Silent no more
Members of the Northern Nevada Native American community join a worldwide movement
“We respect our Canadian brothers and sisters, and we want them to know that we love them, that they are one of us, and that we support them” said Lois Kane, local Native American activist and supporter of Idle No More Reno. “But that’s just the beginning step of what Idle No More (INM) is doing for all Native American people.”
Following the grass-roots model set in Canada, Kane is excited by the ability to use INM to bring her people together to help explain issues facing all Native Americans and indigenous people worldwide. What began with four women in Canada has now traveled around the world, providing other indigenous people with the tools to come together to act, teach, and stand strong for the principles of their cultures.
Kane, a Paiute and Shoshone, and a resident of the Hungry Valley Reservation, explained that most of the history of Native Americans isn’t written in books and is becoming lost.
“It’s time for us to stand up and encourage our people, and especially our kids, to be proud of their heritage and language—to be proud of who we are,” Kane said.
Kane was there for the first INM flash mob of about 200 people that was held at Legends in Sparks. When approximately 350 supporters showed up to sing and dance at Meadowood Mall on Dec. 26, 2012, they were faced with harassment from mall security.
“They tried to intimidate us into leaving by telling us we were trespassing,” said Kane. “At first no one knew what to do, because we are not combative people. Then I started singing, and everyone started to join in singing, drumming and round dancing.”
After the round dance, they left the mall without further issue. The round dance comes from Nevada Paiute, Wovoka, who prophesied a peaceful end to white expansion while preaching goals of clean living, an honest life, and Native Americans working together.
Tony Vail, general manager for Meadowood Mall, said, “Meadowood Mall is private property, and all people are invited to Meadowood Mall to enjoy shopping, dining and entertainment. Activities that disrupt mall business or threaten the safety of persons or property are not permitted in the mall. Flash Mobs are not allowed at the mall, and the participants in the Flash Mob on December 26th were simply asked to disband and discontinue their activity.”
Idle No More Reno held its latest event near the downtown Reno Arch, on Jan. 19, where they felt welcomed.
“The Reno Police came out and told us they were glad we were there and that they supported us—it was a much nicer welcoming than we got at Meadowood Mall,” said Kane.
Just as Occupy Wall Street ignited an international protest movement against social and economic inequality, INM is giving indigenous people a platform to gather together to speak out about the importance of protecting the planet. Idle No More was started by four Canadian women in November 2012 as a way to start rallies and teach-ins about a Canadian bill called C-45, which could conceivably make changes to the Indian Act, and could alter land and waterway use.
The movement quickly grew with the use of social media and flash mobs of dancing and singing native people. Eventually, huge groups marched on Parliament, asking for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet with chiefs of the native tribes in Canada.
One outspoken woman, Chief Theresa Spence, even began a hunger strike on Dec. 11, 2012, as a way to bring attention to C-45, as well as other issues facing all Indian people in Canada. Spence ended her hunger strike on Jan. 24 and is currently hospitalized until she regains strength.
Support comes in different forms
Shayne Del Cohen has long been an activist for Native American rights, and has been adopted by local Shoshone and Paiute tribes. She has watched as INM quickly spread and is pleased to see Native Americans come together. Del Cohen, a Jewish woman from Oakland, Calif., points out that air, water and animals don’t recognize borders, and that INM is bringing indigenous people from all over the world to work together. She explains that Native Americans face a list of challenges when it comes to speaking out. High on that list is poverty.
“When you don’t have money for internet services, you can miss out on what is happening right this minute,” she said. “If you don’t have the right clothes or understand protocol for making speeches to government officials, it’s hard to get into the right places to be heard. With Idle No More, the people don’t feel so isolated. They are becoming energized and are coming together. The movement is waking the people up and is teaching them that is it OK to ask questions.”
Here to stay
“Idle No More will never die,” Kane said. “The Indian people are not going to be silent anymore. Our people are waking up to seeing the injustice toward people and the land. We have to help and this is how we are going to make a difference.”
Kane was quick to point out that the INM efforts began with women and have been strongly supported by young people, from teenagers to those into their 30s. She also recognized that the internet and Facebook have played a large role in reaching so many people.
“Internet service is expensive for a lot of us, but it allows us to quickly reach a lot of people, who then tell others where and when things are happening,” she said. “That is how we’ve been able to get so many people to come to the round dances in Reno.”
According to Kane, Native Americans are taught to think seven generations ahead so that all generations are provided with clean air, water and food.
“This is not just an Indian issue,” Kane said. “All living things are affected by the poor choices of corporations and governments when it comes to harming the land.”
Kane believes this platform will continue to be used by Native Americans, because it provides a link to their brothers and sisters, first-hand. She says that the nature of the American Indian has been to be quiet and accept things as they are presented. That is changing.
“It really should be called Silent No More. We’ve been silent for way too long. We need to make our wishes known and provide feedback on all issues, especially those that may harm the earth and the people. We are a peaceful people. We will always deliver our message in a peaceful way, and we have been inspired to stand up together.”