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Looking Back. . .

Deanna Wuttunee

Fathers of Confederation - NIB
Bottom row, left-right: David Courchene, Manitoba; Walter Deiter, Saskatchewan; Guy Williams, Mainland, B. C.; Top row, left-right: Yukon delegate; Andrew Nicholas, New Brunswick; Omar Peters, Ontario; Phillip Paul, B. C.; and Harold Cardinal, Alberta.

Walter Dieter, 69, of the Peepeekeesis Reserve, was the first Chief of the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) - the founding national Indian lobby association. He was elected Chief from NIB's establishment in 1968 to 1971.

There were seven founding members of this confederation and represented Treaty Indians from the Yukon, B.C., New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan. In the three-year period when Walter was Chief, there were four elections. The elections served as incentives to persuade other provincial organizations to join.

"The organization (AFN) is now worse off than ever because it is all split up. To rectify this situation, we should get a new slate of officers and change the leadership. Erasmus has the non-Treaty following which represents two-thirds of the whole while David Ahenakew has the Treaty votes. This is why we lost (the election)," he said.

"Chances of entrenching constitutional rights are set. But the interpretation of Treaty rights will reflect white input and forget the strength which were based on the spirit and intent of the Treaties. To white people, everything is now a commodity." he added, in reference to provincial participation in the multi-lateral talks.

To Walter, the Indian self is immersed in spirituality. Nothing belongs to him but is a gift of the Creator and belongs to everyone. Therefore it was easy for white people to take over Indian land.

"But they weren't so smart. When they made Treaties, they promised everything to the Indians. Now they can't come through with those promises." Dieter said.

"Therefore land claims never existed until Indian people were educated and began to understand that they were being brainwashed by the system through religion and education.

"Now Indian people understand the proper interpretation and intent of the Treaties and want the white invaders to keep their promises. Georges Erasmus figure he's going to do it. It sounds good but action is the name of the game," he added.

Walter is the founder of the National Veteran's Association, holder of an Order of Canada award (1980) and has devoted the last two decades to the cause of self-determination for Indian people. He is married and has five children.