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Friday, February 25, 2022

Michelle Good's Five Little Indians is a look at the legacy and trauma of Canada's residential school system


Christian Allaire is defending Five Little Indians by Michelle Good on Canada Reads 2022

Five Little Indians is a novel by Michelle Good. (HarperCollins, Silken Sellinger Photography)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details. 

Michelle Good is a writer, retired lawyer and a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Her poems, short stories and essays have been published in magazines and anthologies across Canada. 

Good's debut novel Five Little Indians is a bestselling book that chronicles the quest of five residential school survivors — Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie — to come to terms with their past and find a way forward. Released after years of detention, the five teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn't want them.

Five Little Indians won the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award and the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. The novel has also been optioned by Prospero Pictures to be adapted to screen as a limited TV series

Five Little Indians will be championed by the journalist and author Christian Allaire on Canada Reads 2022.

Canada Reads will take place March 28-31. The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio One, CBC TV, CBC Gem and on CBC Books.

In May 2021, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C., uncovered the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The news has had an emotional effect on Good, who is currently based in southern British Columbia. She spoke with Shelagh Rogers about why she wrote Five Little Indians — and why the legacy of Canada's residential school system stays with her.

Calls to action

"That first weekend after the Kamloops announcement was really rough. I told a friend of mine that I felt catatonic after that announcement. It's not because we didn't know. We did know. People have been talking about this for years and years. But there's never been any support to resolve this, to do what the band has done themselves. 

"But the thing that really, really bothers me — and it actually infuriates me and I try to stay away from being infuriated — is in 2015, when the Truth and Reconciliation report was issued, there are six calls to action, 71 through 76, that are up here under the heading of 'missing children and burial information.'

"Murray Sinclair and the other commissioners basically gave the federal government a roadmap for how to address this issue through those calls to action. They developed a budget to go with it. And the federal government said no.

I would bet you my bottom dollar, you're going to find one of these grave sites virtually at every residential school.

"So when I hear the prime minister speaking about how 'all children matter' and flying the flags at half mast, it's a lovely symbolic gesture. But it does nothing. What they need to be doing is providing the resources, the expertise and the support. 

"They need to protect these lands. I would bet you my bottom dollar, you're going to find these grave sites at virtually every residential school."

The half-life of trauma

"There was a reason that I chose to pick up the story upon the release of the characters, whether it's escape or when they age out or whatever. Through all of the work that's been done in the form of memoir, in the form of the Truth and Reconciliation report, I think that there is some understanding of the nature of the abuse that children suffered. 

"What was missing was how that trauma has a half-life that continues for generation upon generation upon generation. When people ask that question, 'Why can't they just get over it?' I've started to transpose that into another question, which is, 'What is it that they're asking us to forget and get over?'

We simply cannot forget 120 years of colonial brutality.

"It was 120 years of taking every school-aged child from our community — from their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings. Are they asking us to forget that? And how could we? 

'It's had such an impact on the integrity of our cultural cohesion, which was the intent. So, no, we simply cannot forget 120 years of colonial brutality."

Creating community

"I went to the MFA program at UBC to write this book — but I had no idea what I was doing or what it was going to look like. It started with Kenny; it started with me writing about those first pages with that character. 

One of the impacts of this kind of a real struggle to maintain meaningful relationships in your life.

"I immediately realized that I needed more characters because to be able to express the scope, the range of injury that was suffered by kids, I needed more than one person. There were so many forms of abuse: abuse that was specific to young girls, and abuse that was specific to young boys. 

"One of the impacts is a real struggle to maintain meaningful relationships in your life. So that was another thing that I wanted to demonstrate through the relationships between the characters. But the other thing is that when you have five characters, you have a community. And that's what these kids were to each other.

"They created a community for each other."

This week the Governor General's award for literary fiction was given to Michelle Good for her debut novel about residential school survivors. Breakaway guest host Peter Tardif talks with her about the book and the recent discovery in Kamloops, B.C. 9:30

What stays with me

"The characters from the novel have been in my life for many years. They came to feel like my kids, as though they were my children. I still find myself reaching for them in my mind. 

"Many, many survivors have reached out to me and given me some very strong and supportive feedback. They've told me that they could see themselves in these stories and that they were grateful to have these stories out in the world — for the same purpose that I have in putting them out in the world. 

