Ibbitson: Why should Sir John A. take all the blame for Canada’s injustices to Indigenous peoples?

Valid points:

In the latest indignity visited upon the memory of Canada’s first prime minister, Ottawa’s National Capital Commission has announced plansto substitute an Indigenous name for what is now the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.

Why does everyone pick on Sir John A. and not Sir Wilfrid?

Wilfrid Laurier, one of Canada’s most beloved prime ministers, expanded the residential-school system and suppressed a 1907 report that revealed the schools were cruel and unsafe. His interior minister, Clifford Sifton, dispossessed First Nations of their lands in order to promote settlement in the Prairies. His governments also blocked Black and Chinese immigrants from entering Canada.

But although Ryerson University has been renamed Toronto Metropolitan University on the grounds that Egerton Ryerson helped establish the residential-school system, Wilfrid Laurier University has no plans to change its name. Laurier streets across the nation remain untouched. Renaming Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier hotel is unthinkable.

Macdonald’s likeness has been banished from the 10-dollar bill, replaced by Viola Desmond. Laurier remains on the five.

Macdonald statues have been toppled or removed in Charlottetown, Montreal, Kingston, Hamilton, Regina, Victoria and elsewhere. But I can find no record of a Laurier statue being carted off to storage.

Tearing Indigenous children from their parents and forcing them to attend schools far from their communities, where they were subjected to disease, abuse and efforts at assimilation, and where some died, was an act of cultural genocide by our lights. But by the lights of both Macdonald and of Laurier – and, for that matter, of Robert Borden, Mackenzie King, R.B. Bennett, Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson – it was sound policy. And newspapers across the land, including this one, agreed.

King’s governments deserve particular scrutiny. Not only did his administration maintain the residential-schools system, the King government in 1923 enacted legislation banning Chinese immigration. The act was rescinded in 1947 but King continued to maintain that “large-scale immigration from the Orient would change the fundamental composition of the Canadian population.” He also turned away Jews fleeing Europe on the St. Louis; an estimated 254 of its passengers later died at the hands of the Nazis. And his government dispossessed more than 21,000 Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Pierre Trudeau’s government began phasing out residential schools. But that same government produced a white paper under Indian Affairs minister (and future prime minister) Jean Chrétien that would have eliminated special status for First Nations, converted reserves into private property and wound down treaty rights. The government retreated in the face of First Nations outrage.

Injustice toward Indigenous peoples long predated Confederation and continues to this day. The record of racism toward non-European immigrants is lengthy and sordid. What makes Macdonald more culpable than the rest?

The answer could be that, as the first prime minister and a Father of Confederation, Macdonald personifies Canada. In pulling down his statue, some people are not simply protesting the legacy of residential schools – they are pulling down the symbol of an oppressive, colonizing state.

In that sense, to pull down a Macdonald statue is to pull down the statue of every prime minister and every leader who contributed to oppression of Indigenous peoples. And given what they’ve been put through, who could blame them?

But Macdonald and a handful of others also gave us Canada. They crafted a dominion unique in its balance of powers between federal and provincial, English and French. Immigrants from Britain and Eastern Europe came here. Italians and Portuguese and Chinese and South Asians and Filipinos came here. Muslims and Jews came here. Refugees came here, the latest from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Canada is far from perfect, but it is arguably the least imperfect country on Earth, if the embrace of diversity is your measure.

There are lots of John A. Macdonald things in Ottawa. Replacing one of them with an Indigenous name won’t hurt anyone. Reconciliation will take time and be hard, but we must reach for it.

Let’s be careful, though. Sir John A. is part of who we are, good and bad. Let’s talk to each other about that. Talking is always better than tearing down.

Source: Why should Sir John A. take all the blame for Canada’s injustices to Indigenous peoples?

Native Americans recall torture, hatred at boarding schools

As in Canada:

After her mother died when Rosalie Whirlwind Soldier was just four years old, she was put into a Native American boarding school in South Dakota and told her native Lakota language was “devil’s speak.”

She recalls being locked in a basement at St. Francis Indian Mission School for weeks as punishment for breaking the school’s strict rules. Her long braids were shorn in a deliberate effort to stamp out her cultural identify. And when she broke her leg in an accident, Whirlwind Soldier said she received shoddy care leaving her with pain and a limp that still hobbles her decades later.

