Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
November 28, 1991
On November 26th Lubicon Advisor Fred Lennarson received a phone call from a reporter named Richard Helm asking for reaction to comments by Provincial Native Affairs Minister Dick Fowler. Mr. Helm is the legislative reporter for the Edmonton Journal. Mr. Fowler's remarks were obviously calculated to reinforce and support the Federal Government's new anti-Lubicon campaign.
Repeating Mr. Siddon's demonstrably inaccurate recent statements to the Editorial Board of the Edmonton Journal, Mr. Fowler told Mr. Helm that the Lubicons had been "offered as much or more than the others". Obviously seeking to counter widespread criticism of the contrived Woodland Cree settlement, Mr. Fowler claimed "the others had freely agreed". Paraphrasing comments recently attributed to unnamed Treaty 8 Chiefs by Journal reporter Jack Danylchuk, Mr. Fowler falsely charged that Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak "is preventing his people from settling". Echoing Mr. Siddon's deceitful November 4th letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal, Mr. Fowler claimed "the Chief has refused repeated requests to meet". And demonstrating anew that racism and political sleaze aren't the exclusive domain of Federal Government politicians, Mr. Fowler claimed that Chief Ominayak's refusal to knuckle under to the Federal Government's so-called "take-it-or-leave-it" offer was due to bad advice from white advisor Lennarson who "is living well while the Lubicon people live in poverty".
Excepting only Mr. Fowler's use of sleazy, racist insinuations and innuendo which Mr. Lennarson refused to dignify with a response, Mr. Lennarson told Mr. Helm that the facts speak for themselves. He pointed out that even Alberta Premier Getty had characterized the so-called "take-it-or-leave-it" offer as "deficient" in the area of providing the Lubicon people with any hope of once again becoming economically self-sufficient. He offered to send Mr. Helm information comparing recent settlement agreements, a copy of the Federal Government's so-called "take-it-or-leave-it" offer, a copy of Provincial Government proposals for supposedly fixing the so-called Federal "offer" and a copy of the draft settlement agreement prepared by the Lubicon people so that Mr. Helm could read them all and judge for himself. As for Mr. Fowler's charges that Chief Ominayak was preventing settlement and refusing to meet, Mr. Lennarson said that the Chief had just walked in the door and could speak for himself.
Mr. Helm asked for copies of the proffered materials and also to speak to Chief Ominayak, which he then did -- producing the attached article and editorial.
At this stage there can be no doubt that the Federal and Provincial Governments are cooperating in a major new anti-Lubicon propaganda campaign which includes use of so-called "good Indians" and personal attacks on Chief Ominayak. There's also little doubt that this major new anti-Lubicon campaign has been inspired by the increasingly effective effort to block Daishowa from clear-cutting Lubicon trees prior to a settlement of Lubicon land rights, and, to a lesser extent, by anticipated negative publicity over Government handling of the Lubicon situation expected to result from the new Goddard book on the Lubicons.
Overt personal attacks on Chief Ominayak are new and are likely designed to try and undermine the Chief's well deserved reputation for sincerity and integrity. Credibility is terribly important when somebody is obviously lying. Messrs. Siddon and Fowler have of course little hope of ever matching Chief Ominayak's credibility; hence, Government propagandists are seeking to bring the Chief down to the Government's level of public disrepute in order to try and blur the issues, becloud their own malevolence and thereby blunt growing public pressure for a just and honourable settlement of Lubicon land rights.
Attachment #1: THE EDMONTON JOURNAL, Wednesday, November 27, 1991
CHIEF, ADVISERS BLOCKING LUBICON DEAL -- FOWLER
Journal Staff Writer
Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak and his advisers are to blame for blocking a long-sought settlement to the northern Alberta band's land claim, says Native Affairs Minister Dick Fowler.
"The chief of the Lubicons continues to prevent his people from receiving the benefits of a settlement which in my view insofar as land is concerned is very, very generous," Fowler said Tuesday.
Fowler's remarks, which came in an interview with Standard Broadcast News, drew a stinging response from the band leadership.
Ominayak accused Fowler of attempting to divert public attention from the provincial government's historic role in driving the Lubicons into poverty.
Fred Lennarson, a band adviser, called Fowler a liar.
Fowler said he has grown frustrated with the stalemated land claim and its "peculiar nuances," and maintains the Lubicons have been offered a more handsome settlement than any other Alberta band.
He questioned the advice Ominayak has been receiving in rejecting that federal offer.
"If he was getting good advice I think the thing would have been settled an awful long time ago," Fowler said.
"For whatever reason those people that are giving him advice continue to live in absolute and total comfort at what I would presume to be very healthy incomes...while the Lubicon people that live in the area and are members of the band continue to suffer all the pains of poverty."
Federal Indian Affairs Minister Tom Siddon desires a settlement "but for reasons that aren't completely clear to Ottawa or to me we just don't seem to be able to arrive at that settlement on a basis that every other band had settled on in this province," Fowler said.
Ominayak rejected Fowler's comments.
And he denied that he has refused to meet with the minister.
"It's true we don't have very many luxuries in the community at this point," Ominayak said in an interview.
"It's unfortunate that people like Fowler are making these accusations when they are the ones that made every effort to put our people in the situation that they're in."
The Lubicons have estimated as much as $7 billion in resources have been reaped from their lands by both the federal and provincial governments.
The Lubicons have demanded compensation for the riches drawn from their land as well as recognition of their aboriginal rights to territory they insist they have never surrendered.
The value of their claim has been estimated at about $170 million.
Ottawa has countered with a $45 million settlement offer and a reserve of 246 sq. km, or about 48 hectares per person of reserve land.
Lennarson said Fowler's suggestion that the Lubicon settlement offer outshines all others is "nonsense."
Even Premier Don Getty has described the federal offer as deficient, he said.
"I presume Mr. Fowler knows better and is just lying as part of the current anti-Lubicon propaganda campaign which I think is being stimulated by the Lubicons blocking Daishowa from coming in and taking their trees, on top of everything else."
The band's position is "a kind of minimalist position" for the Lubicon people to try and rebuild their society from the ground up, Lennarson said.
The Lubicons openly question the criteria used in measuring the federal settlement offer against others accepted by other bands. All other recent settlements in Alberta have been outstanding treaty land entitlements under a treaty to which the Lubicons are not a party, Lennarson noted.
Attachment #2: THE EDMONTON JOURNAL, Friday, November 29, 1991
ON WHOM THE BLAME FALLS
It is offensive to hear Native Affairs Minister Dick Fowler blaming the Lubicon Lake Cree for their own poverty.
Every man, woman and child in Little Buffalo would be wealthy today if the band had owned mineral rights in part of its traditional hunting and trapping area, and had collected the energy royalties that flowed continuously into the coffers of the province of Alberta through the 1970s and 1980s.
Even without mineral rights, the Lubicon people could have made a decent living through the same period if the Alberta government had moved forcefully to protect their trapping area from overzealous energy exploration crews.
This did not happen. Instead, the Alberta government extracted millions of dollars in royalties from the northern wilderness between the Peace and Athabasca rivers for two decades and returned almost none of the wealth to the original inhabitants of seven isolated communities. Until 1988, the province did everything it possibly could to undermine the legitimate Lubicon claim.
Fowler is free to blame Chief Bernard Ominayak for refusing Ottawa's "very, very generous" land claim settlement although the $45-million package is insufficient to build a self-supporting community from the ground up. But the minister can't deny one painful truth: The Lubicon Lake Cree are poor because the Alberta government made them poor.