During the National Congress of American Indians’ 78th Annual Convention on October 12, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris joined Tribal Leaders and allies from across Indian Country to address the most critical issues facing tribal communities.
During the National Congress of American Indians’ 78th Annual Convention on October 12, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris joined Tribal Leaders and allies from across Indian Country to address the most critical issues facing tribal communities.
|Message to President Joe Biden painted on the pedestal of a statue of Andrew Jackson, the U.S. president known to Cherokees as “Indian Killer,” ahead on the Oct. 11 Indigenous People’s Day fossil fuel protests. (Jennifer K. Falcon, Twitter)|
By Brett Wilkins
More than 130 Native American Earth protectors were arrested in Washington, D.C. on Monday, while others were blasted with sonic weaponry as tribal leaders and members from across the continent they call Turtle Island gathered on Indigenous Peoples’ Day to protest Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline and other oil and gas ventures. The projects are backed by President Joe Biden and the protestors called on his administration to halt all fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency.
Thousands of Indigenous-led demonstrators rallied and marched, with hundreds engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience outside the White House as a week of #PeopleVsFossilFuels climate action kicked off.
Ahead of Monday’s march, protesters painted “Expect Us” on the pedestal of a statue in Lafayette Park opposite the White House of Andrew Jackson, the genocidal seventh U.S. president known to Cherokees as “Indian Killer” — and a favorite of former President Donald Trump.
Indigenous Environmental Network tweeted video footage of police using a Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) against demonstrators sitting defiantly but peacefully outside the White House fence. Some observers contrasted the deployment of so-called “sound cannons” against nonviolent Indigenous protesters both on Monday and during past #StopLine3 protests with the absence of such heavy-handed tactics during the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mostly white mob.
One activist had a message for the president: "If you're claiming to be a leader for our climate crisis... then you need to start living up to your word."
From fashion design to athletics, the appropriation of Native American cultural symbols is pervasive throughout the US. According to #PeopleNotMascots, a digital resource bringing attention to the detrimental misappropriation of Indigenous-inspired symbols in the US educational system, one in 26 secondary schools nationwide brandish a Native American mascot; in North Dakota, the number climbs to one in 15.
Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Diné Tiktoker and crochet artist Lily (@sheshortnbrown) spread the word about the resource for identifying and protesting these mascots in your area. The website allows site visitors to search mascots appropriating Indigenous symbols in their state, also offering a template letter addressed to state legislators “to demand that they eliminate Native mascots within your state.”
For decades, Indigenous activists have lambasted the common trend of schools, sports teams, and other organizations appropriating Native American symbols as mascots. The usage of Native mascots is a pervasive issue. Debates around the appropriation of these images have been most visible in the realm of athletics, with several sports teams in recent years conceding to decades of protests and agreeing to change their names, including the Cleveland Indians.
Currently, just Washington, Maine, and Colorado have banned the use of Native mascots. The letter encourages lawmakers to follow in the footsteps of these states, stating: “Historically, Natives have not been treated as human beings. This has been seen through the atrocities such as residential schools, the Long Walk, the Trail of Tears, and mass genocide through colonization, and now Native mascots.”
According to the letter, “Native children that are overly exposed to racist stereotypes are more likely to have lower self-esteem, distance themselves from their culture, have a lower belief in personal achievement, and worsen mood.”
“Native people are not caricatures,” the letter beseeches. “Native people are not a monolith, they are diverse in customs and values. […] By bringing forth a bill alongside the aforementioned states, tax-payer’s funds will no longer be used to propagate harmful and dehumanizing depictions of Indigenous people — a vital step in reckoning with our nation’s past.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting: Tribes: New evidence proves massacre was at Nevada mine site
White House: Executive Order on the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Native Americans and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities
Great Lakes Now: Indigenous leaders face barriers to UN climate conference
NPR (11 min. audio): Native Americans Take Over The Writers’ Room and Tell Their Own Stories
This 21 minute video features interviews with survivors of the Holy Childhood School of Jesus of Harbor Springs, Michigan. Both of my grandparents (Henry “Hank” Shenanaquet and Laureen Peters) also attended Holy Childhood. Appearing in the video are Yvonne Walker-Keshick (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians); Eric Hemenway, Director of LTBB Department of Repatriation, Archives and Records; and Fred Kiogima (LTBB).
