Get new posts by email:

How to Use this Blog

BOOZHOO! We've amassed tons of information and important history on this blog since 2010. If you have a keyword, use the search box below. Also check out the reference section above. If you have a question or need help searching, use the contact form at the bottom of the blog.

We want you to use BOOKSHOP! (the editor will earn a small amount of money or commission. (we thank you) (that is our disclaimer statement)

This is a blog. It is not a peer-reviewed journal, not a sponsored publication... WE DO NOT HAVE ADS or earn MONEY from this website. The ideas, news and thoughts posted are sourced… or written by the editor or contributors.

EMAIL ME: (outlook email is gone)


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Genocide is as genocide does

A Tribe Called Red's principled refusal to perform at the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights drew more attention on CBC than the museum's opening itself.
They objected to the "museum's misrepresentation and downplay of the genocide that was experienced by indigenous people in Canada by refusing to name it genocide."
Buffy Sainte-Marie, prior to her concert, opined that genocide took place in the Indian residential schools: "Let's fess up and hope it doesn't happen again."
Did we commit genocide in forcing aboriginal children to attend residential schools? For me, as a genocide scholar, and for many IRS survivors, the answer is yes. The UN Genocide Convention of 1948 calls the forcible transfer of children from one group to another genocide -- not cultural genocide, nor "indigenocide," but actual genocide.
The term's creator, Raphael Lemkin, was clear forcible transfer was biological genocide: "There is little difference between direct killings and such techniques which, like a time bomb, destroy by delayed action." Genocide was never just about killing -- groups could be destroyed in many ways.
We know that tens of thousands of IRS survivors had their lives shattered by seven generations of verbal, physical and sexual abuse. We know at least 4,100 kids died as a consequence of the system, probably many more. We know forced transfer was intentional on the part of successive governments -- they wanted to destroy aboriginal peoples using the schools.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged this in 2008 when he said that "some sought, as it was infamously said, 'to kill the Indian in the child.' " We can see in the speeches and writings of John A. Macdonald, Hector Langevin and many others a desire to use the schools to forcibly cut kids off from their home communities, their languages, cultures and spirituality.
Phil Fontaine, Bernie Farber, Murray Sinclair and some two decades worth of academics have said genocide occurred in the IRS system.
The issue, however, is larger than simply refusing to recognize aboriginal genocide. Not only has the museum not recognized genocide in the IRS system, it has promoted memory and commemoration of five other genocides. We recognize genocide when it happens on other continents, but we assiduously avoid genocide when it happens in our own backyard. And that's a shame.
When Quebec created an Armenian Genocide Memorial Day, it observed, "Quebecers have always rejected intolerance and ethnic exclusion." When the federal government recognized the Ukrainian famine, or Holodomor, in 2008 it reflected on the worthiness of Ukrainians, and their "positive contribution to Canadian society." Holodomor recognition in Alberta was not just being about the truth of genocide, but also about the goodness of that province: "The people of Alberta value democratic freedoms, human rights and the rule of law, honour the values of compassion and honesty and cherish the multicultural vibrancy of the province." Saskatchewan stressed how Ukrainians "have contributed greatly to Saskatchewan's cultural, economic, political and educational life." In Manitoba, the Holodomor was recognized in part because "during World War II, a disproportionate number of Ukrainian Canadians registered in the Canadian Armed Forces to fight for the rights and liberties of Canadians."
The pattern? First, genocide occurred and has been denied in other contexts, and for this reason -- to uphold truth, we must commemorate and recognize. Some people -- Ernst Zundel admirers, or dupes of the Turkish denialist movement -- have a problem with the truth; most Canadians don't. Second, the worthiness of the victims and their descendents is important. The descendents have demonstrably enriched the fabric of our society.
We come to the third point: Recognition allows provinces or Canada to prove their goodness and tolerance. Here's where my problem lies -- by failing to recognize genocide, provincial legislatures, Ottawa and the CMHR are tacitly denying three things: that the IRS system's crimes and the intent behind them are genocide; that aboriginal people have made noteworthy contributions; and that Canada's governments have perpetrated a history of genocide in the colonization of the country, which holds serious ongoing legacies.
We need to recognize all genocides, but especially those close to home. This will take time, especially for a museum constrained by legal and financial challenges, with a lot of funding from governments that have little interest in historical introspection.
I hope A Tribe Called Red's refusal will be a teachable moment for the museum and Canadians. The CMHR purportedly has more fluid, changeable exhibits than set-piece museums of the past. I am trying to be cautiously optimistic about what the future will hold.

David MacDonald is a professor of political science at the University of Guelph. He is the author of Identity Politics in the Age of Genocide.


  1. My mother felt she did not belong to her tribe nor the world that she live in. Saint Joseph taught her to read and write. Hard work. Fear of doctors. She saw children who left for the hospital who never returned. Sexual abuse by staff. Punishment for speaking her language. Hunger, and separation of her siblings. My grandfather and grandmother suffered the lost of their children. Today my heart goes out for my grandfather. My grandfather was at war, to return to find his children were taken, while my grandmother work to feed her family. What the school had not taught is, love and trust and play. Two year before my mother crossed over, I got a hug. My mother described many cold events, rather than a loving family unit. In the end my mother shared her life experience with family and friends. Culture values are very important to learn. Laughing and playing are a part of living as well forgiven. Having a gift to be yourself, to take pride of who you are. To learn what is acceptable with in a family unit is a must to be whole. I thankful for my grandparents who taught me. Genocide is a indirect killing off a culture. The forms is having children, with other cultures. Today the government call it the melting pot. Drinking, drugs abuse, improper diet. are some good other examples. When a person self esteem is destroyed, and ego, escape maybe a slow death. Teaching and knowledge hopefully will save all.

    1. I am deeply saddened to read this Anonymous. My heart is heavy for you.


Please: Share your reaction, your thoughts, and your opinions. Be passionate, be unapologetic. Offensive remarks will not be published. We are getting more and more spam. Comments will be monitored.
Use the comment form at the bottom of this website which is private and sent direct to Trace.

Wilfred Buck Tells The Story Of Mista Muskwa

Happy Visitors!

They Took Us Away

They Took Us Away
click image to see more and read more

Blog Archive

Most READ Posts


You are not alone

You are not alone

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Diane Tells His Name

click photo

60s Scoop Survivors Legal Support


Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
click to read and listen about Trace, Diane, Julie and Suzie


As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.


Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

Google Followers