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Today we celebrate National Aboriginal Day in Canada! In celebration of this day, we hope you enjoy this preview of Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival, a new book on aboriginal rights in Canada by Bev Sellars. Look for this new book in July!
Who is Bev Sellars?
Bev Sellars was first elected chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, British Columbia, in 1987. She has spoken out on behalf of her community on racism and residential schools and on the environmental and social threats of mineral resource exploitation in her region. Having earned a degree in history from the University of Victoria and a law degree from the University of British Columbia, she has served as an advisor to the B.C. Treaty Commission. Sellars brings this professional background to her new book on Aboriginal rights. In her own words,
When I was elected chief in 1987, I was fully aware that the Indian Act existed and was supposedly legislation for on-reserve lands and people but I refused to read it. When the Department of Indian Affairs officials would come out to our community wanting to dictate this or that, for the most part, I ignored their “advice” unless we needed to follow procedure to gain monies. I did not read any parts of the Indian Act until I went to law school. As I suspected, that piece of racist legislation only enraged me.
Leaders before me in all parts of Canada felt the same way. When the Indian Act was put into legislation in 1876, it caused chaos in the lives and cultures of Aboriginal people. It decided who Indians were, where and how we should live, what we should do, and when we should do it. The Indian Act gave the state powers over Indians from the time they were born until they died – even after death in the administration of the estate of an Aboriginal person. When the Indian Act was legislated, the Aboriginal people did not throw up their hands and say, “Well that’s the law. We have to obey it.” Aboriginal people were constantly trying to get around or disregard the racist legislation and many spent time in jail for not accepting “the law.”
Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival tells the story of the struggle to defend our lands, our resources, and our cultures. It documents our struggle from First Contact until 1876 and beyond, ongoing today. It fills in omitted story segments, corrects the stories that are inaccurate, and includes missing stories. It tells a new history from a First Nations point of view.
What else has this author written?
Sellars is the author of They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School, which spent more than 40 weeks on the B.C. bestsellers list, often in the number one slot. This memoir also won the 2014 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature; placed third in the 2014 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Literature; and was shortlisted for the 2014 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize (B.C. Book Prizes).
Canadian Literature praised They Called Me Number One with the following words:
Sellars tells a story of programming and deprogramming, of being engrained with the powerful myth of white superiority at home and school, and of the years-long process of unspooling that myth through self-help books, university education, and political activism … While Sellars’s memoir celebrates the triumph of returning from the brink, it is also a stark condemnation of historical and extant paternalistic policies and the personal tragedies these policies continue to breed.
Why “Price Paid”?
The title of Sellars’s new book, Price Paid, takes inspiration from the following words of Chief Dan George (Geswanouth Slahoot) of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation:
“We are a people with special rights guaranteed us by promises and treaties. We do not beg for those rights, nor do we thank you … we do not thank you for them because we paid for them … and God help us, the price we paid was exorbitant. We paid for them with our culture, our dignity, and our self-respect. We paid and paid and paid …”
What’s in the new book?
Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival untangles truth from the many myths about Aboriginal people in Canada and addresses misconceptions still widely believed today. Based on a popular presentation Sellars often gave to treaty-makers, politicians, policymakers, and educators, the book begins with an overview of the tremendous contributions aboriginal peoples have made to the rest of the world. It documents the dark period of regulation by racist laws during the twentieth century, and then discusses new emergence in the twenty-first century into a re-establishment of Indigenous land and resource rights. The result is a candidly told personal take on the history of Aboriginal rights in Canada and Canadian history told from a First Nations point of view.
With foreword and excerpts by Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla (Hereditary Chief Bill Wilson), Price Paid will be of interest to Canadians of all ilks and ages. It’s the perfect refresher of – or way in to – an understanding of how aboriginal peoples and people have been personally and communally affected by the march of history. And Sellars offers suggestions for steps we can all begin to take to redirect that march along a new and more equitable path.
Pre-order your copy of Price Paid today for $19.95.