The third step is contacting the group you would like to work with and saying, “Here’s what I have to offer. Here’s what I know. Tell me what you need in terms of organizing or litigation strategies or PR, social media, whatever it is,” as opposed to telling people how it’s going to be. For us as Indigenous peoples in the movement, the worst thing that can happen is for people to come in and be our saviours instead of respectful allies. We don’t need anyone to tell us what we want, what we need or what would make the world better. What we need are people to stand beside us and offer support.
Step four in the five steps is about strategic planning. The thing about strategic planning is that not everything has to be pre-planned really, really well. What we found with Idle No More is that it was organic; we didn’t have to tell people what to do. We would just put a call out, or we would say this is what we’re doing, and there would be solidarity events all across the country. But what kinds of issues are we going to raise in the media, who are we going to get involved, how are we going to do damage control for negative media, are good to think through up front. Do we have lawyers on call in case people are arrested, or we want to do litigation, or we need a judicial review? It’s helpful if that’s in place, but you can also just allow it to happen organically. Sometimes you might start organizing community events and then the communities go on to host their own corresponding and solidarity events. Organizing is about making space for that organic part.
And the last step is never forgetting that any social movement is a conversation with the public and it always has to be done with the greatest integrity and respect. No matter how emotional it is, no matter how intense it is, no matter how much we want something, the best way to engage with the public is with the facts.
IZIDA: Is there anything else that you want to say specifically to elementary teachers?
PAM: The only other thing I can think of that would apply to elementary teachers trying to organize in the community is engaging with everyone, even people you think might not be related to how we build better schools, how we get a better education system. The key to any social movement is not just to build relationships for the purpose of that social movement but to maintain those relationships for the people you’re working with and their social movements. Even though sometimes we see our movement as individual – it’s environmental, it’s Indigenous, it’s union-based – in fact they’re all the same. We all end up in the same place. We’re looking for social justice and we can’t do that if only one movement is strong and we’re weak on all the other fronts. But that means people who are in social movements have to have time to give to their partners who are helping them and that can be difficult. But that being said, you gain so much if you’re the kind of person who is there when people call on you, so that when you need people, they’ll be there for you. And it might not always be the same people. Relying on particular individuals over and over and over again doesn’t work. That’s why we have to be so inclusive, so diverse, so broad, and find different ways of staying involved in all of the other movements that are helping your particular movement.
Izida Zorde is an executive staff member at ETFO and the editor of ETFO Voice.