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Friday, January 29, 2016

Tulalip Tribes and State Sign MOA for Child Welfare Cases

MOA a new pathway to keep children with their families

Misty Napeahi, Tulalip Tribes General Manager and Mel Sheldon, Tulalip Tribes Chairman, signing the government-to-government child welfare agreement between the Tulalip Tribes and the State of Washington.Photo/Micheal Rios
Misty Napeahi, Tulalip Tribes General Manager and Mel Sheldon, Tulalip Tribes Chairman, signing the government-to-government child welfare agreement between the Tulalip Tribes and the State of Washington.
Photo/Micheal Rios

by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 
Few events are more traumatic for children than being removed from their families and entered into the foster care system. The trauma is even worse for Native children because usually when a government agency removes a child, they take them from not only their family but their culture and reservation as well. Such displacement can often lead children down a path to a deeply troubled life.

Here in Tulalip, like countless reservations across the United States, we’ve been forced to bear witness to tribal parents losing their tribal children to the State, of families being torn apart because of a government agency who knows very little about the Native way of life.

There are a lot of Native citizens who don’t understand how this continues to happen, since Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 in an effort to stop Native families from having their children removed by the State and local officials for invalid and misconstrued reasons. Yet 38 years later, Native children are still much more likely to be removed from their families and placed in foster care than non-Native children.

The Tulalip Tribes leadership, along with the Office of the Reservation Attorney, and beda?chelh, have long fought for a solution that accurately reflects Tulalip values while being anchored by our inherent sovereignty. Back in 2011, the Tribe entered their first formal child welfare agreement with the State, but that was a general boiler plate model that laid the groundwork for a specifically Tulalip tailored agreement to follow. After years of steadfast dedication and due diligence, the solution may have finally arrived in the form of an updated government-to-government child welfare agreement between the Tulalip Tribes and the State of Washington. The agreement is reflective of Tulalip’s cultural values, aims to keep families together, and, as much as possible, minimize disruption to tribal children. The official agreement was signed into effect on January 13, 2016 by Chairman Mel Sheldon, General Manager Misty Napeahi, and officials from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the Children’s Administration.

The signed agreement formalizes the government-to-government relationship between the Tribe and the State with child welfare cases. It’s based on the fundamental principles of the government-to-government relationship acknowledged in the 1989 Centennial Accord and recognizes the sovereignty of the Tribes and the State of Washington and each respective sovereign’s interests. What does this mean? It means the State of Washington now officially recognizes Tulalip has jurisdiction over Tulalip children wherever found and that Tulalip desires to assert its jurisdiction and authority to protect Tulalip children and keep families together whenever possible.

“I would like to thank everybody for coming out today and pay a special tribute to Michelle Demmert, our reservation attorney, for all the hard work she has done and for understanding my vision to protect our children and families,” said Misty Napeahi, General Manager of the Tulalip Tribes, during the document signing. “With this agreement we are doing what’s in the best interest of Tulalip children. That’s who we are here for. This is a road map that will help guide us and allows us to work in the best interest of our children.”

The overarching purpose of this agreement is the safety and well-being of Tulalip Tribal children. To this end, the specific purpose of this agreement between the tribe and the state is to clarify the handling of Child Protective Services and Child Welfare Services cases involving Tulalip children and their families.

Pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act and our sovereignty, the Tulalip Tribes have jurisdiction to handle all child abuse and neglect cases for our children. Some may be wondering, haven’t we always had that jurisdiction? The simple answer is no. In certain situations state agencies were able to, and would, circumvent the tribe altogether in cases involving allegations of child neglect or abuse. Now, with this agreement in place, the tribe can no longer be circumvented. Going forward, any time a state agency comes to investigate an allegation of child neglect or abuse, a beda?chelh case manager will be on the scene.

