Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


For reasons that soon will become clear, practically no one will remember 1973 as the year that Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the US war in Vietnam. More will remember it as the year of the OPEC oil embargo, or the year of several important Supreme Court cases.

In the US, Roe v Wade legalized abortion. In Canada, Calder v the Attorney-General of BC revived the treaty-making process between an immigrant settler state and the country's First Nations.

Many more will remember the 71-day Seige of Wounded Knee, or the assassination of Salvador Allende and the overthrow of his democratically elected government in Chile. It was a year of dramatic events painted on the messy background of the Watergate scandal building inexorably to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon on August 8, 1974.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. January 1973 was a big January.



Within a few months of being re-elected in November 1972, Nixon's administration was embroiled in the so-called "Watergate" scandal, stemming from a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. The break-in was traced to officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President. A number of administration officials resigned; some were later convicted of offenses connected with efforts to cover up the affair. Nixon denied any personal involvement, but the courts forced him to yield tape recordings which indicated that he had, in fact, tried to divert the investigation.

Nixon, on national TV, accepts responsibility, but not blame, for Watergate; accepts resignations of H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, fires John W. Dean III as counsel (April 30).

US-N Vietnam Accord
In January 1973, at the beginning of his second term, Richard Milhous Nixon announced an accord with North Viet Nam to end American involvement in Indochina. But that wasn't the year that Air America helicopters evacuated the US's Vietnamese allies from the top of the embassy building in Saigon. That didn't happen until April 30, 1975 with the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces. It might be instructive to have a look at the highlights of that withdrawal.

On 15 January 1973, Nixon announced the suspension of offensive action against North Vietnam, to be followed by a unilateral withdrawal of the remaining U.S. forces. The Paris Peace Accords on 'Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam' were signed on 27 January, officially ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. A cease-fire was declared across South Vietnam, but North Vietnamese forces were allowed to remain on the South Vietnamese territory they had seized; U.S. POWs were released, and both sides agreed to seek a political solution to the future of South Vietnam.

US Supreme Court rules on Roe v. Wade, January 22, 1973
Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that established a woman's right to have an abortion without undue interference.

The FindLaw case summary includes dissenting opinions as well as the Court's opinion. The Cornell University presentation of the Court's opinions includes numerous links to other cases.

In 1989, Bob Woodward, then assistant managing editor of the Washington Post, wrote about the so-called Abortion Papers, a collection of internal communications about Roe v. Wade found among the personal papers of the late Justice William O. Douglas, which became available to the public at the Library of Congress in 1988.

Historical Documents gives thumbnail sketches of plaintiffs, lawyers, and opinions in the case as well as a link to the Oyez Project which provides complete recordings of the oral arguments.

Calder v Attorney-General of British Columbia (1973)

Summary Information: The decision in Calder v Attorney-General of British Columbia was handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada on 31 January 1973. It is often credited with having provided the impetus for the overhauling of the land claims negotiation process in Canada. The case was initiated in 1968 by the Nisga’a Tribal Council against the Government of British Columbia. It failed both at trial and in the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeal’s finding in recognising the possible existence of Aboriginal rights to land and resources, but was equally divided on the issue of whether the Nisga’a retained title. The decision prompted the federal government to develop new policy to address Aboriginal land claims. In 1976 Canada commenced negotiations with the Nisga’a Tribal Council. British Columbia did not join the negotiations until 1990. The Nisga’a Final Agreement was concluded in 1999 and implemented by legislation in 2000.

Full text of the Supreme Court decision

Tom Berger was the Nishga'a lawyer in this case

Legal Background to Nisga'a Land Claim Negociations (March 14, 1988)
Great Britain, Ireland, and Denmark enter European Economic Community (Jan. 1).

The Nisga'a ruling of Canada's Supreme Court in 1973 "pointed the political wing of government at the need to initiate negotiations with Indigenous peoples on the issue of land title" (Hall 140).

Similar significance to the Mabo (1992) and the Wik (1996) rulings in Australia. Hall sees the main thrust of the Australian rulings as a challenge to the doctrine of terra nullius.

In 1997, the Delgamuukw ruling gave greater clarity to the Nisga'a case "which had seminally identified the existence of an unextinguished Indian title in most of British Columbia" (Hall 142).

The key theme of the Nisga'a case is the treaty-making process. The benchmark dates are 1763, in 1871, and 1973.