The characters from the novel have been in my life for many years...I still find myself reaching for them in my mind.

"That, more than anything, is really, really satisfying."

Support is available to anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and to those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Healing through Indigenous crafting #60sScoop

A two-tone buffalo hide drum is one of Brenda Mercer's favourite creations. She feels it is a reflection of her life, having been born to an Indigenous mother but raised by a non-Indigenous family, only to reconnect with her heritage later in life

Stitch by stitch, Brenda Mercer brings people together in an act of reconciliation, healing and acknowledgement of Indigenous crafting tradition.

Mercer, the cultural co-ordinator at the Miywasin Friendship Centre and founder of White Horse Rider Co., enjoys sharing her passion for creating handmade Indigenous items, such as drums, rattles, earrings, keepsake pouches and more. She regularly teaches crafting at the Miywasin Centre and around the city. She has also been featured in shows like the Tongue on the Post Folk Music Festival and at the local TREX Space.

Mercer, who was removed from her birth mother and raised by a non-Indigenous family as part of the 60s Scoop, is entirely self-taught in the art of Indigenous crafting. She began learning in her 20s as a way to connect with her Indigenous heritage.

“I just needed to learn more about my culture,” Mercer told the News. “I think if you’re not raised in your culture, you have that yearning. You want to know, ‘Where am I from?'”

Not only is crafting a way to connect with a culture she was removed from, it also acts as a form of healing for Mercer, who was one of five Indigenous children in her Saskatchewan hometown, and as a result faced prejudice from certain non-Indigenous peers and town residents.

“It’s really brought a lot of healing to me because it was so hard being a 60s Scooper,” Mercer said.”Because I was raised in both worlds, I really believe (crafting) is a bridge and a connector.”

While Mercer is often considered a local expert on Indigenous crafts, she admits she is still learning about the crafting processes and the significance of each item.

“It’s a lot by trial and error when you don’t have people to teach you,” she said, “I started making drums, probably 15 years ago. I really liked it. I knew I wanted to do more, but when we did the drums, we didn’t get any teachings, it was just, make a drum. So I didn’t know what it symbolized or what it meant.”

Through her own journey to learn, Mercer realized she enjoyed sharing her knowledge with others and finds crafting and art-making are a non-threatening and inviting way to spark conversations about healing and reconciliation.

“Some of the best conversations I’ve had at Miywasin crafting is when we’re looking down (while working) and then you don’t feel like you have to look up, you can just talk and you make that connection and talk about some deep things,” she said. “We all need to connect as people more.”

Since she first started sharing her knowledge Mercer has noticed an increase in the number of people who wish to learn and listen, particularly non-Indigenous people.

“I see a lot more people wanting to engage,” she said. “I think it really started after the 215 (Indigenous children’s graves were unearthed at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops).”

Mercer is happy to see the increased engagement and hopes as more people learn of Indigenous crafting and artistry traditions, more will begin taking part.

“I think it’s important because I want to teach my kids and my grandkids, because if not, it stops here. It would be really nice to keep that tradition,” she said.

In an effort to stay true to the traditional crafting processes, Mercer usually uses materials purchased from Indigenous-owned stores, such as sinew and wild hides, but encourages creativity when it comes to using the items, as believes each item made is both a reflection of the individual making it and a connection to the Indigenous peoples long passed.

“Each person can create their own. I can guide them and then they can add whatever they want,” she said.

For Mercer, the most important feature of her creations is love.

“Everything I make, I make with love and good intentions,” she said. “I like the element of surprise. I go to Superstore sometimes, I’ll be in the line with somebody in front of me and I’ll go ‘Oh my goodness, I love your hair.’ I know, they’ve got 30 seconds before they check out, so I’ll pull some earrings out of my bag and I go ‘I want to gift you these earrings. I made them with all my love and best intentions.'”

While Mercer does sell her items online at the White Horse Rider Co., Etsy store, she still prefers to gift them out.

“I really like gifting people part of our culture,” she said.

