jump to navigation

As Chief Spence Starves, Canadians Awaken from Idleness and Remember Their Roots December 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Published on Monday, December 24, 2012 by the Globe & Mail

  by  Naomi Klein

I woke up just past midnight with a bolt. My six-month-old son was crying. He has a cold – the second of his short life–and his blocked nose frightens him. I was about to get up when he started snoring again. I, on the other hand, was wide awake.


Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, shown in December, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick /THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A single thought entered my head: Chief Theresa Spence is hungry. Actually it wasn’t a thought. It was a feeling. The feeling of hunger. Lying in my dark room, I pictured the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation lying on a pile of blankets in her teepee across from Parliament Hill, entering day 14 of her hunger strike.

I had of course been following Chief Spence’s protest and her demand to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the plight of her people and his demolition of treaty rights through omnibus legislation. I had worried about her. Supported her. Helped circulate the petitions. But now, before the distancing filters of light and reason had a chance to intervene, I felt her. The determination behind her hunger. The radicality of choosing this time of year, a time of so much stuffing – mouths, birds, stockings – to say: I am hungry. My people are hungry. So many people are hungry and homeless. Your new laws will only lead to more of this misery. Can we talk about it like human beings?

Lying there, I imagined another resolve too – Prime Minister Harper’s. Telling himself: I will not meet with her. I will not cave in to her. I will not be forced to do anything.

Mr. Harper may relent, scared of the political fallout from letting this great leader die. I dearly hope he does. I want Chief Spence to eat. But I won’t soon forget this clash between these two very different kinds of resolve, one so sealed off, closed in; the other cracked wide open, a conduit for the pain of the world.

But Chief Spence’s hunger is not just speaking to Mr. Harper. It is also speaking to all of us, telling us that the time for bitching and moaning is over. Now is the time to act, to stand strong and unbending for the people, places and principles that we love.

This message is a potent gift. So is the Idle No More movement – its name at once a firm commitment to the future, while at the same time a gentle self-criticism of the past. We did sit idly by, but no more.

The greatest blessing of all, however, is indigenous sovereignty itself. It is the huge stretches of this country that have never been ceded by war or treaty. It is the treaties signed and still recognized by our courts. If Canadians have a chance of stopping Mr. Harper’s planet-trashing plans, it will be because these legally binding rights – backed up by mass movements, court challenges, and direct action will stand in his way. All Canadians should offer our deepest thanks that our indigenous brothers and sisters have protected their land rights for all these generations, refusing to turn them into one-off payments, no matter how badly they were needed. These are the rights Mr. Harper is trying to extinguish now.

During this season of light and magic, something truly magical is spreading. There are round dances by the dollar stores. There are drums drowning out muzak in shopping malls. There are eagle feathers upstaging the fake Santas. The people whose land our founders stole and whose culture they tried to stamp out are rising up, hungry for justice. Canada’s roots are showing. And these roots will make us all stand stronger.

© 2012 Naomi Klein



Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (which has just been re-published in a special 10th Anniversary Edition); and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit www.naomiklein.org. You can follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

I am cut and pasting my comments from a like article just to give readers an idea of what entailed here.

What the Government has proposed is to allow the concept of “private property rights” onto Reserve lands. What they claim is that by doing so they will “Create wealth”.

What will really happen is a small group of natives will be granted title to the lands and then be able to sell the land off to developers. This is Capitalism at work where one small group gets rich and the rest get nothing.

By converting it into “Private Property” the land that could not be sold because it owned by the tribe as a whole, the land suddenly acquires “monetary value” under the capitalist system and this is pointed to as proof that they create wealth.

That the tribe in the future might have no land base at all because the “wealth creators” sold it all off for personal gain to someone wanting to build ski lodges or condo’s is of no concern to the Government. (Added to that allowing the corporation to then pollute the land they now own at will thus removing all those treaty impediments to more tar sand development or pipeline construction)

No clearer example exists.

Private property is theft.

  • ceti

    NAFTA did that to the indigenous communities of Mexico. Harper’s stealth final solution for Aboriginal peoples dovetails well with his authoritarianism, corporatism, neo-conservativism and arch-Zionism. It is all part of the one big nasty ideology of 21st century fascism as a North American response to the 21st century socialism of South America (where incidentally, the poorest, most exploited heart of the American continent is again beating strong due to the efforts of the Morales government with the support of Chavez and Correa).

  • Deborah R. Martin

    Love Canada’s First Nations! Believe in Canada, the native one. http://www.MillionaireProjects…

  • giovannalepore

    When a concept exists which claims the very Earth is a commodity to be exploited and commodified all other crimes follow. What madness to think that that which we did not create somehow can belong to some particular individual when the reverse is true: People belong to the Earth and not the other way around. Western thinking is dangerous in its immaturity.

  • George Washington

    Thank you for your excellent insights.

