Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
November 19, 1991
Enclosed for your information is a copy of a transcript of a radio interview done with John Goddard, author of "Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree".
Transcript of CBC Radio "Wild Rose Country" (12:30 P.M.) Monday, November 18, 1991
We've all heard of the Lubicon Cree. They're a Native band in northern Alberta who've been trying to reach a land claim agreement for over 50 years. Well, there's a new book out which chronicles the Lubicon struggle. It's called "Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree". Last week Jim McCrory talked to John Goddard about his new book.
Jim McCrory, CBC
To begin with, you're a journalist from Quebec. What is it that brought you to write a book about Native people in Alberta?
John Goddard, author of "Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree"
I first came across the Lubicon Band in 1984. I was on an assignment for Equinox Magazine. At the time it was sort of a story that I thought I would encounter once and then I would say good bye to the people and go on to other things. But there were so many fascinating aspects to that story. My background is essentially as a news reporter. I think of myself, I guess, as a writer now, but I still have those journalistic instincts. What stood out for me was the qualities of that Chief, Bernard Ominayak, that integrity that he kind of oozes, that determination. Also, the case itself, it was just so stark. You know that Federal investigator a few years ago -- E. Davie Fulton, the former Justice Minister -- looked into this and he said, "This is a case of almost incredible injustice that needs to be remedied in the most generous way possible."
And so you picked up on that and said there's a book in here?
I was looking at the question in 1987. I've been working on it for quite a while. But I just thought, this is just fascinating stuff and I'd like to look into it deeper.
Tell me more about Bernard Ominayak, because for me he seems to be a character of power and helplessness both at the same time.
That's an interesting observation. It's true, isn't it. A real strength there in his character, and yet completely outnumbered by the power of, you know, at times the Provincial Government and at times by the federal forces. They're just getting hammered now. I don't think everyone's aware of what kind of tragedy is taking place there now.
This is in terms of deterioration of the support he used to have?
Oh no. I mean the support is still there. The international support. There are protests going on in Tokyo this month, in Australia last month, in Europe all this fall at the same time, in Canadian cities. The support is still there. All through November there were about six events in Toronto being organized by the Friends of the Lubicon.
So what's the other side then. Where are things falling apart?
In Ottawa, about 3 years ago, I guess January of 1989, I guess negotiations took place and the federal people cut them short. They tabled a sort of an ultimatum, a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer they called it, a final "take-it- or-leave-it" offer. And it didn't address half the items that were on the agenda. So the Lubicon people had a meeting and decided that this wasn't acceptable. But then the federal people, rather than try to find some further negotiating route, decided to impose that offer anyway. They had difficulty with that because it was sort of hard to find a legal way to go around the democratic elected leadership, and all that. But they ended up over a course of 6 months of looking at different options of kind of inventing an entirely new Band and have them lay claim to the same Lubicon territory so that the Federal people would deal with that new Band then instead of the Lubicons, and then be able to tell the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which was looking into it, that the whole thing had been settled and here is this newly created settlement and new houses to prove it.
And obviously it's not settled. This is something that goes back far more than 3 years or 4 years. It goes back 50 years. Is there one central reason why the Lubicons have not done a deal in half a century, they haven't been able to do that?
This is a question that calls for a certain amount of speculation. I don't think there is any sort of script in Ottawa that people are following, like let's crush the Lubicons. And yet that is the result we're getting. So why is it? How come it's happening? I've really spent a lot of time thinking about it. Not just out of pure reflection, but looking at the facts, the case, the patterns over the course of Lubicon history. In this book, I've dealt with the Lubicon case as a microcosm, a case study of patterns that have been happening in history in relation to Indian people. And the conclusion that I came to after much agony and thinking about it and looking into it is that the colonial patterns that began with the country are still continuing. That all those things we say we're sorry happened a hundred years ago when the buffalo disappeared from the Prairies and the railroad was going in and people were dying by the thousands of small pox and stuff -- it's sort of like, it's too bad we couldn't do better. It's still going on. It's kind of being trapped by history
You make the point, or at least you seem to make the point in the book, that the Lubicons have been given treatment that even other Bands have not been given. That somehow or other the Lubicons are a special case.
I think they've become special because they've asserted themselves, they've shown themselves to be determined and I think the reason they are being hit so hard right now is -- it's kind of going back to this problem with history. It's sort of like -- the federal people keep talking about a precedent. We don't want to create a precedent. It sort of comes down to, as ridiculous as it sounds, how can we be fair to the Lubicons if we've never been fair to Native people ever before?
You call your book "Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree". That sounds kind of black.
I don't want to count them out. But if I were a Lubicon person right now I would be feeling really discouraged. How do you carry on any feeling of hope that your rights will be addressed when you've got the government creating bands and then holding plebiscites to ratify agreements by paying voters $50 to vote right at the polling booth, promising $1,000 if the vote is yes. You know, breaking all the rules. Let's face it. The federal government is more powerful than the Lubicon community. And if the federal government continues on this course, I'm afraid that the Lubicon people -- if it's left to them alone -- will not survive.
I want to thank you for your time.
Thank you for inviting me.
That was Jim McCrory talking to John Goddard. He wrote the book, "Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree". It's published by Douglas & McIntyre. Of course, the Lubicon land claim has received attention by people from all over the world. The situation certainly didn't escape the eye of Laura Vincent. Laura is a Native singer/ songwriter from Brule, Alberta. A while back she wrote a song called "The Spirit Sings". It's a song she dedicates to the Lubicon people.