For more information about Indigenous crafting and artistry, healing or reconciliation, Mercer invites Hatters to come to the Miywasin Centre or connect with her via phone at 403-878-5548.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

'Keep digging'

 Survivor has advice for officials probing possible graves at former residential school: 'Keep digging'

The 54 'hits' from ground-penetrating radar are just the start: Elaine Durocher

Elaine Durocher, a survivor of the St. Philip's Residential School in Keeseekoose, Sask., says she thinks searchers need to "keep digging" in Keeseekoose, where ground-penetrating radar has revealed 54 potential unmarked graves. (Andrew Lee/CBC News)

Warning: this story contains disturbing content 

Elaine Durocher, a Métis survivor of the St. Philip's Residential School, in Keeseekoose, Sask. was enrolled in the institution in the mid-1960s as a day student.

A child of the Sixties Scoop, she was born in Buffalo Narrows, Sask., more than 600 kilometres away from Keeseekoose. Durocher spent time with an adopted family before her mother was able to take her back into her care. She lived with her stepfather in Keeseekoose when she entered the residential school.

Though Durocher didn't live at the institution 24 hours a day as some of her "residential" peers, she knows firsthand the worst horrors experienced by those who were taken into the residential school system because of the time she spent there. 

She previously shared her experiences of sexual assault and abuse she experienced at the hands of teachers and peers through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The commission found sexual abuse was widespread at the institution in Keeseekoose through the 1960s.

Durocher says the 54 potential grave sites found through the survey conducted at Keeseekoose shows her the number of missing children due to the residential school system is much higher than previously assumed.

"If you say 54 at St. Philip's, why don't you say 5,400; they had three reserves to pick and choose from, who they wanted. They had Key reserve, Cote reserve and Keeseekoose reserve," Durocher said. 


B.C. First Nation to search for children who didn’t come home from Alert Bay residential school

Dried flowers rest inside a pair of child's running shoes at a memorial for the 215 children whose remains were found at the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School at Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C., on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, June 4, 2021. A British Columbia First Nation located off coast of northeastern Vancouver Island says it has started an investigation into the grounds of a former residential institution, following similar inquiries by a number of nations across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang. 
Dried flowers rest inside a pair of child's running shoes at a memorial for the 215 children whose remains were found at the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School at Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C., on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, June 4, 2021. A British Columbia First Nation located off coast of northeastern Vancouver Island says it has started an investigation into the grounds of a former residential institution, following similar inquiries by a number of nations across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang. JDT/

Warning: This story deals with disturbing subject matter that may upset and trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.

A British Columbia First Nation located off the coast of northeastern Vancouver Island says it has started an investigation on the grounds of a former residential school, looking for the remains of children who didn’t return home.

A statement from ‘Namgis First Nation, located near Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, says its investigation into the former St. Michael’s Indian Residential School will happen in phases, starting with hiring a project manager to help the nation access funding and plan how to engage survivors.

It says survivors from 45 different nations will be invited to take part to help guide the examination of the grounds at the institution that first opened as a day school in 1878 and closed as a residential building in 1974.


Keeseekoose First Nation says 54 potential graves at former Saskatchewan residential schools

 Healing is not a political event 


Keeseekoose First Nation in eastern Saskatchewan says 54 potential graves have been found through ground-penetrating radar at the site of two former residential schools.

The chief says the graves were discovered on the grounds of St. Philip’s Indian Residential School and the Fort Pelly Indian Residential School.

“It’s going to be a very tough time for our community, knowing that we had unmarked graves in our community, in our common areas, that we drive every day, that we walk every day,” said Chief Lee Kitchemonia.

Ted Quewezance, project leader, said the ground-penetrating radar had 42 hits suggesting the possibility of unmarked graves on the Fort Pelly site and another 12 at St. Philip’s school.

Quewezance, a former chief who attended the schools, said the discovery supports what people from the community have been saying for years.

“It was not that they could not hear, but they did not believe our survivors,” Quewezance said.

Fort Pelly school ran from 1905 to 1913 on the First Nation near Kamsack, Sask.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) said the principal was fired in 1911 after it was reported he was drunk and threatening everyone at the school. After it was closed, a day school opened in the same building.

The NCTR found St. Philip’s school had a widespread problem with sexual and physical abuse, which led to the dismissal of a school supervisor over the mistreatment of students during the school’s final decade.

