Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
February 20, 1992
Enclosed for your information is a copy of the Canadian Government's long anticipated response to the Goddard book on the Lubicons, along with a copy of John Goddard's brief "letter to the editor" type response.
Disguised as a book review published in a self described "right wing" Alberta "newsmagazine" called the Alberta Report, sources have confirmed that the so-called "book review" is in fact largely based on disinformation provided by a sleazy Federal bureaucrat named Bob Coulter. Sleazy Bob has been scrambling around desperately trying to ingratiate himself to his political bosses any way he can ever since he inherited responsibility for the Lubicon file following the departure of two Departmental superiors who resigned rather than do what he does.
Copies of the so-called "book review" were circulating in the Federal Department of Indian Affairs at least a week before it was available publicly. Copies of it will almost certainly now receive wide distribution as attachments to letters from the Federal Indian Affairs Minister and perhaps the Provincial Native Affairs Minister. Under such circumstances one can only ponder the nature of the relationship between the Canadian Government and a publication which openly bills itself as a supposedly independent "right wing newsmagazine".
The so-called "book review" actually bears little relationship to either the facts or the contents of the Goddard book. No one representing the Lubicons was asked to respond to the outrageous statements of supposed fact it contains, immediately disqualifying it as any kind of legitimate journalism. Technically it's more a polemic than a book review. Perhaps the Alberta Report might more properly characterize itself as a weekly exercise in right wing polemics, or, in this case at least, as a Federal Government propaganda organ.
The so-called "book review" says that "What (the Lubicons) want (to settle) is so wildly unreasonable that the full details would likely turn public sentiment into hostility...so author Goddard has stitched together a patchwork of half-truths, distortions and defamations". In fact the full details of "what the Lubicons want" is a matter of public record -- something which book reviewer Lorne Gunter simply chose to ignore in favour of repeating holus-bolus Sleazy Bob's deceitful propaganda.
Mr. Gunter claims that "the Woodland Cree band is one of six which have traditionally lived, hunted and trapped in the territory now claimed exclusively by the Lubicon". Baloney. There was no such thing as a Woodland Cree Band until it was "created" by the Federal Minister of Indian Affairs out of the disparate members of a half-a-dozen different distinct aboriginal societies in August of 1989. Its creation out of whole cloth by the Federal Indian Affairs Minister in August of 1989 is a matter of public record, as anyone who reads the newspaper knows.
Moreover there are no six Indian Bands "which have traditionally lived, hunted and trapped in the territory now claimed exclusively by the Lubicon". Rather there are seven distinct aboriginal societies in the general area collectively called the Isolated Communities, each with its own traditional territory but with some overlap along the boundaries. The names of these seven distinct aboriginal societies are Cadotte Lake, Lubicon Lake, Loon Lake, Peerless Lake, Trout Lake, Chip Lake and Sandy Lake. The two distinct aboriginal societies which border and to some extent overlap the traditional Lubicon territory are Cadotte Lake and Loon Lake.
Mr. Gunter says "Although (the Woodlanders) have not been a registered band for as long as the Lubicons, both have maintained permanent settlements in the region for about the same length of time". Again baloney. The existence of the Lubicons in the area can be documented going back to well before the arrival of western Europeans, while there wasn't any such thing as a Woodland Cree "settlement" until a couple of years ago when the Federal Government decided to locate the band office of its newly created Woodland Cree "band" in the traditional aboriginal community of Cadotte Lake. Since then the Cadotte Lake people have increasingly come to dominate the Woodland Cree Band, certainly compared to others put on the Woodland Cree Band list by the Federal Government from across Alberta and British Columbia, but the Woodland Cree Band and the Cadotte Lake people aren't and never have been synonymous.
