Poster announcement for the March 10, 11 panel

This panel presentation brought five Indigenous leaders to Queen’s to discuss Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s concept of the “Just Society” and how it related to Indigenous lives. Each emphasized that any place for Indigenous groups in the Just Society depended upon full recognition, both in daily life and within the federal government, of Indigenous rights. They criticized the federal government’s attitude, especially the controversial White Paper of 1969, and outlined its ongoing influence on government policy.

Isaac Beaulieu was the secretary of the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood. He was graduate of University of Ottawa, a teacher and an economist. He opened the panel by suggesting that Indigenous peoples’ role in society was growing, and in turn, Indigenous people wanted to make their presence felt by organizing. For Beaulieu, Indigenous peoples were central to defining what true Canadianism was.

Donna Tyndell was affiliated with the Union of British Columbia Chiefs. She was a teacher and graduate of Peterborough Teachers’ College. In her remarks, she contrasted the life of her grandfather with the life of her cousin, showing that by outlawing Indigenous culture, the federal government had committed cultural genocide, removing all traditional bases for social structure that emerged from the potlatch. The result was a position of despair even within the ‘Just Society,’ in which the only mobility offered came from separation from one’s culture. She was not searching for white guilt or sympathy, she told the audience, but for action and the ability to self-govern.

Herbert Strong Eagle was affiliated with the Federation of Saskatchewan Brotherhood of Indians and worked in Regina with economic development program for Indigenous communities. He was at the time of this panel also a student at the University of Ottawa in commerce. Strong Eagle critiqued the definition of ‘Indian’ by the federal government, which excluded women who married settlers and their children. First Nations individuals living off-reserve also lost access to a number of Department of Indian Affairs resources and services. He then spoke about the federal government’s neglect of their treaty obligations. He also outlined a few of the Indigenous-directed community development programs taking place in Saskatchewan.

Arthur Manuel was President of Native Youth Alliance and the son of George Manuel, chief of the National Indian Brotherhood, Alberta. Arthur Manuel refused the idea that a Just Society existed. Instead, he chose to speak about how we could create a society with mutual acceptance and respect. The dominant settler society, he argued, did not respect the rights or the dignity of Indigenous populations. Manuel suggested that there needed to be greater shared knowledge about both cultures, that there was a need to examine the common history of North America as it may be told by Indigenous elders and historians. He also expressed frustration with the state of affairs in which Indigenous leaders were consistently asked to educate society, but could offer no real movement against inaccurate textbooks, uninformed teachers, and a mass media that reinforced a distorted view of Indigenous people.

Walter Currie was President of Indian-Eskimo Association of Canada and superintendent at the Ontario Department of education. He also served as chairman of the 1966 Indian-Eskimo Association of Canada’s National Conference on Indians in Winnipeg. In his short talk, he stressed the importance of recognizing diversity and distinction among Indigenous peoples. Until they were accepted as individual nations, no Just Society could exist. Following his co-panelists, Currie highlighted the differences that Indian Status brought to Indigenous people. He advocated for the students and professors in the audience to become more aware of the situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada and called on Queen’s to incorporate Indigenous history into its Canadian history program. He ended by arguing that settlers had an obligation to aid in the Indigenous call for self-determination.

The panel was held on March 10, 1971. The speakers remained on campus for two days to meet interested student groups. Listen to the panel below.

Listen to the “Canada’s Indians: Their Place in the Just Society” panel.
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The poster for the panel and Chrétien’s talk.
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Alternate poster for the panel.