“I thought there was no God, just torture and hatred,” Whirlwind Soldier testified during a Saturday event on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation led by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, as the agency confronts the bitter legacy of a boarding school system that operated in the U.S. for more than a century.

Now 78 and still living on the reservation, Whirlwind Soldier said she was airing her horrific experiences in hopes of finally getting past them.

“The only thing they didn’t do was put us in (an oven) and gas us,” she said, comparing the treatment of Native Americans in the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries to the Jewish Holocaust during World War II.

“But I let it go,” she later added. “I’m going to make it.”

Saturday’s event was the third in Haaland’s yearlong “Road to Healing” initiative for victims of abuse at government-backed boarding schools, after previous stops in Oklahoma and Michigan.

Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the U.S. enacted laws and policies to establish and support the schools. The stated goal was to “civilize” Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, but that was often carried out through abusive practices. Religious and private institutions that ran many of the schools received federal funding and were willing partners.

Most closed their doors long ago and none still exist to strip students of their identities. But some, including St. Francis, still function as schools — albeit with drastically different missions that celebrate the cultural backgrounds of their Native students.

Former St. Francis student Ruby Left Hand Bull Sanchez traveled hundreds of miles from Denver to attend Saturday’s meeting. She cried as she recalled almost being killed as a child when a nun stuffed lye soap down her throat in response to Sanchez praying in her native language.

“I want the world to know,” she said.

Accompanying Haaland was Wizipan Garriott, a Rosebud Sioux member and principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs. Garriott described how boarding schools were part of a long history of injustices against his people that began with the widespread extermination of their main food source — bison, also known as buffalo.

“First they took our buffalo. Then our land was taken, then our children, and then our traditional form of religion, spiritual practices,” he said. “It’s important to remember that we Lakota and other Indigenous people are still here. We can go through anything.”

The first volume of an investigative report released by the Interior Department in May identified more than boarding 400 schools that the federal government supported beginning in the late 19th century and continuing well into the 1960s. It also found at least 500 children died at some of the schools, though that number is expected to increase dramatically as research continues.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition says it’s tallied about 100 more schools not on the government list that were run by groups such as churches.

“They all had the same missions, the same goals: ‘Kill the Indian, save the man,’” said Lacey Kinnart, who works for the Minnesota-based coalition. For Native American children, Kinnart said the intention was “to assimilate them and steal everything Indian out of them except their blood, make them despise who they are, their culture, and forget their language.”

South Dakota had 31 of the schools including two on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation — St. Francis and the Rosebud Agency Boarding and Day School.

The Rosebud Agency school, in Mission, operated through at least 1951 on a site now home to Sinte Gleska University, where Saturday’s meeting happened.

All that remains of the boarding school is a gutted-out building that used to house the dining hall, according to tribal members. When the building caught fire about five years ago, former student Patti Romero, 73, said she and others were on hand to cheer its destruction.

“No more worms in the chili,” said Romero, who attended the school from ages 6 to 15 and said the food was sometimes infested.

A second report is pending in the investigation into the schools launched by Haaland, herself a Laguna Pueblo from New Mexico and the first Native American cabinet secretary. It will cover burial sites, the schools’ impact on Indigenous communities and also try to account for federal funds spent on the troubled program.

Congress is considering a bill to create a boarding school “truth and healing commission,” similar to one established in Canada in 2008. It would have a broader scope than the Interior Department’s investigation into federally run boarding schools and subpoena power, if passed.

Source: Native Americans recall torture, hatred at boarding schools

The U.S. is reckoning with its troubled past of Indian boarding schools

Long overdue. Having an Indigenous head of the Dept of Interior makes a difference:

When the U.S. federal government began its Indian Boarding School Initiative in the mid-19th century, the goal was clear: to erase Indigenous cultures through a process of forced assimilation.

Now, the head of the Department of the Interior hopes to address the generations-long fallout from those policies.

On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland advocated for a Truth and Healing Commission to examine past U.S. government efforts to eradicate the languages, identities and cultural practices of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Her comments came as she updated the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on her department’s ongoing investigation into federal boarding schools, which released its first report last month.

Haaland told the committee the story behind the federal boarding schools is “a part of America’s story we must tell.”

“While we cannot change that history, I believe that our nation will benefit from a full understanding of the truth of what took place and a focus on healing the wounds of the past,” she said.

