Arthur Manuel (Photo Idle No More)
Assembly of First Nations National Chief on the Passing of Arthur Manuel: “A Strong Voice for Our Peoples and Rights”
The former chief of Neskonlith First Nations, near Merritt B.C., Arthur Manuel, a well known outspoken indigenous leader has died at the age 65. He was surrounded by family when he passed Wednesday, Jan., 11 2017.
Arthur Manuel was a well known figure in Indigenous politics as the former chief of Neskonlith First Nation and former elected head of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, he also founded the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.
He comes from a family of First Nations rights fighters. His father was Grand Chief George Manuel who co-founded and served as a president of the National Indian Brotherhood, which later became the Assembly of First Nations.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said in a statement, “Arthur Manuel was, without question, one of Canada’s strongest and most outspoken indigenous leaders in the defense of our indigenous land and human rights.”
“We are so profoundly grateful for Arthur’s many sacrifices and contributions to our ongoing struggles to seek a full measure of justice for our indigenous peoples.
“Arthur’s legacy will continue to reverberate throughout our ongoing indigenous history for many, many generations to come,” the statement reads.
He had joined the Standing Rock Sioux encampment in the U.S., and spoke about the people there who faced police rubber bullets and water cannons before halting the Dakota Access Pipeline. He co-authored a book last year ‘Unsettling Canada: A National Wake Up Call’.
Outpourings of support have been coming in from indigenous leaders across Canada in statements and postings.
Former Tahltan Nation president Annita McPhee posted to Facebook the indigenous community “lost a warrior.You were a true warrior of our rights and title and I was so blessed to have known you,” she wrote. “You were so inspirational, humble and so strong. I was so proud listening to you. You didn’t act like we had rights and title, you lived it.”
Wet’suwet’en land defender and hereditary chief Toghestiy — also known as Warner Naziel said Thursday “He picked up his late father George Manuel’s indigenous rights torch and carried it proudly throughout the world,” he said on Facebook. “He leaves behind a family of warriors who will continue to do the same. I will miss our conversations and his guidance.”
Manuel co-founded a national network, Defenders of the Land.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde offered condolences and prayers to the friends and family of Arthur Manuel.
National Chief Bellegarde said in a statement, “On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, I want to express our deep sadness on the passing of Arthur Manuel, one of our true Indigenous leaders. He held a keen understanding of western law and policy and was firmly grounded in his culture and Indigenous law. An outspoken advocate for First Nations rights in Canada and Indigenous rights around the world, he worked tirelessly to ensure the reality of life for First Nations in Canada was understood, and that the rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples around the world were respected and upheld by the international community. On behalf of the Chiefs in Assembly and the Regional Chiefs of our Executive, I convey our prayers and condolences to his family, friends, community and all those who knew and respected him.”
Arthur Manuel was a recognized leader, respected by First Nations in British Columbia and across the country. Manuel served four terms as Chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band and three terms as Chair of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council. In 2002, he co-chaired the Assembly of First Nations Delgamuukw Implementation Strategic Committee (DISC) to engage the federal government to implement the landmark Delgamuukw decision and changes to the Comprehensive Claims Policy.
Manuel played a significant role in advancing the rights of First Nations on the international stage, working at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and as a key expert and participant at the Convention on Biological Diversity. As Chairman and spokesperson for the Indigenous Network of Economies and Trade, he was a strong voice speaking to the importance of involving First Nations in all levels of economics and international trade. His writings were published in numerous publications and he authored a number of books.