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To Save Themselves
by Bob Smith

SOCIAL-STUDIFS textbooks used to describe how all the buffalo were killed by mindless adventurers sitting on cowcatchers of trains that chugged to the frontier through the prairies` massive herds. They made students feel really bad - for the buffalo - and made them wonder about the kind of men who would do such a callous and shortsighted thing. Textbooks now hint at other victims. The Blackfoot, Blood, Cree, and other aboriginal nations depended on the buffalo for their very existence. The loss of the roving herds impoverished thousands of people, and forced their bands to make treaties with federal governments that condemned the majority to generations of indigence. Future textbooks may describe the Lubicon nation since 1971, and how the oil companies, in their rush to another frontier, drove away the moose and impoverished the 400 members of the Lubicon band. It will make students wonder how enlightened men could do such things. These texts would do well to reference John Goddard`s Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree as a source for understanding the madness of the oil industry`s frontier greed, and the zealotry with which the Alberta and Canadian governments came to their aid. Meticulously researched, the book reveals sleazy government strategies and racist goals worthy of J. Edgar Hoover, and a bottom-line exploitation that infuriates the reader to the point of frenzy. It is a partisan book, but only insofar as it accepts the fact that the Lubicon people exist. The governments regularly took the position that they did not. The Lubicon have been living in northern Alberta for hundreds of years. They were so far away from the bufalo that the treaty people never met them. The area was included at the turn of the century in Treaty 8 by the whim of government agents who didn`t have the energy to travel that far. These whims have become the subject of recent judicial and legislative action. Without a reserve and without welfare, the Lubicon survived Treaty 8 for the same reason they never signed it - they were too remote to be affected, and the moose were plentiful. But then oil was discovered, and their territories were overrun by dozens of oil companies and hundreds of wells. The legal and international political struggles begun by the Lubicon, first to save their way of life and then just to save themselves, are the focus of this book, which is as gripping as any spy thriller. There are unlikely heroes - a vitalized Premier Don Getty, a forgotten E. Davie Fulton, a powerless David Crombie - who come to understand Lubicon concerns. And Goddard identifies some villains, too -the Tory Indian affairs ministers Bill McKnight and Pierre Cadieux, and most of the Indian affairs bureaucracy from two levels of government - who try their dastardliest to get the Lubicon off their oil map. This is not a book about the Lubicon, but a book about the white forces determined to help or hurt them. It is not a primer on aboriginal land-claims issues, but it is an excellent, detailed account of the deceit, patience, mismanagement, courage, joy, and tragedy found at the intersection of aboriginal society and the Canadian state. To read this important book is to understand Elijah Harper`s "No"and Ovide Mercredi`s current obstinacy.

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