In the list of romantic lost causes, the Lubicons hold a place of honour.
The plight of this plucky Indian band battling big government and giant corporations for their aboriginal homeland won them admirers around the world a decade ago.
They became a focus of public concern about the environment and aboriginal rights. Support came from far and wide, from singers Bruce Cockburn and Buffy Sainte-Marie to the World Council of Churches, which warned about "genocidal consequences" of the treatment of the Lubicons.
It produced a book, Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree, and a song, Last Stand.
Ordinary Albertans were deeply touched by the Lubicon struggle. I still remember a fund-raising concert in Calgary years ago where the quiet dignity of Chief Bernard Ominayak in his ever-present baseball cap stole the show.
In some circles the support remains undiminished. Just five months ago, 50 Friends of the Lubicon demonstrated at the Montreal offices of Diashowa (sic) Inc., the pulp and paper company enmeshed in this drama.
The problem is, six decades have passed since the Cree living at Lubicon Lake first requested a reserve, and 17 years since the Lubicon first filed a formal land claim.
Every kind of intervention, negotiation and pressure has happened in those 17 years, and the matter is not settled.
Life has not stood still in those long years.
Two groups of Lubicons who got tired of the fight have broken away and formed their own bands. Now there's a third group of dissidents who call themselves the Little Buffalo Cree.
The federal government has probably encouraged this disintegration. Certainly both federal and provincial governments have a lot to answer for in what has happened to the people of Lubicon Lake.
But this fight has gone on too long.
The position of Chief Ominayak and his ever-present adviser, Fred Lennarson, has been undermined by the erosion of their membership. That's a fact.
If Lennarson was the friend of the Lubicon he claims to be, he would have advised them to settle years ago. That he still has Ominayak's ear after all these fruitless years is a sad comment on the chief's lack of judgment and Lennarson's own unhealthy influence.
The rule of fights, as with poker, is knowing "when to hold'em and when to fold'em," as the song says. Pick your fight carefully, give it your best shot and cut your losses if you don't win.
The Safeway strikers accepted a less-than-perfect contract when it became clear that the company wouldn't budge any further and that their own ability to stay out on strike was waning. There was nothing to be gained from holding out, so they settled. That's how these things are done.
The Lubicons want two things: a reserve on their traditional lands, plus money - to compensate for all the oil and trees that have been taken from their territory in recent decades and to rebuild their community.
The government first offered compensation of $46 million and later upped the offer to an estimated $73 million. The Lubicons rejected both offers. Now any deal is screwed up by the fact that a large chunk of the original 500 Lubicons have joined the breakaway groups.
No one should underestimate what the Lubicons have lost by the incursions of white society and industry.
It has been estimated that the number of Lubicons on welfare rose from 10 per cent to 90 per cent between 1979 and 1989, as oil exploration and then logging destroyed the traditional hunting lifestyle. This was a tragic story well before the last futile decade.
But refusing to accept reality has only made it more tragic. By rejecting the federal offers, the Lubicons have lost their opportunity. Now no one is sure how many people Ominayak and Lennarson still speak for.
Lennarson continues to talk about boycotting the Calgary Stampede and the like, as if that will solve anything. It won't.
He reminds me of a book called Friendly Fire, published in 1976. It told the true story of an Iowa farm wife, Peg Mullen, who went on a crusade to find out how her son had died in Vietnam.
Even when Peg had uncovered everything possible about the accident that killed her son, even though other parts of her life were being neglected, she couldn't let it go. She let her crusade consume her life.
The Lubicon fight is like that. How can any amount of money make up for the decade that's been lost trying to get a bigger settlement, a decade in which the band has splintered into different groups?
The Lubicon cause has become a way of life for some people. It shouldn't be. This thing needs to be settled, on any terms achievable here and now.
Susan Ruttan is chief editorial writer of the Edmonton Journal.