Mr. Gunter claims "The two bands have also lived, worked and socialized with one another for as long as any of them can remember and many members of each have relatives (either by birth or by marriage) in the other". Ridiculous. While many Lubicons are related to people in the neighbouring aboriginal societies of Cadotte and Loon Lake, and to a lesser extent some of the other aboriginal societies in Northern Alberta, there was no Woodland Cree Band until it was "created" by the Federal Indian Affairs Minister in August of 1989. Of the original Woodland Band membership list of 110 created by the Federal Government in August of 1989, 11 were ex-members of the Tall Cree Band, 1 was an ex-member of the Little Red River Band, 6 were ex-members of the Dene Tha Band, 7 were ex-members of the Bigstone Band, 22 were ex-members of the Whitefish Lake Band, 50 were ex-Lubicons and 13 were people put on the Lubicon membership list by the Federal Government without consulting the Lubicons and then transferred to the Woodland list. All of this is again a matter of public record.
Mr. Gunter claims "Both (the Lubicons and the Woodland Cree) are so accepted and established in the Lesser Slave Lake area that the provincial government built the Woodland Cree a school, a post office and a water treatment plant at Cadotte Lake (which Mr. Gunter creatively describes as "their main base") at about the same time that the federal government was providing the Lubicons with similar facilities". None of this is true. While the Provincial Government did build a school, a post office and a community water treatment plant at Cadotte Lake before the Woodland Cree Band was created, it has built nothing for the newly created Woodland Cree -- which as a creature of the Federal Government is solely a Federal Government responsibility. Moreover, while there is a Provincial school with a small water treatment capacity in the traditional Lubicon community of Little Buffalo Lake, the Lubicons in fact have no Federal school, no post office and no community water treatment plant.
Mr. Gunter claims that "The Woodland Cree band has also been almost twice as large as the Lubicon band throughout most of this century". Not so Mr. Gunter, no matter what Sleazy Bob tells you. Currently claiming a population of 700 people compared to 500 Lubicons, the Woodland Cree Band didn't exist at all until August of 1989 when it was created by the Federal Indian Affairs Minister out of 110 disparate individuals from a half-a-dozen northern Alberta aboriginal societies. (While the actual membership of the Woodland Cree is a closely guarded state secret, knowledgable sources indicate that it includes fewer than 400 people entitled to status as Indians under the Indian Act -- a number which is consistent with the quantum of reserve land provided the Woodland Cree under the recent Woodland Cree settlement agreement. The Cadotte Lake population of record in 1981 was 191 people.)
Dismissing Mr. Goddard's well documented charge that the Federal Government created the Woodland Cree Band after trying unsuccessfully to organize "a dissident faction within the Lubicon ranks to overthrow (Lubicon Chief) Ominayak", Mr. Gunter claims that the reason "no dissident faction could be found or manufactured among the Lubicons...(is)...that Chief Ominayak and his trusty white advisor Fred Lennarson used the exclusive power held by Band leaders to decide who qualifies for band membership". He claims that "Chief Ominayak and (Lubicon advisor) Lennarson on several occasions used this power to strip band dissidents of their band membership". "By the time (the Lubicons) rejected Ottawa's 1989 (take-it-or-leave-it)", he claims, "there were no dissident Lubicons because they had all been kicked out".
In fact nothing like that happened or could happen. Democratically determined Lubicon membership rules simply don't give Chief Ominayak, advisor Lennarson or anybody else such "exclusive power" over Lubicon membership.
Original Lubicon membership rules provided that "all persons of known aboriginal ancestry, family ties to other members of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation and historic ties to the traditional Lubicon territory are entitled to be enroled as Lubicon members". No one meeting these criteria could be denied membership. The only provision for exclusion was if persons meeting these membership criteria "expressly declined to be so enroled". (A total of 22 persons have essentially removed themselves from the Lubicon list for "expressly declining to be so enroled", mostly because they'd been added to the Whitefish Lake Band by the Government in the 1950s, had enjoyed benefits as members of the Whitefish Lake Band which the Lubicons weren't receiving and were concerned about losing those benefits.)
