The Legacy of Grand Chief George Manuel, Shuswap Nation - Co-founder, Center For World Indigenous Studies
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                              THE LEGACY
                      GRAND CHIEF GEORGE MANUEL

            "Neither Left nor Right, we must find our own 
                      path as the Fourth World" 

                           Rudolph C. Ryser
             (c)1995 Center for World Indigenous Studies

          The ground was wet and puddles collected in the low 
     spots reflecting the grayness of the clouded sky. The smell 
     of winter approaching filled the air and an eagle floated on 
     the air currents above the nearby mountain ridge. Hundreds 
     of people from many nations were milling around the 
     building, talking softly while others slowly filed through 
     the weathered double doors at one end. More people waited 
     patiently in their cars on the highway in front of the 
     Community Center - waiting for the Neskonlith Band Police 
     and volunteer helpers to give directions for parking.  

          Inside the Community Center, which sits on a somewhat 
     hilly and grassy meadow between the highway and a wall of 
     mountainous granite dotted with pine trees, more people 
     crowded inside the entry way to join the line moving slowly 
     past the chestnut casket bearing the body of Grand Chief 
     George Manuel to pay their last respects. He laid there as 
     if at peace for the first time during his sixty-eight years, 
     in a beaded deer skin jacket and in his right hand an eagle 
     feather fan. As in life, George Manuel gave you a sense of 
     confidence and strength - a feeling each person carried into 
     the comforting embrace of Marlene Manuel, sons and 
     daughters, grandchildren, a great granddaughter, brother, 
     sisters and a cousin.  

          Late in the day, at the Neskonlith Cemetery, the 
     hundreds of people who had come to the Neskonlith Reserve in 
     the Southwest part of Shuswap territory on November 20, 1989 
     joined as one to give George Manuel's body back to the earth 
     and to send his spirit to the next world. The air was 
     crisply cold and small flakes of snow began to fall. Leaders 
     of many nations stepped up to each participate in the burial 
     by taking shovel in hand and moving the rich soil from a 
     mound into George's grave. When George's body was safely in 
     its resting place, old and young women sang. Russell Jim of 
     the Yakima Nation then sang an ancient song from his people 
     to help George's spirit into the other world.  

          The Neskonlith people had prepared a great feast of 
     deer, salmon, potatoes, corn and salads and all joined in a 
     large hall in Chase as darkness fell. As people ate, George 
     Manuel's friends and family rose one-by-one to speak - to 
     remind everyone through stories and song what this man had 
     given this world. The Nuxalk people performed an ancient 
     dance in costumes and carved masks to finally carry George's 
     spirit to the other world.  

          It was done.  

          Some seek greatness, others are called to greatness and 
     still others are destined from the beginning of their lives. 
     Grand Chief George Manuel was destined to greatness. He 
     began his life on February 21, 1921 in Shuswap in a time 
     when the Canadian government had made it a crime for native 
     people to practice their ancient religions, the customs of 
     the Potlatch. By the time George was six years old, the 
     Canadian government had also made it a crime for native 
     people to organize and raise funds for political action to 
     support aboriginal rights. Like so many Shuswap boys before 
     him, George Manuel was sent by the government to a 
     Residential School to "become a white man" as he once told 
     me. In his childhood, George contracted tuberculosis which 
     forced him to live in a sanatorium. The attempts to distort 
     his spirit and his body were always a source of shame, and 
     so he never volunteered to talk about these things. He 
     preferred to remember the desperate poverty his people were 
     forced to endure "because of Canadian government and British 
     Columbian government policies toward the Indian."  

          Instead of bowing to his own personal tragedies and to 
     the  demeaning privation Indians suffered, Chief Manuel 
     turned his mind, his spirit and his withered body to 
     changing the social, economic and political conditions that 
     brought Indian people to such humiliation. As a young man, 
     he began to raise a family. He supported his family and what 
     he called his "political work" by operating a small seed 
     farm and then as a boom boss in the logging and lumber 
     industry. In the 1950s, when the Canadian government began 
     to repeal its laws denying religious and political freedom 
     to Indians, Chief Manuel became more public about his 
     political organizing in Shuswap communities and in 
     neighboring nations. He put his energies to organizing 
     political field workers and he focused on community 
     development. George began to understand through these 
     activities that organizing Indian people at the community 
     level was essential if they were to regain economic and 
     political power - to eliminate poverty and to rebuild 
     cultural strength.  

          For George Manuel in the late 1950s, the increasingly 
     popular ideal of self-determination would not simply be an 
     idea, it would become a force of Indian communities to 
     decide for themselves how they would live. In 1959, he 
     broadened his experience and honed his knowledge and his 
     leadership when he became the President of the North 
     American Indian Brotherhood of British Columbia. For seven 
     years as Chief of the Shuswap Indian Reserve and President 
     of the Brotherhood George worked to promote community 
     development on reserves throughout the province of British 
     Columbia and to press for reforms in Canadian federal and 
     provincial government policies toward Indians. To achieve 
     reforms in the government he later took a position in the 
     Department of Indian Affairs. But George became impatient 
     with reforms when in 1969 Canadian Prime Minister Pierre 
     Trudeau issued the White Paper, a government policy document 
     which announced Canada's intention to dissolve Indian 
     nations and promote the "assimilation of Indian people into 
     Canadian society."  

