Idle No More's thunder heard through walls of Prime Minister's Office

A massive round dance framed the lawn of Parliament Hill Friday while a group of First Nations leaders met Friday afternoon with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a day that saw Idle No More rallies unfold across the country.

(Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo and delegation of First Nations leaders. Photo/PMO handout)

APTN National News
While Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo sat in the meeting room of the high-security Langevin Block building flanked by Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and Treasury Board President Tony Clement he could hear the sounds of the Idle No More protest that had shut down the streets outside.

Atleo, who attended the meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday despite heated pressure from Manitoba, Ontario and some Saskatchewan chiefs, said the sounds of the protests gave the meeting added weight.

“Listening to the power voices of the Idle No More rally that was surrounding the Prime Minister’s Office, it added a sense of strength, that we are in a moment we can’t go back from,” said Atleo. “That our people will stand up for the land, the water, the air.”

Atleo led a delegation of about 16 First Nations leaders to meet with the prime minister and several cabinet ministers.

During the meeting, thousands of people marched down Ottawa’s Wellington Street which separates Parliament Hill from Langevin Block which houses the Prime Minister’s Office. Rallies also unfolded across the country, from Whitehorse to Halifax, Yellowknife to Winnipeg, from Vancouver to Toronto to Montreal to Fredericton, thousands of people rallied under the banner of Idle No More. Nova Scotia also saw a rail blockade by members of Millbrook First Nation.

There were over 200 Idle No More related events around the world, from London, England, to Texas, to New Zealand.

A massive round dance also framed the lawn of Parliament Hill at one point and the drums shook the air.

“I am blown away, I am filled with pride, I am just standing here trying to take this in,” said Molly Peters, a Mi’kmaq Idle No More organizer from Nova Scotia, who was standing on the steps of Parliament Hill watching the round dance slowly turn on the lawn below.

“I came for unity,” said Stacie Landon, from Neyaahiinigmiing First Nation in Ontario. “I am here for my children’s future.”

Janice Trudeau, from unceded Wikwemikong First Nation, said she took the streets in Ottawa in solidarity with other Indigenous people.

“I came in solidarity with other Anishinabe people to form a united front against Harper,” she said

And while the grassroots flooded the streets of Canada with round dances, songs and drums, fissures developed between First Nations chiefs over the meeting with the prime minister.

A few hours before the meeting began, chiefs from Ontario and Manitoba stated they would not be participating and warned that they would be initiating economic disruptions on Jan. 16.

“We can’t live in poverty anymore while Canadians live this great life,” said Grand Chief Gordon Peters of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians. “We’ll stop it the only way we can stop it…Stop the roads, stop the rails, stop the transportation of goods.”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, who marched Friday morning along with about 150 others, including Ontario and Saskatchewan chiefs to the door of the Langevin building, said Manitoba chiefs would be standing with the grassroots.

“Across the tables in this room and across the street paper crosses hands and artificial laws are made to control us. We are saying no more,” said Nepinak as he stood at the gates to Parliament Hill and across the street from Langevin.

Nepinak and Peters were among a number of chiefs who opposed the meeting. They wanted Governor Genernal David Johnston to appear along with the prime minister and the chiefs wanted it to be held in a larger venue. Many said they also supported Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who has been on a liquids-only fast since Dec. 11. Spence had said she’d end her protest if the governor general and the prime minister met with First Nations leaders.

“It’s important for both of them to be there at the same time with all leaders, not just some,” Spence told reporters early Friday outside her Victoria Island compound where she’s spent most of her days in a teepee.

Spence has said she’ll continue to abstain from solid foods.

Yet, despite this opposition, Atleo led chiefs from the Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan into the meeting with Harper.

The AFN released a list of points they planned to discuss with the prime minister and Duncan, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Clement and senior bureaucrats.

Atleo said the meeting lasted from about 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and it was done with a tone of “respectful dialogue.”

