Drums, chanting and roars of applause echoed through Westfield Capital mall Saturday in Olympia during a flash mob to show support for the indigenous tribes of Canada.
Hundreds joined in a circle near the food court in solidarity with the Idle No More movement, which began among Canada’s First Nations people in reaction to recent land-use legislation.
“What this legislation represents is further stripping of natural resources of indigenous lands in Canada … basically without the consent of the tribes there,” said Erin Genia of Olympia, one of the organizers of Saturday’s demonstration.
“It affects us here, too, because many of these projects the Canadian government is looking to push through … contributes to an economy based on oil that is destroying our environment.”
Genia cited the Keystone pipeline as one such project; it would transport crude oil from fields in Alberta to refineries in the United States.
Those in attendance Saturday also showed support for Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike. Saturday was the 19th day Spence had gone without eating.
The hunger strike will continue until Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to meet with indigenous leaders, Spence has said.
“If the only way to make the government listen is to go on a huger strike, it’s pretty extreme,” said Dachelle Bailey of Westport, a participant Saturday. “We want to be heard, and for there to be peace and solidarity.”
Bailey is a First Nations Cree and said she has been following the Idle No More movement since it began this month.
“It’s a peaceful movement; it’s not meant to be any harm,” she said.
Saturday’s demonstration began with several songs accompanied by drums in the crowd. The first song was performed by a Squaxin Island Tribe family.
“That song belongs to a specific Squaxin family that cannot be used by anyone else,” Genia said. “We were honored they gifted that song for that moment.”
The mall portion of the demonstration was short. Genia said in light of what happened at the Tacoma Mall just days earlier, they did not want to be disruptive.
Participants in a similar demonstration Wednesday in Tacoma were banned from the Tacoma Mall for one day after being escorted out by security.
“We knew the situation in Tacoma had gotten a little out of hand, and we did not want to obstruct the flow of consumers,” Genia said. “We wanted to make a stand, so we organized it to be really quick; we didn’t want to linger.”
The demonstrators moved their protest from the mall down Harrison Avenue to Percival Landing, where the song and dance continued.
Some held signs while marching that stated, “We will have world peace when we accept diversity in all our communities” and “Idle No More; this is not a protest, this is a prayer.”
Genia said the issue hits close to home. A member of the Dakota Tribe, Genia has family on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.
“We are hoping what happens is, it is a reclaiming of space in a way that we make our presence known as Native people and allies of Native people,” Genia said. “We are aware of what is going on, and we want to move towards a better world for our people; for all people.”