St. Philip’s was run by the Roman Catholic Church from about 1927 to 1969 and has been described by survivors as hellish.

“These are not just instances where a principal or a teacher disciplined. These could potentially be murdered children, hidden,” Kitchemonia said. “We don’t know any of these answers.”

St. Philip’s survivor Fred Brass told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which documented stories from survivors from across the country, that the school was dominated by a violent regime of punishment. He said he lived in fear of abuse day and night.

“I saw my brother with his face held to a hot steaming pipe and then getting burned on the arm by a supervisor,” he said.

The TRC, which issued a final report in 2015, has a record of two student deaths at St. Philip’s and two at Fort Pelly.

An estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children attended residential schools between the 1860s and 1996. The TRC documented at least 4,100 deaths.

Read More: 

Williams Lake research leads investigators into ‘darkest recesses of human behaviour 

Cowesses identifies 300 of 751 unmarked graves 

The St. Philip’s building at Keeseekoose, not far from the Saskatchewan-Manitoba boundary, was used as a boarding house for students from 1902 to 1914 before being closed due to poor conditions.

It was reopened in 1927 as a residential school.

In the TRC’s final report, Elaine Durocher said as soon as she entered the residential school “the abuse started right away.”

“We were stripped, taken up to a dormitory, stripped. Our hair was sprayed ? We were always praying. We were always on our knees. We were told we were little, stupid savages, and that they had to educate us,” Durocher said about her time at St. Philip’s school.

She said she received no meaningful education at the school.

“They were there to discipline you, teach you, beat you, rape you, molest you, but I never got an education.”

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.


more here

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Adoptee Rights Podcast


Welcome to What Next:The Adoptee Rights Podcast. Each week we’ll talk about the state of adoptee rights and all that it is—or isn’t. We’ll feature state and federal legislative updates, interviews, and legal developments, plus we’ll discuss the frequent absurdities and complications of being an adopted person.

Join AU’s Gregory Luce and his guests each week as they discuss the state of adoptee rights. Fun and informative, with a constant bottom line of equality for all adopted people.

Latest Episode: Ireland

Greg talks with Claire McGettrick and Mari Steed about Ireland’s history of adoption and original birth records—which have always been public records—and the decades-long fight for Irish-born adopted people to secure the right to obtain all records related to their own identities and history.

You can read more about this issue and Claire and Mari’s work at Adoption Rights Alliance, which is also a partner in the rights-based research work of the CLANN Project.

And check out Claire and Mari’s (and others’) recent book, Ireland and the Magdalene Laundries: A Campaign for Justice, which provides “an overview of the social, cultural and political contexts of institutional survivor activism, the Irish State’s response culminating in the McAleese Report, and the formation of the Justice for Magdalenes campaign, a volunteer-run survivor advocacy group.”

Previous Episode: Omelette

Greg travels to Wisconsin for a legislative hearing and meets Diana Higgenbottom Anagnostopoulos, as well as other advocates, legislative staffers, and legislators.

Diana’s remarkable story is highlighted in this week’s episode, and we talk about the documentary film being produced about her life, the hard work of showing up for adoptee rights advocacy, and what it takes to keep moving forward in the face of adversity. Plus, what she means by the three-egg omelette of adoption.

Follow/Subscribe/Rate and all that on SpotifyAppleGoogle PodcastsPocket Casts



Thursday, February 17, 2022

Words to Love By...

👉I am reading this book WORDS TO LOVE BY to heal (TL Hentz)

Source: Poetry (June 2018)

Love Lessons in a Time of Settler Colonialism

I am not murdered, and I am not missing, but parts of me have been disappeared.
— Leanne Simpson

They too know all too well that some cracks were built just for us to fall through.
 We live in a world that tries to steal spirits each day; they steal ours by taking us away.

From Industrial Schools to forced assimilation, genocide means removal 
of those who birth nations — our living threatens. Colonization has been choking

us for generations. I tell my girls they are vessels of spirit, air to lungs expanding; this world cannot breathe without us. There are days 
I wish

I didn’t have to teach these lessons, but as an Indigenous womxn 
silence is deadening. There is danger in being seen, our bodies are targets

marked for violence. We carry the Earth’s me too inside us, 
a howling wind, our mothers & their mothers swallowed these bullets long ago.

