement are important to all people living in what is now called Canada.
Omnibus bills being pushed though parliament not only undermine treaties and indigenous peoples’ rights and sacred relationship with the environment, but also threaten the protection of our waterways and resources for all.
Hence, I support this movement and its aim to protect lands and waterways and I stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples as they exercise their right to speak for the environment based on a deep-rooted connection that has been in place since time immemorial.
Yet, my support for the movement runs deeper than addressing the immediate environmental concerns the movement seeks to bring forth.
On a broad scale and on a personal level, I have witnessed the negative effects that colonization and industrial capitalism has inflicted on indigenous people.
I recognize that as a non-indigenous person living here today, my relationships with indigenous peoples will inherently be tainted by Canada’s unsavory past and ongoing colonial actions, including land-theft, genocide, the residential school system, marginalization and policy implementation aiming to destroy Indigenous identities through a process of assimilation.
No matter how much effort I put into reconstructing and decolonizing my own personal relationships with indigenous people, so long as a colonialist mindset is prominent in the government that is elected to represent me, my personal efforts will be futile.
If we wish to be a country that is interested in justice, fairness and right relationships then we should view the Idle No More movement as a gateway to contribute to an informed dialogue that takes a critical look at current issues facing indigenous—non-indigenous relations and a truthful look at the historic dynamics of these relationships.
In knowing this, I recognize that it is my responsibility to educate myself and take action.
The Idle No More movement is a great platform for non-indigenous people to become educated and learn about appropriate roles that can be taken up to stand in solidarity with indigenous nations during these troubling times.
So what are appropriate roles for non-indigenous supporters?
That’s a question best answered by the indigenous groups we seek to support.
However, I believe that a prominent message of Idle No More is – get educated.
Often people don’t know where to enter into such a convoluted conversation, or they fear re-inscribing the colonial actions and mindsets they seek to evade.
I would urge non-indigenous people to spend some time on the Idle No More website. The links and resources provided there are enough to launch any individual or group on an educative journey that can inform appropriate action.
Rosalind Barabash has recently moved to Terrace from the Sunshine Coast with her husband, Quinn and son, Fisher. She has a Masters degree in Indigenous Governance from the University of Victoria and is passionate about redefining indigenous–non-indigneous relations.