Assembling Unity
236 pages, 6 x 9
1 b&w photo, 2 maps, 3 tables
Release Date:01 Sep 2019
Release Date:15 Feb 2019
Release Date:13 Mar 2019
Release Date:15 Feb 2019

Assembling Unity

Indigenous Politics, Gender, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs

UBC Press

Established narratives interpret the drive for Indigenous unity solely as a phenomenon that emerged in response to the political agenda of the settler state. But the evolving and multifaceted concept of unity has long shaped the modern Indigenous political movement.

Through a detailed history of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), one of Canada’s leading Indigenous political organizations, Assembling Unity explores the relationship between pan-Indigenous politics in British Columbia and global political ideologies. Situating Indigenous perspectives on governance firmly in the foreground of her study, Sarah Nickel demonstrates that while unity has been an enduring goal for BC Indigenous peoples, its articulation was heavily negotiated between UBCIC members, grassroots constituents, and Indigenous women’s organizations. She draws on oral interviews, newspaper articles, government documents, and UBCIC records to expose the uniquely gendered nature of political work, as well as the economic and emotional sacrifices that activists make.

Assembling Unity offers new insights into the evolution of political movements, the concept of unity in politics, and gendered political expressions. In the process, this incisive work unsettles dominant Western and patriarchal political ideals that cast Indigenous men as reactive and Indigenous women as invisible and apolitical.

This book will appeal to scholars and students of history, BC studies, and Indigenous studies, particularly those with an interest in gender and politics. It will also find an audience among Indigenous communities, activists, and political leaders.


  • 2020, Commended - Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History, Canadian Historical Association
  • 2020, Winner - Indigenous History Book Prize, Canadian Historical Association
Assembling Unity is an important book. Sarah Nickel’s timely study of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs was shortlisted for the Canadian Historical Association’s 2020 Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize and was recently announced the winner of this year’s CHA Indigenous History Book Prize. Both accolades are much deserved. Chelsea Horton, Ormsby Review
A rich examination of the work Indigenous political leaders and grassroots organizers did to negotiate unity as part of a longer history of political activism in the context of continued settler colonialism. Lianne C. Leddy, Herizons, Fall 2019
Assembling Unity is a much needed resource that should be read by those wanting to learn about the historical issues BC Indigenous communities have faced – the same issues we continue to raise with current Canadian governments with little improvement. Francyne Joe, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and member of the Shackan First Nation
Sarah A. Nickel is Tk’emlupsemc (Kamloops Secwépemc), French Canadian, and Ukrainian. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan and has contributed to American Indian Quarterly and BC Studies.


Part 1: Pan-Indigenous Unity

1 Unity: “United we stand, divided we perish”

2 Authority: “Ordinary Indians” and “the private club”

3 Money: “A blessing and a golden noose”

Part 2: A Philosophical Revolution and Competing Nationalisms

4 Refusal: “Empty words and empty promises”

5 Protest: Direct Action through “Militant May”

6 Sovereignty: “If you really believe that you have the right, take it!”






Find what you’re looking for...

Free shipping on online orders over $40

Stay Informed

Receive the latest UBC Press news, including events, catalogues, and announcements.

Read past newsletters

Publishers Represented
UBC Press is the Canadian agent for several international publishers. Visit our Publishers Represented page to learn more.