Photo above: Yvonne Walker-Keshick speaks with an NBC News correspondent about the Holy Childhood School of Jesus Indian Boarding School of Harbor Springs, MI.
It’s a curious fact that some of the most notable documentaries of recent years have revolved, in one or another, around skateboarding.
Minding the Gap, the 2018 documentary by Bing Liu, earned an Academy Award nomination for its story of Liu and two friends who gravitate towards skateboarding as an escape from difficult upbringings. Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), director Carol Dysinger’s 2020 film on a skateboarding school in Afghanistan that caters to girls, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.
Skateboarding plays a central role in Joe Buffalo, a short documentary directed by Amar Chebib that’s a contender for Oscar consideration this year. The film centers on the eponymous Joe Buffalo, who was born to a family of Samson Cree heritage on the plains of Alberta, Canada. As a kid he saw a cousin pull off tricks on a board and became hooked himself.
“For me, skateboarding was definitely like a savior, given the circumstances of me growing up,” Buffalo says in the film, “having to deal with the cards I was dealt.”
The cards had to do with being raised in a country that dedicated resources to eradicating indigenous culture. At the age of 11, Buffalo was taken from his family and sent away to a residential school, an education system for indigenous children that persisted in Canada from the 1600s until the late 1990s. The system’s purpose was to reeducate children from a Christian point of view.
“They were boarding schools set up by the government and run by the church to destroy my people,” Buffalo says in voiceover in the film. “Kill the Indian and save the child.”
An estimated 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were sent to the schools across the centuries.
“During the years that the system was in place, children were forcibly removed from their homes,” according to the Canadian government, “and, at school, were often subjected to harsh discipline, malnutrition and starvation, poor healthcare, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, and the deliberate suppression of their cultures and languages.”
Once free of the schools, Buffalo resumed his skateboarding, reaching a skill level that set him up to go pro. But the trauma of the residential schools had produced psychic injuries. And when he did get the chance to become a professional, he felt unworthy—low self-esteem having been drilled into him. He spent much of his 30s coping with alcoholism and drug addiction, interrupted by bouts of incarceration.
The documentary follows its subject’s journey to sobriety and to fulfill his dream of turning pro. Chebib, a Syrian-Canadian, grew up skateboarding in the Middle East and met Buffalo back in 2005 in Montreal’s skateboarding scene. They reconnected more recently in Vancouver, where both now live, and the documentary project was born.
The New Yorker has released the film on its website in time for Indigenous People’s Day (the holiday still celebrated in some places as Columbus Day). Joe Buffalo has won numerous awards, including the audience award at SXSW and audience and jury awards at the Regard film festival in Saguenay, Québec and the Calgary Underground Film Festival.
American skateboarding legend Tony Hawk has joined the film as an executive producer. Hawk sent a message to Deadline about his support for the documentary, noting, “Joe Buffalo is an inspiring story of skateboarding as a means of escaping the trauma of the infamous Indian Residential School system.”
The residential schools were not only a Canadian phenomenon. The U.S. had its own system of Native American boarding schools, particularly in the American West, that served a similar purpose as their Canadian counterparts. They suppressed indigenous customs, language, tribal names, in favor of an assimilationist and Christian ideology.
There has been no Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States, but Canada formed one to interrogate the “paternalistic and racist foundations of the residential school system.” But the wounds run deep. In May, the latest mass grave was uncovered on the site of an Indian Residential School, this one in British Columbia. It contained the bodies of 215 children who were students at the school.
NEW YORKER story:
Growing up on the central Alberta plains, Joe Buffalo viewed his Samson
Cree heritage as a source of pride: he could trace his bloodline, on his
mother’s side, to Chief Poundmaker, a revered nineteenth-century Cree
leader. At age eleven, he encountered a demoralizing reality of First
Nations life. Like his parents and grandparents before him, he was
shipped from his reserve to a residential school, one of many boarding
institutions set up by the Canadian government to, as one early founder
said, “kill the Indian in” indigenous children through Christian
reëducation. First in Edmonton and then in Lebret, Saskatchewan, Buffalo
endured stretches of up to a year away from his family and long days of
assimilationist indoctrination. At night, he shared a living space with
more than two hundred classmates stacked in bunk beds. He speaks about
the experience in “Joe Buffalo,” a documentary short directed by Amar
Chebib: “I could hear spirits in the walls from the dark history there. .