During negotiations in December of 1988, and in order to define membership for purposes of settlement negotiations, Federal officials suggested that the initial Lubicon membership list be limited to persons "ordinarily resident in the traditional Lubicon territory". E. Davie Fulton made a similar suggestion in 1985. Since no known Lubicons were "ordinarily resident" outside of the traditional Lubicon territory, the Lubicons agreed to add such a qualification to their membership rules, providing only that should such persons later be identified, persons meeting the original membership rules "but not ordinarily resident in the traditional Lubicon territory may be enroled as members of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation...for reasons of community or family harmony, as determined by the majority of Lubicon electors in attendance at an open General Meeting". (While an indeterminate number of persons not ordinarily resident in the traditional Lubicon territory have reportedly been added to the Lubicon list by the Federal Government and then presumably transferred to the membership list of the Woodland Cree, such people haven't been added to nor removed from the Lubicon membership list.)
Lastly, following the creation of the Woodland Cree Band in August of 1989 and specifically to clarify the membership situation of persons meeting original membership criteria "but who choose instead to become a member of either another Indian Nation or Band under the Indian Act", the Lubicons again democratically qualified their membership criteria to provide that such persons who expressly choose to be a member of another Indian Nation or Indian Act Band "shall not be added to the membership list of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation, and shall not be members of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation". (Fourteen persons whose names had been transferred to the membership list of the Whitefish Lake Band by the Federal Government in the 1950s expressly chose to remain with the Whitefish Lake Band and have consequently had their names removed from the Lubicon membership list. In addition an indeterminate number of ex-Lubicons are reportedly now on the membership lists of the new Loon and Woodland Cree Bands but have yet to be removed from the Lubicon membership list, pending formal identification of who they are and official determination of where they wish to cast their lot.)
Mr. Gunter quotes Mr. Goddard as saying "that the Indians who sought Federal recognition of the Woodland Cree claim could not have been dissident Lubicons because they were not on the Lubicon band list". However, Mr. Gunter claims, "five of them had been on it three months earlier...(and)...their names had been stricken when they refused to back Messrs. Ominayak and Lennarson in the illegal road blockade". None of this is true.
As documented by Mr. Goddard, representatives of the Federal Government met with a group of eight supposed Lubicons on February 10, 1989. The group of eight wanted to discuss land in severalty -- a provision of Treaty 8 which provides reserve land for individuals who wish to live apart from the rest of the aboriginal society signing the treaty. One of the group of eight was on the Lubicon membership list at the time and is still on the Lubicon membership list, although he's reportedly still continuing to pursue land in severalty. Two others met original Lubicon membership criteria but had been on the membership list of the Whitefish Lake Band since the 1950s and expressly declined to transfer when asked to choose going into settlement negotiations with the Federal Government in December of 1988. Two more also met original Lubicon membership criteria but had expressly declined to be so enroled in favour of participating in the Provincial Land Tenure Program in 1981. One was entitled to be enroled but had expressly declined to be so enroled and had moved out of the area for personal reasons over three years before the so-called "illegal road blockade". The last two didn't qualify under Lubicon membership criteria and had never had been on the Lubicon membership list.
Federal representatives told the group of eight that land in severalty couldn't be provided outside of an overall settlement with the Lubicon people, which, Federal representatives said, wasn't possible with existing Lubicon leadership. However, Federal representatives told the group of eight, the Federal Government would work with them to help identify, register and organize other Lubicon dissidents to the end of overthrowing the existing Lubicon leadership, replacing the existing Lubicon leadership with more malleable dissident leaders and then signing a settlement agreement providing land in severalty.
In early June 1989, a couple of days after the effort to overthrow existing Lubicon leadership had proven a disastrous failure and existing Lubicon leadership had been unanimously re-elected, two members of the original group of eight, working with their Government-selected and paid lawyer -- as well as with the same Federal Government representatives who'd unsuccessfully tried to use them to overthrow duly elected Lubicon leadership -- "requested" that the Federal Government instead create a new Woodland Cree Band with a supposedly equal claim to unceded Lubicon territory. Two months later, on August 28, 1989, the Federal Government formally "created" the new Woodland Cree Band under Section 17 of the Federal Indian Act. The wording of Section 17 pretty much tells the story, reading as follows:
"17.(1) The Minister may, whenever he considers it desirable...constitute new bands and establish Band lists thereto from existing Band lists, or from the (Government created) Indian Register, if requested to do so by (an unspecified number of) persons proposing to form the new band.
