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800 Words on Idle No More

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member Robert (Bob) Muckle. Robert (Bob) Muckle is based at Capilano University in British Columbia. His most recent book is Indigenous Peoples of North America: A Concise Anthropological Overview (University of Toronto Press, 2012). He also writes a column called ‘Archeology in North America’ for Anthropology News and is on Twitter @bobmuckle.

January 11th, 2Idle No More013 is likely be the most important day in recent decades for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, with potentially global implications. It has to do with the movement known as Idle No More.

Idle No More began in late 2012 as a grassroots movement among the more the one million people claiming Indigenous ancestry in Canada, culminating primarily from what is perceived to be an ongoing erosion of their rights, lands, and resources. The movement has largely been peaceful, including hundreds of events including flashmob roundances at shopping malls, rallies, media campaigns, and a handful of blockades. It has been a dominant story in Canadian media since mid-December and there have been dozens of events supporting the movement by Native Americans in the US.

January 11th is important because (i) members of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), representing the interests of the more than 600 First Nations in Canada, and the organization the government prefers to work with, are meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada and the Governor General (the Queen’s representative) to discuss concerns of First Nations; and (ii) many of those participating in Idle No More movement are wary of representation by the AFN, and at least partially in response to the meetings have declared the day to be a ‘Day of Global Action’ with well over 100 events scheduled in support throughout the U.S. and elsewhere.

While Indigenous rights are front and center, there is much more of interest that is being underplayed by government and mainstream media. One thing that is rarely mentioned is that the movement is giving voice to a many thousands of Indigenous Peoples of Canada, especially those who have been frustrated with the actions of their own nation’s chiefs and councils or national representation (ie. AFN) at addressing the wrongs imposed upon them through hundred of years of oppression. Although Idle No More claims to have no official leadership, leaders are emerging and they tend to be young (ie. 20s and 30s), smart, articulate, and dynamic. And, not unimportantly, many of them are women.

Social media has been fundamentally important in the movement. Twitter has been used to quickly organize events and share media. One of many Facebook pages devoted to the movement has more than 65,000 likes. Organizers and supporters use social media for live townhall-type  meetings.

There has been considerable emphasis in mainstream media about a hunger strike by one chief that began on December 11th.  While for many she has come to symbolize the movement, she is not a founder or acknowledged spokesperson. The January 11th meeting with the Prime Minister and Governor General was one of her demands.

There is significant support for Idle No More among non-Indigenous peoples. In addition to recognizing the erosion of Indigenous rights and resources, many view the movement as perhaps the best way of protecting the environment. An immediate goal of the movement is to withdraw or amend legislation reducing the protection of the environment, which many Canadian would like to see. Other goals are for the government to uphold constitutional and other rights as they apply to Indigenous peoples, including meaningful consultation. An ultimate goal is to have truly nation-to-to nation relationships with the federal government.

Other things I have seen arise out of the movement is a strengthening of relationships between the First Nations in Canada, and through their support, with Native Americans of the US as well as Indigenous groups elsewhere. I see a strengthening of relationships between First Nations and non-First Nations people in many circumstances through their shared common purposes of protecting the environment and righting the wrongs of past governments.

I see First Nations taking the opportunity through media, flashmob dances, and rallies to educate others and assert control over vocabulary. Words such as decolonialization and settler (as opposed to non-Indigenous or Euro-Canadian) are increasing in usage.

Unfortunately, I also see much racism and ignorance, especially when reading the comments following media stories.

I’m not sure what is going to happen on January 11th.   It is an important day for the AFN. For the past few years their relationship with the federal government has been viewed by many as being too cozy. If the AFN wants to retain relevance within First Nations communities, they will have to make some kind of significant stand in their meeting with the government that will be pleasing to those preferring the grassroots Idle No More movement. This will be hard.

I think the amount of support demonstrated by the Idle No More movements within Canada, the US, and elsewhere will be fundamentally important. If there is relatively little support, I think the movement will fizzle. If the support is significant, however, look for the movement to escalate further, into the United States and perhaps elsewhere.

