Roots in History

Roots in History

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March 19, 2013

In Dr. Cheryl Crazy Bull’s op-ed on Idle No More and Tribal Education, she notes that social movements have roots in history and connections with other movements. Knowing that history, she says, is essential to effective activism.

Tribally controlled education and tribal knowledge that emerged from the American Indian Movement in the 1960s, observes Crazy Bull, is what underpins Idle No More today. But Idle No More has a Canadian history, too. In fact, if there is one person who might be singled out as the visionary who led the way to the current indigenous peoples movement, it would be the late Grand Chief George Manuel of the National Indian Brotherhood.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, Manuel and other indigenous leaders in Canada organized themselves and tribal communities to fight the oppressive policies of Ottawa, laying the groundwork for the First Nations resurgence we see today. Perhaps more importantly, Manuel foresaw the need to internationalize the indigenous peoples movement, which led to the establishment of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in 1975 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.

Dr. Crazy Bull is correct in her emphasis on the benefit of tribal education in bolstering the activism required to create a more just, sacred and sustainable world, but the activism that made tribal education possible  — activism that included armed confrontations with state and federal police — exacted a toll on those who literally risked their lives for the movement. In educating ourselves about that history, we honor those who made such enormous sacrifices.

The lessons learned from the indigenous peoples movement are essential to understanding where we go from here.

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