A Day in the Life of Chief Bernard Ominayak

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
FAX: 403-629-3939

Mailing address:
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
FAX: 403-437-0719

November 16, 1991

On November 15th Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak started his day with a talk show in Edmonton, spent the afternoon speaking to local high school students and then addressed a largely white, middle-class audience of adults at the Provincial Museum in the evening.

Enclosed are related media reports.

Attachment #1:

Transcript of ITV News Broadcast (6:00 P.M.) Friday, November 15, 1991

Neil Thomas, ITV

Lubicon Band Chief Bernard Ominayak is now urging you to defeat Aldermen who don't support the Lubicons. As Giselle Bernardo reports, Edmontonians have mixed feelings.

Ron Collister, CJCA "Talk Back"

Is the Lubicon Chief going to win? Is he going to stop the logging and defeat City Aldermen? And what will you do...

Giselle Bernardo, ITV

Chief Bernard Ominayak has taken his battle to Edmonton. He's hoping public sympathy will oust City Aldermen who don't support the Lubicons.

Chief Bernard Ominayak, Lubicon Lake Indian Nation

We've seen a lot of hard-line positions and a whole lot more interest in our natural resources than in dealing with our people.

Caller to CJCA Talk Back Show

You've got to be reasonable and I think the Chief is not being reasonable. He just wants too much.


But it's not too much according to Chief Ominayak. The Band is rebuilding its community, trying to move forward. All that takes money. The Lubicons don't like the deal Ottawa's offering in exchange for the land.


In this case, I think the Lubicon people -- if we were, for example, a white society, I think we would have been dealt with a long time ago.


Mayor Jan Reimer supports the Lubicons. She has publicly criticized Daishowa for logging on disputed lands. But not all members of Council feel the same way, and that may cost some of them their seats come next election.

Alderman Ron Hayter, City of Edmonton

I don't respond to those kind of comments?


Why not?


Because I don't think they're worth commenting about. Pure and simple.


Giselle Bernardo, ITV News.

Attachment #2:

Transcript of CBC TV News Broadcast (11:00 P.M.) Friday, November 15, 1991

Larry Langley, CBC News

Some (Archbishop MacDonald) High School students were given a living lesson in current events today. The Chief of the Lubicon Indians told them that social injustices carried out by the Canadian Government threatened to wipe out his people unless something is done soon. The Lubicons are embroiled in a bitter land claim dispute with Ottawa. Today Chief Bernard Ominayak talked to one school in Edmonton as part of his campaign to win public support.

Grant Gelinas, CBC News

There is no doubt Chief Bernard Ominayak is a popular public figure. He's travelled the world telling the story of the Lubicon Indians in northern Alberta. Today students in Edmonton jammed a gymnasium to hear it first hand.

Chief Bernard Ominayak, Lubicon Lake Indian Nation

In the late 70s they found oil in our traditional territory and that's when problems really started. Prior to that we lived off and survived off the land -- hunting, trapping...


Now with that way of life destroyed, with 95% of the Lubicons on welfare, Ominayak has been fighting Ottawa for title to the land and a share in oil revenues to build a new way of life.


We've been in this fight for a long time and we certainly intend to keep fighting for as long as possible. And that's why I hope that the public- at-large understands.


Some students applauded his condemnation of the Federal Government which he says is deliberately trying to wipe out his people by taking their land away.


The Government has no right to take it away from them because it was theirs in the first place.


But some were skeptical.


How do you believe that these problems were imposed on you by the Government?


Because of the destruction that has been done to the environment and to the wildlife within our traditional homelands, at this point chances are very slim that we could survive in that way. And recognizing that fact, we have to have some alternative way of livelihood. For example, you can't make a doctor into a trapper overnight, nor can you make a trapper into a doctor overnight.


Chief Ominayak left hoping he had educated these students about his peoples' plight, and that they might help when they become adults. For his people, he says, it's a matter of survival. Grant Gelinas, CBC News, Edmonton.

Attachment #3:

THE EDMONTON JOURNAL, Saturday, November 16, 1991


Paul Marck

Journal Staff Writer

Spread the word. That's Lubicon Lake Chief Bernard Ominayak's message in his people's battle with the federal and provincial governments to gain a land settlement.

