Boston, MA - According to Jean-Luc Pierite, President of the Board of the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), “We want to show our solidarity today with all those internationally observing Orange Shirt Day. We must honor the thousands of children who were forced into residential schools where they suffered and too often died. The governments of Canada and the United States continue to take a disproportionate number of Indigenous children into foster care. These governments further fail to address access to clean water on tribal lands. Canada and the US continue to boost pipelines and other extractive projects. Meanwhile the crisis of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women goes underreported and under-investigated.”
I want to recognize the importance of the Pope’s apology to Survivors, their families, and communities. For many Survivors, I know that hearing the words of contrition from the Pope was, and is, an essential factor in their personal recoveries and growth. My thoughts and prayers were with them as they listened. Despite this historic apology, the Holy Father’s statement has left a deep hole in the acknowledgment of the full role of the Church in the Residential School system by placing blame on individual members of the Church. It is essential to underscore that the Church was not just an agent of the state, nor simply a participant in government policy, but was a lead co-author of the darkest chapters in the history of this land.
The U.S. Department of Interior released its investigative report Wednesday on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. It’s being called the first volume of the report and comes nearly a year after the department announced a “comprehensive” review. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Bryan Newland, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, Deborah Parker who is the chief executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and James LaBelle Sr., a boarding school survivor and the first vice president of the coalition's board, spoke at a news conference in Washington announcing the report’s findings. “The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old — are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Haaland said in a statement.
National awareness about the role of the federal government and Christian churches in the U.S. Indian boarding school policy is growing rapidly. Ignited by the discoveries of children’s graves at Canada’s Indian residential schools, the U.S. is poised to face its own reckoning for a similar history. The Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition seized on the growing awareness during its Healing in a Time of Truth and Justice Summit, held virtually on Nov. 19-20. Presenters at this year’s summit encouraged people to reach out to their congressional representatives in support of the Truth and Healing Commission on U.S. Indian Boarding Schools Act that was reintroduced to Congress on Sept. 30 by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and U.S. Reps. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, Ho-Chunk, and Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation.
Philadelphia - The School District of Philadelphia is working to repatriate Native American skeletal remains found in a high school classroom closet this summer. A letter sent to parents of Central High School students Friday said the “human skeletal item” was previously used as a teaching aid and dated back to the 1850s. The district consulted with the Department of Interior, Temple University and other experts about how to handle the remains, Evelyn Nunez, the district's chief of schools wrote in the letter to parents. “The District is also working with these partners to return this person, who has been identified as a male Native American, to his home tribe,” she said.
From 1857 to 1932, hundreds of Native youth from across the state and as far as Alaska were taken to the Tulalip Boarding School. There, they were beaten for speaking their Native languages. They began industrial jobs as elementary age students. They didn’t get to see their parents for ten months of the year, and many of them never came home. The school closed in 1932, and for many families, the wounds are fresh.
Some Canadians bristle at the suggestion that Canada has committed genocide. But the discovery of over 6,000 unmarked graves at residential schools has shocked Canadians into realizing that such atrocities occurred in their country. This is what we had to reflect upon during the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30. According to the United Nations, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
A sea of orange flowed down Dollarton Highway on Sept. 30 as members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation community, and family members from Musqueam and Squamish nations, took part in a pilgrimage walk to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The rain did not dampen the spirits of community members who gathered at the Tsleil-Waututh Reserve administration building at 9 a.m. on Thursday, to walk 8.5 kilometres to the site of the former St. Paul’s Residential School, now home to St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Secondary School. The morning began with drumming and song and an uplifting, positive feeling grew amongst the crowd as more than 100 members began the journey. It was also a sombre time for many members, as they retraced the steps their relatives took every day to “school.”
On August 14, protestors in Canada toppled a statue of John A. Macdonald, the country’s first prime minister. Macdonald was responsible for some of the most atrocious crimes against Indigenous people. This includes instituting a policy of starving Indigenous people in order to clear lands where they lived for building the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
Carlisle, Pa. — Twenty-three-year-old Christopher Eagle Bear from the Rosebud Sioux tribe in South Dakota has been growing out his hair since he visited the site of the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School six years ago. The trip, made by the Rosebud Sioux youth council in 2015, sparked a group of young tribal members to initiate a tribe-backed resolution to bring home their nine ancestors who died at the school as children some 140 years ago. Six years after his initial visit, Eagle Bear’s hair falls down below the waist of his traditional regalia. He is back in Carlisle this week to bring his relatives home. The Army’s Office of Army Cemeteries, which oversees the former school grounds, has agreed to exhume the remains of nine Rosebud Sioux children and return them to the tribe on Wednesday, July 14.
On July 1, several thousand Indigenous people and settler and immigrant allies answered the call of organizations like Idle No More to protest the celebration of Canada Day and the ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples. Cancel Canada Day actions took place across the land occupied by the Canadian state, from St. John’s, Newfoundland, in the east, to Victoria, B.C., including a march of thousands to parliament in Ottawa. July 1 of this year marked the 154th anniversary of Confederation, forming the “Dominion of Canada” out of the colonies of Upper Canada (now Ontario), Lower Canada (now Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. From the start, however, the invasion of the West and expropriation of Indigenous peoples loomed large in the minds of the “Fathers of Confederation,” ranging from the reform liberal expansionist George Brown to the initially hesitant, though then supportive, John A MacDonald.
Demonstrators toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II in Winnipeg Thursday as outrage grows in Canada over the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children. Reuters reports a group of protesters gathered at the Manitoba legislature and pulled down the statue of Queen Victoria on Canada Day, an annual holiday that celebrates the Canadian Confederation.
In Keewaywin First Nation, a remote community in Northwestern Ontario of about 500 people, it won’t be dark enough to set off Canada Day fireworks until 11 p.m. But, this July 1, there won’t be any. Instead, there will be a candlelight vigil outside the band office, as the community foregoes its traditional holiday activities to honour the hundreds of Indigenous children and adults believed to be buried in unmarked graves recently uncovered at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. On Wednesday, the Ktunaxa community of Aqam, in B.C., announced that a preliminary search had discovered another 182 burial sites, which they said may belong to children who attended the nearby St. Eugene Mission residential school.
Due in part to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the horrific truths about what children and their families endured and the graves of the children who were murdered in the residential schools are being uncovered. The residential schools originated in the United States, which has yet to recognize their existence and what happened in them. That may be starting to change after many decades of activism to raise awareness and now an initiative by Secretary of the Interior Haaland. Clearing the FOG speaks with Matt Remle, an indigenous human rights activist about the history of the boarding schools, their purpose to enable the exploitation of resources and how they are connected into the bigger picture of genocide and colonization.