. . It definitely fucked me up.”
NPR: The Indian Child Welfare Act Faces Its Biggest Challenge Yet (featuring former ILPC staff attorney and current University of Idaho College of Law Asst. Prof. Neoshia Roemer!)
White House: A Proclamation on Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2021
Dawn Martin-Hill is a Mohawk woman and the first Indigenous cultural anthropologist in Canada. She lives at Six Nations of the Grand River and is this year’s keynote speaker at the Gandhi Peace Festival on Saturday.
The topic of this year’s free virtual festival was truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
Ahead of her lecture, The Spectator spoke with Martin-Hill about what she plans to discuss, her perception of the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and how society can move forward.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What is your lecture about?
I’ll look at the Great Law of Peace that our people have had for over 1,000 years, and our Thanksgiving address, which is our most ancient acknowledgement. It’s our worldview and has everything to do with our ecosystem and our environment.
It doesn’t matter what you reconcile if we’re destroying our future existence. Greed and exploitation is going to put us all in peril, and that’s something we can all relate to, especially young people.
Also, I’ll look at how the pillaging of lands and residential schools are the latest outcome of the Doctrine of Discovery. Before that, we had millions massacred, disease killing our crops, 50 million buffalo slaughtered so we would starve. They did everything they could so we wouldn’t exist, and the problem is we survived.
What do you hope people take away from your lecture?
We all knew about those babies who were buried in unmarked graves. We knew how much the Truth and Reconciliation Commission did in their investigation, and Canada is withholding the information that should speak to Canadians in very plain terms.
Think about the ways in which you’ve maybe treated or dismissed Indigenous peoples and their claims to land, their want to protect water, missing and murdered Indigenous women, the sterilization of Indigenous women, the economic apartheid. The fact that we’re not bitter and don’t want revenge is due to the philosophy of our people, the Great Law of Peace, to always move in the direction of hope and compassion, and try to change the minds of people — you greet those people and try to heal them and their minds.
Canadians need to reconcile with their own history of this country and come to terms with it, and figure out how to create a new legacy.
By doing nothing, you are part of the problem. You can’t say “get over it.”
How do you feel about the public’s response to Truth and Reconciliation Day?
Somebody putting an “Every Child Matters” sign on their door is something that, as an Indigenous person, you not only notice, but it really does move you because those are the ones who matter.
Those neighbours matter, not the government, the Pope and the bishops. The next door neighbour in Caledonia who their kids go to school with matter. The average citizen makes up this country, and they’re the most meaningful.
How can we be a more peaceful society?
Rescind the Doctrine of Discovery. Be compassionate, provide aid and assistance to those who need it, and support human beings. Most of all, support the land. We can’t live without water, without being able to grow food, without rain, without our air being clean. When you fracture parts of the Earth, you’re fracturing yourself.
Our environment will determine whether we can have peace or not.
You can stop climate change, don’t just accept it.
To listen to Martin-Hill’s lecture, visit gpsj.humanities.mcmaster.ca/gandhi-peace-festival/.
This awesome 3.5 minute video is created by comedian/writer Joey Clift (Cowlitz Indian Tribe) (Spirit Rangers, Molly from Denali).
As Canada began to shutter residential schools, the '60s Scoop began, a period when thousands of First Nations boys and girls were taken from their parents and placed in foster care with non-Indigenous families.
The unbroken cycle continues to this day, now called the Millennium Scoop.
“They have not learned the history of residential schools,” Cindy Blackstock, an activist for Indigenous child welfare and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada said. “They are repeating the same kind of government behaviours that led to those children suffering.”
According to the 2016 census, Indigenous children make up just 7.7 per cent of the child population, and yet 52.2 per cent of children in foster care are Indigenous.
First Nations children are apprehended by social services at 14 times the rate of non-Indigenous kids, and just under 15,000 Indigenous children under the age of 15 are in the foster care system.
