George Manuel (February 21, 1921—November 15, 1989) was an Aboriginal leader in Canada. It was a time when the impact of government policy was threatening the survival of native people in Canada. George attended residential school and became a boom boss in the forest industry. He eventually became chief of the Shuswap Nation which he held for seven years. He was a former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Manuel was born to Maria and Louie Manuel on the Neskonlith reserve in the Secwepemc territory of the Shuswap people. He was first educated at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, but contacted tuberculosis and was transferred to an Indian TB hospital on an Indian reservation near Chilliwack, British Columbia.
The federal Department of Indian Affairs hired Manuel for a position in Cowichan territory near Duncan. Manuel worked as a Community Development Officer, and increased the awareness of problems and conditions the Cowichan people were experiencing. In 1959 he assumed the position of president of the North American Indian Brotherhood of B.C.
Manuel moved on from this position to a role with the Alberta Brotherhood, and developed a strong working relationship with the Cree political leader Harold Cardinal. Manuel networked extensively with chiefs across Canada during his time with the Alberta Brotherhood. Eventually Cardinal approached him to run for the position of national chief of the newly created National Indian Brotherhood, a body that would represent almost 250,000 Indians. After some time the National Indian Brotherhood would rename itself as the Assembly of First Nations, and Manuel would serve as its national chief from 1970 to 1976.
Building on this experience, in 1975 Manuel helped found and became the president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, a position he kept until 1981. In this role he traveled internationally, meeting with and advocating for the indigenous people of nations like Argentina, Chile, and Peru.
George Manuel was President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs from 1979 to 1981, where he continued to inspire many into action. He developed the Aboriginal Rights Position Paper and organized what came to be regarded as one of the UBCIC's most ambitious projects - the Indian Constitutional Express. Under his leadership, the UBCIC worked hard to fulfill its mandate to the people. Under his leadership, the UBCIC grew in esteem of indigenous people for whom it was created and gained stature in the eyes of the general public. His legacy lives on at the UBCIC today.
He developed the Aboriginal rights position paper as President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBIC) as well as organizing the Indian Constitutional Express which was an international campaign to get the Canadian government to recognize aboriginal rights. George Manuel became sick before the end of the Indian Constitutional Express but his presence is still felt in the UBCIC today. The value of being committed and working together to bring about change is something George Manuel believed in and with his actions he proved it.
Manuel was honoured several times for his lifetime of work representing both First Nations peoples in Canada and indigenous peoples worldwide. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was repeatedly recognized for his international work with the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. In 1983 he received an honorary degree from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.