January 24, 2017

Idle No More day of action draws crowd to Okla. Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY – With hand drums, signs and chants, Natives and non-Native supporters rallied on the north side of the Oklahoma state Capitol building Monday morning as part of the Idle No More movement’s international Day of Action.

“This has to be our first step,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Chebon Kernelo said. “We will never be treated as second class citizens or wards of the state again.

“You (state officials) will not mistreat our elders in our clinics. You will respect our children for having long hair and for speaking our language. The time has come where we must rise up and stand together. We can’t let those around us dictate our way of life.”

Launched in Saskatchewan by four women, Idle No More is a grass roots group formed in protest of an omnibus budget bill that they claim would violate the treaty and Constitutional rights of First Nations groups, while weakening environmental protection laws and land removal policies. It has since grown to include efforts to draw attention to issues facing Natives in other countries, including the United States.

“The problems they’re facing in Canada are the same ones we’re facing all over,” Anadarko, Okla., resident Angela Chaddlesone McCarthy said. “We must register our people to vote and go to the polls in four years so that we can get people in office who care about our issues.”

Among the issues that have become tied to the Idle No More movement in Oklahoma is the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, whose southern leg cuts through the east central portion of the state, including portions of the Sac and Fox Nation, Seminole Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Choctaw Nation en route to the Gulf of Mexico. Holding an anti-Keystone sign, Chaddlesone McCarthy, who is Kiowa and Kootenai, led a “Frack off, Fallin” chant aimed Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. Fallin has publicly supported the pipeline construction project, which has brought 850 jobs to Oklahoma.              

With events in 20 states and six countries, Monday’s international Day of Action coincided with the reconvening of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. After meeting with First Nations leaders earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to be more mindful of treaty rights and land claims issues, but has not responded to criticism of the omnibus bill that helped instigate the movement.

“When our brothers and sisters in Canada stood up, I realized that we needed to stand up as well,” said Paulette Blanchard, an Absentee Shawnee graduate student at the University of Oklahoma. “If our government won’t honor treaty obligations, we have to stand up and say ‘We’re still here. We are idle no more.’”

Additional Oklahoma Idle No More events are scheduled for Tuesday at the University of Oklahoma, Feb. 9 at Tulsa’s Brady Theater at 105 W. Brady St. and Feb. 10 at the Oklahoma City Downtown Library at 3 p.m.