1763 is the date of the Royal Proclamation cited as the beginning of the white man’s Aboriginal Law in Canada.

In 1871, the American Congress passed a law prohibiting further treaty-making with Indian nations inside the borders of the continental US. The law declared, "that hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged as an independent nation, tribe or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty" (qtd Hall 157).

In the US, this new law replaced the Royal Proclamation of 1763 with a piece of American legislation. Previously, the US federal authority had depended heavily on the executive power to make war and treaties as the means for incorporating Indian lands into the republic.

Just as the original Proclamation of 1763 had marked a parting of the ways between Canada and the United States in the conduct of diplomacy with Indian people, 1871 saw the beginning of a renewed period of treaty making by the Dominion of Canada. Between 1871 and 1877, seven numbered treaties were concluded with the Saulteaux, Cree, Assiniboine, Dene, and Blackfoot. The negotiation of numbered treaties continued until 1929 and covered territory from the Lake Superior region to the Rocky Mountains.

Then again in 1873, the Calder ruling "forced the government to recognize that the requirements of the Royal Proclamation had not been met in opening large parts of Indian Country to exploitation and ownership by non-Aboriginal settlers and corporations.... Their findings had significant ramifications in all parts of Canada not covwered by crown-Aboriginal treaties..." (Hall 158).

In 1997, Delgamuukw "gave qualified reaffirmation to the relatively strong legal position of the Indigenous peoples, especially in British Columbia, who asserted that their Aboriginal title had not been extinguished" (Hall 159).

Hall sees Canada as "one of the primary test cases in the world on the position of Indigenous peoples in global geopolitics." He views Aboriginal rights and titles "not as add-ons to Australia's self-government but rather as unextinguishable principles situated at the very origins of Australia's national identity" (Hall 159).

"Historically the imperial sovereign in the British Empire has been vested with ultimate responsibility to safeguard the rights and titles of the crown's Aboriginal allies from the unlawful incursions of the crown's subjects and their corporate extensions" (Hall 159).

Perhaps just as important, though more ambiguous, the 1973 case broke the stranglehold of "the legal prohibition [in 1927] on any paid legal work having to do with research or litigation to advance any Aboriginal claim in Canada."

"In 1973 the federal government opened a new era of treaty making, specifically with some of those Aboriginal communities that had never sanctioned the imposition of non-Aboriginal titles and jurisdictions on their ancestral lands. The first of these modern-day treaties, which fulfilled the requirements of the Proclamation of 1763, was formaliszed in 1975 between the governments of Quebec and Canada and the Cree and Inuit of the James Bay region of northern Québec" (Hall 280).

The Nisga'a Treaty (1999)

The Seige at Wounded Knee began on February 27, 1973 and lasted for 71 days (til May).

Leonard Peltier?

Spring & Summer

A world food crisis and its politics exploded in 1973 and 1974 as global agriculture was rocked by rapid food and fertilizer price increases in the West and by famines in Africa and Asia, while agriculture took center stage in international politics through a series of public political debates about "food power", agribusiness, and North-South relations.... leading U.S. spokesmen let it be known that as a reaction to the supposed Arab-imposed oil crisis, the U.S. was considering the possible counter-use of food as a weapon. 52 [The sources cited here are from 1975 & 1976. -jlt]

Already in the fall of 1973, Kissinger had ordered a National Security Study memo on food and the House of Representatives undertook a study of the potential power the U.S. could attain with food embargoes. Despite the fact that both of the studies were negative (the NSC memo called for more study and the House report concluded that the OPEC states could get their needs met elsewhere), the rhetoric of "food power" continued unabated.

Bad weather in 1971-1973 hit large parts of Africa, Asia, and the Soviet Union, reducing food output. The weather improved in 1973, but a new set of problems threatened food output, especially in the underdeveloped countries. Fertilizer was in short supply, and its price started to climb. Then came the devastating impact of the quadrupling of the market price of petroleum by the cartel of oil-possessing nations. Higher oil prices meant added costs for the farmer: pesticides, herbicides and nitrogen-based fertilizers are derived from petroleum, while the manufacture of all fertilizer requires much energy. The world price of nitrogen fertilizer jumped from 11¢ per Ib. in 1972 to 25¢ now.

These price increases critically undermined the Green Revolution. The hybrid seeds need great amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticide. If any of the three are missing, yields plunge, often below what traditional seeds would produce.

