From Reconciliation to ‘Idle No More’: ‘Articulation’ and Indigenous Struggle in Canada


  • Matthew Robertson Métis Nation of Ontario



How do different discourses lead to changes in understandings of the world, identity, meaning and practice in Indigenous politics in Canada? This article introduces the poststructuralist theory of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe to Canadian Indigenous studies and demonstrates that it is a unique and effective theory for understanding this question. It finds that in the last few decades, two principal discourses regarding Indigenous peoples and colonialism have circulated in the Canadian body politic—namely, (1) “reconciliation” and (2) “Idle No More.” These discourses shape the identities of both Indigenous peoples and settlers, construct understandings of the world, and determine the meaning of related political struggle, leading to real world practice and politics. The reconciliation discourse has at times been effective at becoming a dominant discourse and has often been able to constitute the meaning of important terms such as ‘decolonization.’ It serves to pacify Indigenous resistance to colonialism. Counter-hegemonic discourses on reconciliation such as ‘Idle No More’ have been able to challenge that discourse. Academic literature, newspaper articles, YouTube videos, podcasts developed by Indigenous scholars, public letters and speeches delivered by Canadian politicians are analyzed to examine the utterances and enunciations of the two discourses.

Author Biography

Matthew Robertson, Métis Nation of Ontario

Matthew Robertson is currently Intergovernmental Relations Lead with the Métis Nation of Ontario. He was previously Strategist for the Tripartite Self-Government Negotiations Department of the Manitoba Metis Federation. He holds a Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Alberta and a Master of International Trade from the University of Saskatchewan. He resides in Toronto.