Hayden Taylor: For some, the definition of ‘settler’ is as difficult to pin down as reconciliation

Interesting reflections on the term “settler:”

In a lot of my writing, I frequently use the term “settler” in referring to those comprising the dominant society of Canada. In another time and age, they might be referred to as white people – i.e. the colour-challenged, or people of pallor. But in these more politically correct times, we in the Indigenous community prefer “settler.” It sounds more neutral and historically relevant.

However, some disagree with that title. Not long ago, I received an e-mail from a gentleman named Mike who objects to the term. After several paragraphs on how his Irish family were abused by the English and ended up celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Canada, he adds, “When writers, almost always Indigenous, use the term ‘settler’ to describe people like me, I can’t help picking up a tone of, what is it? Bitterness, anger, maybe even submerged hatred. At a minimum, what I sense is passive aggression.”

He finishes his complaint off by asking me, specifically, “that you please not refer to people as ‘settlers’ unless they really were ‘settlers.’ ”

I mentioned this to some friends and they called it settler fragility.

Let’s deconstruct the argument. Technically, who are these settlers of which we speak? That has been an intense topic of discussion in recent times. For some, its definition is as difficult to pin down as reconciliation. Some would argue it’s anybody whose ancestors were not a part of this land since Time Immemorial. Similarly, others might further define settlers as all the non-Indigenous peoples living in Canada who form the society we live in today, politically, economically and culturally. Basically, if your ancestors came here, and you are enjoying and revelling in the end product of turning Turtle Island into Canada, you are a settler. So enjoy your latté and non-fat Greek yogurt.

Numerous settlers I have talked with accept and acknowledge that. Many have told me “guilty as charged,” “I’m a settler. It is not an insult, it’s a fact” or “where do I sign up for Settlers Anonymous?” Instead of a 12-step plan, their charter includes the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But let’s face it, not every person walking the streets and roads of Canada can claim the divine right of terra nullius. If you were brought here, either by physical force (i.e. that all-expense-paid boat trip from Africa) or through intense economic coercion (i.e. come for the railway-building and stay for the racism), you might have a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Still, is it a nasty, critical moniker? It appears it can be. One person on Twitter reported they got a five-day ban on Facebook for calling somebody a settler. When you think about it, “settler” seems to be one of the least offensive terms that could be used. Others that have been suggested during a brief and highly unscientific poll I did online (from mostly settlers responding) include colonizer, occupier, original boat people, squatters, second-generation settlers, beneficiaries of genocidal Canadian Indigenous policies, colonial invader, Euro invaders, economic refugees, and my personal favourite, the Second Nation people, as opposed to First Nations. Actually, no, this is my favourite suggestion: the year-round multi-generational campers. It’s kind of a mouthful, but you get the picture.

Additionally, it would make a hell of a good name for a sports team. I hear a few out there are looking for a new one.

And I don’t think Mike is alone, although I am puzzled why he wants me, and it seems just me, to stop using the term. Everybody else is okay, I guess. I’m getting used to responses like this. Several weeks ago, I wrote an article about how many First Nations people find themselves sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. It was just a report on conversations I had with many Indigenous people and listing the reasons I had been told.

The response to the article, some positive but mostly negative, was surprising. I had e-mails from quite a few people telling me that I should tell those same Indigenous friends how wrong they are. Several different people, possibly settlers, sent detailed lists breaking down why Indigenous people should stay clear of the Palestinian perspective.

To the settlers of the world – Mike, this includes you – I know many of you may disagree with the argument I have posted, and may find it a little … unsettlering. If you don’t agree, just remember, I earn most of my salary from making things up.

Additionally, we could spend the next pandemic playing the “what if …” game: i.e. “what if my ancestors fled in religious terror and found themselves in Canada because they weren’t allowed into … let’s say Monaco?” As of yet, I can’t answer those. But I am currently putting together a detailed chart that should be able to answer all those questions.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/article-for-some-the-definition-of-settler-is-as-difficult-to-pin-down-as/

Lost Lives, Lost Culture: The Forgotten History of Indigenous Boarding Schools in USA

Lots of similarities with Canada:

The last day Dzabahe remembers praying in the way of her ancestors was on the morning in the 1950s when she was taken to the boarding school.

At first light, she grabbed a small pouch and ran out into the desert to a spot facing the rising sun to sprinkle the taa dih’deen — or corn pollen — to the four directions, offering honor for the new day.

Within hours of arriving at the school, she was told not to speak her own Navajo language. The leather skirt her mother had sewn for her and the beaded moccasins were taken away and bundled in plastic, like garbage.

She was given a dress to wear and her long hair was cut — something that is taboo in Navajo culture. Before she was sent to the dormitory, one more thing was taken: her name.

“You have a belief system. You have a way of life you have already embraced,” said Bessie Smith, now 79, who continues to use the name given to her at the former boarding school in Arizona.

“And then it’s so casually taken away,” she said. “It’s like you are violated.”

The recent discoveries of unmarked graves at government-run schools for Indigenous children in Canada — 215 graves in British Columbia, 750 more in Saskatchewan — surfaced like a long-forgotten nightmare.

But for many Indigenous people in Canada and the United States, the nightmare was never forgotten. Instead the discoveries are a reminder of how many living Native Americans were products of an experiment in forcibly removing children from their families and culture.

Many of them are still struggling to make sense of who they were and who they are.

In the century and a half that the U.S. government ran boarding schools for Native Americans, hundreds of thousands of children were housed and educated in a network of institutions, created to “civilize the savage.” By the 1920s, one group estimates, nearly 83 percent of Native American school-age children were attending such schools.

“When people do things to you when you’re growing up, it affects you spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Russell Box Sr., a member of the Southern Ute tribe who was 6 when he was sent to a boarding school in southwestern Colorado.

“We couldn’t speak our language, we couldn’t sing our prayer songs,” he said. “To this day, maybe that’s why I can’t sing.”

The discovery of the bodies in Canada led Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to head the department that once ran the boarding schools in the United States — and herself the granddaughter of people forced to attend them — to announce that the government would search the grounds of former facilities to identify the remains of children.

That many children died in the schools on this side of the border is not in question. Just last week, nine Lakota children who perished at the federal boarding school in Carlisle, Pa., were disinterred and buried in buffalo robes in a ceremony on a tribal reservation in South Dakota. 

Many of the deaths of former students have been recorded in federal archives and newspaper death notices. Based on what those records indicate, the search for bodies of other students is already underway at two former schools in Colorado: Grand Junction Indian School in central Colorado, which closed in 1911, and the Fort Lewis Indian School, which closed in 1910 and reopened in Durango as Fort Lewis College.

“There were horrific things that happened at boarding schools,” said Tom Stritikus, the president of Fort Lewis College. “It’s important that we daylight that.”

The idea of assimilating Native Americans through education dates back to the earliest history of the colonies.

In 1775, the Continental Congress passed a bill appropriating $500 for the education of Native American youth. By the late 1800s, the number of students in boarding schools had risen from a handful to 24,000, and the amount appropriated had soared to $2.6 million.

