RCMP kept secret ‘Red Power’ file on dissident natives


OTTAWA — The RCMP monitored and compiled lists of potentially violent, politically active native Indians for inclusion in a secret “Red Power” photograph album during the 1970s, according to newly released intelligence documents.

Canada’s spy agency of the day, the RCMP Security Service, feared “armed confrontation” between the government and native activists, and threats to a pipeline running between Canada and the U.S., inspired by militant native actions to the south, according to the records.

The RCMP intelligence records focus on the so-called Red Power movement in Canada, which was committed to radical political action. Red Power members found alliance with such U.S. groups as the National Congress of American Indians and the American Indian Movement.

Those rights-based organizations called on native Indians to choose between assimilation and being Indian, and advocated that U.S. and Canadian government obligations to Indians are binding.

During the 1970s, tension in which AIM played a prominent role permeated parts of North America’s native community, which culminated in violence at Wounded Knee, S.D.

“The appearance of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and its unifying factor in the Indian community has resulted in cross-country travel by individuals in which we maintain an interest,” says a report marked “secret” and dated April 5, 1973, titled Red Power Canada.

It was distributed to RCMP division commanders across the country with a request that each division submit a list of individuals it felt should be included in a Red Power photograph album being set up.

“It will be difficult to select individuals to be included,” cautions the report, which bears the notation “not to be disseminated outside the Force.”

“This album is to contain individuals whom you feel may be involved in acts of violence or whose movements we should be monitoring.”

Accompanying Security Service documents indicate that its concerns with native activism of the era were heightened “following the participation of Canadian Indians at the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Washington, D.C., early November 1972,” says one confidential intelligence report dated March 23, 1973.

The tensions of the time were marked by an armed standoff early in 1973 for native rights led by AIM at Wounded Knee, located near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

“The support which AIM has in Canada did not become apparent until AIM arrived at Wounded Knee,” says the report.

While hostilities between AIM and the U.S. government were developing, “the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan, using representatives from the Metis Society of Saskatchewan, contributed physically and financially to AIM’s cause,” say the records.

They also say the RCMP noted that AIM received additional support from natives across Canada.


Rick Mofina is a staff writer for the Vancouver Sun
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