Has the Idle No More movement fizzled-out?

An Idle No More protest near Cornwall, Ontario on Saturday January 5, 2013A founder of the Idle No More movement says that the group is "structuring and mobilizing" and, contrary to what some in the media are suggesting, is getting stronger.

"We have several events planned, one in particular will be in Swift Current on Feb. 15th, which we'll have a teach in and a round dance in the constituency of Premier Brad Wall," Sylvia McAdam told Yahoo! Canada News in an email exchange on Tuesday.

"I don't believe its fizzling at all, its gotten stronger and move diverse. We are seeing more non native people come forward to support Idle No More in a peaceful resistance against environmental destruction."

McAdams' assertions notwithstanding, it's hard to believe that Idle No More can actually regain it's momentum.

For about a month, Aboriginal issues were at the forefront of our collective consciousness: INM protests led national newscasts on a nightly basis while stories about Native poverty and lack of education were consistently featured in print media.

But, like the Occupy movement of 2011, Idle No More has seemed to run out of steam.

Even on social media — where INM got it's start — the movement is slowly disappearing. Digital communication specialist Mark Blevis has been monitoring #IdleNoMore chatter on Twitter and says it's in rapid decline.

"The volume of activity continues its freefall (save the January 28 day of action) and number of participants continues to get smaller," he wrote on his website.

"Yesterday’s 4,445 tweets represented the first time since December 15 that there were fewer than 5,000 Idle No More tweets in a day (4,375 for the record)."

There are several theories about why INM didn't last.

While Chief Theresa Spence and her hunger strike initially galvanized support, she ultimately became a detriment to the cause. Spence lost much her credibility because of her unclear demands and because of the damning Deloitte and Touche audit, which suggested a lack of financial checks and balances in her community of Attawapiskat.

[ Related: Was Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike worth it? ]

The INM message also got muddled leaving both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals a little bewildered. Were they protesting reserve living conditions, First Nations funding, the Harper government's omnibus budget bills or all of the above? Sun News' Warren Kinsella recently wrote that organizers would have been best advised to "have a single spokesman saying one thing" rather than a "disputatious chorus...creating confusion about who led Idle No More, and what it hoped to achieve."

Ernie Crey, who is a policy adviser for the Stó:lō Tribal Council in British Columbia says that to survive, Idle No More needed to be rooted in the Aboriginal community and supported by long established organizations.

"Idle No More was founded in the ether of the web, it was never a coalition of Aboriginal groups," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"Idle No More set out to scuttle the Conservative government’s entire legislative agenda and overhaul how government works with First Nations organizations on both legislative and social change. They bit off more than they could chew," he said.

"And some unhappy chiefs who lost out to Shawn Atleo in the last AFN election usurped the voice of Idle No More by picking a fight with the PM and issuing threats to wreak havoc to Canada’s economy. A big, big mistake."

Crey, however, doesn't believe the movement was all for not.

"I see some bright lights in Idle No More like two young Aboriginal moms in Nova Scotia (Molly Peters and Shelly Young featured in an APTN story) who plan to use their experience with Idle No More to “get out the vote”, he said.

"It is young folks like these two women who give me hope for the future."

Certainly, we will continue to see the odd protest: on Saturday a very small group of INM supporters interrupted the federal leadership debate in Winnipeg and on Tuesday, a number of protesters in Attawapiskat blocked a road to a northern Ontario diamond mine.

[ Related: De Beers puzzles over Attawapiskat road block ]

But, in it's most recent form at least, it seems Idle No More has in fact fizzled.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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