Throughout the decades that they were in existence, the schools were seen as both a cheaper and a more expedient way of dealing with the “Indian problem.”

Carl Schurz, the secretary of the interior in the late 1800s, argued that it cost close to $1 million to kill a Native American in warfare, versus just $1,200 to give his child eight years of schooling, according to the account of the historian David Wallace Adams in “Education for Extinction.” “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one,” Capt. Richard H. Pratt, the founder of one of the first boarding schools, wrote in 1892. “In a sense I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: That all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”

Those who survived the schools described violence as routine. As punishment, Norman Lopez was made to sit in the corner for hours at the Ute Vocational School in southwestern Colorado where he was sent around age 6. When he tried to get up, a teacher picked him up and slammed him against the wall, he said. Then the teacher picked him up a second time and threw him headfirst to the ground, he said.

“I thought that it was part of school,” said Mr. Lopez, now 78. “I didn’t think of it as abusive.”

A less violent incident marked him more, he said.

His grandfather taught him how to carve a flute out of the branch of a cedar. When the boy brought the flute to school, his teacher smashed it and threw it in the trash.

He grasped even then how special the cedar flute and his native music were. “That’s what God is. God speaks through air,” he said, of the music his grandfather taught him.

He said the lesson was clear, both in the need to comply and the need to resist.

“I had to keep quiet. There’s plenty where it came from. Tree’s not going to give up,” he said of the cedar. “I’m not going to give up.”

Decades later, Mr. Lopez has returned to the flute. He carves them and records in a homemade studio, set up in his home on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation in Towaoc, Colo.

In the same boarding school, Mr. Box was punished so severely for speaking Ute that he refused to teach his children the language, in an effort to shield them the pain he endured, his ex-wife, Pearl E. Casias, said.

Years of alcoholism followed, he said. His marriage fell apart. It was not until middle age that he reached a fork in the road.

“I had been yearning in here,” he said, pointing to his heart. “My spirit had been yearning in here to stand in the lodge,” he said, referring to the medicine lodge that dancers enter during the annual Sundance, one of the most important ceremonies of the Ute people. “Then one day I said to myself, ‘Now I’m going to stand.’ And when I said that inside of me, there was a little flame.”

He went to the Sundance for the first time. He stopped drinking. This year, one of his daughters reached out to her mother, asking if she could teach her how to make beaded moccasins.

But for many, the wounds just do not heal.

Jacqueline Frost, 60, was raised by her Ute aunt, a matron at the boarding school who embraced the system and became its enforcer.

Ms. Frost said she remembered the beatings. “I don’t know if it was a broom or a mop, I just remember the stick part, and my aunt swung it at me,” she said, adding: “There was belts. There was hangers. There was shoes. There was sticks, branches, wire.”

She, too, turned to alcohol. “Even though I’ve gone to so much counseling,” she said, “I still would always say, ‘Why am I like this? Why do I have this ugly feeling inside me?’”

By the turn of the century, a debate had erupted on whether it was better to “carry civilization to the Indian” by building schools on tribal land. In 1902, the government completed the construction of a boarding school on the Southern Ute reservation in Ignacio, Colo. — the school that Mr. Box and Mr. Lopez both attended.

The impact of the school, which was shuttered decades ago, can be summed up in two statistics: In the 1800s, when federal agents were trawling the reservation for children, they complained that there were almost no adults who spoke English. Today, about 30 people out of a tribe of fewer than 1,500 people — only 2 percent — speak the Ute language fluently, said Lindsay J. Box, a tribal spokeswoman. (Mr. Box is her uncle).

For decades, Ms. Smith barely spoke Navajo. She thought she had forgotten it, until years later at the hospital in Denver where she worked as director of patient admissions, a Navajo couple came in with their dying baby and the language came tumbling back, she said.

It marked a turn for her. She realized that the vocabulary she thought had been beaten out of her was still there. As she looked back, she recognized the small but meaningful ways in which she had resisted.

From her first day in the dormitory, she never again practiced the morning prayer to the four directions.

Unable to do it in physical form, she learned instead to do it internally: “I did it in my heart,” she said.

In her old age, she now makes jewelry using traditional elements, like “ghost beads” made from the dried berries of the juniper tree. When she started selling online, she chose the domain: www.dzabahe.com.

It is her birth name, the one that was taken from her at the boarding school, the one whose Navajo meaning endured: “woman who fights back.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/19/us/us-canada-indigenous-boarding-residential-schools.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Lloyd Roberston: How to Cool Canada’s Overheated Statue Removal Business

Every now and then, I come across an article in C2C that has broader interest and application than others. This one by Robertson is one of these, particularly citing this test for discussing whether a statue or monument should be considered for removal.

While there will always be different interpretations and opinions, these kind of “tests” provide useful frameworks for debate and discussion, rather than more knee-jerk responses, both from those advocating for removal as well as opposing removal.

There are likely some other tests out there and grateful readers flag any of interest.

The Witt Test

This brief survey reveals several possible ways to deal with statues of complicated historical figures without allowing the decision to be made by a mob with a hack saw and length of rope. Simply engaging in extensive public debate, as per Frum v. Cosh, is one way to channel energy away from violent beheadings. Adding extra information or modifying displays, as has been the case with Champlain, Bryce, Scott and Mason, allows more voices to be heard, which also seems fair. And India’s Victoria Memorial provides the option of a statuary refuge where past figures can be given general immunity from their crimes of history in a peaceful and contemplative setting. There is, however, another possibility: come up with a dispassionate and rigorous system to judge all figures from the past and let the evidence determine who is worthy of memorialization and who is not.   

Applying the Witt Test to Canadian figures such as Macdonald, Ryerson and all the others now in peril of being removed from the national landscape offers a rational and fact-based method for making these decisions.Tweet

In 2016 Yale University gave historian John Fabian Witt the task of figuring out whether Sen. John C. Calhoun, a central figure in the lead-up to the Confederacy, should continue to have his name recognized on campus with Calhoun College. Witt’s report is a marvel of clear thinking on this fraught topic. It begins by characterizing renaming exercises as “exceptional events” that should not be used frivolously or to make political statements. “Renaming has often reflected excessive confidence in moral orthodoxies,” he observes, pointing with caution to the Soviet Union. He then lays out four questions meant to judge a historical figure’s actions by both the standards of his or her time and contemporary values. Answering each requires substantial research and documentation, rather than hair-trigger emotionalism. And while his remit was to decide on the names of buildings at Yale, Witt’s four questions work just as well for statues in Canada. Here, modified for the task at hand, is a Canadian Witt Test: 

  • Is the principal legacy of the person fundamentally at odds with Canadian values? 
  • Was the relevant principal legacy of the person significantly contested during their lifetime? 
  • At the time the statue was erected, was the person being honoured for reasons fundamentally at odds with Canadian values? 
  • Does the statue play a substantial role in forming community? 