The U.S. government operated hundreds of Indian boarding schools

Between 1819 and 1969, the federal government operated more than 400 boarding schools across the country and provided support for more than 1,000 others, according to the department’s investigation. It also counted 53 schools with marked and unmarked burial sites of children, a number it says will likely increase as the investigation continues.

Haaland was speaking in support of the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act, which could allow Congress to issue subpoenas to non-federal entities to obtain more detailed information about the locations of the burial sites. It would also help trace the identities of the children back to their families, work with tribal leaders to arrange repatriation in a culturally-appropriate manner, and end removal of Indigenous children from their families by state adoption, social service, and foster care agencies.

Haaland introduced the legislation in the U.S. House in 2020, before her appointment to the Cabinet. A Senate version is now being sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Haaland told the committee she hoped it could work alongside existing efforts by the Interior Department to help Native American communities heal from the impacts of the policies.

She also requested $7 million in additional congressional funding– the same amount as last year– to continue the Interior Department’s work documenting and cataloging grave sites, as well as to create a “road to healing” that will work directly with tribal communities to document stories and assess their needs. She emphasized the need for the federal government to act in a holistic way.

“I believe that our obligations to Native communities mean that federal policies should fully support and revitalize Native health care, education, Native languages, and cultural practices that prior federal Indian policies, like those supporting Indian boarding schools, sought to destroy,” she said.

Haaland says she is a product of these policies

In her remarks, Haaland, who is a member of Laguna Pueblo, said her position as the first Native American cabinet secretary places her in a “unique position” to address the impacts of the U.S. government’s policies towards Native children.

“Like all Native people, I am a product of these horrific assimilation-era policies, as my grandparents were removed from their families to federal Indian boarding schools when they were only eight years old and forced to live away from their parents, culture, and Pueblos until they were 13 years old,” she said.

A group of other leaders from around the country, who also testified in support of the bill, described the impacts of the boarding school policies on their people, which they said have included physical, mental, and emotional traumas over the course of generations. Several described their own work to document those today.

Sandra White Hawk is president of the Minneapolis-based National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, which has been working to survey boarding school survivors and their descendants, and has found high rates of depression, PTSD, and suicide attempts among respondents. She said the truth and healing commission could provide an opportunity to allow people’s stories to be heard by a wider audience.

“It’s one thing to share your stories within your home, or in your community,” she said, “but it’s another place to share it, where it’s going to be validated with the outside entities that brought this on.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who is the committee’s chairperson, said the boarding school era was a “dark period” in U.S. history and a “painful example” of how U.S. policy has failed Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawai’ians.

“We must do all we can to right this wrong,” he said.

Committee vice chairperson Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, pointed to the conditions at the boarding schools, where the Interior Department report noted children were subjected to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse as well as malnutrition, unsanitary conditions, and forced labor.

“And we know it just scratches the surface of what actually happened,” Murkowski said.

A pathway for stories from the elders who experienced the schools

La Quen Náay Liz Medicine Crow, president of the Anchorage-based First Alaskans Institute, called the government policies “intentional and purposeful”. And, she said, tribal elders are some of the only ones who will be able to tell the complete story about what really happened there. She described hearing her grandmother asked to recount experiences in boarding schools.

“And my grandmother responded, ‘I can tell you what happened physically, but I’m still not able to tell you what happened inside,'” Medicine Crow said, gesturing to her heart.

“This commission will open up a pathway where these stories, from people – who are now elders – will be heard,” she said. “Time is of the essence. We cannot waste any more of their precious life [by] not giving them a forum to share their lived experiences.”

Source: The U.S. is reckoning with its troubled past of Indian boarding schools

USA: Haaland seeks healing for Native American boarding school survivors

Of note:

The Interior Department found that the U.S. operated or actively supported more than 400 American Indian boarding schools between 1819 and 1969 – a history that affects the agency’s own leader.

Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary, tells NPR’s All Things Considered that she had grandparents who were taken from their homes and placed in these schools.

“[Those are] formidable years in a child’s life,” she says. “It’s devastating. It’s important that our country realizes and understands this history because I think it’s important for every single American to know what happened.”

The department’s findings came after an investigation into these schools and the role the federal government played in sustaining them.

Much like in Canada, Native children who attended these schools were forcibly taken from their families to be “assimilated,” as it was described at the time.

Many children reported brutal conditions. Others never returned home.

U.S. officials identified at least 53 schools with marked or unmarked burial sites with the remains of children who died there.

