There was a large crowd at the Holiday Village Mall Saturday afternoon, aside from the last-minute Christmas shoppers.
Dozens of Native Americans from reservations and Montana and Canada gathered around the central fountain at noon, for a flash mob, protesting a Canadian budget bill, C-45, that passed through parliament earlier this year.
Brad Lavallee, from the Piapot nation in Saskatchewan, explained at the rally that Canadian tribes fear how the bill will change land and water rights and provisions they say are in violation of tribal treaties.
“Those treaties were between the tribes and the crown, ” Lavallee said. “Who is the government to say no? ”
The demonstration was also intended to raise awareness about Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat nation, and the hunger strike she is maintaining until Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to meet with her to talk the bill over. Today is the 14th day.
Similar demonstrations were being held across the United States and Canada, including in malls in Oregon and Minnesota. Natives in Nova Scotia backed up traffic for miles on the Trans-Canadian Highway Friday afternoon, deliberately timing their protest for one of the biggest travel days of the year.
In Havre, Canadian natives were joined by others from Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation. Some of the children wandering through the event came from Cree parents on either side of the border.
Kenny Standing Rock, from Rocky Boy, said that the tribes on Rocky Boy and the ones threatened by the legislation were the same, before political boundaries broke up the land, in the days of Cree Chief Big Bear.
“Big Bear was our leader, ” Standing Rock said. “He foresaw this. He warned everybody that this would happen.
“We just wanted to help however we can. ”