(2) Where pursuant to subsection (1) a new band has been established from an existing band or any part thereof, such portion of the reserve lands and funds of the existing band as the Minister (in his sole discretion) determines shall be held for the use and benefit of the new band.
(3) No protest may be made...in respect of the deletion from or the addition to a Band list consequent on the exercise by the Minister of any of his powers under subsection (1)."
Mr. Gunter describes Mr. Goddard's charge that the Federal Government recruited native people from all over northern Alberta to create a new Band to lay claim to Lubicon territory" as "extremely misleading", noting with unbecoming satisfaction "that (this) hardly explains...why Mr. Ominayak's estranged wife is now living at Cadotte Lake". Such irrelevant, adhominem arguments are how Bob Coulter came to be known as Sleazy Bob, and would now seem to qualify Mr. Gunter for a similarly apt nickname -- maybe Goose-Step Gunter to signify his noteworthy ability to march along in close synchronization with Sleazy Bob and Lyin' Brian Bulroney (sic). ("Lyin' Brian" is the self-explanatory nickname given Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney by his Parliamentary colleagues.)
Family break-down is sadly one of the all too common consequences of the genocidal process being deliberately employed against the Lubicon people by both levels of Canadian Government. Rather than somehow "proving" the supposed legitimacy of the Government-created Woodland Cree Band, as Sleazy Bob and his symbiotic Alberta Report colleague falsely imply, Chief Ominayak's wife simply moved back to her parents home in Cadotte Lake following the unfortunate break-up of their marriage. She remains on the Lubicon membership list and has in fact rejected repeated efforts to try and persuade her to transfer to the Woodland Cree.
Goose-Step Gunter quotes anonymous "bystanders" and "one (unnamed) Federal official" (presumably Sleazy Bob) as describing Lubicon settlement demands variously as a "wish list entirely without precedent", "ridiculous", "outrageous" and "the one claim...in Canada for which there is the least justification". People who've been following the continuing Lubicon tragedy will recognize such catchy media-oriented phrases as "wish list" from earlier, professionally prepared Federal Government propaganda. The more extreme phrases such as "entirely without precedent", "ridiculous", "outrageous" and "the one claim...in Canada for which there is the least justification" are probably just Sleazy Bob bending over every which way in an effort to try and endear himself to his political bosses. In fact there is nothing in the Lubicon position which is without precedent; Lubicon land rights have been repeatedly scrutinized and begrudgingly confirmed by Canadian Government representatives going back to 1939; and the existence of Lubicon land rights is officially if unenthusiastically acknowledged by both levels of Canadian Government.
Goose-Step Gunter says "Under (the Treaty 8) formula the Lubicons, with just under 500 members in (October of) 1988, would qualify for approximately 90 square miles (of reserve land)". In fact the known Lubicon population at the time of the Grimshaw Agreement in October of 1988 was 477. The Treaty 8 formula is 128 acres per person. 477 people times 128 acres per person is 95.4 square miles of reserve land.
Goose-Step Gunter says "In (October of) 1988 (the Lubicons) were offered a reserve of (90 square miles), with full sub-surface rights covering 79 square miles, and accepted it". In fact the (October) 1988 agreement between the Lubicons and the Provincial Government provided that the Province would not block the transfer of 95 square miles of land to the Federal Government for purposes of creating a Lubicon reserve, including 79 square miles with full sub-surface rights, if the Federal Government requested the transfer of such land as part of an overall settlement of Lubicon land rights.
Goose-Step Gunter says "The Federal Government has additionally offered (the Lubicons) houses with water, sewer and electricity, a new school, a band office, a garbage dump and $45 million for economic development to alleviate their 90% welfare and 85% unemployment". In fact Lubicon unemployment and welfare rates have been deliberately inflicted upon the Lubicon people as part of a well documented Canadian Government legal strategy intended to subvert Lubicon land rights; the proposed garbage dump is no more than an environmentally disastrous open pit in land with a very high water table; money supposedly offered for the proposed Band office is in reality dependent upon "a revised (Government) policy presently under consideration," and the Government's economic development proposal to rebuild the deliberately destroyed Lubicon economy is not $45 million but the interest on a $10 million fund.