The voices ricochet I wish I were invisible I wish I were invisible 
I wish echoes
 in my eardrums — we know what it’s like to live in fear. Colonialism’s bullet sits cocked,

waiting behind a finger on trigger. We breathe and speak and sing
 for survival. We carve out in lines; we write — I know joy I know pain I know love

I know love I know — lessons we’ve carried throughout time. Should I go missing: don’t stop searching; drag every river until it turns red and the waters of our names

stretch a flood so wide it catches everything. And we find each other whole and sacred, alive and breathing and breathing and breathing.

Uncharted Territory of Grief

Summers meant sticking my arm out the back of a rez car.
No other windows rolled down.
Consequences of a mechanic, some stranger’s
calloused hands left us with sticky summers, sweat
dripping from our foreheads.

I waved to make-believe
friends and hungry ghosts. My arms danced
against the wind, taking comfort in
the resistance of warm desert air.

The ghosts sang along as Journey’s
keys and bass blared through
a battery-powered boombox.
The car hugged the highway curves like a child
holding its mom’s hand, afraid to walk alone in the dark.

Our grandmothers told us stories of the desert,
how giant serpents laid on mountains
to create canyons. Imagine earth crunching
under the weight of unbearable sadness.
Imagine what it feels like to collapse
into an uncharted territory of grief.

As young girls we learned the tale
of a mother who cried so many tears
she created a lake in the middle of the desert.
Today she sits in stone beneath a star-stitched sky,
holding up the otherwise untethered blue.

Last month, I read an orca gave birth
to a female calf who died thirty minutes
after entering our world. The orca carried her dead
calf for 17 days. Tethered by grief, hers the price
paid for love and loving.

                               At 34, my sister gives birth
to her first child, a winter-born boy.
In recovery, my sister asks if she can walk yet.
Her nurse says, “Wait until your legs are yours again.”

I wonder who and what I’ve carried
and carry for days, months, for years. Grandmother,
take me back to your childhood, where you sang
“Blue Moon” in boarding school, where you won
the talent show.
                                         Take me back to 17,
when my back first curved into an S—
the serpent inside me coiled under grief,
my scoliosis stopping any sports
outside of prayers and inside dreams.
I wish we’d had more time.

Take me back to the day my fingers learned the blues
until chords calloused their tips,
the electric progression of “Ain’t Got No Home”
etched into my body’s memory.

Take me back to when we were all children
given songs to sing. The ones you proclaimed
were anthems, predictions for how we would love.

Take me back to when
we were all children saying
let’s pretend. We’d yet to swim
through grief. Our spirits hadn’t been crushed
by fists breaking through bedroom walls
and I could still hold your hand in the dark.
Let’s pretend our ghosts have been fed.
Let’s make-believe our hearts are
ours so we can walk again.

Reverse the journey, playback
the boombox, rewind the cassette tape
to our favorite part where we all sing along
         to the na na na nas,
until my lungs can remember what it’s like to breathe
in a world where you are still here
and I am still waving at ghosts
through the back window, singing:
now it’s your turn girl to cry.
Source: Poetry (March 2021)

About Tanaya Winder

Poet, writer, and educator Tanaya Winder is an enrolled member of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and has ancestors from the Southern Ute, Pyramid Lake Paiute, Navajo, and Black tribes.

In an interview with Zingara Poetry Review, Winder notes, “I am a person who hopes my own writing and poetry reflects the times and the needs of society; without interacting with the community the poetry cannot attempt to reflect communities and so I believe poetry must intersect with community. Poetry has the potential to create community for people who are searching for it by providing a space to interact and share experiences on the page.”

Winder cofounded As/Us, an online journal devoted to writers of color; cofounded the traveling exhibit Sing Our Rivers Red to raise awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women; and founded Dream Warriors Management, a company that manages indigenous artists. The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development named her one of “40 Under 40” emerging American Indian leaders, and she was a 2017 First Peoples Fund Artists in Business Leadership fellow.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Hard truths about the ’60s scoop

- Philip Cox


Author, community organizer and social justice advocate Colleen Hele-Cardinal, a Nehiyaw Iskwew from Onihcikiskowapowin Saddle Lake Cree First Nation Alberta, reflected upon her experiences growing up in a non-Indigenous household as a ‘60s scoop adoptee on Feb. 11 with Humanities Dean Annalee Lepp on a virtual stage for Humanities Reads: Colleen Hele-Cardinal, the keynote event of UVic’s fourth annual Humanities Week.