  • rtdrury

    No, private property is not theft.  Allowing an elite few to own most/all property IS THEFT.  Liberalism teaches us to blame “things” instead of blaming elites and their rotten egos and evil intentions.  Liberals serve master this way. It’s very likely that the optimum system consists of private property on a very small scale, to allow for owning specialized tools for creative work.  But strong limits on how far that can go.  Likewise, elitism is needed in the sense that certain highly productive “fountainheads” can benefit the society as a whole, but again, strong limits on how far that can go.  In other words, keep the human ego on a VERY short leash.  But don’t blame the idea, don’t blame the tool, don’t blame the system.  Blame the sociopath elites with their rotten egos and evil intentions.


  • Gabriele Drozdowski

    rtdrury – you seem to have missed the point.  Individual land ownership is a large part of the cause of the problem, as it divides people, and encourages only caring about their small portion, whereas communal land ownership encourages larger scale thinking (i.e. seven generations ahead), the health of not just one parcel, but the local environment.  Yes, people still can have their own houses and land, but if individuals degrade the land or abuse it, the community as a whole can address this.  A fragmented populace of individual owners is powerless to stop the destruction by the Elite, as it is clear that the courts or justice systems often get corrupted as well.

  • Mary McCurnin


  • glen taves

    We’re Idle No More empirePie  Dec 22cnd, 2012

    We’re Idle no more we’ve been conned too many times before so I’ll say it once more we’re idle no no more

    we’ve been conned by the right we’ve been conned by the left we’ve been rounded up poisoned and left bereft

    Now corporate Harper has a new plan for us we’re all under the bus with this omnibus bill to poison our water for short term gain for they’ve sold our soul to the corporate store

    they have pallets of cash a forty five thousand million dollar stash for a first strike jet we don’t need for an empire that don’t lead the apple pie empire of bad seed

    we’ve been conned by the right, left and middle too we’ve been rounded up poisoned and left bereft so Join hands in a circle of strength

    dance to the east dance to the west

    dance to the south dance to the north

    for we’re Idle no more for we’re Idle no more for we’re Idle no more

  • Qimountain

    I nominate Chief Spence for the Nobel Peace prize on behalf of Mother Earth. Hell, if Obama can get the award, why not a authentic hero?

  • galen066

    Here’s a hint for those of you who are not living in Canada who post on CD, about Stevie harper: He’s a psychopath.

    Harper will let Chief Spence starve herself to death. And he won’t give a tin-plated damn. He refuses to listen to anyone who is not either: A) a Corporate bagman, or B) a boot-licking sycophant. He has all but openly mocked Chief Spence as being a manipulative cry-baby.

    Harper has a long and well documented history of being possessed of a virulent, violent bias and racist view of Canada’s native peoples, pretty much along the lines of “Damn, dirty drunken injuns oughta just go and die.”

  • theoldgoat

    Intercontinental Cry is compiling videos and links that speak to the conversation about and to better understand history, the intense actions by corporations and government around the world to cut off indigenous rights to their traditional lands, culture, ways of being, stewardwship of resources and future generations right to determine their own sustainable models of development.


  • Gabriele Drozdowski

    Yes, Intercontinental Cry is a great resource for documentation on indigenous lands and rights abuses happening across the globe.

  • scrufmuffin

    This episode would do as a  a new chapter in an updated, “Shock Doctrine”; right in line with  the usual neo-con tricks so well documented. This scheme sounds exactly like what happened to Russia under Boris Yeltsin”s privatization policies with the help and advice of US neo-con advisors, who also became very rich. The result was seven billionaire oligarchs and the the Russian poverty rate hitting 50 % as Russia’s immense socialized resources and enterprises were sold off at below bargain rates and the economy collapsed.  Credit Bill Clinton for that one, he sent the “experts”;  Milton Freeman  and the Chicago School strike again. See Janine Wedel, The Shadow Elite for a thorough description.

  • pdxpress

    Portland is with you


  • HenryWallace2012

    Good story, gal! Love Canada’s First Nations! Believe in Canada, the native one.

  • HenryWallace2012

    Naomi Klein does and I do. Just let’s do it and have a better world starting with Canada. In the USA we can believe in our First and founding people.

  • wildcarrots

    Why should anyone believe in Canada’s first nations?

  • Gabriele Drozdowski


  • Gabriele Drozdowski

    Lack of, or under education about indigenous people is a serious flaw in our Western society.  The conquering nations have worked hard at keeping it that way.

  • wildcarrots

    Gabriele. Henry Wallace responds to most indigenous issues with the same response, ” I believe in  america or canada the native one.”  It was a reasonable question, why do you believe in the native america, as in why do you always say that without ever saying why.  Yes, that lack of education works both ways.

  • galen066

    Well that and cultural and actual genocide of Canada’s natives…

  • Suspiria_de_profundis

    I am afraid the day the Cultural Genocide of Our First nations people will be complete is when their lands and tribal holdings turned into “private property” that can be bought and sold.