Goose-Step Gunter says "A $350,000 clinic at Little Buffalo, the settlement which is the centre of Lubicon Band activity, has also been mooted". Whatever ole Goose-step and his scurrilous Federal Government consort are trying to imply here, the Lubicon proposal is in fact for a $425,000 Community Health Centre to be built on the proposed Lubicon reserve at Lubicon Lake as per Alberta Indian Health Care Commission plans and specifications. In response the Federal Government's supposed "take-it-or-leave-it offer" of a $350,000 "clinic" reads as follows:
"It is recommended that the Band discuss funding with NH&W (National Health and Welfare). Preliminary information indicates that NH&W may fund $350,000".
Goose-Step Gunter says that "The Lubicons have countered (these so-called Federal Government "offers") with demands for a swimming pool, a seniors home, an arena with artificial ice and a Zamboni, an incinerator, a ranch, farming equipment and satellite television". In fact the Lubicons have not "countered" with these things; rather these things are all elements of a carefully considered, integrated development package which the Lubicons hope will enable them to make the tough, complicated and expensive transition from a traditional hunting and trapping society dependent upon wild plants and animals from their unceded 4,000 square mile traditional territory -- which has been largely destroyed by multi-billion dollar, Government-directed natural resource exploitation activity -- to an essentially agricultural economy based on domestic plants and animals raised on a much smaller 95 square mile reserve.
The proposed "ranch" and "farming equipment" are both parts of detailed Lubicon plans to once again become economically self-sufficient. The alternative, as experience with other aboriginal societies whose lands and resources have been cynically seized and exploited makes unavoidably clear, is intergenerational poverty, dependency, welfare, family break-down, alcoholism, high infant mortality rates, low literacy rates, high unemployment rates, disease, a shortened life expectancy and high suicide rates. (There's a fascinating circular phenomenon here. After aboriginal lands and resources worth literally billions of dollars have effectively been stolen, the involved aboriginal society deliberately torn asunder and every effort made to insure that it will never again able to achieve economic self-sufficiency, people like Sleazy Bob and Goose-Step Gunter predictably complain about and use the resulting welfare rolls to rationalize why such aboriginal societies can't be "trusted" to govern their own affairs or manage their own resources.)
The swimming pool would be part of the proposed community school so that Lubicon children could be provided with swimming instruction -- a not uncommon course offering for public school students in Alberta. Most of the public school students in Alberta are of course white. That Sleazy Bob and Goose-Step Gunter would label it "outrageous" for Indian parents to seek the same thing for their children as white parents says more about who they are, and about who they think Canadians are, than it does about Lubicon settlement proposals.
Similarly the proposed Lubicon Recreation Centre (ice skating rink), which is again a very common recreational facility in Canadian communities, and which the Lubicons hope will provide their children with an alternative to the drugs and alcohol which plague so many other ravaged northern aboriginal societies. Why Sleazy Bob and Goose-Step Gunter should label a facility of this kind "outrageous" for an aboriginal community when it's such a common fixture in non-aboriginal communities is again an interesting question. If Canadian Government doesn't want to pay to legalize its unlawful seizure of the resource-rich 4,000 square mile traditional Lubicon territory, and its equally unlawful expropriation of an estimated 7 1/2 billion in Lubicon resources, it should simply withdraw from unceded Lubicon territory and the Lubicons will have plenty of resources with which to try and rebuild their shattered society -- including the construction of a Community Recreation Centre for their children.
The rationale for a modest, 12 person senior's home would seem self-explanatory. The alternative for elderly Lubicons who can no longer be cared for at home is an old people's home in a strange non-native community at least 70 miles away from friends and relatives, strange people, a strange language and strange food where they're effectively stored until they die. Under such circumstances it's a mystery why Sleazy Bob and Goose-Step Gunter would even try to suggest that a small senior's home on the proposed Lubicon reserve is "outrageous". Perhaps it's just a reflection of their lack of concern for their own old people; perhaps it's their festering racism or maybe it's both.
