ABSTRACT

My fi rst-hand participation in the political transformation of “band councils” into “First Nations” during the period from 1970 through to 2006 began when I became an advisor to Chief George Manuel. I developed political strategies, drafted many of Manuel’s speeches and sat with him for hours discussing best approaches to advance the Indian agenda in Canada — traveling many times to Canada. The story is best told by describing how Grand Chief George Manuel single-handedly challenged the Canadian political establishment to win for Indian peoples on more than 500 reserves the recognized authority to practice nationcraft. Chief Manuel’s story about reaching for other nations including those in the United States, the Maori in New Zealand and the Sami of Scandinavia to form an international alliance to prevent Canada from confi scating Indian territories, demonstrates the power of one man’s commitment to aboriginal rights, aboriginal title and self-government. His story describes how Indian nations became a critical infl uence in the political development of Canada before and after Canada proclaimed an independently constituted state on April 17, 1981. Special attention is given to the “Constitution Express” where more than 600 individuals from as many First Nations organized into a massive lobbying force traveling across Canada by train to Ottawa to challenge government offi cials to recognize “aboriginal rights.”