Hele-Cardinal is a co-founder of the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network and a public figure who speaks candidly about the connections between murdered and missing Indigenous women, colonial violence, racism and the Indigenous child welfare system.

Her latest project, In Our Own Words: Mapping the ‘60s Scoop Diaspora, provides a mapping tool for visualizing the displacement of ‘60s scoop survivors across the globe, a platform to share personal stories and experiences and a database for survivors and their families looking to reconnect with one another.

Coleen read from her book, Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised somewhere else): A ‘60s Scoop Adoptee’s Story of Coming Home and discussed the themes raised within it with Lepp before engaging in a live Q&A with the audience.

Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh powerfully confronts the legacy of colonialism in Canada by telling hard truths about the ‘60s scoop based on the author’s personal experiences,” says Lepp. “We are honoured to welcome Colleen Hele-Cardinal to UVic and to have this opportunity to listen and have a conversation with her about her work.”

Film draws link between residential schools and violence against Indigenous women


A new Saskatchewan film is drawing a direct link between government policies of the residential school era, to the 60s Scoop, to the current rash of violence against Indigenous women.

Everything is Connected was funded by a number of organizations including the First Nations University Canada, the Amiskusees Semeganis Worme Family Foundation and the federal government.

The stories are all different, but they all have one thing in common.

Indian Children and Their Guardians ad Litem (GALs)


BABY Veronica :  Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

From the Turtle Talk blog:

North Carolina Supreme Court on Reason to Know [ICWA]

by Kate Fort

 (click headline)

Fletcher & Fort: “Indian Children and Their Guardians ad Litem”

Kate Fort and I published a short paper for a Boston University Law Review mini-symposium on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: “Indian Children and Their Guardians ad Litem.”

An excerpt:

One of the primary goals of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is to limit the influence or bias of state workers in decisions placing American Indian children out of their home and community.1 While this focus usually concerns state social workers, the officials who most often seek removal of a child, or the courts, the body that issues the orders and opinions, guardians ad litem (GALs) receive less attention.2 Despite this lack of attention, GALs exert a similar level of influence as state social workers. In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,3 the role of the GAL was unusual but critical – the GAL, while officially appointed by the court, was handpicked by the adoptive parents.4 The role of the GAL remains understudied in the ICWA literature, though GALs continue to exert enormous influence in the courts. Unfortunately, many GALs throughout the nation subvert the national policy embodied by the ICWA by advocating against the implementation of the statute in case after case.5

There are three other papers in the symposium:

Perspective I by Professor Barbara Ann Atwood is available here

Perspective II by Professor James G. Dwyer is available here, and

Perspective III by Professors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone is available here.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

American Holocaust by David E. Stannard - Prologue

I am reading this book NOW and was warned I would get sick... and I am. TLH (blog editor)

about the book: 

For four hundred years--from the first Spanish assaults against the Arawak people of Hispaniola in the 1490s to the U.S. Army's massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in the 1890s--the indigenous inhabitants of North and South America endured an unending firestorm of violence. During that time the native population of the Western Hemisphere declined by as many as 100 million people. Indeed, as historian David E. Stannard argues in his stunning book in 1992, the European and white American destruction of the native peoples of the Americas was the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world. 

Stannard begins with a portrait of the enormous richness and diversity of life in the Americas prior to Columbus's fateful voyage in 1492. He then follows the path of genocide from the Indies to Mexico and Central and South America, then north to Florida, Virginia, and New England, and finally out across the Great Plains and Southwest to California and the North Pacific Coast. Stannard reveals that wherever Europeans or white Americans went, the native people were caught between imported plagues and barbarous atrocities, typically resulting in the annihilation of 95 percent of their populations. What kind of people, he asks, do such horrendous things to others? His highly provocative answer: Christians. Digging deeply into ancient European and Christian attitudes toward sex, race, and war, he finds the cultural ground well prepared by the end of the Middle Ages for the centuries-long genocide campaign that Europeans and their descendants launched--and in places continue to wage--against the New World's original inhabitants. Advancing a thesis that is sure to create much controversy, Stannard contends that the perpetrators of the American Holocaust drew on the same ideological wellspring as did the later architects of the Nazi Holocaust. It is an ideology that remains dangerously alive today, he adds, and one that in recent years has surfaced in American justifications for large-scale military intervention in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. 

