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Juneau flashmobs support indigenous rights movement

Posted: January 6, 2013 - 1:14am

Several groups in Juneau have offered public displays of support for the “Idle No More” indigenous rights movement that originated in Canada, with at least three small “flashmobs” being held around town.

On Friday afternoon, a handful of people donned traditional tribal regalia, played drums and sang clan songs at Sealaska Plaza in downtown Juneau. A small crowd of perhaps two dozen gathered, some carrying small signs with “Idle No More” printed on them.

Organizer Nancy Keen handed out pamphlets written by Taiaiake Alfred and Tobold Rollo of Victoria, B.C., calling on the Canadian federal government to devolve powers to the First Nations and “acknowledge the systematic nature of Canada’s colonial past and present,” among other demands.

“I got the pamphlets together to provide information to people. Information is what we really need to get out to the people,” said Keen. “I feel like my position right now, my role in this whole thing, is to provide whatever information I can.”

Keen said the issue goes beyond Canada, where Attawapiskat Chief Teresa Spence has been on a nearly four-week hunger strike she says will not end until Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with her and other tribal leaders. On the day of the Sealaska Plaza flashmob in Juneau, Harper agreed to meet the leaders next Friday.

“They’re actually setting the precedent,” said Keen of the Canadian demonstrators. “This affects us too in the United States. It affects us in Alaska.”

Ishmael Hope, a Native storyteller who has also been involved in the “Idle No More” movement in Juneau, said the message of the movement goes beyond the politics of any one nation.

“On a deeper level, something I really love about this movement is it helps get people together, and right now, all we’re doing — we’re not making big speeches,” said Hope. “We’re getting together and we’re singing our ancient clan songs. … What this helps us remember is there’s no separation between a culture, our language and our sovereignty. They strengthen each other. So we sing our songs, we know ourselves more and we’re able to stand up for ourselves better.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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