I'll work my way backwards thru your emails : ) We had a great time in TO - hard to believe we were there for just a week. Of course we had 2 or 3 daily walks with Sylvia, Macduff, Chase & myself, but we (sometimes all 4 of us) also managed a great sunny walk on the Beaches, at Cherry Beach, a visit to the incredibly artistically planted Christmas display in the Allen Gardens greenhouses, saw THE HOBBIT!, spent hours touring the Canadiana rooms at the art Gallery of Ontario, had dinner with Allan & Holly Briesmaster one nite (after visiting Q Space Gallery & meeting Luciano), and with Terry Barker on another (Terry has asked me to be a co-editor on the next Milton Acorn book project with Mosaic Press, & of course I accepted). My head is spinning trying to remember all the things we enjoyed in a week - yesterday we took the Queen TTC streetcar to Yonge St. & started walking up to THE WORLD'S BIGGEST BOOKSTORE. But at Dundas Square there was a First Nations demonstration going on - one of the first IDLE NO MORE demos - and of course we joined in for half an hour.
Both Sylvia & I felt overwhelmed to the point of tears by the display of First Nations strength & unity. The drummers drew in Christmas shoppers from Yonge St., & I'd estimate there were 500+ people at the peak of the demo. There's a large First Nations population in TO, & the various nations were well represented. The drummers thrummed out the message of change thru the holiday crowds, & people formed snake dancing chains & celebrated this spiritual & politikal renewal by dancing around Dundas Square. It was an overpowering sensation. I've been involved in some seminal events in my lifetime - early demos against the Vietnam War, the first Glastonbury Music Festival, many of the historical 60s rock concerts (Doors at Dinner Key in Miami, both Isle of Wight concerts, etc.) - so I believe I know when something historically significant is occurring - there is a tangible essence in the very air - and we very much felt that empowering essence yesterday standing in the light drizzle at Dundas Square showing solidarity with what is hopefully the beginning of a First Nations renaissance.
It struck me that First Nations people are the key to providing leadership for the sea change which must come to Canada to overcome the anti-Canadian Harperite neo-fascism which is enveloping our land. After IDLE NO MORE may come THE UPRISING!!! ... we are reaching a cultural, economic, political & spiritual tipping point here in Canada as the 'head' of Turtle Island, & of course it is the First Nations who are leading the way. The significance of John Ralston Saul's book of several years ago, A FAIR COUNTRY, is starting to play out before our eyes.
I feel incredibly renewed & energized by this brief weeklong visit to TO - the cultural, spiritual & politikal centre of Canada.
peace & poetry power!
Chris ... and Chase Wroooofffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff! (I had a great time, too!)
And HAPPY NEW YEAR for you as well! Yes, Chase, Sylvia, MacDuff & I had a great time visiting in TO over the holidays ~ thank you for thinking of us : )
Things are starting to take shape for the next Acorn book, & we're hoping to get a lot of other poets, friends & supporters of Milt's involved. Do you have any stories or anecdotes about him? I'll keep you posted on as much of the correspondence re the project as possible.
Yes, it was overpowering being a small part of the IDLE NO MORE demo Sylvia & I stumbled into on our hike up Yonge Street. Our gross & vicious mistreatment of
our First Nations is a huge black mark on the Canadian soul. Several years ago I read John Ralston Saul's powerful & insightful treatise, A FAIR COUNTRY, which details this sordid history. It should be required reading for every Canadian.
Thank you, Marvin, for all you are doing to encourage & preserve Canadian poetry. I was thinking today: if poetry is so meaningless, why are poets always the first to be shot when there's a revolution?
There is a spirit arising in Canada, and it was tangible & moving at the demo. I hope this spirit continues to grows and strengthen thru 2013, & eventually reclaim & return Canada to what it once was.
peace & poetry power, health & happiness in 2013 for you : )
Chris ... and Chase Wroooooofffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff!
On 2012-12-31, at 11:50 AM, marvin orbach wrote:
I trust you had a great time during this year's winter solstice. I
would like to wish you and Chase a very happy new year filled with
joy, good health, and lots of haiku.
Your upcoming book on Milton Acorn sounds like a very interesting
project. Good luck with it. I am looking forward to reading the
submissions that are accepted when the book is published.
