The Native Voice

The Story of How Maisie Hurley and Canada's First Aboriginal Newspaper Changed a Nation

Eric Jamieson

In 1945, Alfred Adams, a respected Haida elder and founding president of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia (NBBC), was dying of cancer. After decades of fighting to increase the rights and recognition of First Nations people, he implored Maisie Hurley to help his people by telling others about their struggle. Hurley took his request to both heart and mind, and with $150 of her own money, started a small newspaper that would become a powerful catalyst for change: The Native Voice.

At that time, the Welsh-born Hurley had been an advocate for First Nations clients in court. She did not have a law degree, but was graced with the courage and confidence to challenge all who stood in her way. When defending a First Nations woman accused of stealing a hotel clerk’s wallet, she seared the hapless plaintiff with such a withering cross examination that his off-colour rejoinder earned him a night in jail for contempt after he refused to pay the fine.

After Hurley launched The Native Voice, it became the official newspaper of the NBBC, one of the largest democratic First Nations organizations in the country, but she continued to serve on the editorial board as publisher and director for many years without remuneration. At a time when telecommunication was expensive and often inaccessible in Aboriginal communities, The Native Voice reported relevant news and stories of everyday life to First Nations throughout the province, including hard-won rights such as the right to vote provincially (1949) and federally (1960). As the official publication of the NBBC, the Voice chronicled both the realities of Aboriginal life and a vision for the future, enabling and inspiring overdue change in Canada.

Maisie Hurley’s dedication to improving the lives of those she referred to as “my people” was honoured through several First Nations naming ceremonies by people of the Skeena, Squamish/North Vancouver and Comox areas. The story of the NBBC, The Native Voice and Maisie Hurley offer an inspiring testament to the power of cooperation and vision to create powerful change.

“I applaud Eric Jamieson for bringing to light the valiant and relentless effort by one ‘white woman,’ Maisie Hurley, to seek justice for Aboriginal people.”
— Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, Gwawaenuk First Nation, Member of Order of British Columbia

“Through the Native Voice, Maisie Hurley connected real Native voices with listeners, doers with dreamers, readers with writers about everything in Indian country, delivering Native realities in every direction through the very contemporary medium of publication.”
— Buffy Sainte-Marie, Cree singer-songwriter, activist, educator, and visual artist.

“At the outset, let me say that Eric Jamieson’s book, The Native Voice, represents an important, perhaps unique contribution to BC and First Nations’ history in the Province.”
— Thomas Berger, Former Justice of Supreme Court of Canada, Officer of the Order of Canada, Member of the Order of British Columbia

“Eric Jamieson’s book is of fundamental interest to any reader concerned with the interplay between aboriginal cultures and the powers-that-be, to any reader seeking to be informed about historical events and patterns and their relationship to present-day concerns.”
— Marcie McCauley, BuriedInPrint.com

“As Canadians address the recent report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with its compelling call for action to redress past injustices toward First Nations people, Jamieson’s informative history provides helpful information. Also inspiring are the depictions of Hurley’s remarkable friendships and her passion to work collectively to bring equality and justice to First Nations people.”
—Janet Nicol, British Columbia History

“Jamieson’s biography is deeply researched and well written, and if it finds the audience it deserves, it will do much to educate B.C. readers about an important part of our history and a genuine B.C. heroine. This is a valuable and useful book.”
— Tom Sandborn, The Vancouver Sun

  • Shortlisted for the George Ryga Award (2016)