Unsettling Canada is built on a unique collaboration between two First Nations leaders, Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ron Derrickson. Both men have served as chiefs of their bands in the B.C. interior and both have gone on to establish important national and international reputations. But the differences between them are in many ways even more interesting. Arthur Manuel is one of the most forceful advocates for Aboriginal title and rights in Canada and comes from the activist wing of the movement. Grand Chief Ron Derrickson is one of the most successful Indigenous businessmen in the country. Together the Secwepemc activist intellectual and the Syilx (Okanagan) businessman bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to Canada’s most glaring piece of unfinished business: the place of Indigenous peoples within the country’s political and economic space. The story is told through Arthur’s voice but he traces both of their individual struggles against the colonialist and often racist structures that have been erected to keep Indigenous peoples in their place in Canada. In the final chapters and in the Grand Chief’s afterword, they not only set out a plan for a new sustainable indigenous economy, but lay out a roadmap for getting there.
Arthur Manuel has participated in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues since its inception in 2002. Since 2003, he has served as spokesperson for the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET). Working through INET, Manuel succeeded in having the struggle for Aboriginal title and treaty rights injected into international financial institutions, setting important precedents for Aboriginal title and rights in Canada.Manuel is a member of the board of directors of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development and a spokesperson for the Defenders of the Land, an activist network aligned with the Idle No More movement.
Based on his experience as a leader and activist, Arthur Manuel recounts key moments in the struggles of Canada’s Aboriginal population over the past fifty years. Part memoir, part political statement,Unsettling Canada is an insightful and articulate account of the challenges governments and Aboriginal people face in resolving disputes between them.
I know Arthur Manuel as a strong and wise leader, seasoned in the long battle that has been his life. To read this book, his detailed and very personal history of the long struggle of Indigenous people in Canada, is to go through an emotional rollercoaster of disillusionment, despair, flinty resolve, and, finally, growing hope, building to a present in which the struggle for their rights continues. This is not history buried in the past, it is going on right now and as Canadians we are all a part of it.
Arthur Manuel passionately builds a detailed historical analysis of creative and determined Indigenous movement-building, grounded in the day-to-day harsh reality most Indigenous peoples continue to live. It is an engaging and vivid memoir that demonstrates how critical legal victories are embedded in and reliant on grassroots political movements that have a global reach. Offering many organizing lessons, this book is a frank and inspiring call to action in support of Indigenous sovereignty, including building alliances with and involvement of non-Indigenous people, whose future is inseparable from Indigenous struggles for the realization of inherent rights to self-determination.
Unsettling Canada should be truly unsettling to many Canadians. Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal people and their struggle to have a chair at the country’s political table reveals an almost Machiavellian sense of politics. No wonder the life expectancy of Native people is substantially lower than non-Natives. It’s the sense of heart-rending frustration and the collective banging of heads against the wall that probably kills us.
Unsettling Canada is a breathtakingly beautiful story of Indigenous resistance, strength, and movement building. Unsettling Canada echoes the power of George Manuel’s The Fourth World, centering the heart of the narrative deep inside a kind of Indigenous intelligence rarely shared outside our communities. This is the critical conversation that Canada and Indigenous peoples must have because it is centred on land, and, therefore, it is one of the most important books on Indigenous politics I’ve ever read.
For those of us with enough winters to remember George Manuel in life, reading his son’sUnsettling Canada can be an almost eerie experience. No book of which I’m aware has ever conveyed with such clarity the continuities of voice and principle across generations in the Fourth World struggle for self-determination. Even we who might question whether liberation can be achieved non-violently, as Manuel believes, have much to gain from his consistency and strategic vision.
Art Manuel is like a tall cedar, watching the landscape of Canadian Indian policies through time and offering sturdy and dependable resistance. InUnsettling Canada his account of our recent history is dense with compelling personal stories, behind-the-scenes political anecdotes, an honest account of the dynamics of Indigenous activism, and revealing insights about the continuity of colonialism. In the often difficult conversation about Indigenous politics in Canada, Manuel offers us shade to reflect on our past and consider the future. This is a rigorous but very accessible and vitally important book.
For me,Unsettling Canada is the most recent addition to a relatively short list of resurgent, grassroots contributions to Indigenous decolonization. Written by one of our most respected and incisive leaders and thinkers, this is a must-read for anyone serious about radically transforming the colonial relationship between Indigenous nations and the Canadian state.
This is the back story of both grassroots and backroom struggles that created the context in which we find ourselves today, one in which a new generation of First Nations leaders is demanding sovereignty and self-determination, and more and more non-Indigenous Canadians finally understand that huge swaths of this country we call Canada is not ours—or our government’s—to sell.
Pragmatic and helpful, this is a timely book for our fraught and political moment
I cannot recommend this book too highly: it weaves together a compelling life history, an account of the last nearly fifty years of Indigenous activism, and a relentless and compelling criticism of the doctrine of discovery that continues to underlie Canadian claims to Indigenous land. Everyone in Canada should read this book; if they did we might become a better country!
When I was a child, I met Art Manuel’s father, the distinguished George Manuel, many times as he and my father, William McGrath, worked together to improve the law and living conditions for incarcerated youth and First Nations. Art Manuel has carried on his father’s legacy fighting for justice. InUnsettling Canada, he shares his own incredible journey with its trials and triumphs. First Nations peoples have become the leaders in the fight against Stephen Harper’s war on nature and this book shows us the way forward.