Ominayak took the band's 50-year quest to Archbishop MacDonald High School on Friday. Education and communication are the band's bywords for aboriginal rights as they forge ahead with a public relations agenda, rather than getting involved in scraps with governments and bureaucrats.

Telling people everywhere of the Lubicon people's fight against encroachment and resource development is now the band's key strategy, Ominayak said, after being ushered into the school gym to thunderous applause from 650 students.

In his trademark Lubicon Lake Nation cap, the diminutive chief took to the podium and asked students to compare his people's plight if similar conditions existed in Edmonton.

"Try to imagine the city of Edmonton if its population had 95 per cent of people on welfare" because they lost their livelihoods due to government policies encroaching on their lands and rights, Ominayak said.

"There needs to be a greater understanding of why there are such problems in the aboriginal community."

Both Ominayak and band advisor Fred Lennarson told students how the Lubicon lived undisturbed for centuries until oil development in the late '70s violated their way of life.

Lennarson described how exploitation of aboriginal lands resulted from provincial policies allowing oil development that saw 200 companies drill 400 wells on disputed lands from 1979 to 1982. This, he said, threw off the food chain and moose -- the Lubicons' primary source of meat -- declined from 219 kills in 1979 to 19 by 1983.

With this and their land base shrinking due to resource development, the band had its first welfare case in 1981. Two years later, 95 per cent of the band was on welfare.

There followed social problems like alcoholism and suicide, Ominayak said.

Forcing a settlement of band claims means stopping resource development, particularly mega-projects like the Daishowa pulp mill, which logs on disputed lands, Lennarson said.

The pair answered more than a dozen questions from students. When one asked if natives, like Quebec, want distinct-society status, Ominayak replied: "We don't have to be recognized by anybody. We are (distinct)."

In reply to another question about how far the Lubicon would go, Ominayak said: "It may take a commitment at the risk of losing your life," in the Lubicon fight for their beliefs. However, he doesn't speak for the entire band and won't advocate violence.

After the assembly, Grade 11 student Jacinda Clark asked Ominayak if aboriginal recognition wouldn't open a floodgate of every minority seeking special status.

"That's like saying we shouldn't recognize this group because there may be a couple of more individuals over there," Ominayak said.

The band has fought the federal government for 50 years in an effort to secure a land settlement.

The band has repeatedly turned down the federal government's "final offer" of $45 million and 246 square km for a reserve at Lubicon Lake, about 350 km northwest of Edmonton, since it was first presented in 1989.

Attachment #4:

Transcript of CBC Radio News Broadcast (7:30 A.M.) Saturday, November 16, 1991

CBC News

The Chief of the Lubicon Indians is calling on Canadians to defeat Brian Mulroney in the next Federal election. Chief Bernard Ominayak, speaking in Edmonton last night, said Mulroney's Tories have done nothing to help Native people, and they've got to go. Byron Christopher reports.

Byron Christopher, CBC News

Chief Ominayak spoke to about 200 people at the Provincial Museum. He stood at the podium, wearing his familiar black baseball cap, and told an audience for the umpteenth time how the Federal Government has jacked his people around over the years. After more than half a century, the Lubicon Cree are still waiting for Ottawa to make good on a promise for a reserve. The Band proposed an economic development scheme so its members could have employment, but the Government turned that down. Meanwhile, companies continue helping themselves to oil from land never given up by the Lubicon. And a lot of oil: more than a million dollars' worth every day. Not one nickel of that oil money has gone to the Lubicon. None of it is being held in trust, either. The Mulroney Government does not want to pay the Lubicon Nation any compensation. Ominayak said Mulroney has not played fair with the Lubicon, nor with any of Canada's aboriginal people.

Chief Bernard Ominayak, Lubicon Lake Indian Nation

We've tried every possible way that we can think of. I think at this point there's not really anything we can do with the Federal Government and the people who are heading the Federal Government but replace them.


When the evening ended, Ominayak was given a standing ovation. There are no talks scheduled between the Lubicon Nation and the Federal Government. Talks broke down nearly 3 years ago.