Her phone number is 429-5206, e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
June 14, 1997
Edmonton, Alberta TSJ 2S6
Susan Ruttan's June 14th commentary entitled "Lubicon's Lost Decade" is based on false government propaganda. Had she bothered to ask us about what she' s been told, which she didn't, she would have at least been able to base her views on facts instead of self serving government distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies.
Ruttan says, for example, that "two groups of Lubicons who got tired of the fight have broken away and formed their own bands". "Now", she says, "there's a third group of dissidents".
In fact the first so-called break-away group was organized by agents of the federal government out of individuals from a half-a-dozen different northern Alberta Bands in a transparent effort to subvert Lubicon land rights. It included some Lubicons but by no stretch of the imagination can it be considered to be a break-away group of Lubicons who "tired of the fight".
The second so-called break-away group is in fact a separate and distinct community of people who have been seeking recognition of their rights for as long as the Lubicons. While there is again some membership overlap with the Lubicons, it simply is not true that these people are a second break-away group of Lubicons who "tired of the fight".
The third group to which Ruttan refers does represent a dissident faction of Lubicons who ran unsuccessfully for office during the last Lubicon election, much as different political parties vie for office in federal and provincial elections, except that they were demonstrably set up, supported, manipulated and used by the Alberta government in a way which would never be tolerated by Canadians in a federal or provincial election. When they lost the election they announced through professional "communications specialists" closely associated with Alberta Premier Klein that they wanted to divide Lubicon lands and resources and set up their own band. One can imagine how the chief editorial writer of the Edmonton Journal would react if Liberal Leader Grant Mitchell proposed to divide up Alberta since he lost the election and he and his followers didn't want to be governed by the people who won the election.
Ruttan then goes on to state that "the government first offered compensation of $46 million and later upped the offer to $73 million". In fact, except for a proposal by then Provincial Native Affairs Minister Mike Cardinal to provide $6 million a year for ten years in compensation from the province, both levels of Canadian government have taken the position that the Lubicons have no compensation coming for illegal expropriation of an estimated $9 billion in resources from lands which the Lubicons have never sold, traded, lost in war nor ceded to anybody in any legally or historically recognized way. The federal government did propose a settlement package in January of 1989 consisting of houses, roads, water, sewer and a future on welfare which they claimed was worth $46 million. But it was not. Rather it consisted of things like an offer to"seek ministerial approval in principle for funding from the Native Economic Development Program up to a maximum of $4 million for the following projects provided that they meet normal program requirements". That's not an offer of $4 million and a series of such proposals don't add up to an offer of $46 million.
In 1992 the federal government proposed the same settlement package as they did in 1989 claiming that it was now worth $73 million but it was not. The way they jacked up the numbers was by deliberately not taking inflation into account at points and selectively taking inflation into account at other points. When inflation was taken into account in the same way across the boards, the 1992 offer was the same as the 1989 offer but worth even less in real dollars because of the significant impact of inflation.
If the government's position won't change, Ruttan counsels, the Lubicons should accept whatever the government is prepared to offer. When it's clear that the other side won't budge, she says, "there is nothing to be gained by holding out" and the Lubicons should "cut (our) losses" and settle. She says "this thing needs to be settled on any terms achievable". She says "that's how these things are done". Ruttan obviously doesn't feel the same responsibility for her children that we feel for our children or she simply doesn't understand our options.
Ruttan says by "refusing to accept reality" we have only made our situation "more tragic". More tragic than what? She obviously doesn't know the circumstances of the government-created band next to our community which did accept "whatever the government is prepared to offer" and whose situation is no better than ours and many consider to be worse.
The options the governments of Canada and Alberta have given us are to cede the legal rights and heritage of our children and grandchildren in exchange for government provided housing and a future on welfare or not cede the legal rights and heritage of our children and grandchildren and still live in government provided housing on welfare. If those are our only available options we will never agree to a settlement allowing Canada and Canadians to pretend that they did anything more decent or honourable than simply steal the lands and resources of a less powerful society.
Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
BIG MOUNTAIN Aktionsgruppe e.V.
