The Idle No More movement, so much in the news in past months, has not wound up even though its profile may have lowered of late. Such is the assurance from Jessica MacLeod and Shemmaho Goodenough.
MacLeod – daughter of a Northern Alberta Cree Chief and Goodenough – a concerned citizen and designated elder in the Castlegar area, teamed up to present an event labelled an Idle No More Teach-In on March 2 at Robson Community School.
The effort was designed as a vehicle for enhancing public awareness of aboriginal issues.
“A teach-in,” explained Goodenough as attendees arrived, “is an educational opportunity. We’ve gathered information and also bring our own experience to talk about Idle No More, which is basically an educational movement.”
Environmental issues are of great concern to the teach-in hosts, specifically fresh water issues. Goodenough brought up the topic of decreasing federal safeguards over water resources.
“We feel like its really dangerous for all Canadians,” she said. Other points related to mining, pipeline construction, and natural gas “tracking.”
McLeod pointed to federal legislation which she feels is being hurried along with too little public input being sought.
She supplied a sample item from the table full of printed handouts to back up her claim that growing environmental trouble likely lies ahead.
“Bill C45 which has passed, and is law, allows companies and pipelines to come without having to be environmentally accountable,” said MacLeod.
“They want to exploit the whole North all the way across,” added Goodenough.
The dozen or so who had accepted the invitation to the teach-in formed a circle with the hosts and heard presentations from each of them, starting with MacLeod who shared her personal history.
Born in an area about four hours north of Edmonton, MacLeod remembers a peaceful, enjoyable early childhood in spite of the lack of many modern amenities.
Major upheaval occurred following her parents’ separation
and the arrival on the scene of the second father-figure in her life, a man from Grand Forks. Moving to the Boundary Country was a big adjustment and caused much difficulty in her life. Introduction to smoking and drinking at an early age added to her troubles. “I was questioning everything,” she recalled.
MacLeod said that even though at one point she had denied her culture, the annual high points of her life were the summer trips back to Alberta. She has made it to where she is today, enjoying “a cultural resurgence… I am a proud Cree woman,” she concluded.
The theme of Goodenough’s presentation was “Colonization of the Mind.”
Also having provided a brief bit of personal background, Goodenough came equipped with an assortment of relevant reading material from the Selkirk College Library, a source of information she recommended to the group.
Ending Denial: Understanding Aboriginal Issues, by Wayne Warry was the first. She spoke on various points made in the selected volumes as they were passed around the circle.
Goodenough touched upon the history of European colonization, too much of which was based on the idea of aboriginal inferiority. She promotes the concept of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginals working on their common problems as partners, and declared, “People need to talk, establish a dialogue in order to understand each other.”
The other books focused on were: With Good Intentions, by Celia Haig-Brown and David A. Nock, and Peace, Power and Righteousness, by Taiaiake Alfred.