For instance, if there’s a child abuse referral made by a teacher who sees something that isn’t good for a child. Say at school a child is coming in late all the time and one day comes in and has bruising on his face or arms. That teacher or school would call the CPS hotline and provide those details. That would trigger a series of events. If the child was Tulalip, then the State would notify beda?chelh and they would tag the case an emergency or not (24 hour vs. 72 hour contact by beda?chelh and State representatives). If it’s an emergency, then this new agreement lays out the State is required to contact beda?chelh and a beda?chelh case manager would need to be involved in the process from the get go.
This agreement ensures Tulalip staff and representatives are always actively involved in any and all cases involving our children, and that we are taking the lead when the opportunity is there. The bottom line is we want our primary goal to be child safety, and to make sure any services or treatment families are receiving is defined by the tribe. That’s why this agreement also lends itself to the creation of a Tulalip Family Intervention Team (FIT), which will contact families of low-risk assessment and provide skill based services to parent their children, so that no court intervention is necessary.

FIT aims to keep families together and act as a proactive solution offering culture based services to families, while getting parents actively involved. It’s a way to handle things more traditionally between the Tribe and the families.

It may be an agreement of this nature is long overdue, but it took many days and long hours from individuals across several different tribal and state agencies to carefully craft and fine tune in order to get it right, not just for Tulalip children and families, but for all Native children and families. With Tulalip leading the way, there are sure to be multiple tribes who model their own government-to-government child welfare agreements after this one.

“I would like to thank the Tulalip leadership that allows us to do our job and work in the best interest of this community and the children,” said reservation attorney Michelle Demmert. “So many voices do not have someone who is championing their cause. Being an attorney for 24 years people think I should be doing something else rather than focusing on issues involving children or domestic violence, but these are the issues where people do not have a voice in the community. They need someone who can speak for them and understand their situation. Being a Tlingit woman, I have that perspective and can bring out their voice. This agreement does that and so much more. It benefits not only the Tulalip families and community, but other tribes who will follow suit.”

Representatives from the Tulalip Tribes, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the Children’s Administration signed the official agreement on January 13, 2016.Photo/Micheal Rios
Representatives from the Tulalip Tribes, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the Children’s Administration signed the official agreement on January 13, 2016.
Photo/Micheal Rios

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sea Change: Setting a precedent


Jean Teillet says Tuesday's ruling calls out Canadians for providing the 'minimal amount we can get away with' for services on First Nations. (Pape Salter Teillet Barristers and Solicitors)

Although human rights cases don't cite precedent the same way courts do, Teillet said, the "damning evidence" in the judgment will have a significant effect on other human rights complaints involving services on First Nations. "[It] will be very hard for them to turn around and make some kind of contrary finding," she said. 
Despite the legal victory, the lawyers said, the federal government faces an enormous task when it comes to taking action. The next step has to be a "sea change" in its relationship with aboriginal people, Hensel said. "The newly elected Liberal government has said a lot of very fine words about their perception and their intentions in this regard," she said. "And now it's time for implementation." Despite her hope that further human rights complaints won't be necessary, if that implementation doesn't happen quickly, "They're coming," Hensel said. Metallic said she recognizes the necessary changes carry a big financial cost. "There's going to have to be an adult conversation about funding things appropriately," she said.
Aboriginal lawyers are cautiously optimistic Tuesday's human rights ruling that Canada fails to provide equal services for children on reserves will legally oblige the government to fix other inequities facing First Nations, including education, housing, access to clean water and health care.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

If it happens in Canada, will it happen here? #StolenGenerations

Adoption Council Applauds Human Rights Tribunal Decision re: First Nations Children — OTTAWA, ON--(Marketwired - January 26, 2016) - The Adoption Council of Canada applauds the landmark ruling by the Canadian Human Rights tribunal, which has today recognized the federal government's discrimination in the provision of child and family services for First Nations' children and families living on reserve and in the Yukon.

Supporting First Nations' children and youth in finding permanent families also requires the commitment of post-permanency resources at the same level as these children and youth required when they were in care.
"The leadership of Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations' Caring Society was essential in securing this vital decision," says Laura Eggertson, interim executive director of the Adoption Council of Canada. "As a result, First Nations children on-reserve and in the Yukon face the prospect of a better future."