Atleo said he felt the chiefs who attended the meeting managed to convince Harper that he needed to personally take charge of the issues between Canada and First Nations.

“The ability now to have direct prime ministerial engagement on matters of great concern for our people…including unilateral legislative development…We now have a forum…that we did not have before,” said Atleo, in an interview with APTN National News. “It is incumbent and the responsibility of the prime minister and the Crown to honour and implement the treaty relationship with First Nations. It will require a lot of work.”

Atleo acknowledged that many of the chiefs from Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were against the meeting because they wanted to stand behind Spence.

Spence is expected to continue her fast because the prime minister and the governor general did not appear together at the meeting.

Atleo said he understands the chiefs’ position, but he has been pushing to meet Spence’s demands which appeared to shift.

“On Dec. 31, on New Year’s Eve, we had a national conference call with 50 or 60 chiefs on the line and that if we were to secure a meeting with the prime minister and governor general, that Chief Theresa Spence would end her hunger strike,” said Atleo. “It turns out we all either didn’t understand or there was miscommunication. Twenty-four hours later, I had had chiefs saying we need to go sit with Chief Spence and she said she would continue until there was a meeting with the prime minister and the government general.”

On the Conservative government’s side, Duncan said he felt the meeting was “constructive,” but he wouldn’t go into specifics about some of the demands the chiefs had like resource revenue sharing.

However, he did say that although it was discussed, Bill C-45 and Bill C-38 would not be repealed as requested by many First Nations across the country.

“We’re quite comfortable that we have met our constitutional obligations with those bills and we believe there is every reason to proceed,” said Duncan.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a release saying that Harper had a “good, frank dialogue with First Nations.”

The prime minister says both sides did not agree on all matters, but First Nations brought “serious and important proposals to the table.”

Harper says he will debrief his cabinet onFriday’s meeting and committed to meeting with National Chief Shawn Atleo in the coming weeks to “review next steps.”

The Prime Minister was initially going to attend only at the beginning and end but took part in the entire meeting, which went two hours longer than planned.

Serpent River Chief Isadore Day, who opposed Atleo attending the meeting, said many chiefs were “shocked” the meeting occurred.

Day said Atleo had no “business” talking about treaties at the meeting.

“I’d like to denounce the national chief even discussing treaties when the majority of the treaty communities weren’t even at the table,” said Day.

Day warned Atleo earlier in an email earlier in the day Friday that if he went to the meeting he could face a motion of non-confidence from chiefs.

“The talk is that a lot of people aren’t happy, obviously, you know people are shocked, folks are saying that the best thing for people to do is take a bit of a step back and go home and do something thinking,” said Day. “How could in one day, the national chief say we are united and that we are all standing behind Chief Spence and in the next day, take this entourage to a meeting. That is not sitting well with the majority of the chiefs in assembly.”

Former National Chief Matthew Coon Come who was one of the first to arrive to the Langevin offices told reporters earlier that it would be a lost opportunity if chief didn’t take advantage of the meeting.

*Note APTN National News has changed the terminology of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s protest to a liquids-only fast

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

38 thoughts on “Idle No More's thunder heard through walls of Prime Minister's Office

  1. Dam Male Chiefs !!! See what happens when you do not include the thoughts and strength of the grassroots – us the people !! Squabble Squabble you are making us look bad ! But today was a great day of Unity – Idle No More Victoria with songs and dance !!!!

  2. Keep enjoying all the freedoms that the democracy created by the Europeans ensures you. 600 years ago if you had gone to another tribe holding power over something you had previously laid claim to and asked for it back they would have simply scalped you.

