By Emma Feltes and Glen Coulthard
BC Studies no. 212 Winter 2021/22
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Guest edited by Emma Feltes and Glen Coulthard.
Originating in British Columbia, the Constitution Express was an Indigenous movement launched in 1980 in response to the Canadian government’s plans to ‘patriate’ the Constitution from the UK. It was a local, national, and international movement with far-reaching impacts on decolonial thought and action, and among colonized people around the world. This special issue reflects the simultaneously local and transnational facets of the movement, and contributes a nuanced perspective on provincial politics and the scholarship of Indigenous rights.
In This Issue
By Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
By Sarah Nickel
By Emma Feltes, Sharon Venne
By Ruldoph C. Rÿser
By Kent McNeil
By Louise Mandell
By Lorna Wanosts'a7 Williams
Glen Coulthard is an associate professor in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies and Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. He is Yellowknives Dene.
Emma Feltes is a legal and political anthropologist, writer, and or-ganizer. She has a PhD in anthropology from the University of British Columbia and currently holds a postdoctoral position at Columbia Uni-versity. Her work focuses on Indigenous-State relations, international and constitutional law, and the legal and political construction of Canadian colonialism.
Louise Mandell was one of the founding partners of Mandell Pinder, a law firm specializing in Aboriginal and Treaty Rights law. In 2011, she moved out of the day-to-day practice of law but remains connected in the esteemed capacity of partner emeritus to the firm. On behalf of her many First Nations clients, she has devoted her professional life to the advancement of their Aboriginal Title and Rights and Treaty Rights. She was brought into the area of Aboriginal law when it was in its infancy, working under the direction of the late Grand Chief George Manuel, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. Acting for UBCIC, she was legal counsel in their fight against the patriation of the Constitution. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1997 and, in 2001, was awarded the Georges A. Goyer QC Memorial Award for exceptional contribution to the development of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights jurisprudence across the country. In 2013, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs recognized and honoured her by creating the Louise Mandell Legal Research Collection. In June 2012, she received an honorary doctor of laws from Simon Fraser University. And in October 2014, she was appointed as the second chancellor of Vancouver Island University.
Kent McNeil is a distinguished research professor (emeritus) at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, where he began teaching in 1987. He has also taught in the Indigenous Law Centre’s Summer Program in Saskatoon. His research focuses on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. He is the author of numerous works on Indigenous Rights, including three books: Common Law Aboriginal Title (1989), Emerging Justice? Essays on Indigenous Rights in Canada and Australia (2001), and Flawed Precedent: The St. Catherine’s Case and Aboriginal Title (2019). He has held visiting positions in Australia, France, Italy, and the United States, and has acted as a consultant and expert witness for Indigenous Peoples. His work has been relied upon by the Supreme Court of Canada and the High Court of Australia in leading cases on Indigenous Rights.
Sarah Nickel is Tk‘emlúpsemc (Kamloops Secwépemc), French Canadian, and Ukrainian. She is an associate professor in the Department of history, classics, and religious studies at the University of Alberta. Her first book, Assembling Unity: Indigenous Politics, Gender, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs was published with UBC Press in 2019and recently won the Canadian Historical Association prize for the best scholarly book in Indigenous History. Sarah also recently co-edited a volume on Indigenous feminisms titled: In Good Relation: Gender, History, and Kinship in Indigenous Feminisms, which was released by the University of Manitoba Press in May 2020.
Mildred Poplar is from Old Crow, Yukon – home of the Gwitchin Nation. Her family lived a nomadic life until her parents made a difficult decision to move from their village so the children could get an education. They attended the Chooutla Indian Residential School in southern Yukon. Mildred worked as a secretary, married, and had three children. It was while she and husband Joe lived in Fort St. John, BC, that he passed away. She moved to Prince George and worked with Indian communities in education before being hired by George Manuel to co-ordinate the education portfolio at the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs in 1978. Poplar was co-ordinator of the southern train when UBCIC organized the Constitution Express. She went on to be the assistant to four UBCIC presidents until she retired in 2000. As a member of the Native Council of the Anglican Church of Canada, she was sent to many international conferences, including the first international gathering of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations in New York. Poplar has written a book to reflect the world view of the Indigenous Peoples, what those on the frontlines have to endure, and what it takes to fight for freedom.
Rudolph C. Rÿser is the founding Chair of the Centre for World Indigenous Studies with more than forty five years’ experience in the field of Indian Affairs, as Indian Rights advocate, and as a leading theorist of Fourth World geopolitics. He is of Cree/Oneida descent on his mother’s side and Swiss descent on his father’s. Dr. Rÿser has contributed to policies and laws affecting American Indians and Indigenous peoples internationally, including the development of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He is the author of the seminal book Indigenous Nations and Modern States: The Political Emergence of Nations Challenging State Power (2012) and the Fourth World Geopolitical Reader.
Sharon H. Venne is a Cree woman who graduated from the University of Victoria Faculty of Law in 1979. She has since worked within Canada and internationally and has written extensively on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Her Master of Laws thesis was published as Our Elders Understand Our Rights: Evolving International Law regarding Indigenous Peoples.
Lorna Wánosts’a7 Williams is Lil’watul, and until she retired in 2014 she held the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning in the Faculty of Education (Curriculum and Instruction) and Department of Linguistics at the University of Victoria. Dr. Williams is an educator with many years of experience in Aboriginal education, Indigenous language revitalization, curriculum development, teacher development, mediated learning, cognitive education, effects of colonization on learning, and Indigenous ways of knowing. She is a trainer in Instrumental Enrichment and Bright Start. Lorna co-directed a series of videos called First Nations: The Circle Unbroken made available to all BC schools and she was co-producer and subject of the Gemini award-winning film, The Mind of a Child. She has written children’s books, teachers’ guides, and developed Lil’wat language curriculum to teach people to read and write the Lil’wat language, which was exclusively oral until 1973.