Long suppressed and forcibly assimilated, Sámi people in Sweden get an apology 30 years in the making

Of interest and the influence of and parallel with Canadian experience:

In Uppsala Cathedral, the heart of Swedish Christianity, Archbishop Antje Jackelén sat this week before a circle of Sámi leaders in traditional dress and the television cameras of Sweden’s state broadcaster, listing the past crimes of her church.

“You have told us about forced Christianization and Swedish colonialism. Sámi culture was denied,” Jackelén said, in Swedish. “Today, we acknowledge this and, on behalf of the Church of Sweden, I apologize.”

Wednesday’s apology service in Uppsala, the culmination of more than 30 years of discussions and advocacy, marked a major step forward for reconciliation in Sweden, where the Indigenous Sámi people continue to fight for self-determination and recognition of past wrongs committed by church and state.

Having studied the Canadian experience of reconciliation, church and Sámi figures alike emphasized that the apology must be followed by concrete actions, and came with no expectation of forgiveness.

“As we apologize to you today, we cannot determine how you will receive this apology. It is not our place to demand to know when a response will be given,” Jackelén said in her speech.

“While we wait, we pray to God … that we do not repeat past mistakes.”

As one of its commitments, the church pledged to acknowledge the importance of Sámi spirituality, and even incorporate it into Christian worship after centuries of exclusion and demonization.

Ingrid Inga, the chair of the church’s internal Sámi Council, called it “the starting point of a new relationship between the Church of Sweden and the Sámi people.”

Crimes of assimilation

The Sámi are indigenous to the vast forests and tundra of Arctic Europe, traditionally herding reindeer, hunting and fishing across Norway, Sweden, Finland and parts of northern Russia. For centuries, they have been divided by the borders of those countries, which all embarked on differing programs of forced assimilation.

Though the earliest Christian missionaries are believed to have visited Sápmi, the traditional territory of the Sámi, in the 11th century, Sámi say the church’s process of forced Christianization truly began some 500 years later, when the Reformation unified church and state.

In an 1,100-page anthology produced for the Church of Sweden in 2019 — seen as an essential precondition to the apology — historians documented the way the church supported the state in the process of erasing and suppressing Sámi identity.

Christian preachers condemned Sámi religion as devil worship, banning the joik, a form of spiritual singing used by noaidi, or Sámi shamans, to communicate with the spirit world.

The 17th century saw a wave of puritanical witch trials, in which Swedish church and state authorities waged an intense campaign against Sámi worship, which they branded as sorcery. One noaidi, Lars Nilsson, was burned at the stake, and many others were tried for witchcraft.

In pursuit of converts, the Swedish church produced the first writing in the Sámi languages, in translated bibles. But by the 20th century, it was actively suppressing the Sámi languages in church-run schools.

Reindeer herders were segregated to subpar “nomad schools,” which sought to “protect” them from civilization as an “inferior race.”

As in Canada, these church-run schools became theatres for humiliating scientific experiments and clerical abuse. Racial biologists also conspired with bishops to dig up the remains of Sámi children and elders — many of which still sit in museum collections across Europe.

Other Sámi, deemed not sufficiently nomadic by Swedish authorities, were forced to assimilate, driving divisions in the community that exist to this day.

Christianity an ‘Indigenous religion’

Yet today, many Sámi are still devoutly Christian. A 19th-century revival movement produced an Indigenous form of Lutheranism that transformed communities damaged by the suppression of traditional activities.

“Many Sámi think that Christianity is their Indigenous religion, because the Sámi have for centuries been dealing with Christianity,” said Helga West, a Sámi theologian who studies the reconciliation processes underway in the three Nordic countries. (Her Sámi name is Biennaš-Jon Jovnna Piera Helga.)

“Yet… there are many Sámi who don’t want to be involved with these churches at all.”

Thomas Colbengtson, originally from Tärnaby, was raised in the Lutheran Church and attended a nomad school. He says the experience left him with a “mixed feeling” about his own identity.

“In a way, you’ve got double guilt — guilt [for] being Sámi, guilt [for] being Swedish, guilt [for] perhaps not practising Christian religion, guilt [for] being Christian…. That’s the sensitive thing to talk about.”

In a former glass factory in the suburbs of Stockholm, Colbengtson wrestles with that tension as a Sámi artist. His most recent work, based on a noaidi drum, will be displayed near the altar of the Swedish church.

“Part of it is provocation,” he said, “and … part is to visualize Sámi presence in the area, and Sámi culture that [they have] tried to erase.”

Spiritual destruction — and renewal

Guided by the Canadian truth and reconciliation process, the church has largely focused on documenting historical wrongs. But West says it has not yet come to terms with how it has forever transformed Sámi spirituality.

“Christianity in general brought this hierarchical and linear view of the world that was very different from the Sámi cosmic vision, that was pluralistic,” she said. “They were forced to think differently of the world, of their ancestors, of their practices, that were labelled as pagan and backward.”

Some Christian Sámi have managed to reconcile these identities within themselves. Nilla and Nik Märak, two sisters from Jokkmokk, learned from their father, Johan, a renowned Sámi priest, who broke barriers by bringing joiking into the church for the first time.

