Four Cycles of Indigenous Struggles for Land and Freedom (VIDEO)

by Glen Coulthard

March 2, 2014

In December 2012 the Idle No More movement garnered world-wide attention to the ongoing struggles of indigenous peoples for self-determination, the re-establishment of nation-to-nation relationships, and environmental sustainability and protection. The movement was sparked by the actions of four women in Saskatchewan in opposition to Canada’s omnibus Bill C-45 which included changes to the Canadian Indian Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act that would facilitate the theft, exploitation, and destruction of First Nations land and water by corporations on a massive scale. Protests, marches, round dances, teach-ins, and other public actions spread across Canada and the United States. Idle No More’s vision statement “calls on all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water.”

In this public talk Glen Coulthard argues that the INM movement marks the beginning of “the fourth cycle of Indigenous peoples’ struggles for land and freedom in Canada since 1969.” The colonial State’s previous attempt to pacify Indigenous struggles (embodied in the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples) was a reaction to “the barrage of Indigenous practices of disruptive counter-sovereignty that emerged with increased frequency in the 1980s,” challenging colonial capital’s access to Indigenous resources and culminating in the 78 day stand-off at Kanesatake–one of the largest Canadian military operations since the Korean War.

Coulthard’s history is of immediate relevance to activists involved in the INM movement and in struggles for decolonization generally. In addition to outlining the deep roots of the movement and its aspirations, Coulthard suggests that previous struggles of Indigenous peoples in Canada have leveraged the most power by “[challenging] these two pillars of colonial sovereignty…the Canadian state’s claim to hold a legitimate monopoly on the use of violence and the conditions required for the ongoing accumulation of capital.”

This talk was delivered at Idle No More’s “Idle? Know More!” event, January 22nd 2013 in Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories. Video from the entire event is available here.

Also see Coulthard’s article “#IdleNoMore in Historical Context.”

Dr. Glen Coulthard is a member of the Yellowknives Dene and a scholar of contemporary Indigenous politics. He is an Assistant Professor in First Nations Studies and the Department of Political Science at UBC. He is a founding member of the Camas Books & Infoshop in Victoria and the Dechinta Center for Research and Learning in Yellowknives Dene territory.