Incineration of refuse is proposed by the Lubicon people because they've been warned about the environmental problems which will be created by pit disposal of garbage in an area with such a high water table. They were advised that the best way to dispose of garbage in their area is to sort out and recycle non-combustibles like metal and glass, to compost bio-degradables and to then burn the remainder in a properly designed incinerator equipped with scrubbers and capable of sufficiently high temperatures -- as other non-aboriginal communities in Alberta are doing or considering doing. (Representatives of the Canadian Government didn't deny the legitimacy of Lubicon environmental concerns. Nor did they deny that non-aboriginal communities were moving away from pit disposal of garbage. They simply said that they had "no capacity" to purchase a properly designed garbage incinerator -- at least for aboriginal people.)
As for the Lubicon proposal to purchase a satellite dish and small transmitter (with a range of 10-12 miles), people should know that television via satellite is the only kind of television in the isolated Lubicon area; that countless camps providing temporary accommodation for resource company workers now scattered throughout the unceded Lubicon territory are equipped with satellite dishes; that television is an integral part of education in non-aboriginal schools across Canada, and that television and television programming is officially used and considered by the Canadian Government to be an essential tool in educating and informing Canadians about each other and the country in which they live -- except apparently when it comes to the Lubicons, whose request for similar service is for some reason deemed by Sleazy Bob and Goose-Step Gunter to be "outrageous".
Goose-Step Gunter says "in a quiet move last November, (the Lubicons) increased their cash demand from $170 million to $225 million". That's not true. Originally calculated at $170 million in 1988 Canadian dollars, the value of Lubicon settlement proposals hasn't changed. All that's changed is the lies about the Lubicon position told by representatives of the Canadian Government working in tandem with their Alberta Report bedfellows.
Goose-Step Gunter says that "it is fortunate for (the Lubicons) that they accepted the land offer when they did...(because)...since then the band has shrunk to a total variously pegged somewhere between 250 and 300...(with the result that)...the outstanding Lubicon demands could work out to about $1 million for every remaining man, woman and child, or about $3.85 million per family". Where these imaginative numbers come from, aside from Sleazy Bob who's obviously gone well beyond simply distorting the facts to telling bald-faced lies, is anybody's guess.
The last Lubicon membership count made earlier this year was 527 people, 50 more than the 477 known Lubicons at the time of the Grimshaw Agreement. While the Grimshaw Agreement was deliberately not based on contentious membership numbers but on an amount of reserve land which both Lubicon Chief Ominayak and Alberta Premier Getty considered to be "fair", and while neither the Chief nor the Premier is seeking to re-open Grimshaw land negotiations, 527 people under the Treaty 8 formula of 128 acres per person more than justifies the proposed 95 miles, including 79 square miles with sub-surface rights. In fact, based on the Treaty 8 formula instead of the Grimshaw Agreement, 527 Lubicons would be "entitled" to a reserve of 105.4 square miles -- all with full sub-surface rights.
As for Sleazy Bob and Goose-Step Gunter's tricky, slight-of-hand financial machinations -- based apparently on maximum made-up settlement numbers divided by minimum made-up membership numbers -- the Lubicons have in fact explicitly rejected the implied per capita distribution of settlement monies. $70 million of the proposed $170 million is committed to reserve set-up costs as detailed in the Lubicon draft settlement agreement. The remaining $100 million is committed to an investment fund, which, if it generates interest revenues at the same rate after inflation as similar funds in Alberta and Alaska, will hopefully generate interest revenues in perpetuity for the Lubicon people at the rate of about 4 1/2 per annum.
Lastly Goose-Step Gunter opines that "Although middle-class white voters are currently being conditioned to blame themselves for every possible ill abroad and at home, there may be a limit even to their capacity for assuming guilt". Here Goose-Step is clearly getting himself so tangled up in his right wing rhetoric that he literally can't tell the admittedly difficult to differentiate difference between his proverbial head and his proverbial tail. The central message of the Goddard book, as anyone who's read it rather than simply relied upon disinformation from Sleazy Bob to support pre-conceived biases and prejudices can tell you, is not that middle-class white voters should feel guilty. The central message of the Goddard book is that white middle class voters should get mad as hell at the perfidious politicians whose actions so disgrace Canada and Canadians around the world.
