Art Manuel-"Unsettling Canada"

George Hewison

Political Economy Newsletter

Vol.4 No.2 February 2017

Art Manuel has passed on. He left an incredible legacy that will last as long as people anywhere struggle for justice. His name will be forever linked to the resistance at Standing Rock and all other projects to shorten the life expectancy of the human race. He was a central figure in a growing network of solidarity treaties by First Nations. He was an on-the-ground advocate for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a central thesis on the right of First Nations to "free, prior and informed consent" related to development and environmental issues on First Nations territory. He built powerful links with non-First Nations groups to advance the interests not just of his own people, but all of humanity.

He was tested by, and rebellious towards, the indignities of being born into a colonial/settler society, and rose above a hostile society as only a true leader can.

I intended to write a book review of Manuel's book "Unsettling Canada" some months ago. In my opinion, it is essential reading for any citizen concerned, not only for justice, but for the survival of our species. Now, sadly, my inadequate words must be a eulogy for a great citizen of the world.

A rising tide for human rights means that humanity is on an historical trajectory to reclaim a natural state of human relationships that paleoanthropologists suggest lasted since its birth more than one hundred and fifty thousand years ago until the very recent few thousand years of "civilization". In that period before 'civilization', all humans realized that survival depended on cooperation rather than conflict. That is our innate "human nature". Over the last few centuries, that cooperative nature has been twisted. The diminishing of one group of human beings by another is not 'human nature' but ideological constructs arising from particular modes of production be it slavery, feudalism in our relatively recent past, or in our modern case, capitalism 1.

These constructs have diminished the natural equality of women that lasted for a few thousands years. Today, the women of the planet are demanding an end to servitude and nothing less than full equality. Last month's March in Washington is ample proof.

Racism is more recent, replete with ideology consistent with the rise of early mercantile capitalism that justified the de-population of indigenous populations of Africa 2 and the Americas by the self-described 'superior' European colonizers. The 'Doctrine of Discovery' has infected the thinking that went into the foundation of every country in the Americas, none more so than the United States and Canada.

Humanity's on-going struggle with human rights has been fed with the blood of World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ruanda, Cambodia, Auschwitz, Salem, Soweto, and the children of the Canadian residential school system, the legacy of slavery, the murder of indigenous activists in Latin America, western drones and cluster bombs in the Middle East or napalm and agent orange in Vietnam. All remind us that the path towards universal human rights is far from straight forward.

Nevertheless, we seem to be moving generationally onwards. In Canada, the doctrine of discovery still weighs heavily on our thinking and our collective path. Viewing the Jesuit Relations as the 'legitimate' start of Canadian history as our universities served up to us until a few short decades back has left wounds so deep that a simple apology (or even a Royal Commission on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women and Girls) are only small, albeit important pieces on the journey from a dark past. Since revising the meaning of "civilized", we have sacrificed nameless millions throughout the world on the altar of inhumanity.

The struggle toward that lifting tide of human rights has to mean therefore: looking at history squarely. I learned one of Canada's unofficial anthems in school "The Maple Leaf Forever" and sang "Wolfe the dauntless hero came, and planted firm, Britannia's flag on Canada's fair domain". Little did I know that my six year-old brain was being polished as I repeated Anglo-Canadian chauvinism to diminish not just the Quebecois, but especially First Nations.

My third year undergraduate course in Canadian history at the University of British Columbia required us to read the celebrated scholar A.L. Burt's "The Old Province of Quebec" that was not only profoundly patronizing to the Quebecois, but disgustingly bigoted towards First Nations using derogatory epithets such as 'savages', 'redskins' and 'denizens of the forests'. This was a history taught to generations of teachers, professors, lawyers, judges and other professionals.

That early academic experience sat like acid in my stomach because it contradicted my own experience. My father had crewed under one of the most knowledgeable commercial salmon skippers on the BC coast who had never learned to read or write English because he and his siblings had fled into the woods near Alert Bay, British Columbia in late August to avoid Indian Agents who would kidnap the children and send them far away from home to "civilize" them. Harry, later to become a 'highline' fisherman had heard what awaited the children at residential schools. Many of Dad's shipmates had avoided such "civilizing" missions. One fellow crew gave my father a "potlatch stick" 3 for safe keeping. Moses had been hiding it from the Indian Agent because the potlatch was illegal, and it would be confiscated. Moses was treated as a child, a ward of the state, with few rights. Moses couldn't vote. Moses' son, Bobby, my childhood friend, could not go to our brand new school close to his home on the reserve because he was segregated into a second rate Church-run school. My father could not 'legally' share a drink with his fellow crew members, as fishermen are apt to do with fellow workers. The Indian Agent ruled the reserve and the lives of those who lived there.

This historically-evolved system is part of our history. Its promoters claimed it was ordained by God but was really rooted in European capitalism. Thus the foes of human rights in this case are not simply the murderers of hundreds of First Nations' children, but a system that depopulated two continents (Africa and America) and subdued the rest of the world based on an ideology of White superiority.

