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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book Review: The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement

Review: The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement”
By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

“The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement” is a very critical book to read when it comes to understanding the origins of Idle No More, and the issues that First Nations people have been and are currently fighting.

From the time that I opened it until I closed the pages of this book, I found myself captivated by many of the articles. It helped me to understand some very important pieces of First Nations history, legislation and the drive behind what has been one of many integral movements in my lifetime-Idle No More.

I was especially moved by the opening poem “A Healing Time,” written by SkyBlue Mary Morin, where she states

“We dance
to soften the hard lumps
that have formed
in the heart,
the hurt inside
We dance, the Stomp
We stomp, stomp along
With stumbling feet
In a snakelike rope
Of people

We dance
the Friendship Dance
Take my hand
And hold it tight
Gentle if that’s
The way with you”
(SkyBlue Mary Morin)

The poem speaks of a dance that saw First Nations people across Canada gather and hold hands while round dancing at each Idle No More movement event. As I read it, I still envision the way the round dance united people at each Idle No More event. It reminds me of our culture, and the beauty of it, and how the dance was symbolic of sharing the hurt, sharing the pain, and sharing friendship and love with everyone who attended these round dance flash mobs, teach ins and gatherings.

            In “The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, Future and the Idle No More Movement,” there is a very thorough examination of how the Idle No More Movement started, gained traction in First Nations communities across Canada and how it was indicative of a very long chain of resistance (years in the making, when you look at past resistances and legislative policies- The White Paper, Oka, etc) that was forged in late November 2012, when four women in Saskatchewan held a meeting called to educate Indigenous (and Canadian) communities on the impacts of the Canadian federal government’s proposed Bill C-45.
It called attention to the 457 pages of legislation, an omnibus of new laws that introduced drastic changes to the Indian Act, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Navigable Water Act (amongst others)
It was with the help of social media and grassroots Indigenous activists that this meeting by these four women inspired a continent wide movement with hundreds of thousands of people from Indigenous communities and urban centres participated in sharing sessions, protests, blockades and round dances in public spaces and on the land, in our homelands and sacred spaces.
 “Indigenous peoples have been protecting homelands; maintaining and revitalizing languages, traditions, and cultures; and attempting to engage Canadians in a fair and just manner for hundreds of years.” (21)
“The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement,” edited by The Kino-nda-niimi Collective is a book that must be read because it is a collection of writings that change minds, ideas, action and history. It is published by Arbeiter Ring Publishing and is 439 pages.

The Kino-nda-niimi Collective is a group of Indigenous writers, artists, editors, curators, and allies who came together to document and disseminate the work that emerged and culminated in the winter of 2012-2013. Lead editors for the Winter We Danced include Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Leanne Betasmosake Simpson, Tanya Kappo, Wanda Nanibush and Hayden King, who along with many colleagues, relatives, friends and organizations assembled this collection together over the summer and fall of 2013.

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