“He used to say, ‘God was with the Sámi before the church,'” Nik said with a laugh.

“He knew that by … being a minister in the church, and bringing the two worlds together, he could, just by his presence, actually go quite a long way [toward] reconciliation,” Nilla said.

For Nilla, who handed out communion wafers at Wednesday’s service in Uppsala, the church’s recognition of past wrongs is an important step in and of itself.

“A huge part of reconciliation, and the healing that will come, we hope … is to realize that there has been damage done,” she said. “The Sámi religion has been damaged, and the Sámi soul has been damaged.”

Wednesday’s service included eight concrete commitments to reverse the historic erasure of Sámi culture, meant to counter early perceptions among Sámi that public apologies, like those in Canada, would be merely performative.

Among them are pledges to preach in the Sámi language, educate congregations about past crimes and make Sámi traditions a more visible part of Christian worship.

“I hope that the Sámi people really trust the Church of Sweden, that it’s for real, that we want Sámi spirituality as part of the church,” said Bishop Åsa Nyström, whose Luleå diocese covers the northernmost third of Sweden and includes many Sámi communities. “It is so important the Sámi people can have priests and deacons … from their own people.”

State absent

Some say there is still more the church could do. Northern dioceses like Nyström’s derive income from vast forests they manage. But Åsa Larsson Blind, vice-president of the transnational Saami Council, says they do not pursue international certifications that would require co-management with the Sámi.

To critics, the greatest shortcoming of Wednesday’s church apology may be that the Swedish government was nowhere to be seen.

“It’s only the church doing the work,” said Nilla Märak. “The Swedish government is doing nothing. They’re barely even recognizing that there is a need for a reconciliation process.”

Many of the crimes documented by the church were committed in service of a colonizing Swedish state, which sought to push Sámi people off profitable land and divide them with borders.

Yet the state’s own reconciliation process has barely begun. First discussed more than 15 years ago, the Swedish government only this month announced a truth commission, which will be focused primarily on fact-finding over its four-year mandate.

“It’s very, very important, but it isn’t a reconciliation process,” said Nyström.

Meanwhile, the Swedish government continues to fight Sámi reindeer herders in court for the right to build mines and power plants on their lands. It has refused to ratify international conventions recognizing the rights of Indigenous people.

A landmark Supreme Court decision in the Sámi village of Girjas appears to have established a duty to consult with Sámi people. But the government continues to interpret it narrowly.

“They are dodging the whole issue,” said Larsson Blind. “And by not addressing the issues, they are letting business as usual … just go on.”

As part of its evidence in court, the government’s representative read an 1884 statement that said Sámi herders live “on a less cultured level” and must “give way to the more civilized people.”

Two ministries within the Swedish government responsible for Sámi issues declined CBC requests for comment.

Making an ally of the church

Many of those present at Wednesday’s service hope the apology will be a turning point for the church, making it a crucial ally in the push for restitution from the government.

“I think that the church having the platform and the voice in Sweden that they have, they can actually play a huge part in this,” said Larsson Blind.

Within the church, meanwhile, the long and difficult work begins to regain trust with Sámi Christians and their communities.

“In some time … the [Sámi people may] take this apology and forgive the church,” said Inga, the Sámi church council’s chair. “But this is not the right time for that.”

Source: Long suppressed and forcibly assimilated, Sámi people in Sweden get an apology 30 years in the making

The power of Indigenous diplomacy as a strategic asset for Australia | The Strategist

Of interest with some parallels and lessons for Canada:

International relations sometimes seems like a game that’s all about controlling and asserting simplistic national-power narratives without acknowledging the complexity of each nation’s stories.

But the key to effective public diplomacy is moving from monologue to dialogue, which means knowing when to speak and when to listen. In Australia, this begins with listening to, and reckoning with, the nation’s Indigenous history and projecting that into the international public sphere.

Indigenous diplomacy needs to be seen as an asset in Australia’s strategic toolkit.

‘International interest in Indigenous culture is very high and people see it as unique,’ says Australia’s first Indigenous ambassador, Damien Miller, in an interview with ASPI. ‘It’s a natural part of our soft power.’

Miller belongs to the Gangulu people, traditional custodians of land in Central Queensland’s Dawson and Callide valleys. His grandmother moved to Rockhampton after the 1987 Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act nullified the political and civil rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In the 1960s his father moved to Brisbane, where Miller grew up.

This painful part of Australia’s history reverberates into the present. There are distinct challenges in reconciling these elements in the national story, and Australia has its detractors globally over its treatment of its Indigenous citizens.

Miller acknowledges, but also challenges, these views: ‘Some have very outdated views of our nation based on cherry-picking the most negative aspects of Australian history. But I would say that this bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground.’

It’s important to tell the whole complex and rich story of Australia—the parts where we succeed and the parts where we stumble, especially in relation to the Indigenous experience.

When we do this, says Miller, ‘Australia’s Indigenous diplomacy is a way of showing the world an open, mature country that can explore the light and the shade of our history.’

A world awash with disinformation has shown how important ideas are. Australia traditionally thinks of soft power as education, sport and culture. Those elements are important, but there’s a harder edge to appreciate.

