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Okanagan Idle No More movement heads to border
Idle no More is definitely living up to it’s name, at least in the Okanagan.
Nearly 100 people turned out on a snowy afternoon at the Osoyoos border crossing last Saturday to take part in the movement’s latest event, an international gathering of drums, drawing together aboriginal peoples from both sides of the border.
“It was well-attended, well-received, it went like we planned,” said Qwelxana (Dust Dancer), Victoria Baptiste, one of the local organizers for Idle No More, along with Billie Kruger.
The gathering drew more than just Okanagan peoples, said Baptiste. People travelled from Chase, Vernon, Lillooet and other communities to take part in the event, which went on for two hours of prayers and drumming in the snow.
“And we could have kept going,” joked Baptiste, who said one of the purposes of the event was to show support for those who weren’t allowed to cross the border to support previous events, like the Dec. 21 nationwide rallies, which drew 300 people to the gathering in Penticton’s Gyro Park.
The Osoyoos gathering was part of a co-ordinated national event at crossings across the country. While some of the events did disrupt business at the crossings, local organizers stressed this was to be a peaceful gathering, in co-operation with border services, the RCMP and the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Idle No More gatherings have been happening since early December as Canada’s indigenous communities drew together to protest the federal government’s omnibus bills C-38 and C-45, which included changes to the Indian Act as well as major changes to a variety of environmental regulations, including removing federal protection from many of Canada’s lakes and rivers.
While Baptiste shares concerns about the Indian Act changes, she said one of the main reasons she became involved was concern over the environment.
“How many waterways are not going to protected under the waterways act anymore?” asked Baptiste. “There was concern about the Fraser and Thompson rivers, they are not being protected and those are highly important in the sustainability of indigenous peoples of B.C.”
“My responsibility is to the land and the land of which I am a part of, which is the traditional Okanagan territory,” said Baptiste.
Close to home, in Penticton, Baptiste questions the likelihood that Okanagan Lake or Skaha Lake will remain on the protected waters list. She worries that if something isn’t done now, and the lakes are damaged, the area will suffer.
“This is a big tourist town, they promote those beaches the water is huge, we are surrounded by lakes all over the place,” she said. “I know that I don’t want to be responsible for my children’s great-great grandchildren not having water.”
Other events for the local Idle No More movement included a contingent attending the New Year’s Day polar bear dip in Summerland, offering a prayer for the water and drumming before jumping in.
“It was beautiful, it was amazing, it was a great way to start the year,” said Baptiste.