In an effort to confront this history, Haaland says she plans to meet with boarding school survivors across the country in a tour called “The Road to Healing.”

“I always enjoy visiting with people in Indian Country. We’re all relatives,” she says. “Above all, I just need to hear those stories myself.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

On why this is the first documentation by the U.S. government on the prevalence of Indian boarding schools:

Perhaps part of it stems from the fact that we haven’t had a lot of Native American leadership in our country. Representation matters. And that’s one of the reasons why I felt it was important for me to raise this issue.

On the lingering effects of these boarding schools on Indigenous communities:

There are current impacts in drug addiction and poverty and the lack of economic development, and health disparities. When people are invisible, you don’t have to pay attention. We should care about every single community in this country. So bringing all of these things to light; it will make us become a better country.

On the idea that bringing up painful history is divisive:

These are real people, and these are their lives. I think it’s important that we heal as a country. Everyone’s experience in the boarding school system, whether they’re a survivor or a descendant, that pain is real. And it’s incumbent on me to ensure that I am paying attention to that and that I am doing all I can to make sure that we can heal and get people past that pain.

Source: Haaland seeks healing for Native American boarding school survivors

A residential school system in China is stripping Tibetan children of their languages and culture, report claims

After Chinese officials criticize Canadian residential schools…

Almost 80 per cent of Tibetan children in China have been placed in a vast system of government-run boarding schools, where they are cut off from their families, languages and traditional culture, according to an analysis of official data by researchers at Tibet Action Institute.

The U.S.-based NGO found more than 800,000 Tibetan children between the ages of 6 and 18 “are now housed in these state-run institutions.”

“The colonial boarding school system in Tibet is a core element of the Chinese Communist Party’s systematic effort to co-opt, undermine, and ultimately eliminate Tibetan identity in an attempt to neutralize Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule,” the group said in a report published Tuesday.

For years, Tibetans have been sounding the alarm over what they see as assimilationist policies from Beijing. Scholars agree that the implementation of such policies escalated in the wake of large-scale unrest in parts of Tibet in 2008 and the coming to power of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2012. Spiking repression in Tibet has coincided with a crackdown in China’s neighbouring Xinjiang region in recent years, which has seen an estimated two million ethnic Uyghurs pass through a system of “re-education” or “de-radicalization” camps.

While boarding schools for Tibetan children have been promoted by the state for decades, the scale of the system and its growth since 2008 have not been previously reported. The Tibet Action Institute drew on official data to estimate that 806,218 Tibetans between the ages of 6 and 18 currently attend a boarding school – 78 per cent of the 1,039,370 children attending school in Tibetan regions.

Much of the data are publicly available and supported by other official Chinese documents and pronouncements reviewed by The Globe.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a faxed request for comment. In the past, officials have defended education policies in Tibet by saying they are aimed at alleviating poor school standards and widespread poverty in the region and by arguing that “bilingual education” protects and promotes Tibetan languages alongside Chinese.

When Tibet was invaded by the People’s Liberation Army in 1951, the Chinese government promised that the “religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people” would be respected.

After an uprising in 1959, the Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader of Tibet but also a former political leader, as his predecessors have often been – fled to India, and Beijing took full control over the Tibet Autonomous Region. Since then, Chinese leaders have remained nervous about potential support for independence among Tibetans, which they generally blame on overseas actors, including the “separatist Dalai clique.”

At times China’s leaders have promoted and protected Tibetan languages and culture. This reached a peak with the 1982 constitution, which states that “the people of all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs.”

Back then Tibet was, as it is now, among the poorest regions of China, and Beijing made considerable investments in education, including the establishment of some early boarding schools.

One Tibetan who attended one of those schools – whom The Globe and Mail is identifying by the pseudonym Tenzin so he could speak freely, without concern for his family back in Tibet – said that while instruction was still largely in a Tibetan language, “the content of what we studied was almost all Chinese.

“The history we studied was all Communist or Chinese-centred, even when we studied world history.”

Kunchok, a Tibetan now living in exile in New Delhi who asked to be identified only by his first name, described being sent to a boarding school in Markam, a town in the east, on the border with Sichuan, in 2000, when he was seven years old.

“We were not allowed to go home on the weekend or holidays – for the whole of [my first year] I did not see my parents,” he said.

Widespread unrest in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as chronic poverty and economic difficulties in Tibet that some officials blamed on the limited use of the Chinese language, prompted Beijing to rethink its policies in the region – just as Mr. Xi was coming to power.

