First Nations people gathered at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday afternoon to vocalize a lack of faith in political leaders during their demonstration of solidarity with the land-defenders in Standing Rock.
Singers, drummers, students, clergy, mothers, children and babies in strollers listened to words from Aboriginal fashion designer Suzanne Smoke, who led the crowd of about 100 supporters in a song and round dance. The gathering was part of the NoDAPL day of action, a movement that drew protesters together all across North America to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.
While the messages demonstrators carried on their home-made posters called for actions from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. president Barrack Obama, First Nations people at the event vocalized a more autonomous approach to protecting the earth and their people.
“I can tell you that one man is not a leader and one man does not lead me,” said Smoke, dressed in her blue and pink jingle dress, to the circle of supporters around her.
Smoke said there is more love, peace and prayer in the world then what headlines have indicated to the public and that people must unite in their efforts as country leaders work to divide and conquer.
A middle-aged man carrying a picket sign called out to Smoke during her speech. He said that maybe Obama would leave people a good legacy.
“I don’t think so, and I’m not counting on any politician to leave me anything. As an Indigenous person, I can tell you that,” said Smoke to the protester.
Not far from the drumming and round dance 29-year old First Nations Jared Robillard leaned against a picnic table where he’d parked his bike to watch and listen quietly.
“This is not a Native thing. This is about generations. It’s about protecting our water. It’s about protecting our culture and our sacred lands and our burial sites of our ancestors.
The social service worker said it doesn’t surprise him to watch other First Nations fight for the same causes his ancestors once fought for so long ago.
He said he couldn’t understand why in 2016 countries like Canada and the U.S. are still turning to fossil fuels when other sources of renewable energy are available.
“There are obviously big corporations out there that have been given permissions from the government to go into crown land, to go into unseated territory so they can build their infrastructures.”
Among the participants in the round dance were Jenna Cardoso, 21, and her mother, Shannon Cardoso, who came to Toronto to support her daughter in the demonstration.
The environmental sciences student took a break from the halls of the University of Toronto to join the demonstrators in their stance against the pipeline project.
“If they go through with this pipeline, a lot of people will be displaced, and there is definitely potential for fresh water reserves to be polluted. There is just too much that could go wrong that it’s not really worth it,” said Cardoso.