Levi Rickert in Native Condition. Discussion »
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Many tribal governmental offices - as well as federal, state and local governmental offices - will be closed to honor the legacy of the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr Martin Luther King in Washington DC
Competing today in the media will be the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the first African American to become president of the United States. One would hope the memory of Dr King does not overshadowed by the significance of this inaugural day.
The tremendous contributions Dr King made it possible for Barack Obama to become president of the United States. Prior to Dr King's masterful leadership during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, African Americans could not even drink from the same drinking water fountains as did their white counterparts, let alone occupy the White House as president.
Dr King's relevance to American Indians and Alaska Natives should not be forgotten on this Martin Luther King Day.
The passage of the momentous Civil Rights Act of 1964 benefited American Indians and Latinos, as well as African Americans. We can now go places we could not go prior to 1964. We can now stay in motels we could not stay in prior to 1964.
Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, American Indians were not allowed in many establishments simply because we were Indians. Many establishments prominently displayed signs that read:
“No Indians or Dogs Allowed”
Without question, Dr King's commitment to action during the Civil Rights Movement helped move equality into law in the United States.
Now, almost fifty years later, our Canadian First Nations people and American Indians are now involved in the "Idle No More" peace movement that brings attention to the sweeping legislation that erodes treaty rights of First Nations peoples.
During the past week, out of reverence to Martin Luther King Day I suppose, there has been a quote that has surfaced on Facebook attributed to Dr King that has been used to promote Idle No More events:
“The greatest sin our time is not the few who have destroyed, but the vast majority of who sat idly by.”
From his earliest days of his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, Dr King fully understood people have to motivated to stand up for their rights. He knew for far too long African Americans stood by and did nothing to end segregation. Dr King was not alone in the movement. Rosa Parks understood the need to "stand up" for her rights even though she kept her seat on a bus ride that required her to stand up to give her seat to a white person. The Freedom Riders understood the need to not be idle.
Today's Idle No More peace movement began when four women in Canada, three of whom are indigenous women and members of First Nations, realized it was not time to sit back and be idle when they discovered what was contained within the omnibus Bill C-45 that virtually strips First Nations peoples of their treaty rights as they related to the Indian Act and their natural resources.
“I have to be honest, I was not paying attention as I should have to this piece of legislation,”
commented Sylvia McAdam, Cree, one of the four founders of the Idle No More told the Native News Network recently.
"I had been taught, 'your silence is your consent' and the three of us decided we could no longer sit back and be silent. We decided we could be idle no more."
Today as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, let us be reminded of the Civil Rights Movement that changed the nation. Dr. King was a strong proponent of passive resistance. He was non-violent. He helped to move the nation from one point to the next. He stood up against injustices.
And let us also understand the relevancy of Dr Martin Luther King to Idle No More. It is time to be engaged in the struggles against injustices among the First Nations in Canada and among American Indians in the United States.
Movements take time. They take persistence. Dr King was in the struggle for over a decade until a assassin's bullet ended his life. Movements against injustice take courageous people such as Dr King who understood one cannot be idle.
posted January 21, 2013 7:50 am est