By Trace Hentz (editor of American Indian Adoptees blog)

Canada is a blur with news about the injustice of adoption practices (aka cultural genocide) and lack of funding for First Nations families to receive monies to keep families intact. And if children need to be into foster care, then keep the siblings together.
That is Canada, not the US.
One of the reasons I post on this blog about Canada is they are making headway in news stories and the US is not.
If it happens in Canada, can it happen here too?
I hope so. I really do.
Human trafficking involves money and certain people who profit. Adoption is a form of human trafficking, taking a child from the reservation and placing them with a non-Indian parent for a fee. The agency makes money in that transaction. That the Adoption Council of Canada is making this proclamation means to them that those monies will soon dry out. You can't run an adoption agency without product (children and babies) and the reserve was a source of that product.

This story I posted on my other blog in 2013!:

Some things never change: more Stolen Generations

English: A public broadcast of Kevin Rudd's fo...
A public broadcast of Kevin Rudd’s formal apology to the Stolen Generations at Elder Park, Adelaide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SOURCE As a Native American who has experienced upheaval and survived my own closed adoption, the devastating loss of my culture and my language cannot be overstated as a loss to me, to my family and to other adoptees I know who endured it. This media release struck me that some things never change, either in the US or in Australia. If we do not teach this history, we are doomed to repeat it – over and over.
Poverty is the worst form of violence and the Third World and Indian Country is still suffering the effects, generation after generation… Trace/Lara

Concerned Australians MEDIA RELEASE 20 May 2013


The most recent data shows that children being moved into out-of-home care in the Northern Territory is increasing at an alarming rate and that two-thirds of these children are placed with non-Indigenous families away from their communities…
‘Concerned Australians’ invites the Chief Minister to join the campaign to keep Aboriginal children safely in their communities. We know Adam Giles cares very greatly about the safety of children and we call on him and his ministers, and all those in the Northern Territory who have the capacity to influence policy, to throw their support behind:

An increase in Aboriginal-managed Family Support services in all Aboriginal communities, including the establishment of Family Group Conferencing processes when there are concerns regarding child safety
A reversal of the decision that cut funds to the Community Sector
We ask you to hear the words of Elder Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM: A Yolŋu child has a spirituality, his own ‘skin’, his culture, language, and place in his community. He belongs to that country and its people. You are committing a deep wrong by taking that away from him…
And, This is why so many of the Stolen Generation have suffered so much. The deep psychological trauma from being taken away has led so many of them to substance abuse, contact with the criminal courts and family breakdown. And the trauma is then passed onto their children.

This is a matter of urgency. We do not wish to see the emergence of another Stolen Generation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Aboriginal People Respond To “Australia Day”

Canada discriminates against children on reserves, tribunal rules

On-reserve child welfare system receives up to 38% less funding than elsewhere

CBC News Posted: Jan 26, 2016 9:03
Media placeholder
Reaction to tribunal's decision on reserve children LIVE 11:59:59
The federal government discriminates against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, along with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint against Ottawa with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in February 2007.

They argued the support the federal government provides for child welfare on reserves is much lower than the support provincial governments give to children off reserves – even though on-reserve needs are greater. Less funding for family support means more children end up in the child welfare system, they said.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal agreed, according to a decision published Tuesday morning that says the federal government's funding model and management of its First Nations child and family services "resulted in denials of services and created various adverse impacts for many First Nations children and families living on reserves."

The decision says the government must "cease the discriminatory practice and take measures to redress and prevent it." It calls for the redesign of the child welfare system and its funding model, urging the use of experts to ensure First Nations are given culturally appropriate services.

The decision also compares on-reserve child welfare to the residential schools system, where "the fate and future of many First Nations children is still being determined by the government." It recommends increasing funding and support to allow First Nations to deliver their own child welfare.

"I can't even believe we had to file a case against the Canadian government so First Nations children have the same chance to grow up in their families as other kids get," Blackstock said, before the decision was made public.

"I'm still shocked by that, even nine years later." 
In a news release, the Canadian Human Rights Commission applauded the tribunal's ruling.
"This historic decision could have a profound impact on how the government of Canada funds other on-reserve programs and services," wrote Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the human rights commission.


