MANUEL, George (1921-1989)




Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors, Essentials 2010

“The thing that I remember of my life, our lives I should say, is the poverty.” – George Manuel

"At this point in our struggle for survival, the Indian peoples of North America are entitled to declare a victory. We have survived. If others have also prospered on our land, let it stand as a sign between us that the Mother Earth can be good to all her children without confusing one with another. It is a myth of European warfare that one's man victory requires another's defeat." -- George Manuel, The Fourth Way, 1974

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

According to historian Robin Fisher, at one time about one-third of the aboriginal population of Canada lived in what became British Columbia. The most well-known aboriginal from modern British Columbia is Chief Dan George, but possibly the most important aboriginal from B.C. is the political activist and organizer George Manuel, co-author of The Fourth World: An Indian Reality (1974).

Born in 1921 on Neskonlith Reserve within Secwepemc territory, George Manuel was raised by his grandparents and attended Kamloops Residential School until he contracted tuberculosis at age 12. He was confined to a sanatorium and never fully recovered from the experience. Mainly self-educated, he worked as a logger and boom boss in the forest industry.

With guidance from his mentor in politics, Andrew Paull, Manuel served for seven years as a Secwepemc chief and became president of the North American Indian Brotherhood in 1959. In an effort to speed up the process of reform and self-determination, Manuel took a position within the Department of Indian Affairs but became radicalized in opposition to the government when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau issued the White Paper in 1969 that announced Canada’s intention to promote “assimilation of Indian people into Canadian society.”

To mobilize against the Trudeau plan, Manuel got himself elected as president of the National Indian Brotherhood. During this period of radicalization he was inspired and influenced by his personal audience with Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and a visit in 1971 to the Maori of New Zealand. “It was a Tanzanian [Nyerere] who said to me, ‘When the Indian peoples come into their own, that will be the Fourth World,’” Manuel wrote. He also went to Washington, D.C., to contact his counterpart in the United States, Mel Tonasket, president of the National Congress of American Indians. This meeting led to an international agreement in 1973 to establish exchanges between the two aboriginal associations, thereby laying the groundwork for affiliations between indigenous peoples around the world.

To promote his message of unification for indigenous peoples of the world, Manuel travelled to aboriginal villages in northern Argentina, to Quechua villages in Peru, to Samiland in Sweden, to Indian reservations in the United States, to Yapti Tasbia in eastern Nicaragua, to Mapuche villages in Chile and to Mayan refugee camps on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. In the late 1970s, he made a speech to 15,000 indigenous Peruvians. “I told them that we have to have our own ideology,” he said in 1983. “We don’t fit into the Right and we don’t fit into the Left. That’s why we are fragmented completely; we are always on the losing end, the deprived end of the stick.”

Manuel was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also developed the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs’ Aboriginal Rights Position Paper and organized the Union’s Indian Constitutional Express in 1980, sending a delegation of a thousand aboriginals to Ottawa by train in an attempt to delay patriation of Canada’s constitution. He served as National Indian Brotherhood president from 1970 to 1976, as president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs from 1979 to 1981, and as the first president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, from 1975 to 1981.

With Michael Posluns, Manuel co-authored The Fourth World: An Indian Reality, which promoted the rights of indigenous peoples. In the book, he writes, “At this point in our struggle for survival, the Indian peoples of North America are entitled to declare a victory. We have survived. If others have also prospered on our land, let it stand as a sign between us that the Mother Earth can be good to all her children without confusing one with another. It is a myth of European warfare that one’s man victory requires another’s defeat.”
George Manuel died in Kamloops in 1989.


FULL ENTRY:

According to historian Robin Fisher, at one time about one-third of the Aboriginal population of Canada lived in what became British Columbia. The most well-known Aboriginal from modern British Columbia has been Chief Dan George, but possibly the most important Aboriginal from B.C. has been political activist and organizer George Manuel. To promote his message of unification for indigenous peoples of the world, George Manuel travelled to Indian villages in Northern Argentina, to Quechua villages in Peru, to Samiland in Sweden, to Indian reservations in the United States, to Yapti Tasbia in Eastern Nicaragua, to Mapuche villages in Chile and to Mayan refugee camps on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. In the late 1970s he made a speech to 15,000 indigenous Peruvians. “I told them that we have to have our own ideology,” he said in 1983. “We don’t fit into the Right and we don’t fit into the Left. That’s why we are fragmented completely; we are always on the losing end, the deprived end of the stick. That was the first time an ideal was ever proclaimed in Native culture. Now that the idea has come it’s talked about in many parts of the world, but there is no movement, just talk. I’m proud that I introduced the idea.” Manuel was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also developed the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs’ Aboriginal Rights Position Paper and organized the Union’s Indian Constitutional Express.

Born on February 21, 1921 on Neskonlith Reserve within Shuswap (Secwepemc) territory in the B.C. interior, George Manuel was raised by his grandparents and attended Kamloops Residential School until he contracted tuberculosis at age 12. He was confined to a sanatorium and never fully recovered from the humiliating experience. Mainly self-educated, he worked as a busboy, fruit picker, logger and boom boss in the forest industry. With guidance from his mentor in politics, Andrew Paull, George Manuel served for seven years as chief of the Shuswap and became president of the North American Indian Brotherhood of B.C. in 1959. In an effort to speed the process of reform and self-determination, Manuel took a position within the Department of Indian Affairs but became radicalized in opposition to the government when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau issued the White Paper in 1969 that announced Canada's intention to dissolve Indian nations and promote the "assimilation of Indian people into Canadian society." To mobilize against the Trudeau plan, Manuel got himself elected as president of the National Indian Brotherhood. During this period of radicalization he was inspired and influenced by his personal audience with Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and a visit to the Maoris of New Zealand in 1971. "It was a Tanzanian [Nyerere] who said to me, 'When the Indian peoples come into their own, that will be the Fourth World," Manuel wrote. He also went to Washington D.C. to contact his counterpart in the United States, Mel Tonasket, president of the National Congress of American Indians. This meeting led to an international agreement in 1973 to establish exchanges between the two Aboriginal associations, thereby laying the groundwork for affiliations between indigenous peoples around the world.

George Manuel served as NIB national president from 1970 to 1976, as president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) from 1979 to 1981, and as the first president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, from 1975 to 1981. With Michael Posluns, George Manuel co-authored The Fourth Way: An Indian Reality (Toronto: Collier-Macmillan; New York: Free Press, 1974) which promoted the concept and rights of indigenous peoples. Manuel also contributed to numerous position papers that included Evaluation of Indian Education (1967), Indian Economic Development: A Whiteman’s Whitewash (1972), National Indian Brotherhood on Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Guidelines (1975), Indian Sovereignty: The Indian Bible of British Columbia (1977) and Report on the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (1977). George Manuel died in Kamloops on November, 15, 1989. His son, Bob Manuel (b. 1948, d. 1998), led the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs during the early 1980s.

BOOKS:

Manuel, George & Michael Posluns. The Fourth Way: An Indian Reality (Toronto: Collier-Macmillan; New York: Free Press, 1974).

[BCBW 2010]