By: Rachel Aiello
“Lets all join hands, and go around, dancing around the world,” chanted the drum circle at Algonquin College’s first ever round dance flash mob on Jan. 17.
The demonstration was aimed at educating the student community about what the ever-expanding Idle No More movement means to them: protecting Mother Earth for future generations.
“We are trying to get everyone else here in the college to acknowledge that it’s not just us that should be standing up, it should be the rest of us joining together,” said student leader, Cassondra Barnaby.
She handed out flyers to the students spending their lunch hour in the Robert C. Gillett Student Commons during the round dance. The flyers explained why non-Indigenous Canadians should care about the movement. “As long as I touched somebody today,” said Barnaby, of her advocacy.
The flash mob was organized by students at the Mamidosewin center, an open space for all First Nations, Inuit and Metis students on campus. Since the grassroots beginning of the Idle No More movement in November, the center has been buzzing.
“We have a lot of students that come in and sometimes you see the really outgoing students who are probably politically involved or active in their communities and not shy about sharing their opinions, and those students have of course, been talking about events and activities and some background information, said Elena Abel, cultural events coordinator at the Mamidosewin center.
“But then, we’re seeing other students who have been typically a bit more shy and reserved, but this has got them engaged and wanting to see change and participate in the activities and demonstrations.”
The flash mob was their way of contributing to the global conversation sparked by the Canadian government’s introduction of Bill C-45. The issues under the banner of Idle No More are complex, and so the center’s focus has been on educating the rest of campus on the issues.
“We make the assumption that our people know the issues, and most of them don’t, so this is an education not only for non-native people, but for our people themselves to really understand,” said Joanne Dallaire, a traditional teacher and support worker at Algonquin.
Flash mobs like the one that transpired on campus have been held in communities worldwide, in conjunction with rallies, blockades and marches, with some of the largest of these peaceful protests happening here in Ottawa. Many of the students at the center have been a part of these demonstrations, but felt that the event held on campus, was important to helping the cause thrive and grow.
“It is important for the rest of the college to know what we are doing, and why,” said Alex Beaudoin-Tenasco, an aboriginal studies student.
The beat from the drum circle signaled noon and the flash mob assembled in the Commons, the demonstration lasted about half an hour, with participants interchanging with each song.
“It felt good, noticing other students get interested,” said one of the drummers, Frazer Whiteduck, a culinary skills student. “Every time we do a round dance like this, it gives Idle No More a boost.”
The Jan. 17 flash mob will likely not be the last student-led demonstration on campus, afterwards, the participants gathered in the center to discuss what they’d like to do next, with the Jan. 28 World Day of Action coming up. The hopes are that as the movement grows, they will be getting more non-indigenous support.
“We just want our voices to be heard,” said Theresa Benedict, aboriginal studies student.