Related Stories

External Links

How to be a Real Indian (humor)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Have a Heart for First Nations Children: 7 Ways to make a Difference

Hearings for the First Nations child welfare case at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal took place between February 25, 2013 to October 24, 2014. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is expected to release the final ruling by January 29, 2016.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Religion and Assimilation

Photo by Charles R. Savage/LDS Church History Collection
Daniel D. MacArthur is seen here baptizing Paiute Indians in a stream near St. George, Utah. Augustus P. Hardy is shown standing on the bank.

How Mormons Assimilated Native Children


Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series about the Indian Student Placement Program, a foster-care and education program for Native youths administered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between 1947 and 2000.

Veronica Wallace pressed her face against the bus window and stared into the darkness.
At 13, Wallace was en route from her home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, to Lakewood, Colorado, to live with a family she’d never met. The bus cut across the darkened countryside during the wee hours of the August morning as its passengers slept, talked quietly, listened to Motown music or cried, Wallace says.
“It was a very lonely, very sad trip. It was 2 or 3 in the morning, and I had no idea where I was going.”
It was 1970 and Wallace, who is Sac & Fox, had agreed to spend the next nine months in the Indian Student Placement Program. Run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the program matched Native youths with white Mormon host families who took care of them during the school year and returned them to their reservations for the summer.
For the half-century the program was in operation (from 1947 to 2000), an estimated 40,000 Native youths from 60 tribes left their homes in favor of a better education and a brighter future. But the program had a secondary goal: bringing Indian students in contact with the morals and cultural practices of the Mormon Church.
Wallace, who was baptized as a Mormon at age 8, was accustomed to the principles of the church, which is known for its high moral standards and emphasis on the family. When her host parents welcomed the “little Indian girl” into their home, Wallace readily adopted this second family.
Cultural and religious clashes were inevitable, however, Wallace says. Her birth parents divorced when she was young and a grandmother raised her, introduced her to the church and encouraged her to go on the placement program. During a visit to Colorado, Wallace’s birth mother sat in the host family’s house and smoked a cigarette.
“That was bad,” Wallace says. “Her lifestyle was not keeping with the standards, and so I knew I had to choose.”
Wallace’s choice, though difficult, was common for placement students. The program, founded on principles of assimilation, forced some students to choose between birth parents and foster families, and between Native tradition and the church’s “higher law.” And the stakes were high: students who failed to meet the church’s standards were sent home.

Read entire article:

Assimilation Tool or a Blessing? Inside the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Zebras and Giraffes: Finding where we fit in

By Trace L Hentz

I am now collecting stories by adoptees for a new book STOLEN GENERATIONS. It will be the third in a series of anthologies written by First Nations and Native American adoptees. Some were placed in non-Indian homes because of The Indian Adoption Projects (New York state had its own Indian Program) and the other larger project called ARENA.

These projects include adopting out Native children from Canada and the USA. 

First Nations Adoptees 60s Scoop

By the numbers


Estimated number of aboriginal children taken from their families during the Sixties Scoop in Canada

Source: Canadian government/National Household Survey
Canadian adoptees in the 60s Scoop have had more press coverage than here in the US and class action lawsuits have done much to promote the cultural genocide that adoption caused in Canada.

Peter d'Errico wrote a review of our first book TWO WORLDS: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects for Indian Country Today newspaper... He gets it. He knows what happened in the US.  His book review is very good, so I am sharing the review again. LINK

As I read adoptee stories, I get it. I am an adoptee, too. I think of how hard it is to fit in a family that is not your own so I wrote this down today:

I want you to image a little baby zebra is adopted by a family of giraffes. The giraffe family care for him as he grows up. The zebra felt loved by his new family, but as he grew bigger, he noticed he wasn't in the right place. These were not his people. And he wondered what happened to his own zebra family.

No matter how much love we were given, or not given as young adoptees, we figure out eventually we are not "home" and we wish to know where home is, and where our family is? and what happened?... No matter what our adoptive parents tell us or not tell us, we deserve to know the truth and we need to meet relatives and our first families to help us feel better and heal.

And adoptees need answers.  No one knows how many Native adoptees there are in the US. The governments of Canada and the US sought to destroy our connection to our tribes and families with these projects by adopting out babies and young children to non-Indians. The governments sought to erase us from tribal rolls. Our birth certificate was amended and lists our parents as the ones who adopted us.

