Native Americans

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Tireless Runners

A Family History of Indigenous Canada
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Reclaiming Cree Dignity, A Memoir
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Fight or Submit


The flight from Kiev, where I have business interests, to my community in the interior of British Columbia is close to 12,000 kms. With stops in Amsterdam and Calgary, it takes 26 hours from the time my driver, Volodya, picks me up my flat near Bessarabska Square and I arrive at my Westbank office in the British Columbia interior. It is a flight I take back and forth several times a year, often after several months-long stays. But each time I arrive on the last leg of the trip from Calgary to Kelowna, I feel a surge of energy as we pass over the towering peaks of the outer Rockies and begin our descent onto the interior plateau where my Okanagan people have lived since time immemorial. My Indigenous territory is part of me. It belongs to me and I belong to it. Or rather, what’s left of it.


The airport is on the other end of town, so while we chat, we pass through the heart of the city where my great grandfather once owned a major part of the downtown area before he was cheated out of it by locals working with a corrupt magistrate.


The Westbank reserve is on the west side of the W.A.C. Bennett Bridge spanning the narrow section of Lake Okanagan. It is one of a few tiny pieces of the once vast Okanagan territory that remains under our control. I was born and grew up in a shack without plumbing or electricity on the hills overlooking the lake. My earliest memories are of kneeling in the field, gathering vegetables alongside my mother. And, when I was older, riding our horses along the ridge with my brother Noll. As a young man, I ranched these lands and for more than a dozen years, in the 1970s and 1980s and again at the turn of the century, I was Chief of the Westbank First Nation.


Both sides of the road cutting through the reserve are now crowded with stores and businesses on leased reserve lands in deals I negotiated to bring income into what was once the poorest reserve in Canada. During my first ten years as chief, I increased the band’s leasing revenues by more than 3,500%. I fought for every advantage for my people so we could have the economic development we needed to give a future to our children. But I always fought for more than that. I fought and I continue to fight for the land and the resources on our greater Okanagan territory that encompasses thousands of square kilometres in the B.C. interior.


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From Fur Trader to Chief Factor

The Extraordinary Life and Career of Joseph William McKay
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