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'We will not be ignored,' aboriginal rights activist says

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Canada's aboriginal rights activists stressed peace as the watchword for Winnipeg supporters who tuned into Twitter calls and turned out for a rally at noon.

Michael Champagne, a North End community organizer, said the event Monday was the start of building an active grassroots movement from one end of the country to another.

"We are demanding to be taken seriously as one nation by the government of Canada," said Champagne, who spent the last year leading rallies at the Bell Tower on the North End's Salter Street to build up community spirit. "And we will not be ignored."

The message is stern but the methods are gentle, said the slight young man with the engaging grin.

Champagne called for a respectful relationship between Canada's federal government and the aboriginal people: "We will stand together in a peaceful revolution... This is our land and we are not going anywhere."

Under the banner, Idle No More, a grassroots movement driven by Facebook and Twitter, is staging rallies in Canadian cities from Calgary to Ottawa Monday to draw attention to aboriginal treaty and land rights.

The Winnipeg event saw about 400 supporters waving iconic flags and singing rallying songs on the steps of the legislature.

The sharp tang of sage filled the air as the crowd listened to Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak leading a drum group in a rendition of the Longest Walk, the anthem of the American Indian Movement. AIM led an armed stand-off that ended in the death of two FBI agents nearly 50 years ago in South Dakota.

One of the Idle No More organizers cautioned the crowd that the federal government may try to cast the rallies as radical.

That's wrong, said organizerJerry Daniels. "They are trying to make us look like radicals but that's not what we stand for."

Event MC Wab Kinew urged the crowd to work at home to make a better life. "Take the energy you have here today so we truly will be idle no more."

Nearly a dozen community activists, along with First Nation chiefs and aboriginal leaders, were scheduled to lay out the details of a suite of federal bills. Chief among them is the federal omnibus budget bill that would alter land and treaty rights and environmental protection.

History

Updated on Monday, December 10, 2012 at 11:43 AM CST: update

12:08 PM: add link

12:17 PM: Updates factbox.

12:19 PM: Updates schedule.

12:25 PM: update story

1:07 PM: update

1:54 PM: updated headline, story

1:57 PM: change headline

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