Vancouver-based Secwepemc-Ktunaxa playwright, poet, and storyteller Vera Manuel died at Vancouver General Hospital on January 22 at the age of 61. She was the eldest daughter of Grand Chief George Manuel, the first president of the National Indian Brotherhood, and spiritual leader Marceline Manuel. She was also a healing workshop coordinator who managed Storyteller Theatre in Vancouver and the first recipient of National World Poetry Lifetime Achievement Award as coordinated by Vancouver's poetry event organizer Ariadne Sawyer. Manuel's works include The Strength of Indian Women, a play about residential-school life that was staged through-out North America and published in Two Plays about Residential Schools (along with a play by Larry Loyie). It concerns four elders preparing for a teenaged girl's coming-of-age feast. In the process, they share secrets of their incarceration in residential schools.

Manuel's family sent information to the media upon her death: "Her work was honoured with inclusion at the Native American Women Playwrights Program, housed at Maima University, in Oxford, Ohio. Her poetry has appeared in various publications, most recently in ROCKSALT: An Anthology of Contemporary B.C. Poetry. She was given a Life-time Achievement Award by the World Poetry organization in Vancouver. The Aboriginal Writer's Collective will be arranging the publication of her work in the near future. She was most recently Poet-in-Resident with the Aboriginal Media Lab. She is survived by her loving dog U'tspo and four loving brothers; Arthur, Richard, George Jr., and Ara; her four loving sisters; Emaline, Doreen, Martha and Ida; and her numerous loving nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her mother, Marceline Paul; her father, George Manuel Sr.; and her brother Robert (Bobby) Manuel.";

The World Poetry Reading Series & The Aboriginal Writer's Collective presented a tribute to Vera Manuel at the Vancouver Public Library on June 21, 2010.


Manuel, Vera & Larry Loyie. Two Plays About Residential School (Vancouver: Living Traditions, 1998)

[BCBW 2010 Alan Twigg]