In the context of the grey zone, where information warfare targeting the political culture and reputation of nations is a key tactic, having a strong narrative about national identity, values and history becomes ever more important.

In Miller’s view, having a compelling story to tell about Australia is a critical element of national power. In his work as minister-counselor for strategic communications at Australia’s Washington embassy, he talks about three distinct chapters of our national story.

The first is our unique Indigenous heritage. ‘I’m just so proud of our Indigenous culture—60,000 years of relationship and stewardship between culture and the environment—it’s an incredible story to tell the world.

‘The second chapter is our European heritage, which brought new ideas and values that eventually grew into a vibrant democratic political culture embracing the rule of law domestically and internationally.

‘The third thing I emphasise is our multiculturalism,’ says Miller. ‘Australia is one of the most successful and unified multicultural nations in history and it’s getting more so over time. It’s this story that makes us so competitive, for example, in attracting the best and brightest around the world to our skilled migration program.’

Key to this narrative is how Indigenous Australia is changing, he says. ‘I talk about Indigenous youth graduating from high school, increasing numbers going to university and forging professional paths, and those re-embracing traditional lifestyles, going into business, becoming strong members of civil society.’

This story of education and empowerment is reflected internationally, with transnational Indigenous civil-society networks on the front lines of global systemic crises from Covid-19 to climate change.

It’s important to note that indigenous peoples have ownership, use or management rightsover more than 25% of the world’s land surface and 37% of all remaining ‘natural’ lands. Australian Indigenous interests own or exercise a degree of legal control over close to 80% of the Northern Australian landmass, and considerable areas of sea country.

Indigenous expertise is crucial to building resilience to climate change and preserving the world’s remaining biodiversity. And the transnational, collaborative, non-state-bound nature of indigenous diplomatic networks demonstrates the type of diplomacy the global community will need to manage future crises more effectively.

Miller points to the Kimberley Land Council’s savannah-burning carbon projects, which embrace Indigenous grassfire techniques and have been trialled in Botswana. The program generates around $20 million worth of Australian carbon credit units annually.

Such Indigenous ecological approaches will only become more important. Degradation of indigenous land rights often goes with the catastrophic degradation of carbon sinks like the Amazon Basin. The survival of indigenous communities might be intimately linked to limiting the damage associated with worst-case climate scenarios.

Their ownership of a quarter of the world’s land means indigenous communities are crucial in more conventional geopolitical terms. They often stand at the nexus of resource exploitation, political conflict and economic competition.

On one level, indigenous peoples suffer from similar issues of dispossession, underdevelopment, unemployment, drug abuse, youth suicide and structural discrimination.

On another, international indigenous networks have grown institutionally sophisticated. They’re  embedded in multilateral politics and run media organisations, businesses and sovereign wealth funds with substantial capital and asset holdings. In the United Nations system, important forums for indigenous issues include the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Indigenous groups were a big presence at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.

Indigenous geopolitics is also regionally significant. Of the 500 million indigenous people in 90 countries, 70% live in Asia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Indigenous diplomacy agenda, launched in May 2021, is timely. It has four main pillars: shaping international norms and standards to benefit indigenous peoples, maximising opportunities for indigenous peoples in a globalised world, promoting sustainable development for all indigenous peoples, and deploying Indigenous Australian diplomats to advance Australia’s national interests.

The agenda came out of DFAT’s Indigenous peoples strategy 2015–2019, launched by departmental secretary Peter Varghese in 2015. DFAT has used elements of it for decades, says Miller, working through human rights forums in the UN, in DFAT’s human resources policies, and in its promotion of Indigenous voices overseas.

The agenda consolidates and elevates Indigenous diplomacy as a key element of our national diplomacy. Australia, says Miller, is a global leader in this area, along with Canada and New Zealand.

On various postings, Miller has spoken about Australia’s unique reconciliation movement, Indigenous policy and governance models. DFAT and the National Indigenous Australian Agency discuss Indigenous issues as part of their regular bilateral engagement with the US, Canadian and New Zealand governments. He says Australia would like to do more with the US indigenous community and scholars, particularly on economic governance.

Public health is key to supporting social and economic wellbeing, says Miller, noting that Australia has leading-edge Indigenous networks doing community health work that emphasises place-based solutions while building strong partnerships with governments, corporates and not-for-profits.

Australia’s Indigenous nations have their own traditions of relationship-building and diplomacy. Miller says northern Australian Indigenous peoples had historical relationships based on trade and culture with regional indigenous populations—for example, between Torres Strait Islanders and Papua New Guineans and between the people of Arnhem Land and Indonesia’s Macassans.

Miller says these traditions and cultural values have always informed his work as a diplomat. He uses the example of the Gangalu people, who are passionate about organising and promoting community welfare and partnering with others to find solutions.

‘The ancientness of the Indigenous story in Australia gives you a certain perspective: respect for elders, the importance of deep listening, respect for the heritage and stories of others, the importance of finding common ground, being deeply engaged in community life, giving back and showing generosity of spirit.’