    Aurora borealis The icy sky at night Paddles cut the water In a long and hurried flight From the white man to the fields of green And the homeland we’ve never seen.

    They killed us in our tepee And they cut our women down They might have left some babies Cryin’ on the ground But the firesticks and the wagons come And the night falls on the setting sun.

    They massacred the buffalo Kitty corner from the bank The taxis run across my feet And my eyes have turned to blanks In my little box at the top of the stairs With my Indian rug and a pipe to share.

    I wish a was a trapper I would give thousand pelts To sleep with Pocahontas And find out how she felt In the mornin’ on the fields of green In the homeland we’ve never seen.

    And maybe Marlon Brando Will be there by the fire We’ll sit and talk of Hollywood And the good things there for hire And the Astrodome and the first tepee Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me Pocahontas.

    (Neil Young)

  • wildcarrots

    And how about you, how do you stand in solidarity with Native people?

  • giovannalepore

    In the midst of despair a ray of hope: The indigenous peoples of our common home planet are on the rise and if any peoples exist who understand what needs doing it is them. Solidarity!

  • rtdrury

    Actually fasting is healthy, up to around 30 days.  Do your body good, whack the franken-food industry, and scare the politicians all in one fell swoop.


  • galen066

    There is a MASSIVE difference between fasting (which means limited *intake* of food) and a Hunger Strike (which is voluntarily starving yourself to death if necessary to make a point).

    Spence is on a Hunger Strike, and I have the very bad feeling she is going to become Harper’s ‘Bobby Sands’.

  • David

    When is the last time you fasted for 30 days?  What were the benefits?

  • HenryWallace2012

    Try hung parlament procedure which would have prevented the Con servatives from getting into government in the first place. Virtually every other parliamentary system has it. It works.

  • galen066

    Too bad Harper views Parliamentary procedure as an impediment to the looting of the nation’s economy and resources.

  • JoeTWallace

    You’ll want to get started.

  • itsthethird

    Happy Holidays a simple truth:

    When we negate the ego (world) we negate the world pain, suffering, oppression etc…and heal ourselves and the world.

  • JoeTWallace

    Best wishes to indigenous peoples and their common-sense ethic of stewardship and sustainability.

  • disqus_7ONuyIuYuR

    Stephen Harper was elected with 38% of the vote because Canada has two strong parties (plus the Green Party, which elected  its first member of parliament) to the left of Harper, which split the vote.  The only answer is to change to a proportional, or at least an instant-runoff, system.

  • Yunzer

    Or, not even anything that fancy.  Just require regular runoffs in every riding that didn’t get a 50%+1.  This would have prevented the current Canadian govt.

  • HenryWallace2012

    I firmly believe Canada will throw out the Con servative or Tories at the next federal election.

  • frigate

    I don’t understand how after our Bushite catastrophe and other conservative disasters worldwide, Canadians could have voted for a conservative Prime Minister.

  • Mary McCurnin

    Maybe the election was hacked and stolen. In my gut I feel this has been going on for decaded in the USA.

  • frigate

    it seems that the only way conservatives can win is to steal elections.

  • hamster99

    “Conservatives”. What a ridiculous name for people who only want to conserve the right to destroy everything in the name of profit.

  • Rich Smith

    They used to be called reactionary.   Words are potentially so powerful yet rarely used to reflect that power.  Call it as you see it rather than using words that others foist upon you.

  • galen066

    There is a growing amount of evidence that the last Federal Canadian election was tampered with in favor of Harper.

  • Shizel

    I woke up the other night hungry. I ate something and went to go sleep. But, something was gnawing at me. I knew enough people didn’t care enough to stop Harper and I wished I was wrong. It’s not the beginning, it’s the end. This single protest won’t be the spark. Yawn! And if it were, it would be too little too late even if we did miraculously stop the Canadian tar sands… too skeptical to believe… z-z-z-z…

  • wildcarrots

    wow, you are very brave to accept your fate, but one day you will still have to stand up.

  • Shizel

    No, I’m afraid standing up never goes as planned. It will cause Canadians to split as never before. It won’t be pretty.

  • David

    I’d rather it not be pretty and be right, than be uglier yet in silence.

  • wildcarrots

    That is a good reply.  Some day we will all have to stand up and that will be a good day.

  • windship

    First Nations have a ten thousand year history in Canada, which is a Crown Confederation less than 150 years old. Canada is a Royal Occupation with far less historical legitimacy than Israel’s. Is Queen Elizabeth staying up at night worrying about Chief Spence? Or will she make the usual Royal Proclamation from the gilded tower: “Let them eat cake!”

                We were unable to load Disqus. If you are a moderator please                see our troubleshooting guide.


1. As Chief Spence Starves « Humble Dogs - December 26, 2012

[…] An excerpt from: As Chief Spence Starves, Canadians Awaken from Idleness and Remember Their Roots […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: