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An Activist and ‘Lawyer Without a Ticket’

For the week of Monday, June 20, 2016

On June 26, 2012, lawyer Andrew Paull was designated as a person of national historic significance for his commitment to the advancement of First Nations rights. From his early teenage years, he fought for many causes at a time when First Nations did not yet have the right to vote in Canada.

A portrait of Andrew from the book Andy Paull: As I Knew Him and Understood his Times
© Herbert Francis Dunlop

Andrew Paull was born on February 26, 1892, and grew up at Mission River Reserve No. 1, better known as Ustlawn, in North Vancouver. At seven, he was sent to nearby St. Paul’s Indian Residential School. Unlike many, he had a positive residential school experience, and remained friends with the Sisters long after he graduated. Next, he spent two years learning the traditions and cultures of the Squamish First Nation under the elders of his community. Then Paull began to work as an assistant in a law firm.

Although his charisma and knack for memorization made him a natural at law, Paull refused to renounce his Indian status in order to take the bar. This left him as a self-proclaimed ‘lawyer without a ticket.’ In the ensuing years, he used his knowledge of the legal system to champion many First Nations causes, fighting for the recognition of land title and for shore rights in British Columbia, as well as Aboriginal right to livelihood, medicine, and education. He was a prominent member of the Allied Tribes of British Columbia, the Squamish Band Council, and the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia. As president of the North American Indian Brotherhood, his prime goal was the unification of all First Nations under one governing body.

Andrew Paull coached many First Nations sports teams
© Herbert Francis Dunlop

Paull’s vision and causes were far-reaching, but he was also well known for his community engagement. He coached many lacrosse and baseball teams to success, played in and conducted a community orchestra, and was a regular sports writer for the Vancouver Province. In addition, Paull edited and published Thunderbird and Totem Speaks, two papers directed at First Nations audiences. He was renowned for his generosity, quick wit, and larger-than-life personality.

Andrew Paull’s legacy is remarkable. His efforts led to some of the first major changes to the Indian Act, including the right to pursue land-claim cases and to participate in potlatches. Andrew Paull passed away on July 28, 1959.

It’s Aboriginal History Month! To learn more, please read Re-establishing Self-Government, Aboriginal History Month, and Celebrating National Aboriginal Day in the This Week in History archives.

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