Biography of George Manuel

February 21st, 1921 - November 15th, 1989

At this point in our struggle for survival, the Indian peoples of North America are entitled to declare a victory. We have survived. If others have also prospered on our land, let it stand as a sign between us that the Mother Earth can be good to all her children without confusing one with another. It is a myth of European warfare that one man’s victory requires another’s defeat.  (Fourth World: An Indian Reality by George Manuel and Michael Posluns, 1974).

It is not an easy task, to sum up into mere words, the accomplishments of Grand Chief George Manuel. One cannot even pretend to capture in so brief a summary, the value of all that he has done for aboriginal people or the essence of who he was as a man. His vision and actions inspired the nation and his legacy shall undoubtedly resonate in the aboriginal world for all time. Many have called him a born leader. It was a role that he filled with honour and integrity. He put all of himself into any task which he undertook and he encouraged others to do the same.

George Manuel was born on February 21, 1921 into a world that was trying to assimilate the Indian into the mould designed by the larger society. His early life was not all that different from other Indians of his time. George attended residential school and worked in the forest industry as a boom boss. He gained strength from his family and community and it was this strength that added to the quality of his leadership. Perhaps the most important lesson that George Manuel has taught us is that we hold the power to shape our future. He recognised that in order for aboriginal societies to effect change, the community and all of its members had to work together in mind, body and spirit to bring this about. It was this knowledge which contributed to his successful political career, which began with his term as Chief of the Shuswap people, a position which he held for seven years. In 1959, when he became president of the North American Indian Brotherhood of BC, the Nation began to truly feel his presence in the political arena.

Throughout his life, George Manuel worked for his community, for the aboriginal people of the nation and for the indigenous people of the world. In 1975 he became the first president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, a position which he retained until 1981. During this time, he travelled to Argentina, Peru, Sweden, Nicaragua, Chile and Guatemala to meet with the indigenous people and their leaders. George realised that the aboriginal people of BC had much in common with other indigenous nations-elements of our worldview, our spirituality, our relations with the colonisers and our fight to maintain our rights in the face of adversity unite us all.

George Manuel was instrumental in bringing about the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (1979-1981), he continued to inspire the aboriginal community into action. He developed the Aboriginal Rights Position Paper and organized what came to be regarded as one of the Union’s most ambitious projects-the Indian Constitutional Express. Under his leadership, the UBCIC worked hard to fulfil its mandate to the people. George Manuel inspired others to work towards aboriginal control over our children, our health, our resource use, our government, but most importantly, he inspired us to take charge of our future regardless of the cost. Under his leadership, the Union grew in the esteem of the aboriginal people for whom it was created and gained stature in the eyes of the media. George Manuel embodied the very spirit of the UBCIC. Though he became ill before the end of the Indian Constitutional Express and was replaced by his son Robert Manuel, his legacy lives on in the Union today. Though we have not yet achieved absolute control over determining the course of our future, the Union continues to fight to realise George Manuel’s vision. George has taught was well, for he proved that when we work together and are committed with mind, body and spirit, we can indeed change the world.

See the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) pages The Legacy of Grand Chief George Manuel and George Manuel's 25th Anniversary: President of the National Indian Brotherhood, July 18, 1995 which is a speech by Chief Arthur M. Manuel, son of George Manuel, to the Assembly of First Nations, Ottawa, Canada.   CWIS maintains the Fourth World Documentation Project: Indigenous Peoples' Information for the Online Community (FWDP).  The following is a list of documents written by George Manuel mainained on the FWDP site:

WCIPFISH.TXT - Indigenous Peoples Fishing Rights and Responsibilities by George Manuel, President, World Council of Indigenous Peoples - December 15, 1979

BILLPART.TXT - Petition and Bill of Particulars on the Establishment of Negotiations Between Indian Nations in Canada and the Gov't of Canada to Resolve Outstanding Differences Prior to the Patriation of the Canadian Constitution

BILPART2.TXT - Petition and Bill of Particulars on the Political Standing of Indigenous Tribes and Bands Under the Protection of the British Gov't in the Face of Impending Canadian Independence

The following are documents produced when George Manuel was UBCIC President (1979-1981) and/or contain a significant mention of George Manuel:

Background on the Term "Fourth World", an excerpt from CWIS Ocasional Paper #18, The Meaning of 'Nation' and 'State' in the Fourth World

INDCONST.TXT - Indian Nations and the Constitution - A position paper prepared by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs on the patriation of the Canadian Constitution

WCIPINFO.TXT - The Formation of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples by Douglas Sanders, April 1980

[ George Manuel ] [ Philip Paul ] [ Robert Manuel ] [ Saul Terry ] [ Stewart Phillip ]

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.