Advocates say proper funding for housing, education and health care could eliminate many of the reasons governments cite for separating families to begin with.
Forty per cent of Indigenous children live in poverty, compared to seven per cent of non-Indigenous kids.
“For some inexplicable reason over the years, a system built up that just said the easiest thing to do is to take these children away from their families, and, you know, we look at that and say, that's not the answer to solving these problems,” Jane Philpott, former Indigenous Relations Minister, told CTV News.
An expansive report published last spring, called ‘Cash Back’, dove into how Canada has profited from Indigenous land while also chronically underfunding Indigenous communities.
It feeds into a toxic loop where Indigenous people are blamed if there is poverty in their communities, while receiving none of the support required to pull themselves out of that poverty. And then children are removed from homes deemed unsuitable, often because of poverty.
Yet, instead of investing more in Indigenous communities and organizations, Canada continues to fight Indigenous families in court, losing a pair of appeals yesterday on rulings relating to funding for Indigenous children.
“We want them to thrive as children, so let's funnel the monies that way,” Blackstock said. “And the good news is, for every dollar that government spends right now, it's going to save $18 downstream because healthy, happy kids grow into healthy, happy adults who don't need the level of public support as adults that someone who has been traumatized would.”
The ache that comes from being separated from family is far too familiar for many Indigenous people in this country — and it continues to perpetuate intergenerational trauma in exponential ways. Many in care today have parents who grew up in foster homes as well.
How to keep being an ally from the perspective of 2 Indigenous N.W.T.'ers
|Lawrence Norbert was among the first Grollier Hall students to come forward with the truth about abuse at residential schools. In 1998, Norbert and others who attended the residential school formed the Grollier Hall Residential School Healing Society. (Submitted by Lawrence Norbert)|
When Lawrence Norbert, a Gwichʼin from Tsiigehtchic in N.W.T., attended a Roman Catholic-run residential school as a child, he remembers having very little say in what he did, and he said it limited how much he could think for himself.
"Everything [was] all regimented. You wake up at this time, you have breakfast at this time, you have your chores at this time, you go to school at this time, you have your prayers again, supper and then you go back. And then you go to bed," he said.
"So, you get into this thinking that everything is being done for me. So there's no encouragement of thinking, there's no encouragement of questioning," he said. "It's all dependency thinking."
He said that was a part of the trauma and violence he and many others faced at residential schools, and that he had to work to overcome.
On Thursday, Canada observed its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which helped bring more attention to the ongoing trauma that Indigenous people faced and continue to face.
Norbert, who spoke with CBC's Loren McGinnis, host of The Trailbreaker, leading up to the day, said if non-Indigenous people want to be allies, they need to do their research to start fully understanding the impact the schools had.
And, he says, they can start by reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's final report. (Find all of the commission's multiple volumes of reports here or read the summary of the final report (585 pages) here. Paper copies are available at local libraries.)
"If you want to be allies, read that report," Norbert said.
"Read the whole report so that you get that real understanding of why we as Indigenous people who have gone through the residential school policy, have such a hard time dealing with your culture, your bureaucracy, your policies, your religion."
Norbert and other students who attended Grollier Hall, a residential school in Inuvik, N.W.T., formed a group in the late 90s to speak up about the abuses at residential school, and the injustices of that system. They fought for compensation for that abuse and became one of 10 groups in Canada whose efforts eventually led to the Indian residential school settlement agreement, which included the common experience payment, the independent assessment process and the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He suggests if people don't want to or can't read the full report, then they can try to read the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (full text here, 18 pages).
"If people want to be our allies, please, get informed, be aware. You don't have to atone for the sins of your father, but you know, I think the first step is not to repeat the sins of your fathers."
Pauline Tardiff, a residential school survivor living in Fort Smith, N.W.T., said it's not enough for non-Indigenous people to just hear what happened at the residential schools.
"My thoughts is that when a settler hears about what really happened in Canadian history, I think they should take on the responsibility of learning what that meant," she told The Trailbreaker.
That includes understanding the lasting trauma today that can cause other problems including addiction.
She pointed to the conflict in Yellowknife involving business owners, the city, the territorial government and other organizations over where a shelter should be located. Many shop owners have said having a shelter on the same street as them would drive away business.