Note that the first two questions require a determination of the “principal legacy” of the historical figure in question. This raises the standard of proof beyond evidence that someone might have once briefly supported a concept now considered repugnant, as has been the case with Ryerson or Wood. And it forces Macdonald’s critics to grapple with his accomplishments as a whole, rather than simply focusing on his impact on Indigenous people. This system also requires a clear enunciation of Canadian values then and now and consideration of what public art means for the public-at-large.  

Using the Witt test, Yale declared Calhoun unworthy of memorialization and removed his name from campus. This was because his principal legacy was determined to be the promotion of a white supremacist view of America. Calhoun called slavery “a positive good” and claimed the Declaration of Independence erred in stating all men were created equal. It was a position strongly contested in his time, as well as ours. It is hard to argue with Yale’s conclusion because it carries the weight of evidence and offers due process to the accused. The University of Mississippi has also used the Witt Test to decide its own historical controversies, and its use was briefly discussed in Halifax as a way to decide on the fate of Cornwallis’ statue, before less-rational heads prevailed. 

Applying the Witt Test to Canadian figures such as Macdonald, Ryerson and all the others now in peril of being removed from the national landscape offers a rational and fact-based method for making these decisions. It may be true that not every figure from our past deserves the honour of a public statue. But their legacies ought to be given a chance to speak in their defense. Surely we owe our predecessors that much. 

Lloyd W. Robertson holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and has taught at the post-secondary level in the U.S. and Canada. He writes on Canadian and U.S. politics and history. 

Source: https://c2cjournal.us19.list-manage.com/track/click?u=e8efce716429c34122979e2de&id=11a8ef3065&e=4174a59277

Khan: Coming to terms with a national shame

Good thoughtful piece, with the German approach in dealing with the Holocaust. Money quote:

“We have to understand these atrocities not as freak accidents of history, but as potentialities that can happen again,” she says. “Only then can we take responsibility for the past to work against tendencies in our society that ostracize others and make such atrocities possible.”

It’s a hard thing to reconcile: the dream of national destiny with the reality of national shame. My father struggled with it. As a Muslim in a fracturing India who lived through the trauma of partition in 1947, he has walked—literally—through fire to what he was told would be the promised land. When Pakistan was created, it was supposed to be a refuge for Muslims fleeing the communal killings on the Indian subcontinent; instead, it turned into a nightmare of corruption and state failure. As an adult, he was forced to flee again, this time to Canada, to another refuge.

To this day, my father still refuses to fully acknowledge the failure of Pakistan. He laments the corrupt leadership and the crimes committed there in the name of Islam. But Pakistan, the idea of it, still endures in his imagination. The national destiny he was promised lingers. It’s hard to let go.

For the first time in my life, I can now relate. For me, Canada has always been that place beyond the parched horizon, that shimmering oasis in a sea of global failures. Over two decades of working in some of the world’s cruelest places, Canada has always stood out for me as an example of what is possible for humanity. The national destiny of Canada, I’ve argued openly, is the hope for the world.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to reconcile that dream of a pristine, untainted Canada with the reality of the cruelties committed on its soil. I’m not naïve, of course. I’m not only now waking up to the horrors of colonialism and the crimes perpetrated against the original inhabitants of this continent. What I’m waking up to after the discovery of hundreds of dead and buried children—and the knowledge that there are thousands more waiting to be unearthed—is the attempted erasure that has occurred since those crimes were committed.

For me, this is the terrifying truth: As a child in elementary school in Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s, I was taught all the wonderful ways in which the “Indians” cooperated with European fur traders to help create what is our glorious Canada. It was, of course, mostly lies, but what is even worse is that at the same time, First Nations children were still being subjected to the cruelties of residential schools. While I was being told that Canada is unique in this world because of its multiculturalism, Indigenous culture and identity were being systematically erased.

All of this happened in my lifetime, in my country. Unmarked graves could very well have been dug while I was a child in Toronto, blissfully living the multicultural dream. And I was taught to forget.


The first time I saw a mass grave was in the spring of 2003. I was in Baghdad, not long after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The city was still smoldering from the devastation of America’s Shock and Awe campaign and the convulsion of retributive violence that followed. Admittedly, there was something poetic about the looting and the rioting: the people of Iraq were ransacking Saddam’s palaces and the countless villas belonging to his senior officials—bought with the country’s stolen oil wealth—in a burst of celebratory anarchism. Baghdad’s streets were buzzing with joy and cathartic outbursts of destruction. Statues of the dictator were being torn down; murals of his murderous sons were being graffitied over or left pock-marked by automatic gunfire.

Meanwhile, a quieter but more heart-wrenching ritual was playing out beyond the din of Baghdad’s dancing streets. Some 35 km east of the Iraqi capital, mothers were gathering daily on a patch of dusty ground in Abu Ghraib prison. Fathers and brothers were carefully picking through the earth, sometimes with their bare hands, uncovering the putrid remains of young men who had been executed in the fading hours of Baathist regime rule. These were the final executions the Baathists would carry out in their long and bloody history of executions, their victims hurriedly dumped in a shallow grave literally on the doorstep of the prison’s execution chamber, even as U.S. bombers were beginning their sorties overhead.

I met one distraught mother who told me her son had disappeared five years earlier. He went to work one morning, she said, and never came home. Since then, she had recurring dreams in which her son would appear to reassure her that he was in a better place. It had comforted her during the years he was missing, and while Saddam was still in power: searching for his remains at that time might have placed the rest of her family in danger. So instead, she wrapped herself in the belief that her son had made it into heaven, despite his body never receiving the proper Islamic funeral rites.

Watching this woman struggle with her grief while her husband clawed deeper into the earth reminded me of a passage from Michael Ondaaje’s novel, Anil’s Ghost, about a forensic pathologist investigating war crimes during Sri Lanka’s civil war:

“There was always a fear, double-edged, that it was their son in the pit, or that it was not their son—which meant there would be further searching. If it became clear that the body was a stranger, then, after weeks of waiting, the family would rise and leave. They would travel to other excavations in the western highlands. The possibility of their lost son was everywhere.”

In Iraq, in the spring of 2003, mothers everywhere were scouring the earth for the remains of their children. The woman at Abu Ghraib admitted she was only at the beginning of her journey toward some measure of peace after the horror of the Baathist regime. Her son was lost to her but she knew her journey would not end until he was found. “If we don’t find him here,” she told me, “we’ll dig up all of Iraq until we do.”


I met a carpet salesman once in Afghanistan, from a family of Sufi intellectuals, who lost his brother and father to the convulsions of political violence that preceded the Soviet invasion in 1979. Like thousands of other disappeared, their bodies were never returned and were likely buried in a mass grave somewhere in one of the valleys surrounding Kabul. Noorali in his carpet shop on Chicken Street in the city centre would sip sweet green tea and wax poetic about those days. “Graveyards are remembrance,” he told me once, “mass graves are erasure.”

That line has stuck with me as I’ve walked around other mass graves since, in Syria and Pakistan and Iraq. What’s striking is not its inherent truth but its implied failure. Mass graves are an attempt at erasure. In telling me the story of his father and brother decades later, Noorali was still resisting. The mother in Abu Ghraib, who had only begun her quest to find her son’s remains, was also resisting. In trying to erase their crimes, the diggers of mass graves had instead created a kind of permanent absence, a black hole pulling the living permanently into its orbit.

