KELOWNA – As band members around the world mourn the sudden loss of one of the most influential advocates of First Nations issues, a local Grand Chief remembers him as one of the best friends he ever had.
Surrounded by family, Arthur Manuel died at 11 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11 from pneumonia and congestive heart failure. He was 64.
He served for many years as Chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band, was chair of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council and leader and spokesperson for the Interior Alliance. He was a member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs' Chief Council.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says in a media statement that above all else, he was a devoted father, grandfather and husband.
“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,” he says. “He travelled extensively throughout Canada, North America and around the world in his unwavering and relentless efforts to champion the cause of our Indigenous Rights. He relentlessly worked on land claim issues, calling for change to Canada's fundamental flawed policy on Indigenous land claims.”
Local Grand Chief and six-term Westbank First Nation chief Ron Derrickson knew Manuel since he was a child. They grew up together and recently co-authored a book, Unsettling Canada, about how First Nations and Canada have found themselves at seemingly intractable odds over sovereignity and self-determination.
“(Arthur Manuel) was one of the most intelligent men in Native rights in Canada,” Derrickson says. “He was absolutely dedicated and selfless. What he was doing was so important to the Native people.”
Derrickson describes Manuel as humble, intelligent and honest, quick to take the high road and relentlessly dedicated to his family and causes he believed in.
“He’s fought for our rights and backed up the government. He was not only my friend, he was like a brother to me,” he says. “He’s the best friend I ever had.”
Derrickson and Manuel have a follow up book they co-wrote together coming out this year. A large part of it, he says, will be Manuel’s collected writings over the years.
“He convinced (Seventh Generation Fund) to move into Canada,” he says. “I can’t say enough good about him. He did everything with humility, integrity, intelligence and dedication.”
The family is planning to hold a wake and service this weekend at the Adams Lake Indian Band gymnasium in Chase B.C.
“He’s done more for the Native cause than any other human being I know,” Derrickson says. “It was a big shock.”
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