He Carries the Strength of 10 Buffalo has been a fixture of the Idle No More movement in Hamilton.
When protesters took to the 403 back in January, he was there, driving his truck and waving a flag. He was at the Cayuga Courthouse near Caledonia a couple of weeks later too, participating in a widespread 'day of action' regarding treaty rights for Aboriginal people.
But somewhere along the line, Strength started to feel like Idle No More protests weren't getting their message across, he says. Instead, they were doing more harm than good — just inconveniencing and angering the public.
“Stopping the trains and stopping the cars is just hurting the people of Canada — it's not getting to the Prime Minister or anyone that's important enough to stop what's going on,” he told CBC Hamilton.Protester Strength just after the Idle No More blockade of the 403 back in January. (Adam Carter/CBC)
So Strength decided to try something different — and on Friday morning, he embarked on a four-day fast in a teepee erected outside Hamilton City Hall. He and supporter Mark Berguist plan to spend the time praying, performing pipe ceremonies and talking to people about the ideals of the movement.
“This is my way of saying 'we don't need to stop people,'” he said.
Strength has fasted like this before, and will subsist on only liquids until Tuesday. Berguist says he's there for the exact same reason Strength is.
“We're supposed to be a peaceful people,” he said. “You can rant and rave and chant all you want, but you're not going to get nowhere.”
“I just wish there'd be more teaching before a march.”
Both men pointed to incidents during Idle No More protests around Canada as simply inciting the general public instead of educating them. When protesters in Hamilton marched onto the 403 back in January, a car slammed into the back of another vehicle in the eastbound lanes, as the drivers were distracted by the protest.
OPP officials say there were no injuries in the collision.
“All they keep on doing is their chants — but they're not educating anybody on why we're doing this,” Berguist said.
Strength says he thinks public perception is skewed into thinking that all Aboriginal people agree with the Idle No More movement and its methods.
“And almost rightfully so,” he said. “But if I were in a car with my baby who was hungry and a baby who needed a diaper change, and I was stuck in traffic — I'd be upset, regardless of the issue.”
Strength says the issues that should be the core of the Idle No More movement are still valid, and affect every Canadian.
“These aren't Aboriginal Issues, these are Canadian issues,” he said, pointing to environmental concerns surrounding the governments use of Bill-C45, which some say infringes on treaty rights and endangers the environment.
“But by doing this, I'm hoping to just create a new way of thinking,” Strength said.
“No more having the innocent bystander be the victim."