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Fairbanks ‘Idle No More’ protest backs indigenous rights

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Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012 3:15 pm | Updated: 11:49 pm, Wed Jan 2, 2013.

A group of about two-dozen "Idle No More" protesters gathered in Golden Heart Plaza on Monday, lending their support to an indigenous-rights movement that has quickly spread through Canada.

The protesters arrived during the lunch hour at the downtown Fairbanks park, holding signs with slogans like "Unity" and "Hunt Fish Share." Several musicians chanted or played skin drums for the gathering crowd. 

The "Idle No More" movement has gained momentum in Canada in recent weeks, following legislation that was seen as harmful to indigenous treaty rights. A key event behind the movement came on Dec. 14, when a bill in Canada reduced environmental oversight on millions of the country's streams, rivers and lakes. Since many of those waterways are located in or near First Nations communities, the bill was seen by many indigenous people as an attack on their sovereignty.

Theresa Spence, the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada, was in the 20th day of a highly publicized hunger strike on Monday to focus attention on indigenous issues.

Although "Idle No More" has its roots in Canada, local protesters said it's important for Alaska Natives to support indigenous rights, regardless of nationality. A similar protest was held Saturday in Anchorage, and several large demonstrations have been held in recent weeks in Seattle.

"We're supporting Canada, but we're supporting Native people everywhere," said Princess Lucaj, who was among those who gathered in Golden Heart Plaza.

Amy Topkok of Fairbanks said it's not hard to imagine harmful legislation spreading to other countries, including the U.S., if the new Canadian laws aren't vigorously opposed.

"We're finally raising our voices together," she said.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness




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