Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an NZME. News Service reporter

Indigenous protest movement spread to NZ

Photo / supplied
Photo / supplied

An indigenous protest movement, which has seen civil disobedience across Canada, has been joined by a group in New Zealand.

The Idle No More uprising, sparked by Canadian 'first peoples' incensed by inequality and treaty rights, has gained support from indigenous populations around the world.

It has now reached New Zealand shores, with a Maori women's group organising rallies and calling for mobilised action.

A rally was held on December 28 on Waiheke Island, and a protest was held outside the Canadian Embassy in Wellington on New Year's Eve.

An 'Aotearoa in Support of Idle No More' facebook page has been launched, and organisers have warned of disruptions.

"We feel there has been a global assault on indigenous sovereignty," said Marama Davidson, spokeswoman for the Auckland-based Maori women's collective Te Wharepora Hou.

"This is the global call we've been waiting for. Now, we can join together and start looking at solutions."

Flash mobs up to 400-strong targeted Christmas shoppers at malls across Canada, protesting against controversial government budget legislation.

The protesters say the legislation fails to constitutionally recognise and affirm treaty and aboriginal rights, and ignores legal obligations to consult and accommodate first nations.

A focal point of the revolutionary movement is the hunger strike being taken by Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat Nation.

She has entered her fourth week of fasting in a bid to have Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper commit to better living conditions for the country's first peoples.

On December 30, an Idle No More splinter group blocked the Canadian National main railway line between Toronto and Montreal for three hours.

The movement began on December 10 and around 100 protests have already been held in Canada, with 30 more in the USA, as well as rallies in Hawaii, Stockholm, London, Berlin, and Cairo.

Now, it has filtered down to New Zealand, after being picked up on social media by Te Wharepora Hou.

The 'Aotearoa in Support of Idle No More' facebook page urges followers to back the campaign by, "Posting photos of support, doing karakia for the wellbeing of Chief Spence ... talking to whanau and friends, tweeting, texting, emailing, posting, sharing the kaupapa, sitting on the steps of the Canadian High Commission, talking to Maori politicians and parties, sending messages of support ..."

Photographs of people across New Zealand, including Gisborne and Wellington, have already been posted on the page, which now has almost 500 likes.

Ruth DeSouza, an East Africa-born nursing academic at AUT University in Auckland, backs Idle No More.

"We must put pressure on governments to recognise the rights of indigenous people and their unique place as guardians of the lands we stand upon, our futures depend on it," she wrote on her blog.

Ms Davidson said the call for indigenous sovereignty acknowledges the unique relationship that indigenous people have with their lands, waters and resources.

While the fight has been going for generations, she said the Idle No More movement offered the perfect opportunity for various groups to work together to "honour and fulfil indigenous sovereignty to protect the environment".

"It's about linking what tangata whenua and Maori have already been doing, and umbrella all of our work across the world, and say there's a better way to do things," she said.

Further events are in the pipeline, she said, but she encouraged people to plan their own events.

"We [Te Wharepora Hou] definitely can't be responsible for organising events everywhere, but we're certainly encouraging people to do it themselves," Ms Davidson said.

"Anyone can take it up in their own way."

- APNZ

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