A famous quote by the late Chief Dan George inspired the title of a new book by award-winning author Bev Sellars.
In a 1972 speech about treaty rights, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation chief said: “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.”
Sellars will give a free public reading from her second book, Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival, on Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Centre Library.
Sellars was chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake for more than 20 years and is an outspoken advocate for her community on hot-button subjects such as racism, the legacy of residential schools and on the environmental and social threats of mineral resource exploitation in northern B.C. After earning a history degree from the University of Victoria and a law degree from the University of British Columbia, she went on to serve as an advisor to the B.C. Treaty Commission.
Price Paid is based on a presentation Sellars frequently gave to politicians, policymakers, and educators highlighting the contributions North America’s indigenous peoples have given to the rest of the world while also exploring the impact of the racist laws from the two previous centuries and misconceptions still widely believed today.
“When the Indian Act was put into legislation in 1876, it caused chaos in the lives and cultures of Aboriginal people,” said Sellar, whose previous book They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School spent more than 40 weeks and the B.C. bestsellers list. “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.”
Her research has culminated in a highly personal take on the history of Aboriginal rights in Canada and Canadian history told from a First Nations point of view.
“Price Paid tells the story of the struggle to defend our lands, our resources, and our cultures,” said Sellars. “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.”
The author visit is presented in partnership with the Surrey Aboriginal Leadership Committee and the City of Surrey. Call 604-598-7426 to register.