A national call to rally around First Nations chief Theresa Spence Sunday afternoon spurred about 100 local supporters from Saugeen Ojibway Nation to descend on the Springmount intersection west of Owen Sound and close it down for about 10 minutes.
It was a peaceful demonstration that grew legs late Saturday, mostly through Facebook and word of mouth, after Spence's weekend call for solidarity protests.
“I just wanted to make sure our two communities were involved in it today,” said Tracy Boortz, one of the local organizers. “It was a last-minute effort of getting people together, but I truly believe in Mother Earth and saving our waters. I believe in what Chief Spence is doing.”
The Attawapiskat chief is on a hunger strike just outside of Ottawa. In the statement earlier on the weekend, she asked all Canadians and indigenous people to stage ceremonies, events and rallies, calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to meet with her and "commit to a path of recognition and implementation of the treaty commitments and forging a new First Nations Crown relationship."
Former Tory prime minister Joe Clark was one of the federal politicians who met with Spence Sunday, saying he fears Canada and its First Nations people are headed in a dangerous direction.
A 15-member NDP delegation also met with Spence. Spence started her hunger strike Dec. 11.
Many of Sunday's Springmount protesters also took part in the Idle No More event held in Owen Sound on Dec. 21. More than 200 aboriginals and non-aboriginals marched to Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller's office, mostly to protest the sweeping omnibus federal budget bill, C-45.
“We are idle no more, but we're just showing support to Chief Spence too,” said Boortz. “Chief Spence is in our hearts today.”
Martha Pedoniquotte said Springmount was chosen because it's a busy spot and because its highways lead to both Cape Croker and Saugeen.
“It's a busy corner and we wanted to get the message out to our neighbouring communities what we're doing, and it affects them as well,” she said. “The only way we can get it into their head is to inconvenience them a little.”
Protesters began gathering at about 1 p.m., standing at each of the intersection's four corners, many beating drums and singing. Signs were held high, proclaiming Chief Spence Is Willing, so am I; and Harper is Betraying All Of Canada. There were Idle No More signs as well.
OPP cruisers stayed back several hundred yards, then moved in closer to keep traffic from entering the intersection at precisely 2 p.m. That's when the protesters swept in from their four corners, representative of east, west, north and south, they said, and marched in a big circle. Traffic was held up for about 10 minutes.
About a dozen cars in each direction waited out the protest. One of them belonged to Steve and Camielle Stewart, a young couple from Calgary visiting family in the area.
They took one of the Idle No More fact sheets being handed out and patiently read it in their car while they waited.
“It's good that they're fighting for what they believe in,” said Camielle. She and her husband both commended the OPP for being supportive and “letting them do their thing.”