Fight or Submit: Standing Tall in Two Worlds

Fight or Submit: Standing Tall in Two Worlds

by Ronald M. Derrickson


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In the opening to his memoir, Grand Chief Ron Derrickson says his “story is not a litany of complaints but a list of battles” that he has fought. And he promises he will not be overly pious in his telling of them. “As a businessman,” he writes, “I like to give the straight goods.” 

In Fight or Submit , Derrickson delivers on his promise and it turns out he has a hell of a story to tell. Born and raised in a tarpaper shack, he went on to become one of the most successful Indigenous businessmen in Canada. As a political leader, he served as Chief of the Westbank First Nation for a dozen years and was made a Grand Chief by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

Along the way, he has been the target of a full Royal Commission and an assassination attempt by a hitman hired by local whites. As Chief, he increased his community’s revenues by 3500% and led his people into a war in the forest over logging rights. In 2015, he became an award-winning author when Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call , a book he co-authored with Arthur Manuel, won the Canadian History Association Literary Award. His second book co-authored with Manuel, Reconciliation Manifesto , won the B.C. Book Prize for non-fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770415669
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 10/27/2020
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson is one of the most successful Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada. He also served as Chief of the Westbank First Nation for a dozen years and led his community from poverty to prosperity while surviving an assassination attempt. He lives in Westbank First Nation, close to Kelowna, BC.

Kaipo Schwab is an actor, director, and producer who has worked at the Roundabout, the Public Theater, Second Stage, Hartford Stage, and Cincinnati Playhouse. Kaipo's film and television credits include Anesthesia, The Royal Tenenbaums, Law & Order, Rescue Me, and Orange Is the New Black. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

The flight from Kiev, where I have business interests, to my community in the interior of British Columbia is close to 12,000 kms. With stops in Amsterdam and Calgary, it takes 26 hours from the time my driver, Volodya, picks me up my flat near Bessarabska Square and I arrive at my Westbank office in the British Columbia interior. It is a flight I take back and forth several times a year, often after several months-long stays. But each time I arrive on the last leg of the trip from Calgary to Kelowna, I feel a surge of energy as we pass over the towering peaks of the outer Rockies and begin our descent onto the interior plateau where my Okanagan people have lived since time immemorial. My Indigenous territory is part of me. It belongs to me and I belong to it. Or rather, what’s left of it.

The airport is on the other end of town, so while we chat, we pass through the heart of the city where my great grandfather once owned a major part of the downtown area before he was cheated out of it by locals working with a corrupt magistrate.

The Westbank reserve is on the west side of the W.A.C. Bennett Bridge spanning the narrow section of Lake Okanagan. It is one of a few tiny pieces of the once vast Okanagan territory that remains under our control. I was born and grew up in a shack without plumbing or electricity on the hills overlooking the lake. My earliest memories are of kneeling in the field, gathering vegetables alongside my mother. And, when I was older, riding our horses along the ridge with my brother Noll. As a young man, I ranched these lands and for more than a dozen years, in the 1970s and 1980s and again at the turn of the century, I was Chief of the Westbank First Nation.

Both sides of the road cutting through the reserve are now crowded with stores and businesses on leased reserve lands in deals I negotiated to bring income into what was once the poorest reserve in Canada. During my first ten years as chief, I increased the band’s leasing revenues by more than 3,500%. I fought for every advantage for my people so we could have the economic development we needed to give a future to our children. But I always fought for more than that. I fought and I continue to fight for the land and the resources on our greater Okanagan territory that encompasses thousands of square kilometres in the B.C. interior.

Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Chapter 1 Homeland 1

Chapter 2 Stories My Grandfather Told Me 6

Chapter 3 Riding the Bucking Bronco 18

Chapter 4 Lessons from the Onion Patch 31

Chapter 5 Only the Land Matters 44

Chapter 6 Finding My Footing 59

Chapter 7 Entering the Fray 69

Chapter 8 Building a Future, Fighting the Past 80

Chapter 9 Assassination Attempt 90

Chapter 10 Restoring Cut-Off Lands, Building a Highway 97

Chapter 11 Character Assassination Attempt 115

Chapter 12 A Royal Commission on Me 131

Chapter 13 Back to Business 141

Chapter 14 War in the Woods 152

Chapter 15 Ukrainian Beachhead 172

Chapter 16 Active Energy 184

Chapter 17 Idle No More 199

Chapter 18 New Era in Westbank 217

Chapter 19 The Struggle Continues 226

Chapter 20 A Fund for the Future 234

Appendix I Royal Commission of Inquiry Documents 239

Appendix II Justice John E. Hall Report Summary 249

Appendix III Report Summary of the Attempted Assassination Plot Against Me 262

Appendix IV Eulogy at the Funeral of Arthur Manuel 266

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