"That's why I have a hard time understanding why the Yellowknife businesses don't think that it's important to acknowledge that this is a part of what happened to us," she said.
"People need to understand that residential schools ... isn't just about what happened long ago, it's still very prevalent today."
Marie Wilson, a former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said as a non-Indigenous person, it's important to always "turn back to the survivors themselves."
"I know there's a lot of disdain and sometimes growing discouragement around whether reconciliation is even possible, or whether it even has meaning or whether people believe in it and all that sort of thing," she said.
"What I know is that it was the survivors through their courageous court case and settlement agreement, that's the wording they used. They asked for truth, they said, the purpose of the truth was to contribute to the freeing of spirits and to the healing of individuals and families and community."
She also pointed out that the survivors say reconciliation is not just one thing.
"It's way more complicated than that," she said. "But what they said is that it is an ongoing, individual and collective process."
She added that involves survivors and their families, all levels of the government, the churches and the people of Canada.
"All of us," she said.
For now, Norbert said he's grateful that younger generations in his community won't face that same trauma he and countless others did.
"Here in Tsiigehtchic, I see young parents, they spend so much time with their kids out on the land, just about every weekend. You see boats going up or down the rivers," he said.
"It just warms my heart because you know, their kids don't have to experience what we've experienced."
Thousands of people in orange shirts flocked to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights SEPT 30 in Winnipeg to honour residential school survivors and the children lost to them.
Leading that march was 7-year-old Tatum Mentuck.
“My grandpa was in residential and I’m walking for him and for all the kids who didn’t make it home,” said Tatum.
The trail of orange shirts made their way down Portage Ave. and ended at St. John’s Park, with powwows going all day.
Lori Abraham is the Indigenous program director at 1justcity – a drop-in centre for disenfranchised people.
Abraham helped organized transportation for those people yesterday and said she was moved to tears by all the people.
“Being a witness for what is happening here today has moved me to understand that our community and our nation is moving forward in compassion and understanding,” said Abraham.
Throughout the day, many survivors told their stories.
“This is just part of a bigger picture of what we’ve lost,” said Marcel French, a ‘60s Scoop survivor. (video)
French says he hopes the sea of orange shirts and momentum from National Day for Truth and Reconciliation continues.
“My hope is that it doesn’t end after today,” he said. “And when they leave here, they can remember in the following days and weeks.
|Janice Howe's grandchild Derrin Yellow Robe, 3,
stands in his great-grandparents' back yard on the Crow Creek
Reservation in South Dakota. Along with his twin sister and two older
sisters, he was taken off the reservation by South Dakota's Department
of Social Services in July of 2009. READ|
It took over a year and a half for Erin Yellow Robe, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, to be reunited with her children. Based on an unsubstantiated rumor that Erin was misusing prescription pills, authorities took custody of her children and placed them with white foster parents — despite the federal Indian Child Welfare Act’s requirements and the willingness of relatives and tribal members to care for the children.
For white families, these scenarios typically do not lead to child welfare involvement. For Black and Indigenous families, they often lead to years — potentially a lifetime — of ensnarement in the child welfare system or, as some are now more appropriately calling it, the family regulation system.
Our country’s latest reckoning with structural racism has involved critical reflection on the role of the criminal justice system, education policy, and housing practices in perpetuating racial inequity. The family regulation system needs to be added to this list, along with the algorithms working behind the scenes. That’s why the ACLU has conducted a nationwide survey to learn more about these tools.
Women and children who are Indigenous, Black, or experiencing poverty are disproportionately placed under child welfare’s scrutiny. Once there, Indigenous and Black families fare worse than their white counterparts at nearly every critical step. These disparities are partly the legacy of past social practices and government policies that sought to tear apart Indigenous and Black families. But the disparities are also the result of the continued policing of women in recent years through child welfare practices, public benefits laws, the failed war on drugs, and other criminal justice policies that punish women who fail to conform to particular conceptions of “fit mothers.”