The 1973 famine in Ethiopia was concentrated in the Wollo region, although food was being shipped out of Wollo to the capital city of Addis Ababa where it could command higher prices. [Market failure. But this was not the only famine in 1973. -jlt].

July 25 - Louis St. Laurent, former Prime Minister dies


US bombing of Cambodia ends, marking official halt to 12 years of combat activity in Southeast Asia (Aug. 15).


Chile's Marxist president, Salvadore Allende, is overthrown (Sept. 11); Gen. Augusto Pinochet takes power.


Fourth and largest Arab-Israeli conflict begins when Egyptian and Syrian forces attack Israel as Jews mark Yom Kippur, holiest day in their calendar (Oct. 6).

The 1973 oil crisis began in earnest on October 17, 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC, consisting of the Arab members of OPEC plus Egypt and Syria) announced, as a result of the ongoing Yom Kippur War, that they would no longer ship petroleum to nations that had supported Israel in its conflict with Syria and Egypt (i.e., to the United States and its allies in Western Europe).

Agnew resigns
As a result of scandals in Maryland unrelated to Watergate, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in 1973. Nixon nominated, and Congress approved, House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford as Vice President.

Spiro T. Agnew resigns as Vice President and then pleads no contest to charges of evasion of income taxes while Governor of Maryland (Oct. 10).

In the "Saturday Night Massacre," Nixon fires special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus; Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson resigns (Oct. 20).


Egypt and Israel sign US-sponsored cease-fire accord (Nov. 11).


Deaths in 1973

W.H. Auden
Pearl S. Buck
Betty Grable
Pablo Picasso
Lyndon Baines Johnson died suddenly of a heart attack at his Texas ranch on January 22, 1973.

World Statistics
Population: 3.937 billion compared to what today?

Time predicted in 1974
that unless the rate of population growth is checked, this planet's 3.9 billion inhabitants will double in number within 35 years. The current population, 33 years later is just over 6.618 billion--not quite double.

Nobel Peace Prize:
Henry A. Kissinger (US); Le Duc Tho (North Vietnam)1

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) hikes oil prices tremendously in retaliation for Western countries' involvement in Yom Kippur War.


In Quebec, the Liberals won 102 out of 110 seats. The Union Nationale, which had held power up until the previous 1970 general election, was wiped off the electoral map, winning no seats. The Parti Québécois led by René Lévesque dropping one seat (from seven to six). Despite having fewer seats, the PQ became the official Opposition. PQ leader René Lévesque failed to re-gain his seat in the Assembly. The Parti Québécois won 30% of the popular vote, a significant improvement over their previous showing of 23% in the 1970 election.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police steal the membership list of the Parti Québécois.

Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is designed who? where? when? why?

Record of the Year: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Roberta Flack
Album of the Year: The Concert for Bangla Desh, George Harrison, Ravi Shanker, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann (Apple)
Song of the Year: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Ewan MacColl, songwriter

The Harder They Come, American Graffiti, The Exorcist, The Sting, Last Tango in Paris

The Jamaican film The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff, launches the popularity of reggae music in the United States.

At the 1972 (???) Academy Awards, Sacheen Littlefeather stands in for Marlon Brando and refuses his Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Godfather, to protest the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans.

Secretariat won the Triple Crown: Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes

Wimbledon Women: Billie Jean King d. C. Evert (6-0 7-5)

Stanley Cup Montreal d. Chicago (4-2)

US GDP (1998 dollars): $1,382.60 billion
Federal spending: $245.71 billion
Federal debt: $466.3 billion
Median Household Income
(current dollars): $10,512
Consumer Price Index: 44.4
Unemployment: 4.9%
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.08

President: Richard M. Nixon
Vice President: Spiro T. Agnew
Population: 211,908,788
Life expectancy: 71.4 years
Violent Crime Rate (per 1,000): 41.5
Property Crime Rate (per 1,000): 37.4

compare to today see about getting prices for a cup of coffee, a gallon or litre of gas, a sack of potatoes

Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister
Dave Barrett was Premier of BC

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Anonymous said...

Thank You! Very interesting article. Do you can write anything else about it?

Anonymous said...

ery interesting blog, you say. I agree with you!

Jim Terral said...

This started out as research for a radio program. But it never got off the ground.