Call For Contributions to an Edited Volume Entitled Enacting Nature – Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance

Proposal and Call for Papers: Enacting Nature: Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance

To be edited by Prof. Dr. Birgit Däwes and Prof. Dr. Marc Maufort

“Dramaturgies,” P.I.E.-Peter Lang (Brussels)

Ever since the mid-1990s, ecocriticism—or “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment,” in Cheryll Glotfelty’s famous definition—has become an increasingly popular methodological paradigm for literary studies. In Native American and First Nations Studies, however, the coordinates for a fruitful critical investment in environmentalist issues are still being mapped. Common stereotypes, such as the wilderness topos, the “ecological Indian,” or the keeper of a planetary spirituality, have proven tenacious and difficult to overcome. Joni Adamson additionally reminds us that ecocritics often overlook the “connections between social injustices and environmental degradation” (20) and accordingly pleads for both “a more inclusive environmentalism and a more multicultural ecocriticism” (xix). Similarly, Donelle Dreese examines the particular connection between landscape and configurations of the self in contemporary Native American poetry and prose; and in their study on Postcolonial Ecocriticism (2010), Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin call attention to further forms of ecological imperialism (such as biocolonization or environmental racism). Representations of nature and patterns of political power, in short, are inseparably intertwined. For the field of indigenous theater and drama, however (a genre that has itself been widely overlooked), these questions have not yet been systematically addressed.

This volume seeks to explore the relationship between indigenous drama and the “environment” in the widest sense—as place, land, nature, wilderness, social space, “thirdspace” (in both Soja’s or Bhabha’s senses), and “alterNative” space. Our notion of ecocriticism is not limited to environmentalism as a form of creative advocacy, but it acknowledges, in its basic assumption, Robert M. Nelson’s insight that “cultural identities, like individual identities, emerge not from class struggle but rather from the land” (7). We therefore invite more general perspectives on performative representations of place, space, and nature. We are particularly interested in the ways that plays and performances envision space (and especially the relationships between humans and spaces), but also in the concrete engagements with the space of the stage. From the highly experimental approach to uranium mining in Marie Clements’s Burning Vision to the ritual preparation of a dancing circle in James Luna’s Emendatio, from the planetary, cosmopolitan vision of Tomson Highway’s Rose to the metaphorical landscapes of Diane Glancy’s plays, and from Jack Davis’s and Wesley Enoch’s dramatizations of Australian Aboriginal Dreamings to Hone Kouka’s and Briar Grace-Smith’s celebrations of the spiritual bond between Maori people and the land, the spectrum of “staging nature” is as wide as it is powerful. The corpus of the volume would deal primarily with Indigenous works from North America, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands (Samoa, Fiji, Hawaii), thus offering a broad comparative perspective on the multiple variants of Indigenous writing for the stage.

We invite contributions of roughly 6,000 words (prepared according to the latest version of the MLA stylesheet), to be submitted by December 1, 2012. Questions/topics to be addressed include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • the multiple and transversal interconnections between identity, place, and space
  • the particular use of the land and landscapes as defining factors of identity
  • the significance of spaces and places for particular indigenous dramaturgies
  • land and landscape as active “characters” or crucial elements in the development of dramatic plot rather than passive decorum
  • the intersections between local and global, tribal and transnational trajectories in indigenous theater and drama
  • the conceptualization of new methodologies through ecocritical perspectives and, in turn, the potential of indigenous (re)writings and (re)stagings of place for an expansion of ecocriticism as practice
  • studies of how individual playwrights address ecocritical issues.
  • Comparative studies of how playwrights from different world regions address these concerns.

Interested contributors are invited to send us an abstract of 250 words and a brief biographical sketch by March 1, 2012:



Please do not hesitate to contact the editors, should you have any further questions regarding possible topics.

via International: Enacting Nature – Ecocritical Perspectives On Indigenous Performance – Call For Papers., Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources – http://www.indigenousissues.com.


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