Indigenous people have inherent rights to territory


Idle No More began with four women – Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon and myself  – who share a vision of uniting people to ensure the protection of mother earth, her lands, waters and people.

We began by focusing on a piece of legislation called Bill C-45, which attacks the land base reserved for indigenous people and removed protections for hundreds of our waterways. We discussed and planned a national day of action for 10 December – which quickly became one of the largest indigenous mass movements in Canadian history.

Idle No More is a cry for justice that has spread across Canada, flowing into the United States and elsewhere.  This age-old resistance began centuries ago as indigenous nations and their lands suffered the impacts of exploration, invasion and colonisation. The treaties – meant to be nation-to-nation agreements – have been broken time and again since their inception.

These ongoing tensions stem from the colonial governments’ knowledge that indigenous people have inherent rights to sovereignty, their territories and the resources. These inherent rights mean that the day-to-day practices of Canadian institutions are illegitimate and illegal – every day that the spirit and intent of the treaties is not honored or fulfilled, inequality between indigenous people and the settler society grows.

Sheelah McLean is a founder member of Idle No More and an anti-racist, anti-colonial teacher and activist