“There was a feeling that education and propaganda work had not been taken as seriously as it could have been, with too much focus on ethnic autonomy,” said James Leibold, an expert on Chinese politics and ethnic minority policies at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Tenzin also connected the policy shift to the events of 2008. “If you look at a map of Tibetan protests and self-immolation protests, they overlap with places where there was a strong cultural identity or linguistic identity,” he said. “Almost all the counties in Qinghai and Gansu [provinces] have been converted to Chinese medium education. There’s a policy to reduce any room for Tibetan language learning or cultural spaces, to clamp down on future potential protests.”

By 2016, even a state media report noted that almost all schools in Tibet were using Mandarin Chinese as the primary language of instruction. It added that some parents and teachers “have taken action, opening Tibetan-language schools.”

Many of those alternative schools, often run or staffed by Buddhist monks, have since been shut down. According to Amnesty International, in 2018 the government urged the public to report groups that organize Tibetan classes, branding them “criminal gangs connected to the separatist forces of the Dalai Lama.”

Mr. Xi himself has overseen this assimilationist shift in policy, according to classified documents leaked to the Uyghur Tribunal, an independent body based in the U.K. that is examining allegations of genocide and other crimes in Xinjiang. Documents published by the group include speeches by Mr. Xi from the mid-2010s demanding that children in western China be sent to boarding schools so they would “study in school, live in school, grow up in school.”

“Numerous other policies designed to assimilate and control the region’s ethnic groups, including a Chinese (Mandarin) language focused education in centralized boarding schools … can be directly linked to statements or explicit demands made by Xi Jinping,” scholar Adrian Zenz wrote in a summary of the leaked documents.

Tenzin, who is now living in the U.S., said “now kids as young as five years old are being taken from their hometowns and environments and put in this school system.

“When you are cut off from your language and culture and history, you lose a sense of who you are, and eventually it feels like you’re losing the very fabric of your humanity,” he said. “You don’t feel complete.”

Speaking at a news conference in 2019, Wu Yingjie, the party secretary for the Tibet Autonomous Region, praised the “centralized school system,” as the boarding school network is sometimes called, saying it could help solve “the problems of Tibet’s large area and sparse population.”

Officials in Sichuan recently published a “10-year action plan for educational development in ethnic minority regions,” which calls on local governments to “advance the boarding school system” with the aim of increasing capacity to 820,000 students by 2030.

In the TAI report, the authors directly compared the situation in Tibet to that of colonial societies elsewhere, including in Canada. This year, researchers in Kamloops discovered the unmarked graves of more than 200 Indigenous children, which forced Canada to reckon with the horrors of the residential school system. More mass graves have since been discovered, prompting calls for further action and reparations.

“There is strong evidence that the colonial boarding school system for Tibetans is designed to achieve the same end as the residential school systems in Canada and the United States,” they wrote.

One of the report’s authors, Lhadon Tethong, said researching the boarding school system resonated with her not only as a Tibetan, but as a Canadian. She was born in Victoria and attended the University of King’s College in Halifax.

“The parallels were very striking,” she said. “We are acutely aware that the situation in Tibet is not the same as for First Nations people in Canada, but what is clear is that the aim of the state in separating children from their families is the same. The fundamental bottom line is about eliminating identity and changing children into something they’re not, taking the language from their tongues, taking the cultural roots out from beneath them.”

When the Kamloops and other unmarked graves were discovered this year, Chinese state media covered the story intensely, while officials used it as an opportunity to highlight Canada’s historic abuse and mistreatment of Indigenous people.

“Indigenous lives matter,” Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in June. “Canada claims to be a model of human rights and an open advocate of the cause. However, it is reticent and blind to its own crimes and stains in human rights that can never be washed away or justified. Such hypocrisy and double standard is disgraceful.”

Source: https://trk.cp20.com/click/e7a4-2h7l42-qdcp9p-7qf243g7/pmreg33oorqwg5boivugc43iei5cejjsijkhqolri52xqq2ghfjekvjwnnhgyzdki5fhi4cwkvdusvscgnmse7i%3D

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

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

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/

Canada’s tragic residential-school reckoning could be grim harbinger for U.S.

Of note. Will reinforce efforts here I suspect:

It took just two weeks for the first Indigenous cabinet member in American history to publicly express her deep personal dismay at the grim residential school revelations emanating from north of the border.

