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B.C. First Nations leaders' new book calls for native self-determination

05/21/2015 07:30 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 05:59 EDT
Two B.C. First Nations leaders have just written a book that outlines the challenges Indigenous people face and offers solutions that they believe could benefit their people and the rest of the country.

It's called Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call.

"I think it is important for not only Indigenous people, but Canadians to understand the struggle," said author Arthur Manuel, who is also the former chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band.

"When you add up all the Indian reserves in Canada, the land we got is 0.2 per cent and we are expected to make a living off of that. The rest of the land 99.8 per cent is under federal, provincial jurisdiction and that's one of the reasons why indigenous communities are mostly poor." 

"Communities are impoverished and you have to go hat in hand and get money from the Department of Indian Affairs [whose] job is to mainly manage poverty on Indian reserves."

Manuel believes the answer is self-determination.

"The big answer of self determination is to deal with this 0.2 per cent land base that we have, to increase it so indigenous people can be more self sufficient...in their own territory. 

"The land question is what we are dealing with here in B.C. That's what the whole B.C. treaty process is supposed to solve. People were negotiating under the federal claims policy over the last 20 years and it's cost over a billion dollars and only a handful of agreements were made."

Manuel says critics who believe First Nations communities are not ready for this type of change are misguided.

"The capacity and status of the people themselves cannot be used as an excuse not to allow people to engage in self-determination because a lot of times just moving ahead and determining your own destiny over land and resources that are assigned to you is the only way you are ever going to learn to do it."

"The land is big enough to sustain both indigenous people and settlers. There's no reason why the 200,000 indigenous people in B.C. should be totally impoverished, generation, after generation after generation when the land is that large."

To hear the full interview with Arthur Manuel, listen to the audio labelled Former BC Interior chiefs write new book.

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