Source: The power of Indigenous diplomacy as a strategic asset for Australia | The Strategist

New Zealand: Tertiary institutions given 10 years to end minority pass rate disparity

Of note (and the difficulty of change):

It’s the third time in the past decade the commission has set a deadline for achieving parity.

In 2012 the commission wanted to eradicate disparities in polytechnics by 2015 and in universities by 2018. But that didn’t happen. In 2018-19 the commission aimed to achieve parity within five years and fined institutions that failed to improve. But it quietly dropped that deadline and last year introduced the 10-year target.

Tertiary Education Commission deputy chief executive, Learner Success Ōritetanga Directorate, Paora Ammunson, said past attempts at tackling the disparities had failed because they were based on isolated interventions.

“One of the frustrations I guess is that our approach to equity has tended to be really well-intentioned but quite bespoke and disconnected piecemeal interventions and we’re at a stage in the TEC now where we realise that’s not going to close the gap, that’s not going to serve the learners well that we want to succeed,” he said.

Ammunson said the commission had been trialling a different approach requiring large-scale whole-of-institution changes.

“The solution is going to be about a whole-of-ecosystem approach in those institutions towards tackling the problem of attrition, really taking a holistic approach to that. Using your data intelligence, using your guidance systems, making sure that your leaders are setting the direction, making sure you’re doing it in partnership with the community groups and organisations that are important in your context,” he said.

He said the commission was confident its approach would work.

“We’ve been testing this model with tertiary partners. It will require us to work with them and it will require us to have sometimes hard conversations about parts of their delivery that aren’t achieving what they and the TEC would be expecting.”

Last year universities had a qualification completion rate of 52 percent and course completion rate of 82 percent for Māori students. For Pacific students the figures were 48 and 75 percent, while for non-Māori and non-Pacific students the figures were 66 and 90 percent.

In polytechnics Māori students had a 48 percent qualification completion rate and 70 percent course completion rate. For Pacific students the rates were 46 and 71 percent, and for non-Māori and non-Pacific students the figures were 57 and 84 percent.

The Tauira Pasifika National President of the Union of Students’ Associations, Jaistone Finau, said the time was right to tackle the disparities.

He said tertiary institutions were taking student wellbeing more seriously and were also moving to introduce a new code for pastoral care.

Finau said institutions should treat students as partners and use their insights to improve completion and retention rates.

Te Mana Akonga tumukai takirua (co-president of the Māori students’ association), Nkhaya Paulsen-More, said universities had not been doing enough to help Māori students achieve.

“University strategies seem to be aligning with Tiriti-led policies but on the ground we’re still getting complaints from students that they don’t see much of a change,” she said.

“Things like ‘my lecturer doesn’t understand me because I’m Māori and they don’t respect the fact that I’m not the person to go to automatically if they don’t understand anything that’s Māori’, so being referred to as the cultural trainer in formal settings or utilising their knowledge without reimbursing them for that knowledge.”

The organisation’s other tumuaki takirua, Renāta White, said if the commission used financial penalties against institutions that failed to make progress, it should require the institutions to spend the money on improvements.

“I would rather the funds go back into supporting the students. So if there is a fine they are fined needing to employ maybe more support and mental health or more support and peer mentorship rather than the funds going back to government,” he said.

Huhāna Wātene from the Tertiary Education Union said universities and polytechnics could make a big difference for Māori students by hiring more Māori academics and tutors.

She said students also needed more culturally-appropriate support.

“In institutes whether it be in schools, polytechnics, kohanga, kura, it’s the services that are wrapped round them [students] that really assist and allow them to flourish. If you put any students, not just Māori and Pasifika, in that kind of environment they can’t do anything but do well,” she said.

“We know for a fact that Māori students do exceedingly well when they have that support services around them or people who value and appreciate their cultural aspirations and the tikanga.”

Wātene said the commission should use incentives rather than penalties to encourage change.

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/453303/tertiary-institutions-given-10-years-to-end-minority-pass-rate-disparity

Black, Indigenous mothers say they were sterilized without full consent at Quebec hospitals

Recent. And discussions should have taken place earlier:

On a cold autumn morning in 2018, a 44-year-old Haitian woman was in labour at a Montreal hospital, hours away from welcoming her seventh child into the world.

After learning that she would have to undergo an emergency C-section, the woman was asked whether she’d like to have her tubes tied at the same time.

She recalls telling the obstetrician on duty that she didn’t know what the procedure — called tubal ligation — was or what it entailed.

Source: Black, Indigenous mothers say they were sterilized without full consent at Quebec hospitals

Indigenous citizenship test: lawyers argue up to a third of Australians at risk of deportation

Weird case and arguments. Unlikely that this would happen in Canada but if anyone knows  of any comparable Canadian cases, would be of interest:

Indigenous Australians’ connection to the land is “important but not equivalent” to allegiance to Australia, the commonwealth has argued in a landmark case fighting for the right to deport two Aboriginal non-citizens.

Lawyers for the two Indigenous men, backed up by the state of Victoria, are arguing the Australian government cannot deport Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders even though they don’t hold Australian citizenship because the constitutional definition of “alien” can’t be set by the government of the day through citizenship law.

