Idle No More comes to Cowichan Sunday
Cowichan Tribes' concerns about mouldy homes, soaring suicide rates, environmental protection, violence, and treaty inaction come home to roost at Sunday's Idle No More rally near Duncan.
"This opens the door," said Evelyn Thomas who, with Gus Wilson, organized the 1 p.m. event sporting speeches and songs that could draw hundreds to Quw'utzun' Cultural Centre's parking lot.
"Lots of people are voicing their concerns on issues happening around here: bad housing, suicides, bullying, and gangs. "This creates space for people to speak about their concerns on these issues."
The local Idle No More action will follow today's scheduled meeting between hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and other national chiefs, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and some of his ministers.
Their talks will also address what Native elders call reserves' deplorable living conditions — plus jobs and stalled treaty talks, such as the Hul'qumi'num treaty covering Cowichan people.
"It's time to quit talking and start making things happen to honour treaties," was Thomas' message to Harper after she got Cowichan elders' blessing for Sunday's traffic-controlled rally.
"One of the elders heard treaty discussions have been going on for 25 years. This (INM) action is to get it all settled, and find solutions to each reconciliation."
John Koury, Cowichan's former federal Conservative candidate, said his party's committed to working with Aboriginal leaders and finding answers to serious issues surfacing through the Idle No More actions.
"The federal government has demonstrated its willingness, and is committed to work together to solve long-standing issues such as treaty talks.
"In the meantime, the feds are working closely with the Assembly of First Nations, and local First Nations, to improve infrastructure and education on reserve, and enabling tribes to be self-sufficient through economic development," the North Cowichan councillor told the News Leader Pictorial.
"This is happening now in Nanaimo-Cowichan. I think there is more common ground here than meets the eye when we begin to talk about mutual, benefiting interests."
That's also the hope of Cowichan elders, signalled Thomas, 32.
"We met with them (Wednesday), and they were very happy we spoke with them as many didn't understand what was happening," she said INM's local impacts.
Her elders were also upbeat about leaders from Cowichan's five tribes — including Chief Harvey Alphonse — plus a Metis elder, being invited to speak about various local issues affecting Native folks.
A megaphone was also being arranged for public comments, while drumming teams and the Cowichan Spirit Drummers were also expected to attend Sunday's Idle No More gathering, Thomas said.
Cowichan's message is that "we are in support of what the (INM) movement is, and that it's not just a First Nations' issue but a Canadian issue."
A local one too.
"Gus and I went to different community agencies and invited them," she said of the Cowichan Intercultural Society, House of Friendship's youth group, and Tribes youth program.
Thomas said she's been educating herself about Native and environmental rights for years.
"We live off the land and water, and there's already a huge increase in fish-kill numbers. Without protection of our land and water, we're going to lose more and leave nothing for future generations.
"I want something to be left for my children and their children."