Mara Pootlass of the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola plays the drum during Saturday's Idle No More protest at Kerry Park in downtown Kelowna.
"This is a pretty good turnout considering all this snow and the bad driving conditions," said Maureen Fabriz, a member of the Lytton First Nation who led the opening prayer to the Creator.
"Everyone here recognizes that we have to stand up for our rights and prevail. It's all about not letting the Harper government break treaty and deny our people and our children a future."
Originally set for the Sails sculpture at the foot of Bernard Avenue, the protest was moved to nearby Kerry Park for some protection from the snow behind the huge nativity scene still set up for Christmas and a towering pine tree.
After Fabriz's prayer, event organizers Wynnter Raphael, a member of the Westbank First Nation, and Elicia Withers, of the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba, led the group in a round dance while beating native drums.
"We are in a circle because it never ends, and like this circle we will never end the fight for our land and our rights," said Withers, outfitted in a fringed buckskin dress.
"We have to let the Harper government know it cannot exploit our resources and sell our land. This is a peaceful protest, but we have to make our stand."
The Idle No More movement has been gaining momentum for two months since the Conservative federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced and passed Bill C-45.
It's an omnibus budget bill that includes changes to the Indian Act, Navigation Protection Act (formerly the Navigable Water Protection Act) and Environmental Assessment Act.
Aboriginals are upset with the changes because they allow designated native reserve lands to be leased out to non-natives more easily, allow easier approvals for pipelines and power lines crossing waterways, and reduce assessment requirements for projects affecting the environment.
Saturday was the most active day for the Idle No More campaign so far. Numerous protests were scheduled across the country, including several at Canada-U.S. border crossings. In the South Okanagan, there was a gathering of drummers at the Osoyoos border crossing.
Daniel Richard was at the Kelowna protest as a "settler."
"I do some work with the Okanagan Nation as a settler of European heritage - a liaison between non-native and native," said Richard.
"I'm also helping with the Idle No More social media for the Okanagan. We have 700 followers on Twitter and have a Facebook page, and more are following us every day."
It will be announced soon on those social media networks where the next Idle No More event in Kelowna will be at 10 a.m. on Friday. The timing matches what is supposed to be a global Idle No More day of action coinciding with Harper's promised meeting with aboriginal leaders that day.
A little girl at the Kelowna protest carried a sign reading: "I don't know who you are Harper. But my mommy says you need a bannock slap and a time out."