CHIEF DAN GEORGE – Oh, Canada, how shall we celebrate with you?

Chief Dan George. (Image: Golden Globes)

On July 1, 1967, Chief Dan George spoke during a Canada Day celebration in Vancouver marking our 100th birthday as a nation.

A residential school survivor, George had become an internationally known actor who starred in Little Big Man. From 1951 to 1963, he was chief of what is now known as the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

Here is his speech:

“How long have I known you, Oh Canada? A hundred years? Yes, a hundred years. And many, many seelanum more. And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.

“For I have known you when your forests were mine; when they gave me my meat and my clothing. I have known you in your brooks and your rivers where your fish flashed and danced in the sun, where the waters said ‘come and eat of my abundance.’ I have known you in the freedom of your winds. And my spirit, like your winds, once roamed this good land.

“But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I‘ve seen that freedom disappear just like the salmon how they mysteriously go out to sea. The white man’s strange customs, I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.

“When I fought to protect my home and my land, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed this new way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.

“My nation was ignored in your history textbooks — we were less important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, and when I drank the fire-water, I got drunk — very, very drunk. And I forgot.

“Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left me of my beautiful forests? Shall I thank you for the canned fish of my river? Shall I thank you for the loss of my pride and authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back? No! I must forget what is past and gone.

“Oh God in heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me once again, as in the days of old, dominate my environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise up and go on.

“Oh God! 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. And before I follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, I shall see these things come to pass.

“I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedoms of our great land. So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest in the proud history of our tribes and nations.”

About Mel Rothenburger (9238 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on CHIEF DAN GEORGE – Oh, Canada, how shall we celebrate with you?

  1. robert a george // July 1, 2021 at 6:29 PM // Reply

    Back in 1961 when I was a young fella,I sat at a table with Dan George in the Lynewood hotel beer parlour in Notth Vancouver. and shared stories and a beer or two.I said my name was Bob George,the same as his sons. My dad,Ernie George used to deliver bread for Cowans Bakery to the reserve in Dollarton and knew the old Chief. Archie Cowan was my grandad. He was also a counceller for the city of Vancouver and aroused the ire of his political enemy Mayor Gerry McGeer when he fought for the people who had paid in advance for tickets to cross the old second narrows bridge. Two bits a ticket as were all the bridges in those days. I told Dan how much I enjoyed the local CBC series ” Cariboo Country”and his part in it as Old Antoine.He said ” yeh, but next time they’re gonna give me a bigger part. Little did he know.
    We have a large original of him on our wall in pastels and apparently it was the only time he ever sat for a painting. BG

  2. Ian MacKenzie // July 1, 2021 at 11:19 AM // Reply

    Now that is the saddest eloquence I’ve ever read. I wish I had heard him say those words, and I hope his vision for his nation’s future truly comes to pass.

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