At once sweeping in scope and meticulously detailed, American Holocaust is a work of impassioned scholarship that is certain to ignite intense historical and moral debate.

Monday, February 7, 2022



This episode of #REDHOOPTALK discusses protecting the Indian Child Welfare Act with Dan Lewerenz, citizen of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. ICWA is legislation passed in 1978, developed by advocates fighting state judges, child welfare agencies, religious entities & boarding schools to return children taken because of historic racist ideology. 

Today, advocates fight to protect ICWA from continued racism & conservative political groups and corporations wanting more land and resources that are seeking to do away with Tribal Sovereignty. 

Our guest expert is DAN LEWERENZ, a citizen of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. Dan is a staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund ( Before joining NARF, Dan was an attorney-advisor for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Division of Indian Affairs; a law clerk to the Hon. Claudia Wilken (N.D. Cal.) and the Hon. Leo I. Brisbois (D. Minn.); and an associate in the Oklahoma City office of Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker, LLP. Dan earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he graduated cum laude and Order of the Coif. Before going to law school, Dan spent more than 10 years as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and was a board member, officer, and president of the Native American Journalists Association. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University.

UTAH: The bill “combats the excessive removal of Native American children from their homes"

Utah: Bill takes on ‘excessive removal of Native American children from their homes’

SB28 protects Native children in the state welfare system.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Men, women and children from Native American tribes throughout the West show their regalia during the Grand Entry at the 41st Annual Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Restoration Gathering, Aug. 13, 2021 in Cedar City, Utah.

 Men, women and children from Native American tribes throughout the West show their regalia during the Grand Entry at the 41st Annual Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah Restoration Gathering, Aug. 13, 2021 in Cedar City, Utah. (Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Utah continues to neglect Indigenous children and families, tribal community leaders and experts told members of the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions on Monday, February 1, 2022.

Indigenous leaders hope the bill SB28 would fix some of the inequities which have plagued Indigenous residents of Utah for the last 126 years. The bill creates an Office of American Indian-Alaska Native Health and Family Services under the Utah Department of Health and Human Services to make sure that Indigenous children and families get protection when they enter the state’s child welfare system.

SB28 also moves the Indian Child Welfare Act Liaison and the American Indian-Alaskan Native Health Liaison from two different state agencies and brings both roles into the merging Utah Department of Health and Human Services. The merger is expected to take effect in July.

Supporters of the bill say the proposed merger streamlines how the government responds to Indigenous children and families when these children are taken by welfare agencies and also ensures that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is enforced. Also known as ICWA, the federal law governs the removal and placement of Native children to combat the high number of Indigenous children removed from their homes.

According to Utah Foster Care, there are about 100 American Indian/Alaska Native children in Utah’s foster care system at any time. There are fewer than 15 licensed American Indian/Alaska Native foster homes in the state for Indigenous children and families, says the nonprofit.

The bill “combats the excessive removal of Native American children from their homes and acknowledges the alarmingly high percentage of Indian families which are broken up by the removal of children,” Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holliday, told The Tribune.

Paul Tsosie, legal counsel to the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, said that SB28 also allows Utah to meet the burden of higher protections for Native families in the state, a burden he says is spelled out through the U.S. Constitution and the treaties between tribes and the federal government.

“The [Indian Child Welfare Act] specialist is crucial to help all parties correctly apply ICWA in the Utah State Court system,” Tsosie said.

The goal is to make sure that cultural sensitivity and Indigenous values are being taught to children who go to any home in the state, Tsosie added.

Rupert Steele, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, and Moroni Benally, a lobbyist for the Navajo Nation, and other tribes requested the Legislature pass the bill to protect the well-being, safety and health of the approximately 41,644 Indigenous children and families living in the state.