The plaintiffs, Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, were born in Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, each with one Aboriginal parent, and face deportation due to laws which allow the cancellation of visas on character grounds. Their fight to stay now hinges on a special case arguing that although they are non-citizens, they are also not aliens.

At a hearing on Thursday, counsel for the two men, Stephen Keim, argued that the high court’s second Mabo decision contained an “understanding of the history of European settlement and imposition of the sovereignty of the crown” which should guide the common law in the way it deals with “a multiplicity of legal issues” beyond native title, such as citizenship.

Chief justice Susan Kiefel suggested that Victoria’s submissions had taken the court into the territory of “Mabo No 3” – a “much wider proposition” that could have implications in many other areas of law.

Keim submitted on behalf of the plaintiffs that Aboriginal people are “permanent Australian nationals and not aliens in Australia” unless they abandon that status.

Source: Indigenous citizenship test: lawyers argue up to a third of Australians at risk of deportation

Trump’s immigration policy is caging indigenous children. This is the America Native people know.

Although intemperate in language and tone, does not diminish some uncomfortable parallels within both the Canadian (e.g., residential schools, 60s scoop) and US context:

Donald Trump and his nasty administration are anything but unique. In fact, whether they know it or not, they are repeating U.S. history in more ways than one.

Here, in McAllen, Texas, indigenous people fleeing violence and seeking asylum are, right now, locked in chain-link cages and lying on concrete floors, where the sound of frightened, crying kids and mothers and fathers fearing for their children is eerily audible if you just listen closely.

I know because, on Saturday, I joined a caravan of fellow Native Americans who traveled to McAllen from as far away as Los Angeles and Denver and New York City to protest and call for the immediate end to these camps of loss and anguish.

As Native Americans, we have a unique perspective on such cruel American government policies that rip brown babies from their mothers’ arms and, in some cases, turn them over to white families to raise in the white way.

That has already happened to at least one woman locked in the fangs of this immigration crisis, Encarnacion Bail Romero. A judge gave her baby to a white family, and they immediately changed his name to Jamison. But the boy already had a name; his name is Carlitos.

Even the Trump administration’s former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Scott Lloyd, admitted in a deposition to trying to connect a pregnant minor in his agency’s care — who wanted an abortion — with a couple that had written the agency interested in adopting babies to which the American government might have access, as though they were some child repository for white folks.

This is a frightening thing for these brown, immigrant families because only after their child is taken from them do they learn U.S. law allows the government to terminate parental rights of any child in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months — and the same groups handling many of the foster care arrangements for separated children are well known in the mostly-discredited international adoption community.

But this type of evil behavior — separating families and stealing children — is nothing new, says Juan Mancias, the tribal chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “They’ve been doing [this] for 500 years,” he said. McAllen is on Mancias’s ancestral territory.

“When [the white people] came we didn’t consider any of them illegal,” he said. “We were open to them. They were two-legged; we knew they were relatives.” But it didn’t take long, he said, before “they began taking our women and children and killing our men. Then we got an idea of who they really were.”

Chrissie Castro, the organizer of the protest and chair person of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission, said Native peoples have migrated freely across this continent since time immemorial, and now they’re being demonized for crossing an imaginary border. “The false narrative that our relatives are somehow foreign to these lands is inaccurate and hateful,” she said. “We’re not going to sit by and let this cruelty and injustice happen again.”

At the demonstration, indigenous folks lined the street holding banners reading, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!” and “Ban ICE” and “Can’t call my folks illegal if yours crossed the sea!” and “No ban on stolen land!”

At one point, an elder, Emma Ortega, of San Antonio, Texas, who is of the Carrizo Comecrudo and Lipan Apache tribes, took the microphone and denounced a colonial government who’d dare call this “their land.” “This is free land. This is our land!” she bellowed. “And it will always be our land, no matter what they say!”

This is all part of a larger movement: All across the nation, people of all stripes and creeds are protesting America’s latest concentration camps. Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis, peace activists and parents who have never even carried a sign are turning out and even getting arrested in protest of the Trump administration’s family separations, the cruelty of ICE, the foul treatment of children in their care and the ongoing, forcible separation of brown families seeking safety.

But this is America being what America has always been — racist, vicious and vile to indigenous people, whilst standing on a soapbox of morality as a beacon for the world. There’s no decency in this country because there never was any, not from day one when Columbus and the rapists he towed with him blundered onto our shores.

And that’s what we saw at McAllen on Saturday — the same racism with a different name in a different century, and many of the descendants of the very same people brutalized by Columbus and those who followed in his footsteps locked in new chains.

We’ve seen this type of raw racism when Native babies were ripped from the loving embrace of moms and dads, stolen away to Christian boarding schools in the east where they were flogged with Bible passages and pierced with sewing needles through the tongue if they dared speak their language.

For more than 500 years, this country has viewed the original inhabitants as nothing more than animals. They’ve called us “savages” and “uncivilized,” and in places like North Dakota and Washington, D.C., they still do. Even prison inmates and dogs are treated more humanely than the indigenous peoples in these concentration camps, one congresswoman said.