In her 2008 book, To Know Where He Lies: DNA Technology and the Search for Srebrenica’s Missing, the anthropologist Sarah E. Wagner describes how survivors of the genocide in Bosnia returned home and how the empty spaces left by the missing became permanent fixtures in the lives of the living.

“Their absence has seeped into the vernacular of the city,” Wagner writes. “Repeatedly I heard the phrase ‘nije došao‘ (He didn’t come) as an explanation of where sons, husbands, friends, and former neighbors were. Didn’t come home? Didn’t come back? Didn’t survive? I could not quite grasp the oblique reference of place implicit in this simple phrase.”

Later, she realizes that what was being alluded to was not a physical place but a journey, a passage from darkness into the light, from the horrors of the war back to peace. The missing were not merely lost to the world, they were lost to the process of return, to the journey to healing. “They did not come”, and in their absence that journey would remain incomplete.


Death has its own logic and the rituals associated with it reflect how intimately death is woven into the fabric of our lives. My wife is fascinated by the relationship between the living and the dead. The bookshelf in our home office is peppered with some rather morbid titles, like Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying and Thomas W. Laqueur’s The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains. As a cultural anthropologist specializing in Afghanistan, she recently became interested in the transfer of human remains and how Afghans deal with missing loved ones—the war dead, refugees who have died in a distant land. From her point of view, the phrase ‘He didn’t come’ is an expression of a disconnect, of a severing of the living world and the spirit world. In the absence of the body there can be no funeral rites; and in the absence of funeral rites, the dead are lost to the living.

As a German, and successor to the national shame of the Holocaust, my wife has a visceral relationship with missing bodies and what it means to the survivors of mass erasure. The German experience of the Holocaust remains a kind of living memory; there is no escaping it, even three generations later. Germans are taught from a young age about what their ancestors attempted. There is no glossing over of facts, and the horror of that shared history is reinforced year after year during a person’s education.

As a result, the national shame of the Holocaust has been internalized by Germans. Some, of course, resist, arguing it is better for society to “move on”. My wife disagrees. The repeated exposure to the Holocaust has helped her develop a nuanced understanding of what Germans did. “We have to understand these atrocities not as freak accidents of history, but as potentialities that can happen again,” she says. “Only then can we take responsibility for the past to work against tendencies in our society that ostracize others and make such atrocities possible.”

The crimes we are willing to commit in the name of national destiny beget our national shame. We need to learn from the Germans and turn our faces to the horrors committed by our ancestors. We must do as the Germans do: relentlessly teach our own children about that history, to teach them that national shame is not something to bury away and forget. It is the only path to our redemption.

Source: Coming to terms with a national shame

In Indigenous Knowledge, Innovative Solutions

Some interesting examples:

Nearly two decades ago, when the New Zealand highway authority was planning the Waikato Expressway, people from the Māori tribe Ngāti Naho objected. The highway would encroach on an area that, in Māori tradition, was governed by a water-dwelling creature, a taniwha.

The authorities took those concerns into account and rerouted the road to circumvent the area in question. As a result, a year later, when the area was hit by a major flood, the road was unharmed.

“I’m still waiting for the headline, ‘Mythical Creature Saves the Taxpayer Millions,’” said Dan Hikuroa, a senior lecturer in Māori studies at the University of Auckland and member of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe. He has often wondered if, once the flood hit, the technical team later said, “Why didn’t you just say it’s a flood risk area?”

Like many Indigenous peoples around the world, the Māori have developed their understanding of their environment through close observation of the landscape and its behaviors over the course of many generations. Now the New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency regularly looks for ways to integrate traditional Māori knowledge, or mātauranga, into its decision-making. Mr. Hikuroa has been appointed the culture commissioner for UNESCO New Zealand, a role he said is centered on integrating Māori knowledge into UNESCO’s work.

Western-trained researchers and governments are increasingly recognizing the wealth of knowledge that Indigenous communities have amassed to coexist with and protect their environments over hundreds or even thousands of years. Peer-reviewed scientific journals have published studies demonstrating that around the world, Indigenous-managed lands have far more biodiversity intact than other lands, even those set aside for conservation.

Embracing Indigenous knowledge, as New Zealand is trying to do, can improve how federal governments manage ecosystems and natural resources. It can also deepen Western scientists’ understanding of their own research, potentially, by providing alternative perspectives and approaches to understanding their field of work. This is ever more urgent, particularly as the climate crisis unfolds. “It is Indigenous resilience and worldview that every government, country and community can learn from, so that we manage our lands, waters and resources not just across budget years, but across generations,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico and America’s first Native American cabinet secretary, said in remarks to the United Nations.

Indigenous scholars warn, though, that while traditional knowledge can be used to benefit the world, it can also be mishandled or exploited. Dominique David Chavez, a descendant of the Arawak Taíno in the Caribbean, and a research fellow at the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and the National Science Foundation, says that, as Western scientists, “we are trained to go into communities, get that knowledge and go back to our institutions and disseminate it in academic journals.” That can be disruptive to traditional knowledge sharing, from one generation to another, she says, which should be the priority — ensuring that Indigenous knowledge systems are preserved in and supportive of the communities that developed them. In Puerto Rico, known by its Indigenous people as Borikén, Ms. Chavez is studying ways to restore the connections and traditional knowledge transmission patterns between elders and youth.

Bridging Indigenous and Western science also means respecting the ecosystem of values in which the knowledge systems are embedded. For instance, the practice of planting a diversity of crops and building healthy soil for water retention — today known as “regenerative agriculture” — has existed in Indigenous communities around the world throughout history. Yet the growing push to adopt regenerative agriculture practices elsewhere is often selective, using industrial pesticides, for example, or leaving out the well-being of people who farm the land.

“In Indigenous sciences, it’s not possible to separate the knowledge from the ethics of the responsibility for that knowledge — whereas in Western science, we do that all the time,” said Robin Wall Kimmerer, the director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York in Syracuse and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. The scientific method is designed to be indifferent to morals or values, she adds. “Indigenous knowledge puts them back in.”

Ideally, the shared use of Indigenous knowledge can help mend broken relationships between Indigenous and Western communities.

In upstate New York, Ms. Kimmerer points to sweetgrass, a native plant used for traditional basketry. She was approached by a tribe concerned about the decline of the plant and looking for a solution.

Government regulations had already restricted its harvest. “One thing people often think about is, is it being overharvested?” Ms. Kimmerer said. She helped to conduct studies that ultimately showed that harvesting sweetgrass, following Indigenous protocols, is the very thing that will help it to thrive. “If you just leave it alone, it starts to decline.”

For her, that speaks to a core flaw in Western approaches to land management: the belief that human interaction is necessarily harmful to ecosystems. “That’s one of the reasons Native people were systematically removed from what are today’s national parks, because of this idea that people and nature can’t coexist in a good way.” But Indigenous knowledge, Ms. Kimmerer said, is really all about, ‘Oh yes we can, and we cultivate practices for how that is possible,’” she said.