It was only another 11 days before Deb Haaland, one of the first Native Americans ever elected to Congress and President Joe Biden’s newly appointed secretary of the interior, took matters into her own hands.

“The department shall undertake an investigation of the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools,” Haaland wrote in a memo last week.

“Only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future we are all proud to embrace.”

In geopolitical terms, the time between Haaland’s June 22 memo and May 27 — the day a B.C. First Nation announced the grim discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school — was the blink of an eye.

Rarely do developments on Canadian soil prompt such rapid, dramatic policy decisions in the U.S., a telling measure of magnitude for what Haaland’s investigation may uncover in a country where Indigenous issues are seldom considered front-page news.

“There is a reckoning happening,” said Chase Iron Eyes, a prominent U.S. Indigenous activist and lead counsel for the North Dakota-based Lakota People’s Law Project.

“They don’t teach this in schools — not in Canadian schools, not in American schools — that there are mass graves of children at church-run, government-sponsored residential schools and boarding schools.

“And now we’re no longer able to hide from those truths.”

Haaland’s own heritage doubtless helped move things along.

“My great-grandfather was taken to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania,” Haaland wrote in a moving column in the Washington Post this month that opened with the news out of Canada.

“Its founder coined the phrase, ‘Kill the Indian, and save the man,’ which genuinely reflects the influences that framed these policies at the time.”

It’s a chilling echo of words frequently attributed to Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald — “take the Indian out of the child” — in his 19th century defence of Canada’s residential school system.

The similarities between the systems that existed in Canada and the U.S. likely don’t stop there.

“I think the scale, in terms of sheer numbers, is fairly comparable,” said Circe Sturm, an anthropology professor and Indigenous issues specialist at the University of Texas at Austin.

By the turn of the century, after the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs had taken over Indigenous schooling from the Christian missionaries who started the effort, the department was operating 147 day schools and 81 boarding schools on U.S. reservations, and another 25 boarding schools off-reserve, Sturm said.

In Canada, an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children are believed to have attended one of about 150 residential schools that operated between the 1880s and when the last one closed in 1996.

Haaland’s “Indian Boarding School Initiative” will seek to identify all of the schools that were part of the program, with a particular emphasis on “any records relating to cemeteries or potential burial sites … which may later be used to assist in locating unidentified human remains.”

The department will also liaise with Indigenous communities across the U.S., including in Alaska and Hawaii, on how best to handle any such remains, with plans for a final report by April of next year.

“Many who survived the ordeal returned home changed in unimaginable ways, and their experiences still resonate across the generations,” Haaland wrote.

“The work outlined will shed light on the scope of that impact.”

The potential scale of the situation in Canada took a dramatic turn Thursday when the Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of what are believed to be 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School on southern Saskatchewan.

That news generated uncommon media interest Friday in the U.S., where the Post played it on the front page and the New York Times devoted a full inside page to coverage of the discovery, as well as Haaland’s announcement.

Sturm demurred when asked whether she expects broad change in U.S. attitudes toward Indigenous Peoples on a scale comparable to last year’s social upheaval in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

“I suspect that many Americans will struggle with the hard truth about the founding of this country — some by choosing to ignore it, others with guilt and anger,” she said.

“But because we are talking about the senseless death of children, there is a good chance that a significant number of Americans would be moved enough to insist on action.”

If such discoveries are what it takes to finally end public complacency about the plight of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, so be it, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Friday.

The federal government intends to help with “the healing and the fixing of the generations of trauma that Canadians have all too often turned an eye from, all too often shrugged away from,” Trudeau said.

“And if it took discovering these graves for Canadians to wake up to how much we need to continue to do, then that perhaps gives us a starting point to continue to do even more.”‘

Indigenous leaders in Canada have been pressing Trudeau to secure an apology, on Canadian soil, from Pope Francis himself for the role the Catholic Church played in operating residential schools.

Those demands — which Trudeau repeated again Friday — have so far gone unheeded. But they may carry more weight if, in the fullness of time, Biden is in a position to join the call.

“I think Trudeau and Biden together is a stronger force than either of them alone. I do believe that,” Iron Eyes said.

“We need those calls to come from within the Christian community, because those ‘ideals’ upon which these countries were founded were very much informed by Christian and Western theology and world views.”

Source: Canada’s tragic residential-school reckoning could be grim harbinger for U.S.