“Prisoners in the United States in my estimation are treated better than migrants,” House Representative Jackie Speier, Democratic representative from California’s 14th Congressional District, wroteafter visiting the McAllen. “If dogs were kenneled in the overcrowded, unhealthy conditions we observed at the Border Patrol Station, the Humane Society would immediately shut it down,” she added.

And this is just one of many of the new concentration camps sprawled across this morally bankrupt nation. But it’s nearly as old a concept as separating indigenous babies from indigenous parents.

Today, the president is resurrecting that kind of good ol’ American racist fear with his wretched propaganda, and he has convinced millions of Americans that caging these children is part of making American great again. But this is a lie. This country was never great; it was always the opposite of great, because it has always had this capacity for cruelty, and it has, more often than not, acted on that capacity with the flag in one hand and the Bible in the other.

If this capacity for cruelty is what we deem great, it’s a great testament to our depravity as a nation, and as humans, because there’s nothing as perverse and disturbing as a country that voluntarily separates families and tortures and traumatizes innocent children.

There were no walls or borders or prison camps until the white man came. Now they’re everywhere — and that’s not patriotism, that’s hate.

Source: Trump’s immigration policy is caging indigenous children. This is the America Native people know.

Australia: High court to rule on whether Indigenous people can be deported from Australia

Can’t resist following this absurd argumentation by the Australian government:

The federal government’s attempts to deport two Indigenous men have gone before the high court, examining what lawyers for the two men have said are “absurd” circumstances.

The two men in the separate cases, Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, were both born overseas to at least one parent who is Indigenous and holds Australian citizenship. They both have Indigenous children, and Thoms is a native title holder.

However, neither formally applied for Australia citizenship and, after being convicted of “serious” crimes and given jail sentences of 12 months or more, both had their visas cancelled under the government’s controversial character test provisions.

The law firm Maurice Blackburn is now asking the high court to determine if an Aboriginal Australian in the men’s circumstances is an “alien” for the purposes of the constitution.

It is the first time the court has been asked to rule on the commonwealth’s use of its alien powers in this way, and the lawyers now representing the two men argue the term must be defined by the court, not parliament.

“Historically we are a nation of immigrants and our ancestors come from other places, except for Aboriginal Australians,” said Claire Gibbs, senior associate at Maurice Blackburn, who is acting for the two men, before the hearing. “The importance and significance of that should be reflected in the common law.”

Love and Thoms are not the only Indigenous people who have faced deportation under the character test provisions. Guardian Australia has previously reported on the case of Tim Galvin, and it is believed there are a number of others.

Love was born in Papua New Guineain 1979 to a PNG citizen mother and Australian citizen father, and automatically acquired PNG citizenship.

The family travelled back and forth until they settled permanently in Australia when Love was five and he was given a permanent residency visa. Love is a recognised Kamilaroi man.

Thoms was born in New Zealand in 1988 to an Australian citizen mother and New Zealand citizen father. He automatically acquired New Zealand citizenship at birth, and was entitled to apply for Australian citizenship, but never did.

He has lived permanently in Australia since November 1994 under a special category visa. Thoms is a recognised Gunggari man, and a native title holder under common law.

In 2018 both men were separately convicted of crimes and sentenced to 12 and 18 months respectively. Both had their visas cancelled under the government’s controversial section 501 of the migration act, relating to character, and were taken to immigration detention.

Gibbs said being put in immigration detention had taken a devastating toll on her clients’ mental health. Gibbs said bringing the case before the court was not seeking to interfere with the government’s power to deport people who were “genuinely non-Australian”.

“What we think is wrong is the government using the power to detain and deport people who, on any commonsense measure, are Australians, like my clients.”

Love was given his visa back under ministerial discretion but Thoms remains in immigration detention after more than seven months.

Gibbs welcomed the return of Love’s visa but said there there were clearly “inconsistencies” between the two cases and that was why the high court needed to determine if the government was using the power lawfully.

In submissions to the court, the men’s lawyers argued that Indigenous people “cannot be alien to Australia” and were “beyond the reach” of that constitutional power.

Indigenous people are known to have inhabited Australia for as much as 80,000 years and are “a permanent part of the Australian community”, they said, and the two men “do not, and have never, owed allegiance to a foreign sovereign power”.

“The statutory definition of citizen is distinct from, and does not control, the constitutional definition of alien and, therefore, that the plaintiffs are not Australian citizens pursuant to Australian citizenship legislation does not automatically mean that they are aliens.”

In defence, the Australian government submitted that whether the men were Indigenous or native title holders was “irrelevant” to the question of their alien status.

“Acceptance of the proposition that Aboriginal people, as a class, were not and are not ‘aliens’ does not entail the proposition that any particular Aboriginal person is not an ‘alien’,” the government’s submission said.

It said certain principles, which were “fatal” to the plaintiffs’ case, “ought now to be regarded as settled”. They said it was an agreed fact that neither plaintiff was a citizen, and “non-citizen” was the same as “alien”.

Numerous cases supported these findings, the submission said, and the plaintiffs had not sought to reopen those cases.

Legal arguments began on Wednesday, with the government citing the high court’s section 44 ruling on MPs, and the men’s lawyers citing significant cases including the Mabo decision, and the high court ruling on Amos Ame, a Papua-born man who was an Australian citizen by birth but who could be treated as an alien.

