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Photos from the book:
List Price: $13.46 USD
6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Native Americans
Excerpt from the book:
Part autobiography and part memoir, this is the story of an Indigenous freedom fighter in British Columbia. Bill took an active part in pivotal events since 1960: the formation of the BC Association of Non-Status Indians, then the United Native Nations and Congress of Aboriginal People; the 1985 McIvor decision on Indian Status; the start of the BC Treaty Commission; the Oka crisis of 1990 and the Gustafsen Lake crisis of 1995; the Aboriginal Healing Foundation; BC Native Housing Society; international human rights forums, and much more.
They Made Me An Outlaw!
That's When I Became A Freedom Fighter.
By Bill Lightbown, Kutenai
I want you to see, these kinds of experiences that Lavina and I were having – obstacles being thrown in our path, enough to bankrupt our family and force us to move on – these were exactly the same kinds of tactics that the politicians and bureaucrats were using on our Aboriginal rights movement. The government pursued an official policy direction, commissioned in the Hawthorne report in 1964, to actually pressure Status Indians to leave the Reserves and go work in the cities, and that report detailed how the provinces could offer services and programs for our people in cities, instead of the federal government. And the Provinces started implementing that. What this really meant was that they were trying to empty the Reserves because that’s where people could have exercised their land rights, and because the Indian Band only gets funding to maintain that community based on a per-capita, on-Reserve formula. So you can see why there could never be adequate housing for people to move back to.
When we really exercised our muscle, we did get concessions and funds for housing. At first, the province was trying to enforce some kind of by-law that there should be no subsidized housing targeted for native people to be built within 80 miles of a city! I was elected President of the UNN again in 1983, and I was still President when we started building native housing, and we did build in Vancouver. We built this apartment building I live in now, as a matter of fact.
Lavina became President of the Council of the Haida Nation in that same year. The Conservative government was elected within a year or two of that, and they really damaged our struggle in the 80s. Most people don’t know that. The Conservative party really put us down, and cut off funds and all kinds of programs. The housing, welfare, you name it. Within a year of being in office, Brian Mulroney had a report back from this finance bureaucrat, his name was Nielsen. Chapter 6, I think it was, of the Nielsen report was basically one long list of federal programs and monies for Aboriginal people, and by how much they should be cut. I know there was a lot of outcry about the report and the government promised to throw it in the bin, but they still carried on with funding cuts. They were basically still trying to fulfill the extinguishment objectives of the 1969 White Paper Policy, they were just trying it from different angles. The Harper Conservative government did it again in 2012 with Bill C-45, where they basically enacted legislation that supersedes our rights, in terms of our self-government, and where they have further assimilated our Bands into the Canadian corporate structure – on their terms and without asking us. Now they can’t do that, not legally, but they’ve never stopped trying. A whole coast-to-coast movement started up in response to that 1969 White Paper Policy, just like the Idle No More movement came out of the 2012 omnibus legislation.
These days, people don’t remember the times when Aboriginal people had absolutely nothing, and we have fought for everything we have ever got. The federal government would never have given us anything if we hadn’t stood up and demanded it: they have honoured none of the original promises and deals made by the Hudson’s Bay Company; none of the original Reserve lands that were set aside by Governor Douglas – then taken away.
And every time we get some program or some funding from Ottawa for our people, we have to fight like crazy to get it and the only reason we are successful is because that is owed to us. The government releases a little bit of the money they have made off our lands when we get too close to calling off the whole deal and demanding our whole nations back.
Brian Mulroney was the Prime Minister when we got the money from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, we had formed the BC Native Housing Society, and we started to build apartments for the Vancouver Native Housing branch. That was already in the works; that was something we had fought for and had succeeded in convincing the previous federal government that they had a responsibility to us as Indian people so we could create our own housing.
But it was based on the fact that we agreed we would be responsible for it ourselves, once it was built, so it wouldn’t be costing government anything more outside of the subsidy. There was a Society for BC Native Housing that managed all the buildings and properties. That was the way we worked – to make ourselves self-sufficient. Unfortunately the Society has just been taken over now, by the province, and I got notice that they’re raising my rent.
We won the concession on housing, and then we won in education, and a couple of other support programs, on the basis of the fact that Metis and Non-Status Indians have constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights – and the federal government owes them a fiduciary obligation. Right there, that was the beginning of the Daniels case, and they just won that case in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government has the same fiduciary obligation to Metis and Non-Status Indians as it does to Status Indians. In fact, it has the fiduciary obligation to everyone with Aboriginal heritage, and everyone with Aboriginal heritage has rights. Sometimes I think that Pierre Trudeau tried to disappear the Indian Land Question by making sure no one was an Indian, and now Justin Trudeau is trying to disappear the Question by making everyone an Indian.
But that was the reason, us saying we had rights, that was the reason the Conservative party decided to destroy us, for good if possible, and they tried very hard to do that. In particular they got us all excited about doing our own thing, then cut the funds off. That left us in a very angry headspace. That was in the late 80s, into the 90s.
Every program that was available for off-reserve Aboriginal people, we brought them into being over the years, through the Native Council of Canada and through our Metis and Non-Status provincial organizations. We used to work together in those days – nobody is working together right now. A lot of our initiatives were either phased out or were killed. And most of them were killed – not by our people letting them slide, but by governments shutting them down. That’s why I hate the Progressive Conservative Party, and they’re still the same people now as they were back then, when their answer to the “Aboriginal Problem” was to kill us all off, and have some peace and quiet while they rape the land and take the resources. I don’t say things like that very often, but it’s true. That’s where it’s at.
When I look back at things, I can analyze who and what and when and where. Now I can recognize all those bureaucrats for who and what they are. I got fooled back then, just like everybody got fooled back then. We spent a lot of energy developing proposals and plans that the government had no intention of supporting, but the government asked us to submit those proposals and plans, in response to the demands we were making, and they often funded us to develop the plans that they were never, ever going to implement! We wasted years. Now that it’s too late, here I am. I finally got some of these people figured out. Anyway.