How Shawn Atleo and Idle No More will benefit from divisions among the chiefs

I wonder if some national Canadian journalists have ever given a thought to how social movements operate.

Over the past 24 hours, we've been treated to a steady stream of negative commentary about how the First Nations community is "divided" over its dealings with the federal government.

Some have speculated that the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, could be facing a mutiny because some chiefs refused to attend yesterday's meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The doom-and-gloom tone hints that this Idle No More movement might be on the rocks.

The reality is that when people work together to advance change, they will disagree over tactics and strategies.

And this can enhance the likelihood of success. That's because governments are often eager to negotiate with "more reasonable" people over the hotheads.

Smart leaders in social movements—and I include Atleo in this camp—will take advantage of this to gain concessions.

Mohandas Gandhi wouldn't have been as successful in the Quit India movement had it not been for violent freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and Subhjas Chandra Bose.

The British knew that followers of Singh and Bose were willing to engage in armed struggle, so it was easier to deal with Gandhi and the Congress Party.

Similarly during the U.S. civil-rights movement, the existence of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers made the demands of Martin Luther King Jr. look reasonable in comparison. That enhanced King's standing in the eyes of the public and the mainstream politicians.

If there are divisions within the First Nations community, this could prove very useful to Atleo.

It's already gotten him and other chiefs a long meeting with the prime minister. And it's put aboriginal issues at the top of the national political and media agenda for the first time since the Oka crisis.

Social movements—and I include the more recent struggle for LGBT rights in this—are multsegmented entities swimming in a similar direction. They are often characterized by differences within.

These divisions can be beneficial if channelled properly. It's time that the national media recognized that there is enormous strength in diversity.

Atleo's position has been enhanced by the fact that some chiefs wouldn't meet with Harper.

He's going to be seen by the media, the public, and the government as the "good chief", just as Gandhi was the "reasonable" Indian leader and King was the "reasonable" African American leader.

Harper is smart enough to know that if he doesn't deal with Atleo, he'll likely face much bigger challenges from the Idle No More movement.

First Nations are making progress. It's going to be a bumpy ride, but that's always the case when people are bringing about major changes in any society.

Comments (15) Add New Comment
Ralph 'cleesemeek' Fulber

Harper doesn't represent all of Canada. No leader can. The difference between Atleo and Harper is that Harper rules as a bully for his camp while Atleo has a different function. The AFN is an advocacy group of extremely diverse interests and there is an obligation to fascilitate the expression and interests of all. It is not in our best interst to homogenize the political process but rather to encourage diversity, support dissent and bring as many people into the fold as the bus will hold.
Rating: +6
West Van Guy
I’m going to propose something to all blood Indians in Canada. Since the Indian internal governments and councils rob rest of the Indians of millions/billions of dollars and continually fuel the ‘they are killing our culture and rights’ BS (just look at how the East Indians from India and Chinese come to these lands, become Canadian and also hold their beliefs and cultures close for the most part. It is not impossible and is possible without being given billions of dollars) we do things differently for generations coming and to maybe help all Canadians and Canada. Here it is – every true blood Indian is given a onetime payment for everything and anything of $1,000,000.00 and they agree to step away from the Indian Act, the special rights and become Canadian citizens (look at what the tsawwassen band signed in BC, very similar). All reserve lands are now free titled and divided equally amongst the living members to do as they wish individually as well as a community if they choose. Each person would be given basic financial planning and management training before the funds would be released so they would have the best chance at making the most of it. This would bridge the gap between all Canadians, Indians would have their culture and beliefs and be able to move forward with their lives free of the suppressive nature of the Indian Act and their own corrupt leaders/councils (for the ones that live on such reserves). I hope to one day live in a united Canada where we all are happy, prosperous and on the same page as much as possible with no outrageous land claims, protests or acts of terrorism under the laws all Canadians have to abide by. Change is needed on all sides though, here’s to an interesting 2013 I’m sure.
Rating: -42
Stephanie McDowall
Atleo and all Native Bands need to keep in mind there is much interest on the part of this Government in dividing the First Nation's people. There is also a wish to instill negative views about First Nations amongst main stream Canadians. This Government does not wish to fairly share the resources that First Nations are entitled to. They want to ensure the Corporations reap the benefits and wealth from these resources. ...not Natives or the Canadian tax payers either. Bands mired in poverty has been deliberately caused as an attempt to drive the people off their land and into the cities where they are almost always discriminated against. Poor nutrition, poor health care, poor education will ensure those remaining on their lands will succumb to a form of "soft genocide" Don't believe for one moment Government policies have not been made with this in mind. It is time to call a spade a spade. Soft genocide is the name of the game. How can anyone with a grain of intelligence not recognize this......and it has been going on for the past century. Admit this and advocate to change things so that First Nations finally receive what they are entitled to. A fair and equitable agreement as to resources needs to be put in place.
Matters will soon change on Reserve land. The Provinces must come last re what they have been taking and what they now believe is their fair share and their right.
Rating: 0
Gee, look at all the comments that Charlie deleted.

No, wait. You can't look at deleted comments.