The government’s push to deport an increasing number of people under the character test provisions has raised numerous complications, including for Indigenous people and those born in PNG before its independence in 1975.

A complex web of citizenship laws and successive changes to them in both PNG and Australia has threatened to leave some people stateless, as both countries assumed people had citizenship of the other and revoked their own, but failed to properly communicate it to individuals.

Source: High court to rule on whether Indigenous people can be deported from Australia

Australia’s citizenship program should focus on Indigenous introduction, Darwin linguistics teacher says

As IRCC prepares the revised citizenship study guide, with what I understand extensive consultations with Indigenous peoples (to be released later this year?), some interesting reflections from Australia on improving the understanding of Indigenous peoples and new citizens, and language:

As Ganesh Koramannil passed through Sydney Central train station in 2004, a man approached and asked him for $2.

It was an interaction he would have long forgotten, except the man was the first Indigenous Australian Mr Koramannil had ever met.

It could have remained among his only insights to a culture with more than 60,000 years of history, had his wife not turned down a job in Canberra to take up one in Maningrida, 500 kilometres east of Darwin.

After moving to the Arnhem land community four years after arriving in Australia to study English, Mr Koramannil was finally introduced to “the most welcoming culture” he had ever come across, which he said had unprecedented similarities with his own.

“You give an Aboriginal language speaker any Indian name, they will pronounce it very clearly without any accent. Give it to the Europeans, they will give you six varieties,” he said.

“There’s linguistic similarities between Aboriginal languages and Indian languages. My mother tongue for example is Malayalam. There are sounds that are very much part of Yolngu language.

At the time of publishing, Mr Koramannil was the only Territorian to write a submission to the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment Bill 2018, which aims to toughen the eligibility requirement for new migrants to become citizens.

But Mr Koramannil said that for many migrants, their knowledge of Indigenous Australia would never extend far beyond his experience at the Sydney train station.

He said Australia’s immigration program offered no systemic way of introducing newcomers to Indigenous culture.

Instead of introducing stricter tests and eligibility requirements, Mr Koramannil has called for an “experiential” citizenship pathway, where migrants were taught about culture, history and values in dedicated sessions.

“The link to our Indigenous past and its present and future relevance [should] be included as a mandatory requirement for citizenship,” he said.

Tougher citizenship test proposed

The original bill to toughen up citizenship requirements was struck down 2017, when the Government missed the deadline for the Senate which saw it struck off by default.

The Greens, Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team had all opposed the changes.

But One Nation senator Pauline Hanson introduced it again 2018 and it was referred to a committee for inquiry.

Among the proposed changes will be a separate English language test, which will check for a ‘competent level’ of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

It would also increase the general residence requirement, meaning newcomers will need to live in Australia for eight years before applying for citizenship.

The citizenship test would also include questions about Australian values and the privileges, and responsibilities of Australian citizenship.

In April 2017, when the first bill was launched, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Federal Government was “putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements”.

The Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory wrote a submission to last year’s bill, stating that while it was important for migrants to learn English, proficiency should not be an indicator for a person’s ability to make a positive contribution.

It said the idea may have adverse impacts for those from non-English speaking backgrounds and humanitarian entrants.

“It is our experience that fluency in English to the level proposed for migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds in a stand-alone English language test is not usually gained within the period of settlement, but can be viewed as a lifelong skill,” it said.

It said many of the proposals were “at best, unnecessary and, at worst, divisive and counterproductive”.

‘Language cannot be devoid of racial identity’

During Mr Koramannil’s time in Maningrida, he said Indigenous children, who had seldom met an Indian person before, would come up to and say “You are from India”.

It fascinated him.

“I said ‘How did they know?’ You know Maningrida — 600 or 700km away from here, one of the largest standalone Aboriginal communities — and kids of six years old [recognised me],” he said.

Looking back on it, he said he believed the children had sensed a familiarity between the two ancient cultures, just as people who spoke more than one language could recognise features of languages they didn’t speak.

In his opinion, if citizenship tests focussed so closely on English proficiency, it would come at a cultural and linguistic cost.

Mr Koramannil now works in Darwin teaching linguistics at a tertiary level.

The way he sees it, language is so deeply ingrained in a person’s racial identity that selecting citizens based on their language skills is tantamount to profiling.

“[Selecting people based on] language is profiling. And these days we speak multiple languages. And especially people trying to come to Australia, very few people won’t be bilingual.”

As a linguistics professional, and former IELTS examiner, he said he’d seen many “monolingual anglophone Australian professionals” fail to get their band score in writing.

The only reason he could see for such a test was to keep people of certain backgrounds away.

“The question is why are you trying to keep people away? Do keep people away on character for example, criminal background and that. But language is racially profiling,” he said.

Mr Koramannil said forming connections with Australia’s culture, values and history should instead form the basis of citizenship.

He believes newcomers should spend some of their time in Australia prior to becoming citizens learning about the country’s past, culture and values.

He has suggested ‘cultural welcome centres’, where Indigenous people could meet new migrants and explain their perspective of Australia to them, acting as “cultural translators” and helping forge connections.

Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is due to file a report by December.