I envy you for having had the chance to join a First Nations
demonstration. I believe you when you say that you had tears in your
eyes. I understand why. Canada's mistreatment of its indigenous
people represents a black mark in its history. Our original sin,
you might say.
Take care. Cheers.
Marvin, in Montreal West.
P.S. I continue to enjoy the various e-mails that you send to me.
Thank you very much.
Waubgeshig Rice: A peoples' movement that is Idle No More
By Waubgeshig Rice, CBC News
Posted: Dec 21, 2012 5:11 AM ET
Last Updated: Dec 21, 2012 5:07 AM ET
Video ContentChief Spence exclusive interview17:07
Those are some of the images that have come to define the Idle No More movement since it began earlier this month, originally by a small group of Canada's First Nations people, almost as an exercise in social media.
Its pictures and messages have gone viral in a spirit of solidarity that is probably not unlike the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street movements.
Frustrated with a lack of consultation on treaty problems and seemingly unilateral federal government decisions on natural resources and the environment, indigenous peoples are suddenly saying they will no longer sit idly by while these things are being pushed through.
In the spirit of preserving what we have always seen as a sacred tie to the land, and strengthening our culture, First Nations people across the country are banding together like never before.
It's exhilarating. But while the images of strength and unity spread and inspire, there's also a sharp void in the centre of the picture of where Idle No More is headed.
Ordinary people started this movement. Their voices have risen to heights that should be impossible for federal politicians to ignore.
But now it is up to the leaders — both of First Nations and the Canadian government — to take it to the next level and find an agenda that can be agreed upon. And it is not clear that they have all heeded that call.
Chief SpenceA strong handful of First Nations leaders have stepped up to support the movement and have reached out to the Canadian government.
An Idle No More rally earlier this month. (CBC)The most prominent, of course, is Theresa Spence, the chief of the troubled community of Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario, who just a year ago had to declare a state of emergency in her community because of the poor state of housing.
She has been on a hunger strike for almost two weeks now in the hope of meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to address critical issues like the extent of poverty in First Nation communities.
Harper hasn't committed to meeting her yet, but if he did, the spectacle of the two could be monumental in redefining this country's relationship with its indigenous people, if for nothing else because it would take the relationship outside of the stale meeting halls that have been the norm for these last many years.
I've had the opportunity to visit Chief Spence twice on behalf of CBC News since she went on her hunger strike on Ottawa's Victoria Island, the second time this week.
We chatted about what has been going on and she was thankful for all the words and gestures of support coming in.
She also mentioned that for the Idle No More movement to continue, chiefs across the country have to "put aside their differences" and join together with their people on this new path.
This is not a movement that has come from the top down, and the chiefs themselves are going to have to recognize that if they want to keep the momentum going and see this new trail to its end.
Facing historySome chiefs have already demonstrated that spirit. While the concept of Idle No More grew from a group of native women in Saskatchewan, mostly lawyers and academics, several weeks ago, a handful of community and regional leaders have helped catalyze the movement.
While in Ottawa for the Assembly of First Nations' special chiefs assembly at the beginning of this month, some chiefs notoriously scuffled with security in front of the House of Commons chamber.
It was a powerful visual, and First Nations citizens shared the video countless times over social media.
Days later, the first Idle No More rallies were held in some of the bigger cities across Canada. Since then, those chiefs — including Grand Chief Derek Nepinak from Manitoba and Isadore Day from Ontario's Serpent River community, among others — have harnessed mainstream and social media to keep the volume up on the message.
Now it's up to other community leadership to stand with them. But moving forward will obviously have to transcend the imagery of Idle No More and the powerful emotions connected to it.
I'm not a leader nor an academic, so I don't know how to fix the laws in this country to bring First Nations people and the federal government together.
But like any citizen, I've been drawn to the unifying power of this movement by the profound pictures, videos and messages that have flooded my Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Now that national mainstream media is catching up, the message is only getting stronger.
Modern history is largely defined by the faces of the people who make it.
When we think of the Oka crisis of 1990, we all think of that one shot of the warrior and the soldier, which instilled pride in so many First Nations people across the country.
That same potential is here. This time, there are thousands more people from all First Nations willing to put their faces on history. The interesting question will be who else joins in.