Gemeinnuetziger Verein zur Unterstuetzung
Spendenkonto: Stadtsparkasse Muenchen BLZ 70150000, Kto. 17-223470
Munich, June 15th, 1997
To the Edmonton Journal
Letters to the Editor
Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6
Fax: 001 403 498 5677
Re: Susan Ruttan's government propaganda ("Lubicon's lost decade ...")
Your recent article about the ongoing struggle of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation is a piece of government propaganda because like, the government's efforts to fool die Lubicon Cree with a slightly revised (but due to inflation never "upped") "Take-it-or-leave-it-offer" of 1989 and 1992 it "recommends" that the Lubicon Cree should accept the fact that the federal government, the provincial government and large resource companies can deceive, lie to, steal from and destroy a people without being called dishonest thieves and involved in genocidal activities and being held responsible for their acts.
The Lubicon Cree want compensation for resources extracted illegally, which are theirs. The Lubicon Cree demand a settlement, that enables them to rebuild their shattered economy. They do not accept a government handout which will send them into a welfare existence similar to the welfare communities throughout the north. We hope that Mrs. Ruttan does not have children that one day live at the mercy of Alberta's economical powers, because anyone travelling in Alberta's north can see what it is like to live at the mercy of Alberta politicians and their resource cowboys.
It is this intentional and profitable blindness by politicians, business people and media representatives that makes the European support organizations to continue their efforts to support the Lubicon struggle.
The possibility of a tourism boycott especially targeting the Calgary Stampede has been considered by Europeans for two years now, it at no point was an idea of the Lubicon leadership nor their advisers, but it was and could be our way to react to governments running their country like an outdated banana republic, instead of honouring letter and spirit of international human rights agreements as having been signed by states like Canada.
The boycott idea was born out of the experience with the Canadian legal system which ruled against an ongoing Canadian boycott against Daishowa "because it economically harmed the boycotted", a decision which makes serious boycotts illegal in Canada and shows the serious contempt of the Canadian establishment for civil and political rights if their maximum profit becomes a self-proclaimed endangered species.
No Canadian court or company can silence - or should we rather say: blackmail through legal consequences? - a boycott network in foreign countries. Although many Canadians might not believe it because they have reason to be grateful to their country, one in some cases can be grateful not to live in Canada.
The boycott will begin once a decision of the support organizations to the Lubicon Cree has been made.
BMAG - Member of the Board
Western Canada Department
cc: Lubicon Lake Indian Nation, Friends of the Lubicon Toronto
According to Austrian Lubicon supporter Reinhard Trink, who posted these articles to us,
Several weeks ago reliable sources advised the Lubicons that Karen Trace was working with "high level contacts" at the Edmonton Journal on a piece about the Lubicons. Karen Trace is one of the two Edmonton lawyers working with the so-called Little Buffalo Cree Band. (Susan Ruttan is apparently the "high level contact" with whom Karen Trace was working.)Contact Susan Ruttan and the Edmonton Journal at:
The other lawyer working with the Little Buffalo Cree Band is an Edmonton lawyer named John Gill. In addition to seeking a court injunction to block land negotiations between the Lubicons and the Canadian federal government, John Gill has been appointed by the Canadian federal government to represent the Canadian Federal Government in Indian land negotiations in the Northwest Territories.
Others associated with the so-called Little Buffalo Cree Band include Wayne Bill, Thompson MacDonald and Neil Reddekopp. Bill and MacDonald are professional political propagandists closely associated with Alberta provincial premier Ralph Klein. Reddekopp is the Alberta government's senior genealogist -- known to have been working closely with John Gill on the Little Buffalo Cree Band injunction application. Reddekopp has been quoted as having said that "there will not be a single Lubicon left when (he) gets through with them".
One interpretation of the Ruttan commentary is that it's a trial balloon to see if anybody remembers what's been done to the Lubicons or cares. It would be helpful if people who do remember and who do care would write letters to the editor of the Edmonton Journal expressing outrage over this latest shameful episode in the continuing Lubicon tragedy.
Edmonton, Alberta TSJ 2S6