Unsettling Canada

Remembering Arthur Manuel, irreplaceable advocate for Indigenous rights

An interview with the late Secwepemc leader and author

Members of the Secwepemc Nation, Indigenous leaders, colleagues, and friends from across Canada came together at the community centre of the Adams Lake Indian Band in Chase, B.C., this weekend to honour the memory of a revered Indigenous leader and author.

Arthur Manuel passed away on Jan. 11, 2017, at the age of 66. His life’s work was devoted to Indigenous rights and title, as well as to the future prosperity and sovereignty of First Nations and Indigenous peoples around the globe.

“Arthur spent decades trying to get the federal comprehensive land claims policy changed to end the requirement of extinguishment of Aboriginal title,” said Russell Diabo, a policy analyst, writer, and friend of Manuel. “Arthur spent his lifetime striving relentlessly to get the return of stolen Indigenous lands, territories, and resources from the federal and provincial governments.”

“In my opinion, Arthur was a great leader who was the closest type of person to Nelson Mandela we had here in Canada and there is no one else who I’ve seen among the current First Nations leaders in Canada who can even begin to fill the shoes of Arthur Manuel,” Diabo added. “It will now take many more people to do the work Arthur was doing single-handedly with little or no resources.”

A group of leaders from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs traveled to Chase to pay their respects and released an official statement on the loss of the man who once was a member of their Chief Council.

Arthur Manuel was, without question, one of Canada's strongest and most outspoken Indigenous Leaders in the defense of our Indigenous Land and Human Rights. He travelled extensively throughout Canada, North America and around the world in his unwavering and relentless efforts to champion the cause of our Indigenous Rights. He relentlessly worked on land claim issues, calling for change to Canada's fundamental flawed policy on Indigenous land claims. At this terribly sad moment in our history, we would like to thank the Manuel family for sharing Arthur with us for all these years.

Manuel was most recently a spokesperson for Defenders of the Land and the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, organizations that advocated for Indigenous rights, and title and treaty rights. He also participated in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, beginning in 2002.

Manuel began his career with a stint as president of the Native Youth Association in the 1970s, and later served as chief of his nation, the Neskonlith Indian Band, from 1995 to 2003. He also chaired the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council from 1997 to 2003, and co-chaired the Assembly of First Nations’ Delgamuukw implementation strategic committee.

Ricochet interviewed Arthur Manuel during his book tour for Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, written with Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson and Diabo. This previously unreleased interview was conducted in May 2015 by Indigenous Reporting Fund editor Leena Minifie.

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