The story of First Nations within Canada has not been one of self-determination, but rather forced adoption and conversion. For generations individual Nations have fought for the right to determine their own way of self-governance, and to define their history and context. It seems categorically bizarre that a founding party of Confederation, 150 years ago, would need to continuously fight for their place at the discussion table.
Yet at the same time this seems like almost a norm within Canadian history, and testament for why local governance is extremely important. Take Quebec if you will, the only Francophone majority province in the nation. Quebec has maintained a bitter relationship with the Federal Government due to its defining fight to be represented as a nation within Canada. However, the barriers indigenous communities face in being represented, have for the last 150 years, been far worse than any other group. At the macro level the populations of the indigenous communities have been decimated due to disease, war, and destroyed livestock, and at the local level they have found themselves outnumbered or moved consistently. All factors in limiting any first nation population from defending their way of life.
Age of Social Media
This is changing though, as social media becomes the main method of communication and integrated across all age groups the limitations of a small population forced into distant reserves become less and less, as they can be heard and argue from their own perspectives.
For example, Canadian news in late 2012 and early 2013 was flooded with Indigenous public rallies flash mobs, marches, and occasional blockades involved with the Idle No More campaign. These events, drew attention and visibility to many profound issues associated with the status and conditions of Canada’s Indigenous people. This was an example of how the media was to proliferate a strong indigenous resistance campaign.
This problem of association is not limited to only national issues though, as a recent seal hunting ban implemented by the United Nations, caused mass outrage among Inuit groups, with some viewing the ban as an imposition of European values on a traditional indigenous livelihood practices.
Inuit groups took to social media, after Ellen DeGeneres advocated for donations to an anti-seal hunting organization. A Inuit teenager uploaded a video explaining Inuit ways of life, which lead to a multiple Inuit members using the twitter hashtag “sealfie,” (derived from the common “selfie” hashtag) to display the dependency on seals for meat, clothing and trade. Inuit individuals took to Twitter to post photos of them dressed in seal fur coats, mittens, boots and shawls (Indian Country Media Network 2014). This was a clear example of indigenous resistance against the imposition of international laws that limited and shamed their traditional indigenous practices. More so, it displayed the use of social media to resist the seal ban, and spread news about the issue globally.
The protests occurring at Standing Rock against an oil pipeline are yet example that has used social media help raise awareness of the movement. Moreover social media was used to directly assist in protesters when over 1 million people ‘checked in’ on Facebook to the Standing Rock Indian reservation because of a viral post claiming that doing so would help protect protesters from police surveillance.
A similar process is occurring, with the news of Canada celebrating it’s 150 year anniversary, a twitter hashtag has emerged #resistance150. Allowing for indigenous people to express their concerns and historical oppression on a platform that demands attention and promotes awareness.
What they represent is the increased capabilities for minority voices, in any area, to be heard nationwide. Although the indigenous population is small and spread out among different Nations their combined voices can be heard when they manifest in a singular hashtag or message on social media. With this First Nations are finding their voice and aggressively standing up against the injustices they face from the federal government.
As Canada steps into its 150th year of existence First Nation communities through activism and new age communication Indigenous people finally find themselves representing their own issues. Instead of speaking through their oppressors they can voice themselves in the way that they wish, and cannot be ignored.