How do we find a way to feel "home" again? We Search! We go into Reunion! Reunification means finding out who we truly are...

Sharing Stories helps adoptees to go full circle.  Sharing Stories help adoptees know they are not alone.

If you are interested in writing a story about your adoptee journey and reunion, please email me:  If you need help searching, email me too!

In case you missed this news article about the 60s Scoop, read HERE.  

This is one of the amazing 60s Scoop Adoptees!

Cole Burston/Toronto Star

Colleen Cardinal

Colleen Cardinal still remembers her first emotion at her last foster home: Fear. Now 42, Cardinal is Plains Cree from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Alberta, but grew up in a non-indigenous home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., along with her two sisters. All three girls endured physical and sexual abuse and were treated like “second-class citizens” in their own home, Cardinal says.
The family’s biological children were given butter and white bread, while Cardinal and her sisters were given margarine and brown bread. The family used a bathroom indoors while the three aboriginal girls used an outhouse. “I remember waking my sisters up in the middle of the nighttime because I had to go pee, and I was scared to go outside by myself — in my flimsy little nightie, putting on my winter jacket and freezing,” Cardinal recalls.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

California #ICWA

California ICWA Task Force Information and Survey

Recently the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Children’s Justice, established an ICWA compliance task force with a goal of examining ICWA non-compliance in California.  In support of this effort tribal leaders have come together to provide information to assist the California DOJ in looking at ICWA compliance issues, including cases involving non-California tribes.  This project is an opportunity for all tribes to provide feedback on these important issues.

Letter to tribal leaders from task force co-chairs.
Letter to tribal leaders from California AG.

There is both a call (details in first letter) and a survey is for any tribe with children in the California system, not just California tribes. Survey is here and is due by January 15.

Questions can be directed to Delia Parr at CILS,

I had a comment on Google+ that California needs to open its adoption records. Anyone know of any organizations working for OPEN RECORDS for California Adoptees? Leave a comment... Trace

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

After decades, Colorado adoptees can see birth records

Most of us can't imagine not knowing where we came from, 
or not having access to something as seemingly simple as a birth certificate.
DENVER - Most of us can't imagine not knowing where we came from, or not having access to something as seemingly simple as a birth certificate.

But for tens of thousands of adopted Coloradans, that document had been sealed for 40 years. Until now.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, all birth certificates regardless of when the adoption took place are available. Because of the holiday, this means people interested in obtaining their original birth certificates will be able to apply starting Monday.
"Forty years of legislative work has finally come to its fruition with the enactment of Senate Bill 51 that passed in 2014," said Rich Uhrlaub, a coordinator with Adoptees in Search Colorado Triad Connection. "What that means is virtually all adoptees who were adopted in Colorado can get access to their original birth certificates."

The birth certificates are being made available now because the 2014 bill included a transitional period before all the records would be accessible.

Uhrlaub says up to 250,000 people could be affected.

"It puts us on equal footing with other citizens who have access to knowing their roots," he said. "It's hard to start your life from chapter two. Most of us were loved early by our adoptive parents, but the first piece of your life makes all the difference in the world in terms of your identity, your story. No, you're not about to marry your sister or your cousins, like things like that."

Betsy Pearce , who was adopted at five weeks old, is one of those who plans to go get her birth certificate.

She didn't go looking for her birth parents. Her birth father found her in 2003.

Betsy Pearce with her birth father (Photo: Betsy Pearce)
"There was just something about meeting him that kind of brought a sense of peace to me," she said. "It wasn't like I've had a rough life or anything. Within seconds of meeting him, I knew I wasn't crazy anymore. Because he kind of got mad like I got mad. I could just tell. There's times where I feel like I can't be consoled and it's an easy phone call with him."
Pearce said she knows who her birth mother is. But she says the woman isn't interested in having a relationship.
"There's just something about being connected fully throughout your life," she said. "I think you just have to have that connection, if that opportunity is there. You have to."

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will start taking applications on Monday (Jan. 4). Uhrlaub said processing will take 30 days and will require a fee of under $40.

