One of the goals of the ill-fated League of Indians had been to establish a national organization for Indians, but political, economic, and geographical impediments thwarted this ambition. In 1960, the National Indian Council was formed, successfully assuming the mantle that had proven too much for the league. The National Indian Council owed much to Prairie Indian leaders and the organizations that provided them political experience, in particular the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians.

In the 1960s, the organization engaged in little overt political action, focusing instead on cultural activities, an approach that culminated in its exhibition at Expo 67 in Montreal. In 1968, despite, or perhaps because, of its low-key approach to politics, the organization split along lines that have long characterized the dissension in Canadian Native ranks-Treaty Indians, largely from the West, on the one hand, and the Métis and non-Status Indians, on the other. Treaty Indians preferred to fight battles based on treaty rights, whereas the others, who lacked a formal government-recognized documentation of their status, advocated a course emphasizing inherent Aboriginal rights. This difference led to the disintegration of the National Indian Council and the creation of two separate successor bodies-the National Indian Brotherhood and the Canadian Métis Society.

The National Indian Brotherhood adopted a highly political strategy that had been honed in its battle against the White Paper. The NIB also led a vigorous attempt to wrest control of Indian education from the Department of Indian Affairs and to place it where it belonged-in Indian hands. The drive for self-government was also a major concern for the organization. During the struggles over the patriation of the Constitution in the early 1980s, the National Indian Brotherhood transformed itself into the Assembly of First Nations. The organization's new name was viewed as a more accurate reflection of the real position of Native peoples in Canada in that it presented them as the equals of the two officially recognized "founding peoples" of Canada, the English and the French.

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Chinook Multimedia


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