The Bear River First Nation is still not idle.
Word has spread a little farther since their first small sharing circle two weeks ago.
This past weekend they held a larger and longer gathering inspired by Idle No More.
Close to 100 people danced and drummed and sang together over the two days, shared prayers and food and stories.
The first stories came from the elders.
Bear River’s Agnes Potter spoke of her reverence for her great grandmother.
“She was respectful of everyone and always went to church, always praying,” said Potter. “She never had a drop of alcohol in her life. Anyone who came hungry, she would give whatever little she had.”
Potter says she always wanted to be just like her great grandmother when she grew up.
“I found out her moccasins were very hard to fill,” she said.
Potter sees Idle No More as a call to gather together, to unite and speak up.
“I feel the ancestors are speaking to us now, reminding us it’s time to rise up,” she told the gathering. “To bring more awareness that we need to care for mother earth and the environment, our waters and our land.
“We need a movement to wake us up. To let our government know what we really want and need and to make sure our voices are heard by our representation, chief and council.”
She said Idle No More is a call to discuss treaties and the many legislative changes.
“The discussions in government are made without our involvement, especially in Bill C-45.”
Rose Morris, an elder of Acadia First Nation living in Gold River near Chester Basin says she was sad to hear the criticism of Chief Theresa Spence.
“She is a brave woman, she is a warrior woman, fighting for our rights,” said Morris. “When I was young I remembering looking at the water, it was pure, it was clean and we didn’t have to buy it. I am afraid what kind of water will our grand children have.”
Frank Meuse, while not an elder himself, addressed the gathering with a story he had heard from an elder.
He told of standing in the forest with an elder and looking at all the different trees.
“They’re all different and they’re all doing their own thing,” said the elder. “But underneath the roots are all intertwined, they are holding hands and working together and that’s what we are put on this earth to do.”
The gathering attracted at least three people who make or made their living studying the environment.
Bob Bancroft, Paul Tufts and Donna Hurlburt, all wildlife biologists, sat and shared their thoughts and feelings with the circle.
Hurlburt is Mi’kmaq from Annapolis Royal and works with endangered species across the country.
Her work she says makes her more sensitive about what’s happening to the environment.
“If you think about all the species that were important to the Mi’kmaq people, you think caribou, moose, salmon, eel, all of these are threatened or already gone.
“Future generations will never have the chance to see a wild salmon in the water and develop a connection,” she says. “They will never be able to fish that salmon and eat it and make that connection to the river.
“That connection is what drives us to care for our earth – it’s hard to fight for a salmon or a river, if you haven’t made that connection.”
She says Idle No More is a chance to think about the future.
“It’s an opportunity to figure out what we can do to solve all these problems we’re confronted with,” she says. “How we move forward, how we identify the needs of future generations, make sure they have every option available to them.”
Cody Joudry emceed the event and also took his turn with the talking stick. He told the circle, if people don’t speak up then governments accept that as quiet approval.
“They take our lack of voice as consent for what they are doing,” he said. “When people write letters, call, or take their efforts to be heard to the next level, it will be heard.”
Shalan Joudry who organized this latest gathering says she is not sure yet what the next step is or who might come forward to organize it.
“Part of this process is finding out who wants to work on what, who is interested in what, finding partners and finding a voice,” she said.
She says if nothing else, they let the community know that Bear River First Nation and Mi’kmaw culture still exist.
“If nothing else comes out of this, we had the dancing and drumming, we had the sharing circle, we had the songs, we did that,” she said. “Part of Idle no more is a cultural awakening. We did that.”
She says Idle No More is often called a movement but for her it is also “a sensation.”
“It’s a feeling of empowerment. We are telling each other that is okay to gather, to stand up.
“We have a voice.”
The weekend has inspired at least one young person of the Bear River First Nation. Jackie Longmire wants to plan more regular sharing circles.
“Since I saw how it worked this weekend, what it did for everyone, I want to see if we can do it more often,” she said. “The circle makes everyone feel better, uplifted, stronger. This is an important part of our culture and it’s good for the community. I want to see if we can bring the community together more often.”