Chief Dan George

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Chief Dan George, OC (July 24, 1899 – September 23, 1981) was a chief of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation in British Columbia, Canada. He was also an actor, musician, poet and author; his best-known written work was "My Heart Soars" and best remembered acting in Little Big Man (1970).

Chief Dan George

Quotes[edit]

  • Can we talk of integration until there is social integration? Unless there is integration in hearts and minds, you only have a physical presence and the walls are as high as the mountain tops.
    • Chief Dan George Speaks on Native American Culture and America, Mother Earth News, (July/August 1971)
  • I knew my people when they lived the old way. I knew them when there was still a dignity in our lives, and a feeling of worth in our outlook. I knew them when there was unspoken confidence in the home, a certain knowledge of the path we walked upon. But we were living on the dying energy of a dying culture—a culture which was slowly losing its forward thrust. I think it was the suddenness of it all that hurt us so. We did not have time to adjust to the startling upheaval around us. We seemed to have lost what we had without a replacement of it. We did not have time to take this 20th-century progress and eat it little by little and digest it. It was forced feeding from the start, and our stomach turned sick.
    • Chief Dan George Speaks on Native American Culture and America, Mother Earth News, (July/August 1971)
  • We paid, we paid, and we paid until we became a beaten race, poverty stricken and conquered. But you have been kind to listen to me, and I know that in your hearts you wish you could help. I wonder if there is much you can do, and yet there is a lot you can do. When you meet my children in your classrooms, respect each one for what he is: a child of our Father in heaven and your brother.
    • Chief Dan George Speaks on Native American Culture and America, Mother Earth News, (July/August 1971)
  • And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, oh Canada, 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. But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man's strange customs, which I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.
    • Quoted by Janet Rogers in Has anything changed? Revisiting Chief Dan George's iconic 'Lament for Confederation', CBC, (5 May 2017)
  • When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority... 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.
    • Quoted by Janet Rogers in Has anything changed? Revisiting Chief Dan George's iconic 'Lament for Confederation', CBC, (5 May 2017)
  • My nation was ignored in your history textbooks – they were little more 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 your 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 to me of my beautiful forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? 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’s past and gone... Oh God in heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me 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... 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.
    • Quoted in Chief Dan George’s powerful Indigenous rights speech, 50 years later, APTN National News (28 Jun 2017)

Quotes about[edit]

Dan George with Sondra Locke and Clint Eastwood (1976)
  • Chief Dan George of the Burrard tribe, who was best known for his role in the 1970 movie Little Big Man, died today in his sleep at Lions Gate Hospital. He was 82 years old. Besides his successful acting career, Chief Dan George was also known as an eloquent spokesman for native rights and the environment... He said he was impressed by the progress that Indians had made in his lifetime, noting that he himself, as an old man, had become more forward and bold... Some of our people stand and wait and don't talk for themselves, he said, but this is becoming a thing of the past. The younger Indians consider themselves equal to the white man. ... He said he was proud to see Indians who saw that film walk out of the theater and walk up to a white man and shake him by the hand. That's what they've got to do, you know - believe in themselves and try to fit in.
    • Chief Dan George, 82, Dies; Appeared in Little Big Man, New York Times, UPI (24 Sept 1981)
  • I look forward to hearing Chief Dan George's Lament for Confederation read again and again during 2017. Let's revisit this honest and accurate piece of writing penned by an Indigenous leader who all of Canada proudly recognized and embraced. His uncompromising response to the centenary is an indication of the integrity of his character and resolve in who he was.
    • Janet Rogers in Has anything changed? Revisiting Chief Dan George's iconic 'Lament for Confederation', CBC, (5 May 2017)
  • It was 1967...The speech forcefully critiques colonization and calls on Indigenous people to “grab the white man’s instruments of success” to rise again. “Dad and the whole family were very nervous... To stand up and tell the truth in such a profound way, he had no idea how the public would take that.”... After his father finished speaking, there were a few seconds of stunned silence. Then the audience rose to their feet and filled the stadium with about 10 minutes of deafening applause. “He began to cry because he was so touched." He helped bring shameful parts of Canada’s history out of the shadows and inspired young Indigenous leaders... George’s address was so revolutionary, his daughter Amy George recalls, she feared he would be killed for delivering it.,, “Some people did get very angry, too. When we were walking off the field at the stadium, some people were saying ‘You’re nuts!’ and they were throwing bottles and empty cups at us,” she says. There hasn’t been much improvement in how Canada treats First Nations since George’s speech, says his grandson Rueben George.
    • Chief Dan George’s powerful Indigenous rights speech, 50 years later, APTN National News (28 Jun 2017)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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