Aboriginal protesters taking part in the Idle No More campaign are planning a series of events in Winnipeg and around the country today.
Other groups are taking part in events as a show of support for the Idle No More movement.
Winnipeg organizers partially blocked traffic to the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport terminal between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. this morning to raise awareness of issues facing First Nations communities. This action is not part of the official Idle No More movement but is being held in a show of support for it.
Idle No More supporters are currently gathering at Odena at The Forks as part of a rally that began at noon that will transition into a march to the Manitoba Legislature.
Fueled by social media buzz on Facebook and Twitter, at least 2,000 people are expected at The Forks before walking up Broadway to the Legislature by 1:30 p.m.
These events are being held in solidarity with an Idle No More rally at Parliament Hill in Ottawa planned for the same time.
"We're here in a good way not to make trouble. We have to speak up for ourselves," an elder said.
"Our real objective is to shatter the Canadian imagination and replace it with a new understanding of indigenous reality," said Jerry Daniels, one local organizer.
North end community leader Michael Champagne told the crowd that today isn't the end of the world.
"Being the infamous Dec. 21, people say this is the end of the world. I disagree. I see a strong, bright new beginning for all our nations."
At 12:45 p.m. there were about 300 people at The Forks.
March to Manitoba Hydro building
Interlake First Nations who lost their homes in the 2011 flood are rallying as a show of support for Idle No More.
Sagkeeng First Nation, Peguis and others are among the First Nations marching on the Manitoba Hydro building for a rally half an hour before hundreds of others converge on The Forks.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs confirmed that the Hydro rally is expected to draw a number of First Nations. There are nearly 2,000 evacuees from half a dozen First Nations still in Winnipeg, about to spend their second Christmas away from home.
The event, to start at 11:30 a.m. Friday and go until 3 p.m., over laps with the main Idle No More rally at The Forks at noon. Sagkeeng First Nation organized the rally to bring attention to the issue of hydro development of water resources on traditional lands in Manitoba.
Sagkeeng Chief Donavan Fontaine said aboriginal communities, displaced by flooding or left out of jobs on megaprojects are speaking up and intend to be heard in Manitoba more than they ever have been before.
"It’s the start of more to come," the chief vowed.
Meanwhile, two Cree men in northern Manitoba are staging a hunger strike to match the action taken by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, who is conducting her hunger strike in a teepee near Parliament Hill until she gets a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Idle No More movement was organized to protest the Harper government’s omnibus budget legislation, Bill C-45, which First Nations leaders say will degrade their treaty and land use rights.
The movement has been gaining momentum for the last three weeks with flash mob round dances in shopping malls, rallies and demonstrations in cities coast to coast. A massive rally on Parliament Hill is timed to coincide with events like the one in Winnipeg today. The issue that’s caught fire is a combustible mix of respect for sovereignty and environment rights.
Treaty land and water management rights were rolled back in provisions contained in the federal omnibus budget bill and other pieces of legislation now before Parliament.
Former Manitoba chief Terry Nelson has weighed in on the issue by sending Spence a letter pleading with her to end her fast today.
The former First Nation chief said Spence, the Attawapiskat First Nation Chief in Day 11 of a fast over treaty rights, has done more than she ever could have wished for, Nelson said.
He pleaded with her to stop.
"I ask you to consider breaking your fast. You have accomplished more than your goal. Stephen Harper is not in charge in Canada, the indigenous people are," Nelson said in his letter this morning.
"Your courage is exceptional. Thank you for fasting for so long for the people... Today is a good day to live," Nelson wrote.
Spence has demanded a meeting with Harper, the Governor General as the Crown’s ceremonial representative and other leaders. So far the Harper government has offered a meeting with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.
Nelson quotes aboriginal prophesy in his plea to the chief, telling her Dec. 21 is the Solstice and the shortest day of the year:
"It is also the beginning of the New Era according to the Mayan Calender. Today you will see the beginnings of the New Era, when our people will stand up across Canada. The Spirit has awoken and is alive in our people."