On Sunday, January 13, more than 500 dancers will take part in the Idle No More Flash Mob Grand Entry at the West Edmonton Mall. Among them will be Ashley Callingbull, a Miss Universe Canada second runner-up in 2010 who is now seen on the APTN drama Blackstone.
Callingbull, Cree, spent ten years as a competitive jingle dancer, and has worn regalia when representing Canadain international pageants. She'll be wearing her jingle dress and showing her moves along with the masses at the event, which will take place at 1 PM on Sunday at Entrance 32 to the West Edmonton Mall. (That's a crucial bit of information — the W.E.M. is the largest shopping mall in North America.) For more information, visit the Idle No More: FLASH MOB GRAND ENTRY @ W.E.M. Facebook page.
Callingbull took a few minutes to share her feelings on the event with ICTMN.
Most readers are familiar with the concept of an Idle No More flash mob at this point — how is this event similar to or different from what we've seen to date?
The Idle No More Grand Entry event is another way to bring awareness and express our concerns by allowing all First Nations and Non First Nations to come together in a peaceful way. The difference between the Flash Mob Grand Entry and Flash Mob Roundance is that it will all be dancers showing their colors dressed in their full regalia. Over 2,000 people have confirmed to attend the event so far and we are expecting over 500 dancers. There will be dancers coming from all over, even as far as California. That is the difference — the intention is the same as any other Idle No More event.
What does the Idle No More movement mean to you?
Idle No More is establishing our rights as native people and helping us unite together to fight for who we are. The Idle No More Movement is a liberation of indigenous peoples, and it's only the beginning. The goals of the movement are to establish indigenous sovereignty and to have land and water sustainability. The Idle No More movement is important to so many more than just the First Nations peoples of Canada. The Idle No More is a global concern and it's crucial for Canadians and people around the world to stand with the movement and make their voices heard. The legislation that Canada is imposing is similar to the Dawes Act in terms of private property and private ownership. If we own our land we would become a municipality — we wouldn't be a nation. We would be governed under Canada and lose our nationhood. I'm against this legislation, because they aim to assimilate the Indigenous people. It started out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper but overall it's the people against the system. It is the system that is responsible for defecation of the land and the displacement and genocide of Indigneous people. Idle No More is an opportunity for people to get educated and un-learn what is diluting their true Indigenous identity. An opportunity to deconstruct the identities that Canada imposed on us through psychological manipulation, because a lot of the programs and funding for programs for First Nations is "Aboriginal"-based. The government teaches you "Aboriginal" culture and "Aboriginal" language. There is no such thing as "Aboriginal" culture or language. We are First Nations.
What sort of role do you feel Native celebrities can have in the INM movement?
I believe that people in the public eye have more of a chance to represent our people in the proper way and their voices will be heard. It's a great opportunity to spread awareness and give back to your people. Native celebrities can change the stereotypes that society perceives of them and continue inspiring others to stay positive and get involved within their communities.
Have you participated in any previous INM events so far? What were they, and who have you worked with?
Yes, I have attended several Flash Mob Roundances all across Edmonton. I've attended as a participant and felt the need to get more involved and with that my friends Conway Kootenay, James Jones, Vincent Rain and myself are hosting an Idle No More Flash Mob Grand Entry. At every event I've been to thus far I've felt empowered and inspired by the determination of our people and I knew I needed to do something more.
What message to you have for American Indians in the United States, and for indigenous peoples in other countries?
The indigenous people are rising and reclaiming their entitlement to who they have always been. All of us indigenous people will be fighting the same system but we must continue to learn and educate ourselves and never stop using our voice. We also need to continue healing through our communities to make change.
This is bound to be the first time many of the dancers have danced in regalia at a shopping mall — but you have a history of taking your jingle dress where jingle dresses have never gone before, correct?
When I compete at a pageant it is a requirement that you wear an outfit that represents your culture from your country — I decided to wear jingle dress because I danced jingle all my life and it represents my culture, it represents who I am. At International pageants I would wear my jingle dress during the presentation portion, dance and announce my name and my country Canada. Holding the title of Miss Canada at international pageants and representing our Nation while wearing my regalia was an unreal feeling. I felt honored and proud to represent First Nations people.