CBC Digital Archives

Our Native Land: American Indian Movement shakes up Canada

On Saturday afternoons for 21 years, dedicated listeners would "get their bannock and tea," and tune into CBC Radio for news from Our Native Land. The first - and so far only - national radio program focused on native issues and cultures, it chronicled the rejuvenation of native literature, art, culture and political activism beginning in 1965. Hosts included Johnny Yesno, Bernelda Wheeler, Albert Angus and Brian Maracle, who were part of the all-aboriginal production team.

"AIM is only a part of the total resistance movement that started when Christopher Columbus got off the boat," says Vern Belcourt, a leader of the American Indian Movement. Inspired by the civil rights and liberation movements of the early 1960s, American Indians are getting organized. This 1974 episode of Our Native Land features the nascent AIM movement in Canada and discusses its U.S. origins. News and stories on housing in B.C., protests against expansion of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, and criticism over the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline make up the show's first half.

• The Red Power movement was one part of the resurgence of native activism in Canada in the late 1960s and 1970s. Protest had been effectively quashed for many years thanks to Section 141 of the Indian Act, which lasted from 1927 to 1951. That section required natives to seek permission from the government to obtain a lawyer to prosecute claims against the Crown, and made fundraising for such prosecutions illegal.

• It was the Trudeau government's 1969 white paper that sparked a united, native rights movement. Penned by then Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien, the paper proposed scrapping Indian status and special privileges. Viewed as another government attempt at assimilation, native bands across the country protested the proposals. In 1970, the newly-formed National Indian Brotherhood penned the 1970 Red Paper in response.

• The Kenora crisis, mentioned early in this clip, escalated into a six-week stand-off that July. The Ojibwa Warriors' Society led the standoff and were supported by some AIM organizers and veterans of the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff. Anthropologist Anastasia Shkilnyk likened the situation between natives and non-natives in Kenora in the 1970s to the segregated Jim Crow South in the U.S. The Warriors' Society demanded effective and efficient transport from Kenora to the surrounding seven reserves, interpreters hired at all government agencies where Ojibwas dealt, fair treatment of Ojibwas by the police, and an end to racial discrimination in the hiring practices of local businesses and labour unions. The standoff ended on Aug. 17, 1974 after Mayor Jim Davidson promised to address the demands.

Medium: Radio
Program: Our Native Land
Broadcast Date: June 8, 1974
Guest(s): Vern Belcourt, Carla Blakey, LaDonna Harris, Lonnie Hindle, Philip Jeddore, Eric Kierans, James Washee
Announcer: Murray Parker
Host: Lloyd Henderson, Bernelda Wheeler
Reporter: Stephen Banker, Phil Stone
Duration: 43:40
Photo credit: Canadian Press/Carl Bigras, 1981

Last updated: February 6, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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