Attachment #1: ALBERTA REPORT, January 27, 1992
MANUFACTURE OF THE LUBICON MYTH
LAST STAND OF THE LUBICON CREE
by John Goddard
Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., Vancouver
228 pages; $26.95
LAST STAND OF THE LUBICON CREE has its enticing aspects. Montreal author John Goddard weaves clever and convincing arguments. His style is refreshingly clear. His descriptions are graphic and precise, without flourish or pretention. In sum, the book is eminently readable. Too bad that so little of it is true.
In the long-frustrated Lubicons he chose an obviously sympathetic subject. Living in isolated bush country 60 miles north of Alberta's Lesser Slave Lake, they have had a right to a reserve since they registered their band in 1939. They have been waiting 52 years, however, for the federal and Alberta governments to carve one out for them. The truth about their long struggle for a fair settlement would surely engender reader support.
The problem is that the band's leaders do not want what most reasonable people would see as a fair settlement. What they want is so wildly unreasonable that the full details would likely turn public sentiment into hostility. So author Goddard has stitched together a patchwork of half-truths, distortions and defamations.
First he creates historical myths surrounding the Lubicons and their plight. Then he ignores any fact which conflicts with their version of events and any opinion which contradicts his own beliefs and biases. The Goddard explanation of how the neighbouring Woodland Cree band was created is possibly the best example of his revisionist history and selective use of facts. A careful reader of LAST STAND will end up believing that the Woodland Cree were an overnight creation of the federal government, conjured out of nowhere in 1989 for the sole purpose of whipping up dissension among the Lubicons towards their chief, media star Bernard Ominayak, and his trusty white advisor, Fred Lennarson.
After talks between the Lubicons and Ottawa broke down in January of 1989, by Mr. Goddard's account, federal negotiator Brian Malone, a Calgary lawyer, searched desperately for "a dissident faction within the Lubicon ranks that might be used to overthrow Ominayak. When such a faction proved nonexistent, federal players tried to create one, aiming to overthrow Ominayak or, alternatively, split the band. When that attempt also failed, federal players recruited native people from all over northern Alberta to create a new band designed to lay claim to Lubicon territory and accept the federal offer (that had been rejected by the Lubicons)."
One thing the author fails to mention, though, is that the Woodland Cree band is one of six which have traditionally lived, hunted and trapped in the territory now claimed exclusively by the Lubicon. Although they have not been a registered band for as long as the Lubicons, both have maintained permanent settlements in the region for about the same length of time. The two bands have also lived, worked and socialized with one another for as long as any of them can remember and many members of each have relatives (either by birth or by marriage) in the other.
Both are so accepted and established in the Lesser Slave Lake area that the provincial government built the Woodland Cree a school, a post office and a water treatment plant at Cadotte Lake (their main base) at about the same time that the federal government was providing the Lubicons with similar facilities. The Woodland Cree band has also been almost twice as large as the Lubicon band throughout most of this century.
Another item Mr. Goddard omits to tell his readers is equally significant. While the federal government decides who qualified as an Indian, band leaders have exclusive power to decide who qualifies for band membership. Mr. Goddard's claim that no dissident faction could be found or manufactured among the Lubicons may be technically correct but he never acknowledges that Chief Ominayak and Mr. Lennarson on several occasions used this power to strip dissidents of their band membership. By the time they rejected Ottawa's 1989 offer, long-time observers note, there were no dissident Lubicons because they had all been kicked out.
Author Goddard asserts that the Indians who sought federal recognition of the Woodland Cree claim could not have been dissident Lubicons because they were not on the Lubicon band list. Five of them had been on it three months earlier, however, and were also listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit the Lubicons filed against the federal government the previous year. Their names had been stricken when they refused to back Messrs. Ominayak and Lennarson in the illegal Lubicon road blockade.