While combating wildfires last year, Australian authorities turned to Aboriginal practices. While researchers have connected the severity of the fires to climate change, Ms. Kimmerer added that how Australia’s land has been managed in the modern era may have also played a role. Aboriginal people had “been managing that land in a fire landscape for millenniums, ” she said. “The fact that Indigenous science has been ignored is a contributing factor to the fires there.”

As the world increasingly recognizes the accomplishments of many Indigenous communities that successfully coexist with ecosystems, there is much for Western society to learn.

“We have this notion that Western science is the pathway to truth. We don’t really even entertain the possibility that it could come from somewhere else,” said Ms. Kimmerer. “Resource managers, land managers need to understand that there are multiple ways of knowing.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/10/opinion/indigenous-maori-new-zealand-environment.html

Cardozo: Dialogues on diversity is what we need

Agree with need for commission or enquiry to allow for a more substantive, comprehensive and non-partisan review.

Issue is with respect to what the focus should be and what kind of research, process and recommendations are needed (stay tuned, working on my thoughts):

“They made us believe we didn’t have souls,” Elder Florence Sparvier, a residential school survivor, said at a press conference in Cowessess, Sask.

Canada Day 2021 and this entire period has been a time for reflection. We are a good country. We have the self-confidence to know that we have lots of strengths. And in that confidence, we also have the ability to be self-critical to recognize the bad parts of our history, or the problems we have today, and to make amends, or at least to try to do better.

Over 50 years ago Lester B. Pearson established two royal commissions: one on the status of women and one on bilingualism and biculturalism. They recognized the fundamental, and, yes, systemic discrimination that was faced by women and by francophones. The results of the commissions have seen significant advances, and committed Canada to an ongoing path to betterment. To be clear, it has not been flowers and rainbows on these paths, but overall the trajectory has been positive as we try to get things better.

And so today as we need to think deeply, carefully and compassionately about our country and be conscious of the racism epidemic that has met the COVID pandemic, as was articulated by Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard at a Pearson Centre webinar last summer.

What can we do? Many things, but here is one idea, a thoughtful national dialogue on diversity. There are many ways to do this, but, as a nation, we must listen to each other, and, most importantly, we must listen to those with grievances.  That’s how we build a better country.

The discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools has not been a surprise to most Indigenous people, but it is the harsh reality that has triggered for many, the many real stages of grief. Made more devastating by the fact that they have been saying this for years and governments and the rest of society either had not believed them or just looked the other way.

This tragic discovery has become a precipitating event that has been a shock for non-Indigenous Canadians, for the political class, and the mainstream media. We somehow missed Calls Action 71 to 76 in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, the missing children and burial information, and all the conversations on this for years.

2020 and 2021 have also seen other aspects of racism come to the fore. With the killing of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer, in the U.S., our racism problems became much more apparent. Once again, it was the precipitating event there that caused us to become more aware in Canada. In addition to systemic and overt racism faced by Indigenous peoples for years, the reality of anti-Black racism has become more evident. Anti-Semitism has reached new heights—or should we say new depths. Islamophobia is on the rise. We saw the killing of a Muslim family in London, Ont., in June. And with the rise of COVID, we have seen the ridiculous anti-Asian acts of overt racism and racial violence.

There is something rotten in our state these days. And there is nothing wrong in recognizing it and dealing with it. The solutions are many: from legal, to social, to economic, to educational measures. But it starts with dialogue and understanding what marginalization feels like, what unspoken discrimination feels like, or what the hand of racial violence feels like. Also what does white uneasiness or fragility feel like?

At the Pearson Centre we launched a six-month dialogue with two webinars, one with Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson who spoke about the ancient Indigenous history of his city and one with award-winning author Michelle Good. Her novel, Five Little Indians, is about the lives of five young residential school survivors as they make their way through life seriously damaged by their experience. There will be more over the months ahead, that explore systemic racism and various aspects of inequality while always trying to increase understanding across divides and identifying solutions. Using the marvels of webinars we will easily pull together Canadians from across the country into important discussions.

October marks the 50th anniversary of the multiculturalism policy—in the world. It is a good time to take stock and plan the future.

I urge other think tanks, organizations, and companies to launch their own dialogues and to get involved. As Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said, “All we ask of all of you listening is that you stand by us as we heal and get stronger. All must put down our ignorance and accidental racism of not addressing the truth that this country has with Indigenous people. We are not asking for pity, but we are asking for understanding.”

We are too far apart and we understand too little about each other. We need to learn from each other. And of course dialogue is no reason not to take action. Governments need to engage in dialogue and seriously step up their actions at the same time.

I also think about “what would Pearson do.” I dare say he would strike a royal commission on diversity and equity of some kind, to dialogue about inequality in its various forms.

Source: Dialogues on diversity is what we need

Delacourt: Perry Bellegarde has some advice for non-Indigenous Canadians

Good and relevant reflections:

Nearly seven years ago, when Perry Bellegarde took on the top job at the Assembly of First Nations, one of his major missions was getting Indigenous people out to vote in a looming federal election in Canada. 

“Closing the gap” was the rallying cry in the lead-up to the campaign of 2015, which put Justin Trudeau and his Liberals in power. Indigenous people would only see a difference in their lives, Bellegarde and the AFN argued, if they made a difference at the ballot box in this election. Nonparticipation in Canada’s democracy — too often the practice for Indigenous people — kept them as outsiders in the nation. 

The results were impressive. On-reserve voting shot up from around 48 per cent in 2011 to more than 61 per cent in 2015. Some reserves ran out of ballots. Bellegarde says that Indigenous people alone helped “flip” more than 20 ridings across the country that year. 

Thanks in part to those efforts, Bellegarde’s years as AFN chief have run roughly parallel with those of Trudeau; the prime minister who has made Indigenous issues a bigger priority than any of his predecessors. 

Sitting in his soon-to-vacated office in Ottawa this past week, with time ticking down to the end of his long reign as AFN national chief, Bellegarde smiles at the memory of that first year after he was elected chief in December 2014. 

It’s a long way from there to the here and now, when Bellegarde is preoccupied with almost the opposite problem. In 2015, his prime concern was getting Indigenous people engaged in politics and democracy. In 2021, it’s the non-Indigenous population of Canada that he wants to get mobilized, as he and other leaders wonder how to seize a moment gripping the nation. “What’s changed is that Canadians now have opened their eyes,” Bellegarde says, reflecting on the past month of discovery — or rediscovery — of the truth about residential schools and the hundreds buried in unmarked graves around the country. 

“There’s this discourse in Canada, like people are willing to open their eyes now and have a tough conversation and see the truth in history.” 

But here is the question for Bellegarde — what exactly are non-Indigenous people being mobilized to do? Seven years ago, voting was a tangible thing he could ask people to do to close that famous gap; something real, visible and measurable on election day. 

If it is true that non-Indigenous Canadians are in a mood to do something, anything to reckon with the brutal history of residential schools, what action is Bellegarde urging them to take? 