You can find the application here:

Monday, January 4, 2016

Unearthing the Dark Past: Chemawa Indian School unmarked graves

Unmarked graves shed light on 'America's best kept secret' of abuse towards Native communities.  

Marc Dadigan | 03 Jan 2016 | AlJazeera


Marsha Small used ground-penetrating radar to survey beneath the cemetery on the Chemawa Indian School campus near Salem, Oregon.  As she worked, she prayed to the children, even though her Northern Cheyenne language would sound foreign to them because the children buried in this earth had been brought to the school from reservations and tribal lands throughout the western United States.

Marsha Small : In her thesis, "A Voice for the Children of Chemawa Cemetery", which she completed this fall, Small reports that her surveys indicate there are possibly hundreds if not thousands of unmarked burial sites at Chemawa, which is one of the last operating government run Indian Boarding Schools.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Real reconciliation requires justice

What happened in residential schools was genocide. But what really matters is justice.

St. Paul's Indian Industrial School, Manitoba, 1901

What happened in residential schools was not "cultural genocide". It wasn't "language genocide". And it wasn't "almost genocide". What happened in residential schools was genocide. Canadian officials targeted Indians for assimilation and elimination purely for economic and political reasons.  Scalping bounties on certain Indigenous nations are indicative of such a lethal mentality.
Canada wasn't killing Indians because of our cultures; it was killing Indians to get rid of the "Indian problem" as Indian Affairs officials kept referring to it.  Commentators often refer to Duncan Campbell Scott's quote regarding Indian policy in Canada as proof that the intention was assimilation and not elimination. Scott was the deputy superintendent general for the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, who explained in 1920:

"I want to get rid of the Indian problem....Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question and no Indian Department."
However, there is more to the story than this. In 1907, Dr. Peter Bryce, the Chief Medical Officer for the federal government, wrote a report on the conditions in residential schools that detailed the astounding number of deaths of Indian children in those schools.
The government's own lawyer also warned Canadian officials in 1907:
"Doing nothing to obviate the preventable causes of death, brings the Department within unpleasant nearness to the charge of manslaughter."
 Yet, there was no shock and alarm at the time nor did anyone from Indian Affairs come up with an emergency action plan to protect Indigenous children whom Scott referred to as "inmates." Surprisingly, the deaths of Indigenous children appeared to be in line with the objective of the policy.  In 1910, Scott explained in a letter he wrote to one of his Indian Agents:
"Indian children...die at a much higher rate [in residential schools] than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards a final solution of our Indian problem."
 Residential schools were never a well-intended policy "gone wrong" as claimed by former Minister of Indian Affairs, John Duncan. They were death camps for nearly half of all the "inmates" who entered some of those schools. The tiny handcuffs and the electric chairs speak of horrors completely unrelated to "education."

These children didn't die from smallpox or some other series of unfortunate and unpreventable events in those schools. Many of these children were starved, tortured, beaten, raped, and murdered. Nutritional tests and medical experimentations were done on these children only to be denied to benefit of the very medicines created at the expense of their suffering. This sounds eerily familiar to horrors inflicted on other populations around the world.

Survivor stories of frequent rapes, forced abortions, and unmarked graves stand in stark contradiction to any notion of a benign education policy -- especially once government, church and law enforcement officials became aware of what was happening. Why else did these schools have graveyards instead of playgrounds?

It is too easy for politicians to claim "cultural genocide" now, when they are well aware that cultural genocide was specifically left out of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Much of the debate has focused on whether or not Canada "intended" to kill Indians. According to international legal experts, leaders can be held accountable if they knew or should have known about the actions and failed to prevent them. Direct evidence of intent is not necessary but can be inferred from circumstantial evidence. The few excerpts above prove that Canadian officials knew not only of the poor conditions in residential schools, but the large number of deaths that were occurring, and that they could be held accountable for "manslaughter."
Genocide, by the UN definition, is said to include:
  • 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.
Many have argued that the totality of Canada's actions towards Indigenous peoples amounted to genocide. In other words, Canadian officials have been guilty of some or all of the above genocidal acts.

