, 23 tweets, 6 min read
After 5 years of asking, the NFB has returned my #J11 footage (600GB). At the height of #IdleNoMore I was asked to make a micro film for the NFB ($10K total budget). We used 3 cell phones. We were in the Chiefs’ main assembly, AFN/PTO back rooms, the Governor General’s mansion.
It’s a fascinating and heartbreaking look at the political processes FN bands are forced to participate in, tinkering around the Indian Act, tinkering around the edges of a system meant to kill us. The week of Jan. 6-11, 2013 forever changed so many lives. #J11
Harper rammed Bill C45 through the house. It was an omnibus bill that threatened to have devastating effects on Indigenous People in Canada. December 2012, Idle No More cemented it’s place in Indigenous Peoples’ long-standing resistance history. It was a beautiful & sacred time.
People took to the streets, blocked Theresa Spence started her hunger strike on Victoria island in the shadows of parliament in downtown Ottawa. Calls for a meeting between the Crown (Governor General), Feds and Indigenous Leadership grew louder and louder. Something had to give.
As the 2013 new year approached, there were many rumours of perspective meeting dates. Rumours that the Governor General would or would not take a meeting with Indigenous Leadership grew, this was the crux of the demand by hunger striking Chief Spence.
I was privy to some inside info as I was helping PTOs organize on social media and live stream. The communication challenge of getting information to the communities was enormous. It was rumoured the meeting would be at the end of January, that’s what everyone was planning for.
On the morning of January 5, I was called (unnamed Chief) & asked if I would be able to fly to Ottawa to assist in the Elders’ ceremonial room that would run concurrently beside the AFN political room. The idea was ceremony would provide the politicians guidance. I agreed to go.
That day I called an NFB producer and said I was going there and that I wanted to film it, that someone had to film it. This moment was to change history. Miraculously, the paperwork was done and the agreement was made – I would make a micro doc for the NFB while I was there.
I flew to Ottawa and reported to the Elders ceremonial room. We did sunrise ceremonies daily, throughout the week pipes were lit, prayers were said and the elders strategized and considered the next steps the AFN should take. It was powerful to be a part of that room.
It seemed like the AFN political room changed strategy almost on the hour. One minute, the Chiefs said cancel the meeting, let’s hit the streets. Next minute it was unanimous that they could not miss the chance to have the meeting because of the pressures of Idle No More.
In ceremony it was decided that the Elders would recommend women and youth would go to the PMO office and drop off water to highlight Bill C-45s failing to protect Canadian rivers and lakes. Much of Idle No More’s work centred around environmental justice. This plan was rebuked.
Week of January 6-11 passed quickly. Each day offered new rumours of potential meetings, cancelled meetings with the Governor General. This frustrated and divided the assembly and it was then that I realized the destruction of the paradoxical lives we live as Indians in Canada.
On the evening of January 10, without a meeting scheduled with the governor general, there was consensus that the Chiefs assembly would not be attending a lesser meeting, with the Feds, in the morning . It was decided everyone would march with the people on #J11.
#J11 was a national Day of action and Indigenous peoples from all over Canada and North America descended on Ottawa to have their voices heard. There were thousands upon thousands of people in the city, most of them drove days to be there.
That morning the pipes were lit and sunrise ceremony was done. There was a large number of Chiefs that attended that ceremony and there was a good feeling in the air. We made our way to the start of the march sometime around 10 AM. The energy was life-changing.
During the march, rumour started that the executive of the AFN had snuck into the Langevin Block and took a meeting with the PMO. A sizeable number of Chiefs essentially backstabbed the assembly and attended the meeting with Harper when it was agreed upon that would not happen.
Soon news of the secret meeting hits social media and unbelievably #J11 just sorta died out. I was offered tobacco to speak on the steps of parliament at 1:30 PM but by noon the march had died out, everybody went their separate ways. To this day I don’t understand what happened.
We made our way back to the Chiefs assembly at the hotel and the room was full. No one had any idea about what the hell had transpired. The AFN executive had disappeared. No one knew if they would be back to report to the assembly about their meeting. Spoiler alert – they didn’t.
At one point I was asked to speak to the events manager at the hotel to see why the room was being changed over. Many Chiefs speculated it was because the Governor General would be coming that night. Turns out the room was being turned over for a wedding party in the morning.
This is a photo from the meeting. I believe in my heart, this meeting changed Idle No More forever. Indigenous peoples in Canada were fighting so hard for change. Had we stayed the course I think we would’ve changed this country forever. We had a chance to do that and we failed.
Point of drawing a line in the sand was hold a meeting with the Governor General , the Feds and Indigenous leadership on Indigenous terms. We had a chance to live and demand our Nationhood through this widespread movement. That meeting was the stake in the heart of a movement.
The rest is history. Chief Spence left Victoria Island on January 25. I was there in the hotel where she held her final press conference. There was hardly anyone there, little press, all the Chiefs had gone home, all the drums that lead the round dance revolution were put down.
I don’t know what to do with this footage but I know it’s important. YouTube doesn’t need more Idle No More footage. Maybe I turn it into a podcast series or a documentary or I give it to a university. All I know is how transformative and heartbreaking this time was for me. /FIN
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