  3. Treaty of 1763 between first nations and king George III
    (fundamental treaty principles)

    1. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized First Nations title,
    sovereignty, and established the treaty-making process. The Royal
    Proclamation also established the relationship of mutuality between two
    nations and the principle of consent between First Nations Peoples and
    the Imperial Crown

    2. Pursuant to the
    Royal Proclamation of 1763, treaties were entered into between
    sovereign and independent nations with their own preexisting laws,
    principles, and forms of government. The Treaty First Nations agreed to
    live in peaceful coexistence with other peoples; with respect to and
    without interference in one another’s laws, governments, and ways of

    3. At no time did Treaty First Nations relinquish their
    right to nationhood, their Inherent Right to determine their own
    destinies, nor did they allow any foreign government to govern them.

    4. The spirit and intent of the treaties must be respected and honoured
    as made sacred by traditional Indian laws and ceremonies and the
    involvement of the Crown.

    5. Treaties are not static nor can
    they be unilaterally defined. They evolve and will continue to evolve
    for “…as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow, and the grass

    6. The International stature of treaties must be recognized, respected, and upheld.

    7. Pursuant to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, treaties established a
    bilateral nation-to-nation relationship between Treaty First Nations and
    the Imperial Crown.

    8. In accordance with the bilateral
    process, as recognized and confirmed by Treaty, the Crown in right of
    Canada is under a continuing obligation to deal directly with the First
    Nations signatories to Treaty. Therefore, no discussions on treaties can
    proceed which deviate from or diminish the bilateral nation-to-nation

    9. Since the principle of consent is entrenched
    in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Government of Canada is not
    entitled to make unilateral decisions with respect to Treaty issues.

    10. As each First Nation is its own governing entity, respect and
    recognition must be given to the political structure and authority of
    each First Nation government.

    posted by kyle kelln on Idle no more,more information in the comments and share PS 1,715 shares keep it going

  4. i also support the idle no movement on behalf of our saskatchewan grassroots human rights committee an also look forward to the great work an news coverage aptn winnipeg is keeping up on the currrent today meetings in ottawa from joey a member with the saskatchewan coalition againest racism.

  5. Boycotting the meeting is not furthering the cause. Demanding that the meeting change at the last minute, when there is security issues that would need to be worked out (he is, after all, the Prime Minister) is petty. You now have an audience with the Prime Minister, and the rest of Canada – seize it! As a non-aboriginal I feel for the plight of first nations in this country, but pettiness and stubbornness will get no-one, anywhere fast – and neither will hostile threats against the economy (and the average Canadian). Public opinion is a powerful tool – use it to your advantage!

    1. I believe this is the shift talked about in the prophecies. Of late, I have been told that FN’s people will begin the process for healing the world. This is a peace rally, therefore I see no pettiness and stubbornness. This is one of the places where we need healing, is standing TOGETHER without judging the actions of others. I’m sure we’ve all heard that when fingers are pointed, the others are pointed back…at the pointer. Idle No More has the attention of the WORLD and we need to keep reminding each other to walk in the honor of our ancestors and come from a PEACEFUL and dignified place. THANK YOU CREATOR, for allowing us to hang on to the medicine wheel teachings and to help the other colors remember….

  6. First Nations constitutional rights are the only thing standing between the devastation of all Canadian’s rights and protections. I wish Idle no More all the best.

  7. The youth need to be a part of the real meeting when it happens. Voices of children and elders together, in a circle where no one is higher than anyone else.

  8. I sincerely hope that Harper takes the grand Manitoba chiefs threats seriously. Any band that participates in the disruption of the economy should immediately have their funding cut. No economy-no billions of dollars for the reserves it’s that simple. My ancestors came here over two centuries ago and bust their asses to make a living and prosper. I owe you NOTHING! Only in Canada does your DNA guarantee a cheque in the mail. Natives choose to stay holed up on hopeless reserves. You can leave any time and seek a life of your choosing.