Oh well. Free speech is fleeting.
Rating: +5
Martin Dunphy

Charlie didn't delete any comments. I did. Yours was, unfortunately, deleted because it was in response to a comment that had nothing to do with the article, was mistakenly posted, then removed.
Free speech had nothing to do with it; relevance did.
My apologies.
Rating: +9
A guy on the rez
If there is no significant change in one year.....I`m going leave my homeland forever and never look back. Leave the land my people have lived on for thousands of years. I don`t want to live in a country where my people and I are living in poverty and oppressed. I cannot stand what has been happening to my people...yet there is nothing I can do. I will just leave everything I`ve known and leave this horrible country.....and never come back.
Rating: -11
Maybe atleo has been bought out by the govt and his stance isn't quite inline with many other people. And perhaps because his stance is more inline with the govt, is why he is allowed so close to them. Ask him his stance on copper mining and fish farming in clayoquot sound?!
Rating: -2
But INM is a peace movement, and that is still the essence. Obviously its just a political move to divide; it's using AFN who are just homeboys, to moreover usurp the real drive of native people and that's their voice. In other words its a false peace!
Rating: +15
Jon S
And if the "reasonable Indian" publicly gloats that so much has been accomplished because Harper agreed to "high level discussions" (whatever that means) and proceeds to sell out First Nations in exchange for empty platitudes (and a future with the Conservatives), what then? Atleo is certainly no Gandhi or Martin Luther King.
Rating: -2
Vancouver island boy
United we stand divided we fall. Would the government rather have our people united or divided? Lets not forget the big picture!
Rating: +6
shawn wilson
quoting Stephanie
"This Government does not wish to fairly share the resources that First Nations are entitled to. They want to ensure the Corporations reap the benefits and wealth from these resources. ...not Natives or the Canadian tax payers either."

this is the heart of the matter.
this is the game that has been played for so long.
indigenous people are just and inconvenience to resource based corporations.
but don't feel lonely so are all the rest of us.
democracy itself is an inconvenience to them.

look at the way they are so happy to do business with the Chinese slave state and all these other totalitarian governments around the world.
Harper is a front man for the new world order .
if we let them destroy our land for money we are letting our ancestors down.
it makes the 85 thousand young Canadian men who fell in the first world war and the 65 thousand who fell in the second world war (including lots of first nations people) who thought they were battling tyranny were all just fools .
on Nov.11 Harper and his pals lay a wreath at the war memorial and then go back to parliament hill and try to cheat us with and omnibus bill like c38 and c 45?
our duty is clear !
we must stop Harper and his corporate masters.

Rating: +4
Yo Ralphie boy, Please explain why it is in our best interest to encourage dissent? I know a lot of people who think the whole Idle movement is really run by the NDP to discredit Harper.
Rating: 0
Selena. B
we stand together now and forever
as a Nation we fight for what is right.
I wont stand by well Harper is doing wrong.
remember what we are doing this for. :)
Rating: +8
Janie Jones
It's true, looking at the big picture this is a classic divide and conquer strategy that aims to spread the BC Liberal Party "New Relationship" with non-treaty FNs here in BC to treaty FNs across Canada.

Many Canadians are still naive enough to believe that modern status FNs are somehow closer to the land and want to protect Mother Earth more than non-status BC natives. This is simply not true, modern FNs are modern people who want all the comforts and technological toys just like the rest of us.

Traditionally, they exploited the environment to the extent of the stone age technology before the Europeans and Chinese arrived and the first thing they did was hunt the sea otter to near extinction in order to trade for steel tools, iron pots, buttons etc. To this day, sea otter populations have never recovered.

The end result of Idle No More, and don't kid yourself that this isn't part of a larger global strategy is to have corporations cutting resource deals directly with Indian Bands as the same way they are doing in BC and using them as a stepping stone to privatize lands and resources that actually belong to all of us. An example is how our rivers have essentially been privatized to companies like GE for IPPs with the approval of the most proximal band council.

And for the person who says he's going to leave his reserve and this "horrible" country it things don't improve for him, I say go ahead. He might learn how good he's got it here in Canada. From what I've seen living in rural BC, if Canadian FNs think they're living in poverty, they don't know what poverty is - over a billion dollars a year just on their taxpayer funded basic health care, special medical benefits, eye glasses and dental care alone.
Rating: +3
Over 750,000 off reserve natives have a living standard similar to other Canadians according to studies.

250,000 on reserve natives, do not. Why? Lack of industry and local corruption is what "outsider's" hear.

People on the reserve keep wanting more welfare, is what "outsiders" also hear. Yet, by choice, most reserve natives choose to remain where the jobs aren't. To the outsider, we see that people have preferred to live where they are, subject to limited income because they have NOT moved to where the jobs are.

If reserve natives want to hunt and fish for a livelihood, then good. But don't expect the "outsiders" to be too sympathetic to calls for 1st world living standards when the reserve natives themselves do not build the industry to support that type of lifestyle.

The outsiders' conclusion is there is enough welfare. So stop wasting your time in protests that hurt others, and just get on with building your industry or move to where the jobs are. Just like Quebecker, Newfoundlander s, Nova Scotians, etc. have when their industry in remote locations shut down (ie. lumber, fishing, etc).
Rating: 0
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