“This is what I tell you to do,” he says. “Read the (Truth and Reconciliation) Commission’s report and get familiarized with the 94 calls to action. … Lobby! Help lobby and advocate to your member of Parliament to end the boil-water advisories, help lobby to the Pope to come to Canada, to apologize for the role of the Catholic Church. Lobby to do the research and investigation into the missing children and all the residential school sites.” 

Politely, tactfully, I ask: is that it? We talk about how this long last year of the pandemic has also been an exercise in mobilization of individuals. Fighting COVID was literally in people’s own hands, following public health measures, from wearing a mask to accepting huge limits on work and social life.

If Canada is in a moment of reconciliation, it seems that somehow there should be an equivalent call for action to citizens on individual, hands-on terms. Is it enough to ask them to lobby their governments and politicians to do something? 

Bellegarde considers the question. Yes, he says, this can work on an individual level. 

“Learn about First Nations’ culture, language, and dance, First Nations foods. You know, integration can work both ways. And so that’s something that individual people can do.” 

The chief has just returned from his home province of Saskatchewan and a Sun Dance ceremony there and his conversation is laced with the importance of connections between all of creation: between land and “two-legged” creatures (that’s we humans;) between the Earth and the stars; between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. 

His talk of unity, ironically, comes just as the AFN is closing in on the last days of the election to choose his successor, which naturally is going to divide an organization that is notoriously fractious. Bellegarde’s main advice to his successor, whomever that turns out to be among the seven candidates, is simple. “AFN has to be united,” he says.

When I ask Bellegarde what his main job has been — managing the AFN or representing it to others, he doesn’t hesitate. Serving as a spokesman, he says, as the voice of the Indigenous community is clearly the priority for anyone who wants to lead this organization that says it speaks for more than 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities. 

“It has to be relevant. People need to see the relevancy of the AFN in order for it to be effective. We’re an advocacy organization and you advocate for policy and legislative change. And the most important thing you influence is that federal budgeting cycle every year.” 

It’s why he also smiles when presented with the familiar criticism — not unique to him, either — that this AFN chief got too close to the federal government, whose time in office has run in parallel to his own. Bellegarde has heard that before; so did the AFN chiefs who came before him. 

“You have to be able to communicate and collaborate and have access to the policy, legislative decision makers,” he says. “If you can’t do that, what good are you as a national team? How effective are you as national chief?” 

He also stresses that he is on good terms with all the federal political party leaders; not just Trudeau or his ministers. On the coffee table in front of him is a new pamphlet: an updated version of the “Closing the Gap” manifesto of 2015, which he’s been pressing into the hands of politicos of all stripes since 2019. It’s called “Honouring Promises” and runs to 16 pages of demands that the AFN wants to see in any party’s election platform. 

The whole debate around Canada Day and whether to celebrate it was not one on which Bellegarde wanted to take a side — not because it divided the political world, but because it was one on which chiefs of the AFN were not united either. It reminds him a bit of the debate around whether to vote in 2015. Some Indigenous people argued that elections — such as the one that may come again soon in Canada — have nothing to do with their own nations and democracy within them. None of their business — part of the non-Indigenous Canada so problematic through their history. 

Bellegarde has an easy answer for that. “I embrace dual citizenship,” he says. 

As he walks around the office that will soon belong to a new chief, he points out the photographs he will soon be taking down. There he is in Paris in late 2015, posing with Barack Obama while Trudeau takes a photo. They were all there for the talks that led to the Paris agreement on climate change Catherine McKenna, the minister who resigned this week and boasted that Paris agreement as one of her earliest victories, is in the shot too, as a newly sworn-in environment minister. In another photo on the AFN’s office wall, Bellegarde is posing with former finance minister Bill Morneau, focus of much of his lobbying efforts in the early years of the Trudeau government. 

He spoke to McKenna as she was resigning this week; both of them focused on turning a page. Not coincidentally, they both said they intend to spend the summer relaxing and considering what to do next. They are, in their own ways, snapshots themselves of an earlier era of Trudeau government. 

I ask Bellegarde how he’s changed since 2015. He has to think, then says: “I’ve learned to be more patient.” 

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2021/07/04/perry-bellegarde-has-some-advice-for-non-indigenous-canadians.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=thestar_politics

She Struggled To Reclaim Her Indigenous Name. She Hopes Others Have It Easier

Of interest:

For as long as she can remember, Danita Bilozaze knew that the name on her birth certificate, “Danita Loth,” didn’t reflect her Indigenous identity.

From the stories her mother recounted to her, she knew that Catholic missionaries had changed her family’s name. Her great-grandfather, a man known as Lor Bilozaze, was written into priests’ logs as “Loth Bilozaze.” Government record books in Canada ultimately dropped the “Bilozaze,” and Loth became their surname.

She never felt a connection with that name. But “Bilozaze,” which means “the makers” in her native Denesuline language, she said, is integral to the preservation of her identity and culture as a member of the Cold Lake First Nations.

“It means everything to me because it lines up with who I am,” she said. “I am an educator, I am a teacher, I am a baker, I’m an artist. I’m always, always, forever making things. So when you have something that was taken away from your family, like your birthright or your name and you have a chance to make that right for future generations, it means everything to take back what is rightfully mine.”

“Loth Bilozaze,” the name of Bilozaze’s great-grandfather, was changed to “Lor Bilozaze,” according to a photocopied document found in the Provincial Archives of Alberta. “Bilozaze” was later dropped from government records.

Provincial Archives of Alberta

Last year, the 49-year-old began an emotional and frustrating nine-month-long journey to officially change her name.

new policy that promotes name reclamation promises that those following in Bilozaze’s footsteps won’t have to face the same hurdles.

A step toward reconciliation

Earlier this month, federal officials in Canada announced a new policy process that allows Indigenous citizens to restore their names on government-issued identification, including passports, for free until May 2026.

It’s unclear how many Canadians, 5% of whom are Indigenous, will pursue name reclamation under the new policy.

Frank Deer, a research chair and associate professor in Indigenous education at the University of Manitoba, says that most First Nations tribal members have lost their original Indigenous names to history as a result of forced assimilation and poor government record-keeping.

Among native people who can’t reclaim their names because of inadequate records, Deer says there’s a growing interest in acquiring new Indigenous names that carry a meaningful connection to their communities.

“Many are actually not reclaiming a lost name,” he says. “They’re simply claiming a name.”

A history of “cultural genocide”

The new policy implements a six-year-old recommendation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It’s known as Call to Action No. 17: An appeal to all levels of government to allow residential school survivors and their families to reclaim names changed by the residential schools.

The policy was unveiled against the backdrop of last month’s harrowing discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children in a mass grave at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

“It was a very harsh reminder that as a country, we have to come to grips with the fact that the residential school system was something that could have and did occur in a country that prides itself on our diversity and our relationship with Indigenous peoples,” Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino told NPR.