So the federal government had no need to go outside the area or beyond Indians who had always considered themselves Lubicons to find people who wanted to settle. To say, as Mr. Goddard does, that the federal government "recruited Native people from all over northern Alberta to create a new band to lay claim to Lubicon territory" is extremely misleading, to say the least. That hardly explains, for example, why Mr. Ominayak's estranged wife is now living at Cadotte Lake. The truth, however, would have upset Mr. Goddard's portrayal of noble, honest victims of a greedy government bent on genocide.
It is interesting, too, that the author never lists the Lubicons' current demands, except to detail the size of the reserve they want. Perhaps this is because the rest of their wish list is entirely without precedent and, in the view of many bystanders, ridiculous. One federal official describes it (but not in the book) as "outrageous. This is clearly the one claim, of all the outstanding claims in Canada, for which there is the least justification."
Reserve size is calculated on the basis of 128 acres per status band member for land-claim purposes. Under this formula the Lubicons, with just under 500 members in 1988, would qualify for approximately 90 square miles. In 1988 they were offered a reserve of this size, with full sub-surface mineral rights covering 79 square miles, and accepted it. The federal government has additionally offered them houses with water, sewer and electricity, a new school, a band office, a garbage dump and $45 million for economic development to alleviate their 90% welfare and 85% unemployment rates. A $350,000 clinic at Little Buffalo, the settlement which is the centre of Lubicon band activity, has also been mooted.
The Lubicons have countered, however, with demands for a swimming pool, a seniors' home, an arena with artificial ice and a Zamboni, an incinerator, a ranch, farming equipment and satellite television. Further, in a quiet move last November they increased their cash demand from $170 million to $225 million.
Meanwhile it is fortunate for them that they accepted the land offer when they did. Since then the band has shrunk to a total variously pegged somewhere between 250 and 300, what with the political expulsions and members just leaving for reasons of their own. Thus, the outstanding Lubicon demands could work out to about $1 million for ever remaining man, woman and child, or about $3.85 million per family.
Since this is not likely to inspire much public sympathy, Mr. Goddard was well advised to omit it, along with the more blatant Ominayak-Lennarson manipulations of band lists and the negotiating process. These oversights were ignored in gushing reviews of the book published in THE EDMONTON JOURNAL and Toronto GLOBE AND MAIL newspapers and SATURDAY NIGHT magazine uncritically excerpted a collection of the book's most outrageous claims. Although middle-class white voters are currently being conditioned to blame themselves for every possible ill abroad and at home, there may be a limit even to their capacity for assuming guilt.
Attachment #2: ALBERTA REPORT, February 17, 1992
RE: "Manufacture of the Lubicon Myth", (Jan. 27). For as long as there has been a Canada, there have been citizens in it who have been blind to the cruel underside of Canadian society. I know, because I was one of them until four years ago when I began to research my book, LAST STAND OF THE LUBICON CREE. If anybody had told me then that a team of federal employees would one day invent a new Indian band to try to subvert Lubicon land rights, I would have been as incredulous as your reviewer, Lorne Gunter, is today. I might even have rejected the idea that vested interests could act viciously against native hunters and trappers while exploiting (to date) $7.5 billion worth of oil in Lubicon territory. I hope, however, that I would not have taken at face value -- as Mr. Gunter does -- the crude version of events offered by Mr. Gunter's unnamed "bystanders," "long-time observers," and "one federal official".
During my research, I watched a number of people besides myself undergo a learning process on Lubicon, including Alberta premier Don Getty, who after spending a period as ignorant of the facts as Mr. Gunter, accepted virtually the entire Lubicon position, as it relates to provincial concerns. I now urge Mr. Gunter to begin his own education by asking himself three questions about the Woodland Cree. Why, if this group is a legitimate band, have the Council of Treaty Eight Chiefs and dozens of other native communities gone out of their way to formally denounce Ottawa's creation of it? Why, in a plebiscite to ratify a land agreement last July, did federal officials allow Woodland voters to be paid $50 each at polling stations, and be promised $1,000 per family member in the event of an overall "yes" vote? And who do senior Indian Affairs officials continue to refuse to make the Woodland voters' list public, a document that in any democracy would normally be open to scrutiny?