What is particularly striking is the genocidal act of deliberately creating the conditions of life meant to bring about the destruction of the group in whole or in part. The following acts have been found to be genocidal according to international criminal law:
  • subjecting the group to a subsistence diet;
  • systematic expulsion from homes;
  • denial of right to medical services;
  • creation of circumstances that would lead to a slow death, such as lack of proper housing, clothing and hygiene or excessive work or physical exertion; and 
  • rape. 
Think of the historic and ongoing conditions of many First Nations who were prohibited from leaving the reserve by law and given only minimal rations; or the Inuit and First Nations who were forcibly relocated from their homelands. There is also a direct link between Canada's purposeful chronic underfunding of essential human services for First Nations (housing, water, sanitation) and their premature deaths. In residential schools, children were starved, denied medical care, and many suffered slow deaths.

Genocide is the material destruction of a group -- even if not all members of the group are destroyed. There is no set number of people that must be killed for the crime of genocide to occur. It does not need to mimic the worst holocaust to be genocide. It must be a substantial part of the group. There is also no need for a government plan or policy to exist in order to find genocide. Even without a finding of genocide, the officials could still be charged with crimes against humanity or related crimes. 

Given the significant death tolls, it does not matter whether the courts have accepted the claim of genocide, whether lawyers agree with the claim, or whether communications specialists think it might be too harsh a term to present to the Canadian public. What happened in residential schools were criminal acts back then, just as they are now. All of the people who had the power to stop these deaths (RCMP, Indian Affairs and the churches), not only knew about the deaths -- but refused to act. At the very least, that is criminal negligence causing death.

We will never get to reconciliation unless we know the truth -- all of it. So far, we have only scratched the surface.

Residential schools can't be looked at in isolation. Indian policy included the forced sterilizations of Indigenous women and little girls. Forced sterilizations were never about our cultures -- it was about eliminating our populations.(9) We are not overrepresented in prisons, in child and family services and as murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls because of our cultures.

We are targeted because we are Indians. Indigenous Nations stand in the way of unfettered land and water use, resource extraction and industrial development -- i.e. complete environmental destruction in the name of corporate profit.

Justice Murray Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) team have done the impossible -- they succeeded in ensuring the voices of survivors were heard, that the atrocities committed in residential schools were documented, and that the truth be told. So far we have only seen the Executive Summary. The final report, which will be many thousands of pages long, will no doubt shed light on even more disturbing details.
In addition to the incredible emotional and psychological toll this must have taken on Justice Sinclair and his team, they stood strong in the face of the most aggressive anti-First Nation government Canada has seen in years. They, together with the survivors, are true heroes.

But we can't expect the TRC to carry this burden alone. Nor is this story complete.
The TRC went as far as it could to address the issue of genocide in the face of various legal considerations and consistent political denial that these schools were anything other than well-intended educational institutes.

It's on the rest of us to stand up for the truth and ensure Canadians know everything that happened in the schools covered in this report and the ones not yet exposed.

Canada tried in various ways to eliminate our cultures -- through residential schools and outlawing our ceremonies and practices in the Indian Act. This is all true.

But Canada also created the conditions which led to our deaths by the thousands inside and outside residential schools. This is also true and this is genocide.

Once we can put the truth in the table, then we can talk about reconciliation. We need to act on the TRC recommendations related to truth-seeking: a national inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, an investigation into the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in prison, and immediate action and reporting on the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in foster care.

The Indian day school class action has just been accepted by the courts and that will likely also reveal similar abuses suffered by Indian children in even more schools.(11)

We must focus on getting all the facts so we can finally see justice for Indigenous peoples and true reconciliation. A determination that Canada did not commit genocide does not put an end to the story. It's only just the beginning and it's not going to be as easy as saying sorry. Canadian and Church officials who committed such horrific crimes upon Indigenous peoples need to be brought to justice.

The mass murder or manslaughter of our people requires criminal prosecution -- just like it would anywhere else in the world. Canada doesn't receive a "Get out of Jail free" card simply because it hid its atrocities so well.  

Real reconciliation requires justice.

Image: Wikimedia commons

Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi'kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

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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.

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