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The arts community has always been a rallying point for the more than 60 native nations that exist across Canada. Artists provide bridges between nations, and the Idle No More movement is no exception. 

It began in Saskatchewan in late October, in protest to the omnibus budget legislation of Bill C-45. Idle No More claims the amendments to what is now the Navigation Protection Act remove federal protection from 99.9 per cent of lakes and rivers in Canada. Bill C-45 also allows the lease of reserve lands based on a majority of votes from those in attendance at either a meeting or referendum, instead of requiring a majority from all eligible voters.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, Chief Theresa Spence continues her hunger strike. The Attawapiskat leader is on her 28th day of a hunger strike that began in support of the Idle No More movement and called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet and discuss First Nations issues on reserves. Spence has said she will stay on the hunger strike until the meeting between Harper and First Nations leaders takes place on Jan. 11.

Idle No More has grown beyond the Aboriginal community and the Canadian border, as non-Aboriginal Canadians have come out in support at the rallies, and rallies have been held in solidarity in the U.S., Europe, Australia and more. CBC Music has put together a playlist that looks at music inspired by the #IdleNoMore rallies, as well as the larger body of Aboriginal protest music, from artists across Turtle Island.

6. “Red Action,” Indian Handcrafts

The chorus of this song by the Algonquin duo shouts out “It’s time for red action!”  Although the lyrics are a bit mysterious and have some guessing what “red action” means, if you're Aboriginal, you’ll most likely think it’s a call about the people.

LISTENListen to "Red Action" by Indian Handcrafts.


5. “No No Keshagesh,” Buffy Sainte-Marie. 

This song was suggested by Aboriginal Music Week’s festival chair, Alan Greyeyes.  "Keshagesh" is a Cree word that means "greedy guts." The first chorus sings out:

It's about uranium; it's about the water rights.
Put Mother Nature on a luncheon plate.
They cut her up and call it real estate.

Sainte-Marie has always been ahead of her time and in tune with the political awareness of the day. In the '60s it was “Universal Soldier.” Today, it’s "No, no, no, no Keshagesh. You can't do that no more.”

4. “7 lifetimes,” Derek Miller

This song suggestion comes from Janet Rogers, the host of Native Waves Radio and producer of the award-winning radio documentary about protest music called “Bring Your Drum.” Miller released this song specifically for Chief Theresa Spence.

3.  “#IdleNoMore,” Lightning Cloud. 

This duo, based in California, teams Crystle Lightning and MC RedCloud together. They found inspiration in the movement to create a brand new song named after #IdleNoMore.


Listen to "#IdleNoMore" by Lightning Cloud. 


2. “Looks Like Change,” CerAmony. 

The video for this song was first released around the Occupy movement, but the chorus is so catchy and powerful, that it applies to the #IdleNoMore movement as well. 

The bridge of the song resonates with:

Whoever said the world would never change,
Should get out of their graves and see.
What we’re doing right here, right now,
Is looking like change to me.


1. “AIM Song.”

This song is an intertribal song, which at a powwow means all the dancers from every nation are welcome to dance together. It became more widely known as the AIM song (American Indian Movement) after the song was associated with the incident at Wounded Knee in the '70s. The AIM song has been sung at a multitude of rallies for #IdleNoMore.


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#IdleNoMore: a look at Aboriginal protest music

The arts community has always been a rallying point for the more than 60 native nations that exist ac…


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