Winnipeg Free Press Lubicon Book Review

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

January 18, 1992

Enclosed for your information is another review of John Goddard's book on the Lubicons.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, Saturday, December 28, 1991


By Ralph Kuropatwa

Special to the Free Press

LAST STAND OF THE LUBICON CREE: by John Goddard, 282 pp., Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre

John Goddard's LAST STAND OF THE LUBICON CREE is a distressing tale of promises broken and justice denied. You may remember the Lubicon hitting the front pages in 1988. Television news coverage was incomplete without the young Chief Ominayak and his trademark baseball cap. The story was not a very complicated one. In their out-of-the-way tuck in Alberta's Lesser Slave interior, between the Peace River to the north and the Athabasca to the south, the Lubicon were missed by every treaty-making Canadian sweep of Indian communities. Occasional visits by federal agents and accountants kept depleting the number of residents that were recognized as being "real" Indians, and therefore eligible for the grants and services of Indian Affairs. By 1950, the exploration companies had hit oil. John Goddard's book is a painfully detailed account of how the lust for oil further corrupted relations between politicians and aboriginals.

It is an important book, and it tells an important story.

In its briefest outline, it reminds us that Ottawa and Edmonton could not move quickly enough in the service of oil, and could not be imagined moving slower to settle a fundamental dispute with a small aboriginal community over land settlement, band membership, wildlife management, and a claim for cash compensation. The Lubicon went up the ladder of bureaucratic requirements, rung by rung. Then they lost patience with the game in which the rules applied only to them, and seemed to change whenever they threatened to work in favor of the Lubicon.

So they called for a boycott of the Winter Olympic Games at Calgary. They appealed to the organized international community regarding Canada's violations of human rights. And they blockaded their land, which shut down oil operations for about a week.

For a while, they were media darlings. Alberta Premier Don Getty declared himself a friend of the Lubicon, prompting the predictable comment about how, with friends like that, the Lubicon didn't need any enemies. Brian Mulroney gave them sympathy and re-assurances of goodwill in the middle of the election campaign. Then the election was over. The media went on to fresher stories, and the solution to the troublesome Lubicon was put into place by the representatives of Canada. Essentially, they defined the Lubicon out of existence.

One more failure to communicate, or more sleaze in government-aboriginal relations.