Indigenous Movement 'Idle No More' Gains Allies

PHOTO: A group of Latinos in Toronto, Canada show their solidarity with the Idle No More movement.

A growing indigenous rights movement, called Idle No More, is holding gatherings on Friday in dozens of cities across Canada and the U.S., and in various countries around the world, including Colombia, Chile, and Puerto Rico.

The meet-ups around the globe coincide with the day that Canada's First Nation leadership and Prime Minister Stephen Harper sat down to discuss Bill C-45 -- new legislation that indigenous leaders say violates claims to self-governance and control of traditional land bases.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike for 32 days to call attention to the Idle No More movement and pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper to scrap the controversial bill. Although her hunger strike seems to have been instrumental in procuring a meeting with the Harper government, Spence and a handful of other indigenous leaders boycotted the meeting that got underway Friday afternoon, because Harper said he'd only be able to attend for half an hour and Governor-General David Johnston said he would not attend the meeting, against the wishes of Chief Spence. A crowd of about 3,000 people gathered outside of the building where the meeting was being held on Parliament Hill, "chanting, drumming and waving makeshift banners," according to the National Post.

Sylvia McAdam, one of the four Native founders of the Idle No More movement, said on Tuesday morning that she was skeptical anything would come out of the Friday meeting, if it occurred.

"I'm cynical about that meeting on January 11th -- it's not going to change hundreds of years of injustices," said McAdam. "If the conservative government truly means that they want to work towards a meaningful relationship with us, they'd remove all that legislation. And they aren't doing that."

Whether or not Friday's talks will change anything for Canada's Native community, everyday the Idle No More movement is gaining more sympathizers and allies around the globe. Some of the most vocal of those groups standing in solidarity are Latinos and indigenous groups from Central and South America.

"El pueblo unido jamás será vencido," chanted a small group of Latino Toronto residents, holding Idle No More protest signs, who gathered to tape a video with messages of solidarity. The iconic protest chant (which translates to "The people united will never be defeated,") rang out on the 16th day of Chief Spence's liquid-only hunger strike, to indicate to other protesters and to Canadian officials that Latinos of Canada had joined in the fight.

Valentina Saavedra Harper, one of the organizers of the gathering and a native of Chile, says that standing up for the Native American community means standing up for her own mestizo heritage. While she bears the same last name as the Canadian Prime Minister, she couldn't be more opposed to his new bill. Harper, 38, and Ingrid Flores, 46, a fellow Chilean living in Canada, started a Facebook group for Latinos who support the Idle No More movement, which has now grown to nearly 300 members in just a few weeks. Both women say that Mapuche people of Chile are fighting a very similar fight as that of indigenous groups in Canada, which has brought them closer to the current struggle.

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