10,000 Voices Can’t Be Ignored
On January 11th, 2013, thousands of people from across Turtle Island, gathered on Victoria Island to show their respect for Chief Theresa Spence, and to march on Parliament Hill, to show their disdain for Stephen Harper. I had the pleasure of travelling with some of my fellow activists to Ottawa from London, in a rented van. After getting up in the morning(sorry, couldn’t do the 7 am thing, because we didn’t get there 2am), we walked down to Victoria Island.
Upon getting there, I could see that the media had been told to stay back for the time being. Luckily, I’m not just media. I honoured the request of the warrior guarding the gate, and put my camera’s away. I briefly entered the camp, where preperations for the press conference and march were taking place. Soon after, I left, and went back outside the door, to wait for the press conference.
After waiting for a while, the press conference started. The media was allowed around to the side, and Chief Spence came out to greet a throng of journalist’s and camera’s. She spoke about how her people have honoured their side of the agreements made between them and the government, and how the government has repaid that with residential schools, broken promises, and ignorant “solutions“. There was also one bigoted heckler, who was quickly escorted away by the warriors.
After this there were some disappointed media folks, who apparently had problems listening. One person kept on asking Spence’s spokesperson why she wouldn’t answer any questions, when EVERYONE had been told before hand that she is weak, and that she was only coming out to deliver a statement. Not to answer questions from ignorant journalist’s who just wanted a good sound byte of themselves.
Shortly thereafter, the march started. There appeared to be around 5,000 people actually physically there. That doesn’t include all those who weren’t able to make it, or watched on livestream. We had over a hundred people watching the feed at one point!
Eagle staffs led the march, and dancers and drummers were everywhere. The atmosphere was almost festive, but subdued because of the seriousness of the issues. Over and over, people are telling me that this isn’t about harper, or money, or resources. This is about the land that we all share. This is about the agreements the settlers made with the Original Peoples of this land. To share. Not to pillage for corporate interests.
The Chiefs who took part in the march, went to the doors of the Langevin Block, to deliver the demands of those outside. Harper was not inclined to talk, and police were guarding the doors when we arrived. Speeches were delivered, drums were beat, and singers sang. It was a beautiful sight.
We then joined the rest of the crowd, who had moved on to parliament hill proper, where leaders and youths delivered speeches. Once the speakers had finished, a round dance ensued, circling the park in front of parliament. It was an amazing show, and I wonder if the world record for largest number of round dance participants was broken.
At about 3pm, we all went back to the camp on Victoria Island, to say goodbye to one of our fellow activist’s, who had decided to stay in solidarity. I had a chance to meet briefly with Chief Spence and thanked her and express my admiration for what she’s already done, and continues to do. Her family was also standing behind her, and I am grateful to have met these amazing people.
You can watch the livestream vids here. Had some technical difficulties, but they mostly turned out ok.
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