    1. they got what they got on the backs of the people who driven from the area…You didn’t see (niether did I), so it’s abstract to you since your outcome, generations later was favorable…You should brush up on you canadian history before you get mistaken for an uneducated hillbilly, if in fact you aren’t…

    2. You must be one of Harpers advisers, no wonder there is so much dissention and protesting.happening. I also have to say that I owe you NOTHING, who do we as indigenous peoples get reimbursed from on OUR NATURAL RESOURCES. Resources that have been taken illegally for decades oil, gas potash, diamonds,gold, i could go on, but you get the idea. Also my DNA on this land goes back for thousands upon thousands of years.

      1. Had the centuries more evolved Europeans not came here to actually extract those resources you will still be rocking buffalo gitch pitching spears at each other. You are more than welcome to return to your roots. We did not loose, we won, and that is why it is YOU asking for something, not us.

    3. You speak as though the government “gives” us this funding…that’s what gives your ignorance away…we aren’t bound by what the Government gives us…we are bound by a legal agreement initiated and signed by YOUR people and government…it is a guarantee that we would be respected as a Nation with provisions set aside for recognition asa seperate nation…dummy!!

    4. I forgive u for your ignorance Matt ! The gov’t has been dictatorial , and has broken every treaty in existence .. We are still here! , yes they systematically cut every form of funding .. We are still here . We welcomed and help your so called ancestors “survive “” we let your ancestors live , You Owe everything to us !! And yes my DNA is valuable , much more than u realize . P.s I don’t live on a reserve , and we will cripple the very soil u stand on . We are are , united !! This is just the beginning :))

    5. your ancestors fled persecution in thier land only to come here and persecute us, our fore fathers helped your ancestors to survive when those reggit people landed here, mattDICK, and so yes you owe the natives of this land your existence, because without us your ancestors children would have rotted in their mothers womb and you would not be here to spread your racist rederick….

  9. “They demand Harper meet them”.
    Your delusional thinking is really reached new levels now, giving yourself the status one above the Prime Minister.
    The fact that he took the meeting with your group was unfortunate, but this histrionics over the Hunger Queen’s demands pretty much underlines the lack of reality this whole movement contains.

    1. We are a nation living alongside a nation. Like American and Canadians are defined as nations so are we. The people control the government not the other way around. Or did you forget learnin that in school. Nations signed a peace treaty just over a hundred years ago. Learn your history before you talk and please read my reply to Matt D’s comment on this article. You might learn something.

    2. We have a very good sense of REALITY, which is why we protest, like our very lives depend on it. Your reality is clouded by the almighty dollar.

  10. United we stand !!! across the nation the chiefs have spoken !! On our terms on our home and native land !! The world protest will go on!! The world awaits , peacefully bit for how much longer ? Governor general ??

  11. Chief Keheewin signed 1876 Treaty 6 with the Queen’s Representative as a Nation and his request was one day my decendance needed anything be there to help them and this was agreed. We asked for help and this needs to be honored by Queen’s Representative’s who have an obligation to follow through. Dominion of Canada became a Nation and was granted these obligations to honor the spirit and intent of these living treaties. It is of importance to concider these request from Treaty Chiefs who want to meet with Governer General who is a direct line to Her Majesty the Queen and secondly Prime Minister Harper whom speaks for Canada. It is important the Minister John Duncan be in attendance as he speaks to the welfare and maintanance of these living treaties and accomodate by footing the bill for larger venue and asist in this endevour. It is also of importance that Omnibus Bill be Scraped as a measure of goodwell and approach this meeting as if it was his first day in office and listen and comply to wishes to all Chiefs grevancies. Treaty 6.

  12. “The whiteman has not fought an all out war with the Indian Nation, only running battles.” – Secwepemc Elder Phillip Grinder as quoted in 2003 NYM Publication

  13. Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers.

  14. “The white man always wants more and always gives less” Big Bear. Always remember the past.

  15. I applaud the Fist Nations Chiefs and members in their attempt to get justice. That will never happen, of course. There is a racist, anti-aboriginal bias that ha permeated successive governments since well before Canada was a nation. The bias is essentially that aboriginals are inferior creatures who are not worthy of respect.

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