Between 1830 and 1998, Canadian governments and churches separated more than 150,000 native children from their parents and confined them to mandatory boarding schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission said the effort amounted to “cultural genocide.” There — at Indian residential schools like Blue Quills in Alberta, which Bilozaze’s grandmother attended — students were given Christian names, had their hair cut and their clothes replaced with uniforms, suffered physical and sexual abuse, and punished for speaking their own languages.

The commission estimated that over 4,000 children died while at the schools. The shocking discoveries have continued. A week after leaders of Indigenous groups said that at least 600 bodies, mostly those of children, had been found in unmarked graves outside another shuttered residential school near Grayson, Saskatchewan, 182 more human remains were found near a another former church-run school in Cranbrook, B.C.

In March 2020, Bilozaze was as immersed as ever in that history of cultural erasure. She had just completed her master’s degree in education after studying the revitalization of Indigenous languages and the reclamation of native identities. Yet when she was awarded her degree, her diploma did not reflect her roots. She wanted it changed to her Indigenous name.

She met few who understood what reconciliation should look like

Bilozaze thought the commission’s call to establish a name reclamation policy would make the process easier.

Yet, at every step she described in getting her name changed, she found ignorance around reconciliation.

“Instead of just going and doing this work, I now have to educate people along the way,” she said.

Her first step began last September with a visit to get her fingerprints taken at the federal police station near her home in Comox Valley, British Columbia. A clerk asked her to explain why the fees should be waived for her application.

So Bilozaze pulled up documents on her phone and began teaching the clerk a history lesson.

“Then I went and I sat in my car and cried,” Bilozaze said.

She would go through nine months of delays, anguish and repeating her story. Altogether, application fees can run upward of hundreds of dollars. Eventually, through petitions, she managed to get most of the charges reimbursed.

By winter, her pursuit stalled. Her certificate of name change — the document she needed in order to make revisions on official IDs — was held up at the Land Title and Survey Authority. When the document did arrive in her mailbox three months later, it appeared singed and wrinkled — rendering it void.

“At that point, I’ve got nothing to prove who I am,” she said.

So she went through the process again. She proceeded to get her land title as well as her three university degrees changed to her Indigenous name.

Then came the passport. Instead of enjoying their spring break this year, the teacher and her daughter drove the three hours from their home in Comox Valley to a passport office in Victoria to get their names changed.

That’s where she met Samantha MacPhail, a supervisor at Service Canada’s Citizen Services Branch. For the first time in the entire process, Bilozaze says she started to see things turn around. An apologetic MacPhail gave Bilozaze’s application her full attention, Bilozaze said.

Following daily updates from MacPhail, Bilozaze finally got her official passport on May 26.

A harrowing journey offers a crash course on cultural sensitivity

MacPhail worked to ensure her colleagues could learn from Bilozaze’s experience. Bilozaze’s fight to legally change her name has provided a teaching opportunity for some 1,000 employees within Service Canada as a part of workplace training programs on reconciliation.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Bilozaze is the first person in the country to have her fees waived to get her passport changed to reflect her Indigenous name. Her 15-year-old daughter, Dani, is the second.

In an email last month, MacPhail thanked Bilozaze for letting her share her story, including on a call with leaders at the national level.

“Your story has continued to move others, both to tears and to action,” MacPhail wrote. “Because of your action and your bravery, Indigenous Canadians across the country will no longer walk into our offices and be met with a non-answer.”

Bilozaze said that other people in her Comox Valley community want to legally reclaim their names. “But of course, there’s fear,” she said on June 21, Canada’s Indigenous Peoples Day. “No one wants to have to push that hard.”

She’s a reluctant poster child in the protracted pursuit of Indigenous reconciliation. As Bilozaze said she told Service Canada when asked to share her experience: “If it’s going to help people like me, definitely use my story — only if it’s going to help those that are coming behind me to do the same thing.”

Source: She Struggled To Reclaim Her Indigenous Name. She Hopes Others Have It Easier

Marche: If Canada wants to be healthy and decent and prosperous and stable, it needs to face its demons

One of the better commentaries. A friend suggested “the good, the bad and the ugly” which just about sums it up:

No country can be realistic about itself. Nations live by myths, both in the sense of collective stories that give meaning, and in the sense of lies. Ordinarily, the myths permeate the background of national life, unobserved and assumed. There are days when the myths go on display, like Canada Day, when everyone goes out and waves flags and talks about how lucky they are to live here. 

Then there are other days when the myths shatter, like when investigators discover the bodies of 751 Indigenous children in unmarked graves. This year the myth-displaying and the myth-shattering have come very close together, almost simultaneously. 

Canada is far from alone in finding an uncomfortable duality surrounding the stories it tells itself, a confusion of pride and horror. There’s a strange contradiction at play all around the world: The more successful a country is the less likely it is to celebrate itself. 

Anyone who has visited Germany over the past seventy years will have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of historical memory to be consumed. Germans reckon with the evils of their past in a continuous way. It’s not just Holocaust memorials and museums. There are over 75,000 stumbling stones in Germany, small brass plaques on the streets each identifying a separate national disgrace — a family sent to a concentration camp, a business burned to the ground. Their confrontation with horror, their humility in facing it, has had serious political consequences. It is no coincidence that Germany has become the world’s leading democracy, one of the most stable, prosperous and decent nations in the world. They have put the spiritual work in. 

Contrast Germany with Britain. On June 25, British schools celebrated “One Britain One Nation Day” in which the Education Secretary encouraged all school age children to sing the “Strong Britain, Great Nation” song. “We are British and we have one dream,” it begins, and the chorus which repeats itself ad nauseam is “Strong Britain, Great nation!” The sheer creepiness of the totalitarian esthetic is grotesque. But I honestly felt sorry for the British after I heard “Strong Britain, Great Nation.” Somebody had to commission that piece of music. Somebody had to compose it. Somebody’s children had to sing it. It’s so humiliating for everyone involved. 

England has chosen to decline in a fit of make-believe Imperialist nostalgia, embodied perfectly by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In 2016, 44 per cent of Britains agreed with the statement that the British Empire was “something to be proud of.” Through Brexit, they have paid a heavy price for their comforting myths of their own magnificence: a sharp decline in global influence, a shrinking economy and the instability of the Union itself. The contrast between the rhetoric and the reality is growing ever more extreme: Five years after their great splurge to “take back control,” they don’t even have control over shipments of sausages to Northern Ireland. I guess that’s why they need to sing ridiculous hymns to their own strength. 

It’s not that the Germans are somehow better people than the English. It’s not that Germany doesn’t have its own problems with nationalism. It’s that Germany has chosen to reckon with its own history problems rather than pretend them away. In the case of America, the matter is starker: Four years of “Make America Great Again” have led to a political system in mid-collapse. Hollering for American greatness led to suffering American catastrophe. 

