“It is always good to go back to the Kootenay,” says Arthur Manuel of his upcoming visit to Castlegar and Nelson.
The former chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band says his mother was Ktunaxa and recalls spending part of his youth in the Cranbrook area, including a year in residential school there.
First Nations leader Art Manuel be speaking at the Castlegar Campus and Expressions Café in Nelson on March 22 as part of a lecture series sponsored in part by the Nelson United Church, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators and the Selkirk College’s Mir Centre for Peace.
But it’s the future that’s on Manuel’s mind these days. And next week he’ll be speaking at the Selkirk College Castlegar Campus and Expressions Café in Nelson as part of a lecture series sponsored in part by the Nelson United Church, Public & Private Workers of Canada (PPWC), the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators and Selkirk College’s Mir Centre for Peace.
He’ll talk about the path to equality and prosperity for First Nations. That path, he says, is through self-determination and self-government.
“Canada needs to recognize Aboriginal title on the ground and recognize that indigenous peoples have the right to freely choose their own political governance over their land,” he says. “The federal government will have to repeal the Indian Act, abolish the Department of Indian Affairs and define self-determination of Canada with indigenous peoples.”
A Career that Spans Decades
Manuel’s career has been spent fighting for that goal, beginning in the 1970s as a chief, and continuing as a political leader at the provincial, national and internationals levels. Despite some gains—he notes how the rights of Aboriginal people are recognized internationally today and any form of colonization condemned by the United Nations—he says he’s still disappointed by progress made in Canada.
“We have a long way to go because we have not even come up with a mutually agreeable policy to settle Aboriginal title in our territories,” he says. “These territorial and land rights associated to our territorial interest must be resolved before we can get down to agreeing what kind of self-government we will have over those territories.”
The new Liberal government in Ottawa may bring talk of a new relationship and make symbolic attempts at inclusion, but Manuel remains skeptical. He notes the party was in power for most of the last century and has its fair share of attempts to eliminate or eradicate Aboriginal title, government and even culture.
“Canada must root out colonization between indigenous peoples and Canada as a settler state,” he says. “Self-determination is the international remedy for colonization. We must draw upon the experience of the global community to decolonize Canada.”
Manuel co-wrote a book last year with Grand Chief Ron Derrickson, Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, in which he talks about de-colonization and entering new relationships. His speaking tour is part of the process to educate people about colonization, self-government, self-determination and the realities Canadian society. Manuel says education is key if people are to understand and support First Nations aspirations for self-determination, including in the Kootenays where talks have begun to settle Aboriginal title and claims.
“Nelson and Castlegar, like all other communities in B.C., are affected by Aboriginal title,” he says. “And it is best for both settlers and indigenous peoples to get to know this topic from a human rights perspective.”
Manuel’s stop at the Castlegar Campus takes place on March 22 between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. in The Pit. He will then travel to Nelson where he will speak that evening at Nelson’s Expressions Café from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tickets for the evening event are at the door @ $5.00/ticket. Sliding scale in effect.