Many child welfare agencies have begun turning to risk assessment tools for reasons ranging from wanting the ability to predict which children are at higher risk for maltreatment to improving agency operations. Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has been using the Allegheny Family Screening Tool (AFST) since 2016. The AFST generates a risk score for complaints received through the county’s child maltreatment hotline by looking at whether certain characteristics of the agency’s past cases are also present in the complaint allegations. Key among these characteristics are family member demographics and prior involvement with the county’s child welfare, jail, juvenile probation, and behavioral health systems. Intake staff then use this risk score as an aide in deciding whether or not to follow up on a complaint with a home study or a formal investigation, or to dismiss it outright.
Like their criminal justice analogues, however, child welfare risk assessment tools do not predict the future. For instance, a recidivism risk assessment tool measures the odds that a person will be arrested in the future, not the odds that they will actually commit a crime. Just as being under arrest doesn’t necessarily mean you did something illegal, a child’s removal from the home, often the target of a prediction model, doesn’t necessarily mean a child was in fact maltreated.
We examined how many jurisdictions across the 50 states, D.C., and U.S. territories are using one category of predictive analytics tools: models that systematically use data collected by jurisdictions’ public agencies to attempt to predict the likelihood that a child in a given situation or location will be maltreated. Here’s what we found:
Despite the growing popularity of these tools, few families or advocates have heard about them, much less provided meaningful input into their development and use. Yet countless policy choices and value judgments are made in the course of creating and using the tool, any or all of which can impact whether the tool promotes “fairness” or reduces racial disproportionality in agency action.
Moreover, like the tools we have seen in the criminal legal system, any tool built from a jurisdiction’s historical data runs the risk of continuing and increasing existing bias. Historically over-regulated and over-separated communities may get caught in a feedback loop that quickly magnifies the biases in these systems. Who decides what “high risk” means? When a caseworker sees a “high” risk score for a Black person, do they respond in the same way as they would for a white person?
Ultimately, we must ask whether these tools are the best way to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, when such funds are urgently needed to help families avoid the crises that lead to abuse and neglect allegations.
It’s critical that we interrogate these tools before they become entrenched, as they have in the criminal justice system. Information about the data used to create a predictive algorithm, the policy choices embedded in the tool, and the tool’s impact both system-wide and in individual cases are some of the things that should be disclosed to the public before a tool is adopted and throughout its use. In addition to such transparency, jurisdictions need to make available opportunities to question and contest a tool’s implementation or application in a specific instance if our policymakers and elected officials are to be held accountable for the rules and penalties enforced through such tools.
In this vein, the ACLU has requested data from Allegheny County and other jurisdictions to independently evaluate the design and impact of their predictive analytics tools and any measures they may be taking to address fairness, due process, and civil liberty concerns.
It’s time that all of us ask our local policymakers to end the unnecessary and harmful policing of families through the family regulation system.
Read the full white paper:
We need you with us to keep fighting
The ICWA was enacted in 1978 to help keep Native American children in Native American homes. In ICWA cases, the first preference for placement is that the child go to an extended family member, even if the relative is non-Native. Second preference is someone within the child’s tribe; third preference is another tribe.
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians of California and the Quinault Indian Nation of Washington are petitioning the Supreme Court to request the bill remain intact.
The state of Texas is challenging the constitutionality of ICWA, claiming it’s a race-based system that makes it more difficult for Native kids to be adopted or fostered into non-Native homes.
ICWA does make it more difficult for children to be adopted or fostered into non-Native homes. But the welfare and futures of the children should be considered before turning them over to non-Native homes where their lives could be drastically different than what they are used to.
The bill was enacted to quell the high rate of Native American children’s removal from their traditional homes, culture, language and dress.
We believe children should be cared for by family when possible and Native citizens when family is not available. That's the best way for their culture to remain intact — to grow up knowing who they are, their background and the history of their people that should never be forgotten.
Fifty-one-year-old Lori-Ann Lucas made a discovery that filled a void she says she’d long looked to fill in her life. She was a part of the ’60s Scoop. Abigail Turner reports.
“I always felt a little different and I could never put my finger on it. I knew there was just something — I belonged, but I didn’t belong.”
Lucas is adopted. Three months ago she began searching for her birth family.
She discovered her adoption papers, including her birth mother’s name. Using social media, she posted the papers online and asked for help connecting her with relatives.
