Previous Article Next Article FNPI Search Home Previous Year Next Year Year List

Guy Williams Only Indian Senator

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MAY 1972      v03 n05 p12  
OTTAWA, ONT. - With the resignation and death of Senator James Gladstone (Blood) the first Indian Senator in Canadian history, Guy R. Williams (Kitimat) has just been appointed in his place as Canada's only Indian Senator.

The 64 year-old Williams, despite the problems of his people, is a firm believer in "the system". His life has been spent in fishing and in many years of service with the Native Brotherhood of B.C., of which he was 12 year president. He was appointed to the Senate not as a token gesture, but because he earned it, he says.

Williams thinks that Indians across Canada must become more intensively involved in the political processes of the country, just as others are involved.

Because of his own success in life, Williams comes naturally be the view that Indian people must help themselves. He feels that the majority of them want at least part of the white man's way of life and that Indian culture by itself can never be revived. "There will always be Indians who will stay behind the scenes and live in the history of the great past, but for the most part, Indians have to move into this society," he says.

"Some Indians find the whiteman's way of life easier to adjust to. On the coast, for example, they are quite aggressive and believe in acquiring wealth. Others are bitter and say they had a good way of life before the white man came."

Young Indians are looking into a society the potential of which they are not yet aware. Their sights are set on a future totally unknown. It will be a case of the survival of the fittest. Those who persist and have the courage will make it, Williams is convinced.

"Indians will have to accept more responsibilities in society if they are to participate in the foreseeable future. Many of my people do not have the necessary 'bootstraps' with which to pull themselves up, but to get help, you must accept help. If you are given boot-straps, you must use them."

Williams was born on a reserve that was reasonably well off at he time. Although his family were Methodist, he was brought up in Indian culture. He had a happy childhood and a good home, and went to school on the reserve, and then to a residential school.

He worked for a time in a mill, but then became a fisherman. He rented his own boat, then bought it. In time, he went into his own boat building business.

Indians should have the right to fish for their own sustenance under certain circumstances, but should comply with federal laws intended for conservation, he says.

Indian economic conditions pose a knotty problem on some reserves, the Senator points out. The situation is aggravated by the fact that so many jobs now require a technical knowledge that the majority of Indian people do not have, but some things can be done to correct this, taking into consideration the location of an Indian band.

As an example, Williams says that in the north coastal area of British Columbia, there are large stands of timber. Without too much training the Indians there could participate in forestry and a large mill could be built for them similar to the one on the Navajo reservation.

The liquor problem is a country-wide one for Indians, but it didn't really exist when he was young, Williams says. "I think it stems from a feeling that the Indian is not part of the society that has been forced upon him. In my observation, however, there seems now to be less drinking and many who have hit bottom are on the rebound."

"Red Power", Williams considers a phony issue. It can't be effective without violence, he says, and if that happens, "the law should handle matters. Unless it has gone underground completely, I think it is on the way out, for not much is heard of it these days."

Many Indians are not aware of their legal rights and programs are needed and are being planned to improve this situation, Senator Williams states.