Saturday, January 05, 2013

Native People Protest Canadian Legislation In Grand Rapids

American Indians protest Canadian legislation with flash mob Thursday evening at Rosa Parks Circle

By Aaron Aupperlee |
on January 03, 2013 at 7:47 PM, updated January 03, 2013 at 7:57 PM

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Ice skaters rounding Rosa Parks Circle Thursday evening stopped for a few minutes to watch a group of American Indians chant and dance to the rhythm of beating drums.

Between 16 and 20 people danced in a circle around six men beating drums and chanting. The "Idle No More" flash mob was staged to raise awareness and show support for First Nation members in Canada protesting legislation taking away land rights from tribal communities in that country.

"Those are our people up in Canada who are suffering right now," said Levi Rickert, editor of the Native News Network and an organizer of Thursday's flash mob. "If it could happen there, it could happen here."

The drumming during Thursday's Round Dance signified solidarity, Rickert said. The chants were songs of support. The group formed near the lighted Christmas tree next to the Rosa Parks Circle rink. It started with drums, then chanting, then dancers circled. The flash mob lasted for about 15 minutes. Most skaters returned to laps around the rink after a few minutes.

Thursday's turnout was much smaller than a similar flash mob organized on Dec. 23 at RiverTown Crossings mall in Grandville. More than 300 American Indians participated in that event. Similar flash mobs have happened at the Grand Traverse Mall, where mall security called police, and in states around the country, said Belinda Bardwell, a tribal counselor from Harbor Springs. Bardwell and her 10-year-old daughter, Neely, came to Grand Rapids Thursday for the flash mob. Neely danced, keeping warm under a sparkly winter hat.

"We don't want them to set precedent," Bardwell said of Canadian lawmakers.

The Canadian legislation has sparked rallies, blockades of major highways, drumming flash mobs in malls and a hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, who wants Canadian leaders to respect historical treaties. Thursday was the 24th day of Spence's hunger strike, Rickert said.

Rickert and others participating in the flash mob felt there has not been enough media coverage of the Canadian situation and hunger strike. The flash mobs are a way to keep up their protest. Rickert said to expect more flash mobs in the future.

— Contact Aaron Aupperlee at or (616) 430-4820. Follow him on Twitter at @tinynotebook.

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