“When the first one came in and they told me about how we’re related, I literally dropped to my knees and just started crying and I went, ‘These are the pieces that I’m missing.’”
TORONTO -- A father and son embarked on a 1,000-kilometre journey, on foot, retracing the path their ancestors took when they escaped the residential school system.
Alan Harrington and 13-year-old Nation Harrington are on a mission to promote accountability of the Catholic Church.
Each step, from Kanehsatake, a settlement in southwestern Quebec, to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., is being taken in memory of the children who went to residential schools, they say.
“The first day was approximately 28 to 30 kilometres,” Alan told CTV National News.
The pair walk up to eight hours per day while hauling 70 pounds of gear. People in the towns they walk through have taken notice, saying “hello” and giving them water. One hotel even put them up for a night.
Their final destination is what was once the Shingwauk Indian Residential School. They expect to reach the site by Sept. 28
“My biological father and mother were part of [the residential school system],” Alan said. “When they came back from that, they weren’t able to take care of us kids.”
He and his siblings were taken from their home and adopted out as part of the ‘60s Scoop, a period during which an estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families between the 1950s and the 1980s, given new names and placed with non-Indigenous families, some of them outside Canada.
As a result, Alan says he struggled with identity issues, something he doesn’t want his son to experience.
“With my son here, he’s able to, you know, break that cycle,” he said. “This whole journey is about getting there, but also for him and I to connect together as father and son.”
Nation has brought along his lacrosse stick and a flag to post at the former residential school to mark their journey. He says the walk has been a learning experience for him.
“It’s teaching me what my great-great-grandfather felt when he was walking back,” he told CTV National News.
A prominent Canadian arm of the Catholic Church apologized for the first time on Friday for the horrors that occurred in residential schools it ran for the federal government for more than a century.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement acknowledging what it described as "grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community" at the schools, as well as the residential school system's "suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality."
While individual priests and bishops have apologized for the church's role in running the schools, there had never been an official apology from the Canadian Catholic hierarchy until Friday. The Vatican has also never formally apologized, despite calls to do so.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Ryan Flanagan
MMIWG cases: Thunder Bay, Ontario: watch below
WIIKWEMKOONG – Many of the milestones that have passed over the past year-and-a-half would have been recognized by large gatherings of celebration, but were forced to move online due to COVID-19. The digital venue did not deter nearly 100 attendees of the 30th Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services annual general meeting, however, as board members, staff and parents gathered to mark the organization’s transition 30 years ago from an ad hoc grassroots group of concerned parents and teachers into a major force in the care and protection of Indigenous youth and families.
The meeting was opened by Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services chair Kevin Mossip who introduced the 86 attendees before turning the microphone over to elder Gerry Kaboni for an opening benediction in Anishinabemowin. Drum group Down to Earth then provided a welcoming song.
One of the founders of Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services, elder and retired educator Marion Pitawanakwat recalled the beginnings of the organization and provided a window into what the world was like for Anishinaabe in the early ‘60s when she began her career.
“In 1962 the Indian agent approved me to supply teach,” she recalled. She spoke of her mother, who owned a store at the time and was one of the few employers available in Wiikwemkoong. Her mother would send some of the women who came seeking employment to Ms. Pitawanakwat. “I would write a note for them for what they needed from the store,” she said. It was usually Klik and bread. Ms. Pitawanakwat spoke of how the women coming to her were terrified that their children would be taken away from them. This was the time of the infamous ‘60s Scoop.
“The teachers in the provincial schools were always watching the Native kids,” she said. If the children came to school without a proper lunch or their clothes not clean and tidy, a visit from the child protection agency, Sudbury Family Alliance, would soon follow and the children whisked away, almost certainly to a white foster home. “Very few people in the community had jobs back then,” she said. “Many of the men only had seasonal jobs.”
Ms. Pitawanakwat recalled how, when a non-Native person would come into her classroom, the children would cower beneath her desk. “They had been taught to fear white people, they were always told to hide when they saw white people,” she recalled. Their terror was so real that she would not make the children come out until the white individual had left. That terror was not unfounded.
“When the truant officer from Indian Affairs would come to the school, they were not interested in anything other than the registry book,” she said. If a child had missed too many days for being sick, notes were taken and soon after the children would be seized from the home.
