Idle No More website promotes, “Indigenous rights and [their] responsibilities” are a social reality that has to be addressed, complex as it is.
As a Canadian, I have hope that respectful dialogue and action will come out of the Idle No More movement. Our country has enough diversity in leadership and culture to exact some progress (so long as we aren’t driven by the opinion of online commenters on news blogs - sheesh!). Yes, much more can be done to address the complex issues that range from honoring treaties to honoring children. But I think there is cause for hope that something will be done.
Unrelated to the continuing news of the Idle No More movement, I’ve been doing some reading this week in the area of First Nations’ religion and spirituality. The parallels are striking.
Canada values multiculturalism and tolerance of a diversity of religious viewpoints. But as I argued in a previous post, such tolerance doesn’t always equal understanding. Canada's First Nations are a clear example where misunderstanding occurs on all levels. Rhetoric on all sides of the debate reflect stereotypes that only exasperate misunderstanding and conflict. For any progress to come out of the Idle No More movement, understanding will be essential.
At face value, one could say the debates are primarily social and political, be it addressing First Nations' governance, treaty regulation, or the overall social well-being of communities across the country. The issues are “secular” - that is, spirituality has nothing to do with it. And for some, on all sides, this is likely true.
Yet only a glimpse into First Nations’ spirituality quickly reveals just how spiritual the issues really are. As a Stó:lō member recently commented in an interview on the CBC, it’s directly because of his “spiritual and cultural connection to the natural world” that he is passionate about the Idle No More movement. The current issue absolutely has to do with spirituality. A big difference from how Canadians usually do politics.
No doubt many Canadians hold a modern secular perspective that treats the world as an object. We look around and ask, “How will this place best serve our needs?” It's a pragmatic approach to the earth. Native spirituality, on the other hand, asks a different question: “How can we cooperate with this place?” The earth is no mere object, but a subject to which we relate. Pragmatic concerns are accompanied by relationship to the spiritual realm. This is clearly a major difference in worldview, one which lies in the background of much of the Idle No More debates.
Any solutions and progress, then, requires all sides to discuss and debate these foundational questions of meaning and spirituality that too often remain in the background of our complex social issues. Again, as a Canadian, I have hope that such respectful engagement is possible. So long as we all know this: our tolerance must include learning and relationships. Only with mutual respect can we expect a Canada with mutual progress.