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Social Science Native American Studies

Unsettling Canada

A National Wake-Up Call

by (author) Arthur Manuel & Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson

foreword by Naomi Klein

Between the Lines
Initial publish date
Jul 2015
Native American Studies, Native American, Post-Confederation (1867-), Political Advocacy, Environmental Policy
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2015
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  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2015
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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.

About the authors

ARTHUR MANUEL was a widely respected Indigenous leader and activist from the Secwepemc Nation. He entered the world of Indigenous politics in the 1970s, as president of the Native Youth Association. He went on to serve as chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band near Chase, BC, and elected chair of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council. He was also active in the Assembly of First Nations and a spokesman for Defenders of the Land, an organization dedicated to environmental justice. Manuel is the co-author of Unsettling Canada: A National Wake Up Call, with Grand Chief Ron Derrickson. This book won the 2015 Canadian History Association Literary Award He was known internationally, having advocated for Indigenous rights and struggles at the United Nations, The Hague, and the World Trade Organization.

Arthur Manuel's profile page

When we invited journalist and activist Naomi Klein to campus in the fall of 2004, five years after the international success of her bestselling first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, she was a literary star. She had recently returned from a trip to Iraq for Harper's Magazine, which would form the foundation of her next book, Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. We expected she would draw a crowd, so we moved the lecture into the 400-seat St. Thomas University chapel and set up an overflow room downstairs in the cafeteria. When Klein arrived and discovered the overflow room was full, she insisted on stopping there first to address them in person for a few minutes. She said she is always running late; the people in the overflow room were her people. A version of the talk she gave that evening was published in Harper's.

Naomi Klein's profile page


Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson has been elected chief of his Westbank First Nation six times and is one of the most successful First Nations business people in Canada. He was made a Grand Chief by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs in recognition of a lifetime of political and economic leadership.


Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“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.”

from the Foreword

“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!”

peter kulchyski, Department of Native Studies, University of Manitoba

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.”

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back

“For those of us with enough winters to remember George Manuel in life, reading his son’s Unsettling 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.”

Ward Churchill, author of Struggle for the Land

“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.”

Glen Coulthard, University of British Columbia, author of Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition

“Pragmatic and helpful, this is a timely book for our fraught and political moment”

Quill & Quire

“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.”

Sheila Wilmot, PhD, author of Taking Responsibility, Taking Direction: White Anti-Racism in Canada

“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.”

James Cameron, filmmaker

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.”

Drew Hayden Taylor, author of Me Funny and Me Sexy

“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. In Unsettling 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.”

Maude Barlow, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians

“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.”

William Wicken, Professor of History, York University

“Art Manuel is like a tall cedar, watching the landscape of Canadian Indian policies through time and offering sturdy and dependable resistance. In Unsettling 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.”

Hayden King, Anishinaabe writer, educator, and activist

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Other titles by Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson

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On Fire

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Acteurs et champs d'action. Édition nouvelle et actualisée

edited by Pierre Beaudet, Dominique Caouette, Paul Haslam & Abdelhamid Benhmade
contributions by Éric Allina, Albert Ze, Alejandro Marreros Lobato, Alexa Conradi, Amélie Nguyen, Arnaud Zacharie, Aurélie Arnaud, Carmen Diaz, Cédric Jourde, Charmain Levy, Christophe Aguiton, David Sogge, Déo Niyonkuru, Diane Alalouf-Hall, Dominique Plihon, Emilio Taddei, Éric Toussaint, Étienne Hainzelin, Flora Pidoux, Florent Song-Naba, Francine Mestrum, François Audet, François Polet, Francoise Montambeault, Geneviève Talbot, Ghislaine Raymond, Gilbert Rist, Gustave Massiah, Hélène Pellerin, Jean-François Rousseau, Jean-Philippe Leblond, Leo Panitch, Jean-Philippe Thérien, Jonathan Durand-Folco, Katina Binette, Lauchlan T. Munro, Laurence Hamel-Charest, Leila Celis, Lucie Lamarche, Luis Klein Juan, Maika Sondarjee, Mamadou Barry, Mamadou Ndoye, Manon Boulianne, Marie Brodeur-Gelinas, Marie-Éve Bertrand, Marie-Pierre Bousquet, Marie-Pierre Leroux, Maristella Svampa, Mathieu Perron-Dufour, Matthieu Boussichas, Michel Husson, Michel Warschawski, Moussa Dembélé Dembélé Demba, Mylène Gaulard, Nailya Okda, Naomi Klein, Nora Nagels, Pascale Dufour, Philippe Fournier, Philippe Régnier, Pierre Beaucage, Pierre Jasmin, Raphael Canet, Rino Levesque, Robert David, Roromme Chantal, Ryoa Chung, Samantha McGavin, Sanni Yaya, Sarah Charland-Faucher, Sophie Brière, Stéphanie Maltais, Stephen Brown, Sylvie Paquerot, Thomas Chiasson-Lebel, Thomas Collombat, Walden Bello & Yves-Marie Abraham

The Battle For Paradise

Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists

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La Batalla Por el Paraiso

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The Reconciliation Manifesto

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No Is Not Enough

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