Ms. Pitawanakwat went on to teacher’s college in 1974 and began teaching full-time. In 1975 she was promoted to principal.
She became involved in the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre at Anderson Lake (just outside Espanola). She recalled how the women would cook for the workers constructing the centre. “That was when I met women from other reserves, places like Cutler, Sagamok and Birch Island and other Island people—especially from Wiikwemkoong.”
In talking to women from other communities, Ms. Pitawanakwat soon learned that she was not alone in what she was seeing in child care and protection services.
“All of the women whose children were in the provincial schools were afraid of losing their children,” she recalled. “We got together and formed a committee. Leona Nahwegahbow was one of the women, she was teaching Kindergarten at the time. We decided we couldn’t keep losing our children like this.”
The group eventually became a formal institution, filing as a non-profit so that they could access funding sources. “We found we could get funding from INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada),” she said. Despite some initial cynicism, the group was delighted when they heard the news. “We got it!” said Ms. Pitawanakwat.
That was just the start of the long battle for recognition and support.
“We asked the chiefs to come to a meeting,” she said. The initial meeting at the high school saw only two chiefs come. “Leona mentioned that maybe we should reach out to the Grand Chief of the Union of Ontario Indians (now the Anishinabek Nation).” With the grand chief on their side, the next meeting saw a much greater take-up. (That grand chief, she noted, went on to pass the bar exam and become a lawyer.) “We were his first job,” she laughed. “To this day I don’t know if we paid him enough.”
From there things took off, with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising later taking over the helm. Despite that support it still took many years before Kina secured the role of child protection agency for Northern Indigenous communities.
Receiving recognition for five years of service were Ginger Radey, Heather Corbiere, John Ferguson, Kendra Makitalo, Kora-Lyn Paulin, Mike McCormick, Wendy Debassige, Shanah Pitawanakwat, Dawna Lee Chartrand and Anita McGregor-Aelick.
Receiving recognition for 10 years of service were Denise Morrow, Scott Madahbee and Miranda Corbiere.
Retiring board member Maureen (Tish) Manitowabi was recognized for her 15 years of service to the organization and singled out for special acknowledgement.
“Chi-miigwetch for letting me be with the board,” said Ms. Manitowabi in an emotional farewell. “It was hard,” she said of the challenges that were faced, but added she was “glad we supported each other.”
Whitefish River First Nation elder Leona Nahwegahbow was recognized for her years of service as a board member, since 1989, and the key role she played in ensuring the success of the organization and ongoing support. Mr. Mossip was cited for his 11 years as board chair and his key role in governance support.
The new community representative board members for Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services are Ogimaa-kwe Patsy Corbiere for Aundeck Omni Kaning, Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige for M’Chigeeng, Chief Andrew Aguonie for Sheguiandah, Chief Dean Roy for Sheshegwaning, Chief Shining Turtle for Whitefish River, acting Chief Tom Ominika for Wiikwemkoong and Chief Irene Kells for Zhiibaahaasing.
The closing song was offered by Thunder Earth Drum Group.
David A. Robertson, a Cree author based in Winnipeg, writes books for readers of all ages. He has published 25 books across a variety of genres, including the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls, a Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book called When We Were Alone, illustrated by Julie Flett, and The Reckoner, a YA trilogy.
Here are some books by Indigenous authors to get you started on
your learning journey. Please keep in mind that this is not an
exhaustive list. There are more stories out there.
And the podcast ALL MY RELATIONS is Wonderful! LISTEN
The Justice Department is protecting the names of many perpetrators of abuse of Indigenous children.— Charlie Angus NDP (@CharlieAngusNDP) July 8, 2021
We need a special independent prosecutor who can force the government and church to turn over the documents.
There can be no reconciliation without justice.@MumilaaqQaqqaq pic.twitter.com/5TL6OxKM5O
This is a map of every residential "school" site in Canada.— Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (@MumilaaqQaqqaq) June 24, 2021
Every dot is a crime scene.
Only a few have been investigated so far.
Canada, do not get used to these numbers.
Do not let them become statistics.
Put yourselves in the shoes of these children in the ground. pic.twitter.com/5XJS1w1ka2