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Aurevoir Arthur Manuel


By Brian Noble, Dalhousie University

Dear colleagues, students, friends

I write to share the sad news from the international Indigenous community that Art Manuel, one of the world-leading voices and activists for Indigenous land and human rights has passed away suddenly.

Some of you may know I have been honoured by a 16-year close collaborative relationship with Arthur, and count him as both Indigenous research colleague and a close friend.  Arthur embraced Academics who made careful, robust study of the histories and facts of Indigenous land, Constitutional and human rights, including Anthropologists, Sociologists, Political Philosophers, Economists, Legal Scholars, Geographers, Hydrologists, Ecologists, and those in so many disciplines.  He was at home among Labour activists, Environmentalists, Indigenous feminists, and both National and UN-level Indigenous leaders.   Art was also one of the Plenary Panel Speakers at the 2003 CASCA / SANA meetings hosted by SOSA here at Dalhousie addressing the topic of “Indigenizing the Global”, speaking alongside towering disciplinary figures including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Rodolfo Stavenhagen, June Nash, Michael Asch, and Marc Abelard-Tremblay.

Arthur was a leading figure in the struggle against colonial land grabs of Indigenous territories, including those of his own people the Secwepemc, against Neoliberal capitalist processes that increasingly threatened and destroyed lands and waters and food sources in Indigenous territories and beyond, and was a potent voice in the International Indigenous rights movement both around territorial sovereignty, and human rights violations upon Indigenous peoples manifest in ongoing poverty, racism, denial of Indigenous laws, and so much more.  His book Unsettling Canada chronicles the collective struggles, and highly interruptive and effective political, social, legal, and economic interventions that Manuel innovated as the means to leverage state responsiveness to Indigenous rights calls, not just for his own people, but for Indigenous Peoples the world over.

His passing has been trending most of today on Twitter, testimony to the enormous following he has garnered.  It is a great loss to me personally, and to so many who knew, lived, and worked with him.   And of course to the now world-wide cause to regain the never-extinguished rights, relations, and authority to the lands that Secwepemc and Indigenous Peoples everywhere hold so dear.  In turn, that movement has inspired such actions as that at Standing Rock, where indeed Arthur spent time in solidarity with the Gathering of Sioux and all nations to protect the waters from rapacious pipeline expansions.

Happily, Arthur has inspired subsequent generations of Indigenous activists, much as we was inspired by his father, the renown Chief George Manuel.  In addition, Dalhousie University’s M.A. Social Anthropology Graduate and Governor General Prize holder Emma Feltes has been working closely with Arthur for the last several years via her PhD studies at UBC.  His legacy goes through us as social scientists as well.

I invite you to find Art’s book, and learn about Art’s massive contribution and legacy, to help us think as Anthropologists about the problems wrought by ongoing colonialism. Here also is a link to a piece he contributed in recent times to the Media Coop, “Are you a Canadian”.

Brian Noble

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