What all of this shows is simple enough intellectually if hard to grasp emotionally: If you want your country to be healthy and decent and prosperous and stable, you should want it to face its demons. “I think Canada is a great historical achievement,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said recently. “It is an imperfect country, but it is still a great country, just as John Macdonald was an imperfect man but was still a great leader.” Kenney was not exactly wrong (the full text of his remarks is far more nuanced and reasonable than the reaction to the sound bite clips would lead anyone to believe) but, to me, the frame of his question is a false dichotomy: Every country is imperfect just as every person is imperfect. Facing the imperfections is what patriotism looks like, not turning away from them. The celebration and the confrontation must occur together to be meaningful.

Quite apart from the political future of Canada’s relationship to Indigenous communities, the process of truth and reconciliation is essential for our own survival. Every former residential school in this country should be a museum. Every school age child should visit one. These locations are the very black diamond of our national evil. We must face them not because we hate Canada but because we love it. The honour of this country is at stake, and Canadian honour is worth fighting for. It is our duty to fight for it. 

Four hundred thousand people are going to move to Canada next year. That’s not a myth. That’s a fact. They’re not moving here for the weather. There is a great deal in Canada that is lovable, but love comes at a cost. Let’s celebrate this country, but quietly this year. Let’s celebrate, but remember.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/analysis/2021/07/01/if-canada-wants-to-be-healthy-and-decent-and-prosperous-and-stable-it-needs-to-face-its-demons.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=thestar_recommended_for_you

Residential Schools: Now ain’t the time for your tears

Good overview of all the times Canadians were informed about what happened in residential schools:

In 1964 Bob Dylan released The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol, one of his masterworks. The song chronicles the circumstances of the atrocious murder of an African American woman and the hypocrisy of the society that produced her killer.

As the horrifying revelations from Kamloops and Cowessess of graves at the sites of former residential schools have unfolded I am reminded of Dylan’s refrain aimed at mainstream American society:

“Take the rag away from your face, now ain’t the time for your tears.”

Surely just like many Americans who were bystanders on civil rights in America, too many non-Indigenous Canadians have turned a blind eye to the grotesque injustices of the residential school system for decades.

As a non-Indigenous person of English and Italian background I have no difficulty describing myself as a settler in these lands. As an educator and storyteller I have attempted to inform myself about the Indigenous history of Canada. This is an extremely painful moment for many, particularly Indigenous people. What it is not, is surprising.

I am appalled to hear in 2021 many Canadians who claim to be well meaning and would self-identify as progressives state that they ‘didn’t know’ about residential schools.


“Now ain’t the time for your tears.”

As early as the 1860s, people like Florence Nightingale were calling attention to the atrocious death rates in state-run boarding schools for Indigenous children.

Federal medical inspector Peter Henderson Bryce exposed horrific conditions and high death tolls in residential schools prior to the First World War. His book The Story of a National Crime: An Appeal for Justice to the Indians of Canada published almost a century ago garnered parliamentary and press attention, but little political action.

Conservative and Liberal governments, with the willing cooperation of senior civil servants like Duncan Campbell Scott, better known to Canadians at the time as an admirable poet, journalist and musician, worked assiduously to pursue residential school policy and stifle whistleblowers like Bryce. Despite Scott’s reluctance to engage in full scale residential school reform, he contributed the following to Canada And Its Provinces in 1914 about the beginnings of the residential school system:

The well-known predisposition of Indians to tuberculosis resulted in a very large percentage of deaths among the pupils. They were housed in buildings not carefully designed for school purposes, and these buildings became infected and dangerous to the inmates. It is quite within the mark to say that fifty per cent of the children who passed through these schools did not live to benefit from the education which they had received therein.”

Over the last several decades writers including Olive Patricia Dickason, John S. Milloy, J.R. Miller, E. Brian Titley and Richard Wagamese documented the residential school horrors. Since the 1960s several acclaimed filmmakers including Hugh Brody, Gil Cardinal, Nadia McLaren, Alanis Obomsawin and Loretta Sarah Todd have explored the issue with intelligence and passion. All these works have been readily available to Canadians.

In 1996 The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples led by co-chairs Georges Erasmus, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Justice René Dussault tabled a comprehensive investigation on many issues including the history, impact and legacy of residential schools.

In 2015, Truth And Reconciliation Canada led by Justice Murray Sinclair issued its own extraordinarily detailed report on the system. Sinclair and his team stated clearly there were unmarked graves waiting to be found.

Just two years ago The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls sadly documented a saga of injustice for many women, some of whom or whose families, had been harmed by the residential school experience. Chief Commissioner Marion Buller and her team asserted categorically based on their investigation that Canada’s assault on Indigenous women and girls was genocide.

It is disingenuous at best for any reasonably educated Canadian to excuse her or his self with the ‘I didn’t know’ refrain in regards to residential schools. Like the architects of Canadian “Indian” policy from the late 19th and early 20th centuries too many of us were prepared to see Indigenous people as marginal and their negative experiences as regrettable, but inevitable collateral damage on the path to Canadian civilization, economic development and expansion.

In June 2015, Buffy Sainte-Marie performed in downtown Ottawa on the occasion of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report. Before beginning to play, she clearly stated an unwelcome truth. Ms. Sainte-Marie said Canadians had every means to learn the truth about residential schools for a long time.

When I began my career in the 1980s, many of my journalistic colleagues were preoccupied with injustices in El Salvador, Nicaragua or South Africa. There was much less concern about conditions in Chisasibi, New Ayainsh, Pangnirtung, Sheshatshiu or Temagami even though many of the same issues of decolonization, brutality and mismanagement were in play domestically rather than in exotic foreign lands. It seemed to me then, as it still does, that too many Canadians would rather focus on injustice and benighted thinking abroad rather than in their own community.

Today some politicians want us to believe that residential schools are behind us, part of the past. Current prime minster Justin Trudeau presents himself as a champion of Indigenous rights. Critics such as Indigenous children’s advocate Cindy Blackstock beg to differ. Mr. Trudeau would do well at this time to better historicize the enduring role played by governments led by his Liberal party in residential school management in cooperation with several Christian churches.

At a recent virtual meeting in the aftermath of the revelations concerning the Kamloops 215 Anishinaabe Elder Edna Manitowabi, professor emerita of Indigenous Studies at Trent University, a residential school survivor and cultural worker, implored her audience that it was time for the truth to come out:

“I ask the citizens of this country. It is time to do something. It is a heavy thing, a crime, a national crime.”

At the conclusion of The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Mr. Dylan sings:

“Bury the rag deep in your face, for now’s the time for your tears.”

In our current national tragedy, tears, especially Indigenous tears, are understandable, but as Dr. Manitowabi asserted the hard, painful, vitally important work of truth recognition must begin in earnest for many non-Indigenous Canadians.

James Cullingham is an adjunct graduate faculty member of Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University, a professor at Seneca College and president of Tamarack Productions in Nogojiwanong – Peterborough Ontario. He directed and produced Duncan Campbell Scott – The Poet and The Indians (Tamarack-NFB 1995). This autumn he will release a book Two Dead White Men – Duncan Campbell Scott, Jacques Soustelle and the Failure of  Indigenous Policy and a documentary film The Cost of Freedom – Refugee Journalists in Canada.

Source: http://activehistory.ca/2021/06/now-aint-the-time-for-your-tears/