They say the best learning occurs when you are out of your comfort zone. Thus I received an incredible gift when a young friend gave me Art Manuel's book last year, "Unsettling Canada". Art Manuel took me well into my discomfort, and I will forever be in his debt.

In an earlier Newsletter, I raved about Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything". I still rave about it. Klein's book confirmed a deep-seated belief I've always had about the current socio-economic formation, known as capitalism, being anathema to our climate and the survival of the human species. She is a master wordsmith of ideology and rendering complex issues so that even the dullest of us can comprehend.

Manuel's book, written at the insistence of Klein (she wrote the foreword), is as compelling and about the personal journey of George Manuel's son. But it is so much more. I regret that I never met Art. I always thought there would be more time. I did know his dad. For those of you who didn't know, the elder Manuel was a First Nations' founder of the National Indian Brotherhood and later the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.

I met that other George when he spoke to our United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union Convention in the early 1970s. The membership of our Union was one quarter First Nations, and George's voice was one that people hadn't heard since the early days when Native Brotherhood of BC founder, Alfred Adams, and his son, Ivan, went from First Nations village to village in the 1930s and '40s of British Columbia organizing with a message of unity and struggle.

That elder Manuel's voice resonated with us and after his speech, we rose as one to a standing ovation, but some of us, having been reared in a colonial/settler ideology, couldn't yet grasp the full import of where he was coming from and its fullest implications. It was left to his rebellious son, Art, to explain (in print) what has been missing in our own struggle for social justice and progress.

How could we know that we were still prisoners of an ideology…the ideology, as Art Manuel describes as the "doctrine of discovery" where good intentions, as we read, are not enough?

Now Art Manuel has gone where great leaders go after they light up the lives of all who will inhabit Turtle Island for generations yet to come. We will grieve his passing; but we acknowledge the message of his life and work assured that another path for humanity is possible. We will honour him by struggling for the very future he tirelessly and selflessly dedicated his life to.

 

George Hewison is a lifelong union organizer and former officer of his union, the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union on Canada's west coast. He embraces political and social activism in the interests of social justice and fundamental social change. He believes in the power of working people, who, if given the proper tools, can change the world. One of those tools is a deepening understanding of how our society is put together. He has been the recipient of many important lessons, both positive and negative, from veterans of Labour's struggles stretching back decades. He has spent most of his adult life sharing those lessons with others.

For a number of years, he has also engaged in a study of the political economy of capitalism, including its current iteration, and conducts discussion groups with interested folks who share his desire to understand and explain the complexities of the social, economic and political world around us.

He continues a tradition of combining working class activism with the power of song and continues to tour and perform extensively. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


1 http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf "Concerned that indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests,"

2http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/yves-engler/2016/03/canadian-military-leader-who-conquered-west-africa%E2%80%99s-great-metrop "Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, William Heneker helped London conquer Benin City and surrounding territory. In his 1906 book Bush Warfare, the RMC grad writes: 'Savage nations have, as a rule, to be cowed, either by having their warriors severely beaten in action and made to suffer heavy losses, as, in the case of the taking of Benin City'... In a section of his book titled 'General Dealings' Heneker writes, 'the great thing is to impress savages with the fact that they are the weaker, and that it is intended to occupy the country, enforce the will of the white man, and accomplish the object for which the expedition is organized. No leniency or half measures are of any use until the savage has felt the power of force. Leniency is treated as a sign of weakness.'"

3A ceremonial stick central to the culture of sharing wealth and outlawed by the 'civilizing' British/Canadian authorities.

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NEW & REVISED

Authors' Preface

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

6.0 The socialism we need against the "socialism" of the 20th century

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6.9 The people united!

7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them

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Charles and Karen McFadden, Is revolutionary transformation on the agenda

Charles and Karen McFaddenHumanity on the Brink

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Charles McFaddenTranslating Green Principles into Education Policy and Practice

Charles and Karen McFadden, The Role of Revolutionaries in the Labor Movement

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Karen and Charles McFaddenCan emergent early 21st century neo-fascism be defeated without coming to grips with late 20th century restructuring of capitalism into a global system

Karen and Charles McFaddenA Dominant Capitalism or a Sustainable Environment? Why we can't have both.

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William I. RobinsonThe Crisis of Global Capitalism and Trump's March to War

William I. RobinsonTrumpism, 21st Century Fascism, and the Dictatorship of the Transnational Capitalist Class

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George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP

RECOMMENDED

Albert Einstein, David Swanson, Jill Stein, Chris Hedges, William I. Robinson, and others Selected articles for Winter 2018

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1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

2.0 Theoretical Perspective: Defining Green Social Democracy

2.5. Socialism and green social democracy in historical materialist theory

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5.1 Contrasting a green social democratic world with the currently prevailing, but challenged neo-liberal one

6.2 Socialism and capitalism as coexisting social systems

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2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

5.7 Defeating neo-liberal capitalism: The role of social movements

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