          Trudeau's White Paper was the last straw for Chief 
     Manuel. His years spent trying to reform Canadian government 
     policies had failed. "Canada was dead set on wiping out 
     Indians once and for all," George recalled later. Collecting 
     what he called the  "best and the brightest Indian people I 
     could find," George Manuel sought and won the Presidency of 
     the National Indian Brotherhood in 1970. With the added 
     power and resources of a country-wide organization and his 
     "best and brightest," he set his mind and the whole of 
     Indian Country in Canada to a strategy to defeat "Trudeau's 
     White Paper." In countless speeches, meetings, interviews 
     and strategy sessions, he beat the drum of resistance to 
     Canada's assimilation policy. He urged the mightiest to turn 
     the policy around and he pushed for more community political 
     organization in the reserves.  

          "If we didn't fight then," he recalled later, "Trudeau 
     would have destroyed all the Indian people in Canada." In 
     search of "help for my people" Chief Manuel traveled to 
     Tanzania as a member of a Canadian government delegation. 
     And quite by coincidence and absence of the delegation's 
     leader, Tanzania's President Julius Kambarage Nyerere 
     received Chief Manuel as the Canadian government's chief 
     representative. Treated as a head of state, Chief Manuel 
     decided to take advantage of the situation and entered into 
     lengthy private discussions with President Nyerere about 
     ways that Tanzania could help "your brown brothers in 

          President Nyerere, as George retold the story, 
     responded by describing how Tanzania achieved her 
     independence in 1964 without a revolution or a shot fired.  

          "I traveled from village to village among all the 
     tribes in what was then called Tanganyika," Nyerere 
     recounted. "By meeting with the people directly, I was able 
     to persuade them of how we could achieve independence and 

          "You have an independent country now. Won't you help 
     the Indians in Canada?" George queried.  

          "No, I won't help now, not until you organize your 
     people first. Only after the people decide on what they 
     really want can I be of any help," Nyerere responded.  

          "I was so mad at what Nyerere had said, I couldn't 
     believe a black man wouldn't help brown people," George 
     later recalled. He thought he had wasted his time, and he 
     was now deeply troubled that a leader of another tribe who 
     was the President of a Third World state wasn't willing to 
     help Indian people.  

          In 1971, George was asked to be a member of another 
     Canadian Delegation, this one made up of Members of 
     Parliament. The delegation traveled to New Zealand on "an 
     evaluation tour of Maori programs." Here Chief Manual 
     discovered quite a different response to his calls for 
     support of the Indians of Canada. Visiting with Maori people 
     he learned "they were just like us!" George began to 
     understand that there were "other peoples in the world who 
     had the same kinds of experiences as Indians in Canada." "I 
     thought" he recalled "the Moaris could help us and we could 
     help them!." With this realization came yet another: 
     "Nyerere was right! The people must first be organized at 
     the community level and they can help each other." What 
     George discovered was something he had already known.  

          With ideas beginning to crystallize about community 
     organization and international cooperation, Chief Manuel 
     sought out his counterpart in the United States: President 
     Mel Tonasket of the National Congress of American Indians. 
     George traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Tonasket 
     and eventually they signed an international agreement in 
     1973 to establish technical exchanges between the National 
     Brotherhood and the National Congress of American Indians. 
     This agreement led to another agreement between the two 
     organizations to coordinate a number of meetings between 
     "Indians in Africa, the Americas and the Pacific" as George 
     would often call other native peoples.  

          Meanwhile, Chief Manuel's ideas began to take shape 
     about how the Shuswap people could be helped by neighboring 
     tribes and other native peoples in the world could help each 
     other. His fifty-two years of growing and learning by actual 
     experience were then to be condensed into a book: The Fourth 
     World: An Indian Reality (Collier Macmillan, Canada, Ltd. 
     1974; Free Press, New York 1974). Realizing that while 
     Shuswaps must help themselves and "decide for themselves 
     what they want" they must also work with other peoples to 
     give and receive help as well.  

          Seeing with his own eyes as he had through years of 
     "political work," George concluded that the First World, 
     Second World and the Third World would not come to the aid 
     of his people. But he had made a profound discovery as a 
     result of his travels to other parts of the world and his 
     visits with other native peoples: "We share the same vision 
     and the same experiences and we are alike in our traditional 
     ways." He learned that the concepts of the "Sacred Four 
     Directions" and the "Sacred Circle" were common to nearly 
     all native peoples he had met. The original nations 
     throughout the world, George reasoned, are the Fourth World.  

          With this new structure of ideas and the agreement he 
     had forged with the National Congress of American Indians, 
     he continued to travel across Canada, South America, Central 
     America, Australia, and Northern Europe to meet with "those 
     other Indians." The frenetic pace he set caused many to 
     tire, but finally in 1975 at Port Alberny, Canada Chief 
     George Manuel presided over the first meeting of native 
     representatives from throughout the world - a meeting that 
     founded the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. Based on 
     the principles of "community consent" and self-
     determination, the World Council of Indigenous Peoples made 
     up of representatives from Fourth World Nations was formally 
     established with Chief Manuel as its first President.  

