Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Author sues Buffalo Point chief, corporation over book

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A local author is suing a high-profile First Nations chief and the development company he runs, alleging a manuscript she wrote was turned into a book without her knowledge or permission.

According to a statement of claim filed in Court of Queen's Bench, Barbara Bowes agreed in 2009 to ghost write a book for John Thunder, chief of the Buffalo Point Cree Nation, on his family and the history of BPCN for $50,000.

After researching the topic and preparing several drafts, she submitted the final manuscript. A June 1, 2010, invoice for an installment payment of $10,500 was paid 10 days later. Attempts to have the balance paid off, however, were unsuccessful. In October, Bowes visited Buffalo Point at Thunder's request. The court document alleges he informed her he was dissatisfied with her writing, she was not to perform additional services and he was going "in a new direction" with the book.

The statement of claim further alleges Bowes visited a tradeshow in December 2012, where she discovered her manuscript has been transformed into a book, Buffalo Point: Rising to a Higher Level. It was published by Les Kletke and Thunder was credited as the author.

Kletke is also named in the suit as is the Buffalo Point Development Corporation Ltd.

"I was absolutely astounded," Bowes said. "I presented (Thunder) with the final draft of the manuscript for us to go through and he fired me, said he didn't like my work and he had found a real ghost writer. I put my tail between my legs and left."

Bowes, who writes a weekly Free Press column, said she decided to take legal action after seeing what she alleges was her work reproduced and credited to somebody else.

"I'm angry but I'm more stunned. I couldn't believe it. You would think a publisher would know enough to check a manuscript to make sure it is what it is," she said.

Buffalo Point is 170 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg. Thunder is the adopted son of the former hereditary chief and his leadership has raised periodic headlines because of his heritage. He is Caucasian by birth.

Kletke declined to comment on the allegations.

Thunder expressed surprise that Bowes decided to go forward with her legal action.

"It's kind of sad that she wants to lay claim to my book that I spent 10 years writing," he said.

Thunder said no statement of defence has been filed and he doesn't have a lawyer.

Thunder said he thinks Bowes must be "hard up for money" if she's taking this route. "Whatever she did, she definitely got paid for," he said.

At the time Bowes was working on the book, Thunder said he asked her in her capacity with her executive search firm, Legacy Bowes Group, to find him a general manager for Buffalo Point's restaurant, lounge, conference and gaming centre.The woman she recommended, he alleges, contributed to a $500,000 loss in the following 12 months.

"I was getting frustrated with (Bowes) with the book and this individual who had no clue what she was doing (as general manager). Our whole relationship fell off the tracks. I paid her what was owed her and went on my merry way," he said.

Thunder said he bartered with Kletke and gave him a cottage lot worth $150,000 for his services on the book in question and two others.

Earlier this year, hundreds of non-native property owners with cottages on reserve land took BPCN and its development corporation to court over new property taxes imposed last year, claiming the taxes violated a lease agreement.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2013 A11

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