When Canada observed its centenary on July 1, 1967, Chief Dan George delivered one of the most powerful speeches by an Indigenous leader.
At the podium of Vancouver’s then Empire Stadium, George, who led the Tsleil-Waututh Nation from 1951 to 1963, spoke to thousands and made his memorable Lament for Confederation address.
“When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority,” George said.
His speech wasn’t only a lamentation of the colonial oppression of Indigenous peoples. It was also about grit, determination, and hope.
“Like the thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success — his education, his skills, and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society. Before I follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, Oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass.”
An exhibit celebrates the life and work of George, who passed away in 1981. He is remembered for a lot of things, including his achievements as an Oscar-nominated actor.
The Chief Dan George Exhibit: Actor and Activist runs until August 29, 2021 at the Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver.
Located in the traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the 2649 Dollarton Highway site is a conservation area managed by the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia.
Wild Bird Trust president Irwin Oostindie said in a media release that George’s legacy shows a path forward for reconciliation in Canada.
“We are all eager for direction on movements for justice and reconciliation, and Chief Dan George provided decades of inspiration, hard truths and guidance to all of us,” Oostindie said.
On June 21, Canada marks the 25th celebration National Indigenous Peoples Day.
For details about The Chief Dan George Exhibit: Actor and Activist, visit https://wildbirdtrust.org/programs/exhibits/