Monday, March 06, 2023

George Manuel in Manhattan

The New Yorker must have a huge number of subscriptions in Canada, but Canadian subjects very rarely attract attention from its editors and writers. (I recall a profile of Miriam Toews a few years ago.) Recently, however, a Canadian did earned some coverage, when a somewhat sceptical article on the global movement to unite indigenous people credited the origins of the movement to George Manuel.

To understand the origins of a global Indigenous identity, we need to turn to the activist networks that formed in the nineteen-sixties and seventies. And this means turning to George Manuel.

Born in 1921 in the Shuswap territory of British Columbia, Manuel started to think seriously about a global Indigenous identity in 1971. He was then the president of the National Indian Brotherhood, a young organization representing Canada’s two hundred and fifty thousand officially recognized “status Indians.” When the Canadian government arranged for a delegation to go to the South Pacific to learn about the Maoris’ place in New Zealand, Manuel was invited along as the representative of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. [....]
What struck him about his unofficial tour was that the Maori were engaged in the same struggle. They, too, were an Indigenous people fighting a white Commonwealth nation for land, representation, and cultural survival: “What we are doing here in Canada is a part of a world wide movement for cultural autonomy and aboriginal rights of native people.”


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