The ABC has contacted the committee for comment.

Source: Australia’s citizenship program should focus on Indigenous introduction, Darwin linguistics teacher says

Why Indigenous Languages Should Be Taught Alongside French and English

Chelsea Vowel makes the case (the practicalities will be a challenge):

There are constitutional protections and billions of dollars of funding for Canada’s two official languages, but what of the languages of the original peoples on these lands? I’m not suggesting that all 70 Indigenous languages be made mandatory and offered in every corner of this country. Instead, we need to be looking at supporting these languages where they exist, on the lands whence they originate. In Iqaluit, that would be Inuktitut, while in Halifax it would be Mi’kmaq. Each province and territory should pass an Official Languages Act recognizing the Indigenous languages that originate in those areas, and bolster this recognition with funding to ensure language transmission continues in schools, workplaces, and government. Incentivizing second-language learning in an Indigenous language could be done by hiring speakers in daycares, schools, and public service positions.

It often feels as though we are being asked to justify the continuing existence of our languages to a Canadian audience who may not value them. I believe we need to remind Canada that Indigenous languages are an Aboriginal right, enshrined in section 35 of the Constitution, as well as an inherent right — to speak and pass on our languages — that is recognized internationally by the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Canada has officially adopted. What we need now is an implementation of those rights, supported with adequate funding.

Everyone stands to gain. Embedded within our languages are cultural concepts that have the potential to give all Canadians a deeper understanding of our place in relation to the world around us. Our languages have been systematically devalued for generations out of a misplaced sense of their inferiority. Yet many of the concepts currently being explored by Western medicine, environmentalism, and the humanities are foundational within Indigenous cultures and languages. Holistic health and teachings, understandings of interconnectedness with human and non-human beings, and ways of being in good relation with one another are all described in our various Indigenous languages.

Public perception has a powerful impact on policy, and when Canadians are told that Indigenous languages are on the rise, this obscures just how desperate the situation is. Twenty-four of the Indigenous languages listed in the census have less than 200 speakers each, and if what we truly need are highly fluent speakers, then even these numbers are likely inflated. Even among the so-called robust languages — Cree, Inuktitut, and Ojibway — language loss is speeding up.

We can and must start planning to offer these languages alongside English and French throughout the country. Don’t let a rosy reading of the statistics lull you into a false sense of security. In 10 years, we will once again count the number of speakers of Indigenous languages in Canada. Without immediate, robust, and heartfelt intervention, language decline will be irreversible. As someone who has fought hard to access and reclaim her own Cree language, I am asking Canadians to recognize that we are at a tipping point. Please, support us, and come learn with us.

via Why Indigenous Languages Should Be Taught Alongside French and English – Chatelaine

Josiah Wilson, the Indian Act, hereditary governance and blood quantum

Fascinating account of the different aspects of identity, ranging from bloodline requirements to culture, and the challenge this poses across a number of fronts:

The story of Josiah Wilson, the Haiti-born, Heiltsuk First Nation adopted basketball player, has raised questions of Indigenous identity much bigger than whether he should be allowed to play in an All-Native Basketball Tournament in B.C.

The tournament committee’s decision to ban Wilson, 20, a status Indian, because he doesn’t have at least 1/8th First Nations ancestry or “blood quantum” is a symptom of a greater conflict.

This conflict lurks in band offices, treaty offices, on the land and on reserves across the country.

What, or who, defines someone as Indigenous — is it the hereditary system, the Indian Act, a blood test?

According to the Canadian government, Wilson is an “Indian.” According to the Heiltsuk, he is Heiltsuk. And according to the All-Native Basketball Tournament, he is an adoptee, Canadian and Haitian, but not Heiltsuk.

Heiltsuk hereditary system

In the eyes of the Heiltsuk Hemas (hereditary chiefs), Wilson is Heiltsuk. The Hemas embody the Heiltsuk Nation’s traditional social structure and hereditary system of governance, which identifies members through cultural protocol and a connection to family crests and clans.

Heiltsuk Hemas standing with Haida Hereditary Chiefs

In the eyes of the Heiltsuk Hemas (hereditary chiefs), Josiah is Heiltsuk. Here, Heiltsuk Hemas are shown with Haida hereditary chiefs. (Don Wilson/Facebook)

Heiltsuk cultural adviser Frances Brown says the hereditary system is a complex set of laws that governs not only a responsibility to the land, but also social relationships to one another, including adoption.

“If there’s a customary adoption it means that you adopt a child and you do it in a potlatch where there’s many witnesses and the chiefs are there,” said Brown.

Gary Housty was one of the Heiltsuk Hemas to witness the ceremonial adoption of Wilson by a First Nations family. He says he wrote a letter to members of the all-native committee urging them to let Wilson play, but received no response.

“I really have a problem with the way they’re setting down rules that disallow people to participate in these very important cultural events, such as the All-Native Tournament. There’s so much culture there. And we are talking about culture here.

“In my eyes Josiah is a Heiltsuk boy, a Heiltsuk person. He belongs here with us,” said Housty.

Source: Josiah Wilson, the Indian Act, hereditary governance and blood quantum – Aboriginal – CBC