          From 1975 to 1981, George remained the President of the 
     World Council of Indigenous Peoples. With the energy of a 
     man half his age, he traveled extensively to Indian villages 
     in Northern Argentina, to the Quechua villages in the high 
     mountains of Peru, to Samiland in Sweden, Indian 
     reservations in the United States, to Yapti Tasbia in 
     Eastern Nicaragua, to Mapuche villages in Chile and to the 
     Mayan refugee camps on the border between Mexico and 
     Guatemala. Everywhere he went, the people recognized George 
     Manuel, even though they had never actually seen his face 

          At the Second General Assembly of the World Council of 
     Indigenous Peoples in Samiland, Sweden (1977) Chief Manuel 
     pressed for the Council to adopt a declaration calling for 
     the international community to proclaim a Universal 
     Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. With 
     respect for his wishes, the Council not only adopted the 
     declaration, but by virtue of that act set in motion a 
     political wind that brushes the face of Fourth World peoples 
     on every continent even today. Within ten years from the 
     Council's declaration, the United Nations began 
     deliberations on the principles and terms to be contained in 
     a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

          While giving his strength to the formation of a global 
     network of Fourth World nations, Chief Manuel continued to 
     emphasize community organization among his Shuswap people. 
     To emphasize his commitment to the continuing struggle 
     against Canadian government policies of assimilation, George 
     had, in addition to his commitments to the World Council of 
     Indigenous Peoples, become the President of the Union of 
     British Columbia Indian Chiefs. By the end of the 1970s, 
     Chief Manuel recognized that while Canadian Premier 
     Trudeau's White Paper had been effectively defeated, the 
     same threat in a different form had surfaced. Trudeau 
     revealed in the middle 1970s that the White Paper was only 
     the first volley aimed at Indian nations. Indeed, it became 
     apparent that the assimilation policy of 1969 was to become 
     an important element of Canada's effort to become 
     independent from Great Britain. Prime Minister Trudeau had 
     begun to fashion what would become known as the 
     "Constitutional Process" or the Canadian goal to "repatriate 
     the Canadian Constitution."  

          A key obstacle to Canadian independence was the 
     political visibility of Indian nations. Premier Trudeau 
     considered Indian claims to vast areas of what Canada 
     claimed as its domain a threat to Canadian stability. His 
     solution, originally enunciated in the "White Paper" 
     remained high as a hidden policy in the "Constitutional 
     Repatriation Process."  

          Chief Manuel recognized early that Trudeau had shifted 
     his attack on Indian nations into the constitutional 
     initiative. It was his recognition of the subtle shift that 
     caused George to place before the Union of British Columbia 
     Indian Chiefs the "Aboriginal Rights" position paper. 
     Asserting original ownership to aboriginal territories, the 
     position paper provided the foundation for a strategy to 
     counter Trudeau's subtle attack on Indian nations through 
     the constitutional process. In 1980, Chief Manual called 
     upon the British government and the Canadian government to 
     recognize in a new Canadian Constitution a "third level of 
     government" - Indian governments along side provincial 
     governments and the federal government in confederation.  

          To give emphasis to his call, Chief Manuel began to 
     direct the organization of a monumental movement called the 
     "Constitution Express." As a politicizing device for Indian 
     communities and a political force aimed at dramatizing the 
     right of Indian nations to exercise self-government as a 
     third level of government within the federation of Canada, 
     the "Constitution Express" was literally a train carrying 
     Indians from scores of reserves to Ottawa to meet with 
     members of the Canadian parliament. At the same time, George 
     organized and sent a delegation of sixty Chiefs and tribal 
     members to New York City to conduct "briefing sessions" with 
     key state missions to the United Nations. Meanwhile, about 
     six hundred Indians from many nations were organized to 
     travel to England to meet with members of parliament there 
     and to meet with political leaders in other European 
     capitols. His ability to mobilize thousands of Indians to 
     lobby Canadian Members of Parliament, British officials, 
     other European officials and United Nations officials 
     shocked Canadian politicians. Never had they conceived the 
     ability of one man to command the allegiance of so many to 
     promote Indian Rights - Indian Government.  

          As if to say to President Nyerere, "I have visited the 
     villages, and the people of the Fourth World know what they 
     want - self-government and freedom," Chief George Manuel had 
     demonstrated that the Indian peoples of Canada could reach 
     for self-determination and make a choice. He had expanded 
     upon the concept of community organization by reaching out 
     to other native peoples and conceiving of the Fourth World. 
     He had breathed life into native communities all over the 
     world where hopelessness became replaced with confidence and 
     high aspirations. He opened the eyes of millions to the 
     wrongs being done to native peoples; and he instilled in 
     millions more the desire to achieve great things to right 
     those wrongs. Grand Chief George Manuel's legacy to us all 
     are these things and more. 

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