We are facing a settler colonial crisis, not an Indigenous identity crisis

It wasn’t until very recently that I heard the term “re-indigenization” used in academic spaces.

I’m familiar with Indigenous resurgence and how it’s connected to the restoration and reparation happening within Indigenous communities — work that often focuses on healing intergenerational divides caused by Indian Residential Schools and the 60s Scoop — but this idea of “re-indigenization” was different.

It appeared to justify the idea that any person who discovers they have a “root Indigenous ancestor” from anywhere between 150 to 400 years ago must claim an Indigenous identity and proudly take up spaces deemed to require Indigenous perspectives and voices.

Part of this process appeared to involve attaching and embedding oneself, not within the particular Indigenous community or Nation where their long-ago “Indigenous” ancestor hailed from, but within internal institutional Indigenous communities or organizations that fronted as “Indigenous communities” for the purpose of institutional or “urban” legitimacy.

This is a problem.

Minnesota foster care system perpetuates legacy of racist boarding schools, Native mothers say

Department of Human Services says reforms are starting to work and newer state program shows promise.  

Teresa Nord regained custody of her eldest daughter several years ago, but the experience still haunts her.

"I live with this constant fear," says Nord, 42, a Navajo and Hopi Indian descendant who lives in Glencoe, Minn. "I call it child protection PTSD, that they're just gonna one day knock on my door."

In 2015, Nord's then 6-year-old daughter told her she had been abused by one of her mom's close friends. Nord reached out to a social worker for help — only to have her daughter immediately removed by child protective services.

Nord spent three years fighting to regain custody, but her daughter's time in foster care left her with deep abandonment fears and exacerbated other mental health challenges. "The foster provider told her, 'Your mom is a bad mom. You're never going to see her again [and] you might as well get used to that,'" Nord says.

Recent discoveries of mass graves on former indigenous boarding school sites have led to an international reckoning over the atrocities committed by the U.S. and Canadian governments in the name of assimilation. And political leaders like Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz have acknowledged the deep trauma the schools inflicted upon generations of Native families.

However, Native parents and experts in Native child welfare in Minnesota say that many of the underlying beliefs about Native families that fueled the boarding school systems are perpetuated by the state's modern child welfare system, with devastating effects.

Many Native mothers like Nord can't shake the fear of having their children ripped away from them or the ripple effects of generations of Native removals.

"There's a really explicit connection in the indigenous community's mind between boarding schools and the child welfare system," says Nicole Martin Rogers, a White Earth Ojibwe descendant and senior research manager at Wilder Research, a research organization that works with nonprofits and governments. That's because boarding schools are "how the system first started taking kids away from their families," she said.

The boarding schools legacy

In the 1800s, the federal government established mandatory boarding schools for Native American children, with the mission of assimilating Native children. The first boarding school in Minnesota opened in 1871. Children in these schools often were starved, beaten and forced to sever their connection to their Native heritage and language.

Although these schools mostly were discontinued by the 1950s, Native children continued to be removed from their homes at staggering rates through adoption.

Native children were removed from their families in Minnesota and other states at such high rates that outrage from Native communities led to the creation of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

ICWA mandates that child welfare agencies give special consideration to cases involving enrollable tribal members in the form of consultation with tribes.

But for Native women like Nord, who is a tribal descendant but not an enrollable member, these protections don't apply.

Social workers and courts often fail to give Native parents adequate and culturally appropriate guidance on how to reunite with their children, a core tenet of ICWA, says Sadie Hart, an ICWA compliance court monitor in Ramsey County. And they often mandate parents to follow impossibly strict deadlines to resolve issues related to poverty or addiction to regain custody, without providing adequate support to do so, she says.

Looking back on the boarding school and adoption eras, it's easy to say they were wrong, says Shannon Smith, executive director of the ICWA Law Center. But she says the underlying mentality persists, as does the impact, often due to factors like cultural ignorance or mistaken beliefs about Native parents.

"I think a lot of times removals [are] society … equating removal with safety. And that is an equation that is just automatic. And I think that's fundamentally flawed," Smith says.

Indeed, some experts say, poverty can often look like neglect to social workers, especially in families of color. Even when poverty is causing instability that puts kids at risk, removal may not be the best option and can exacerbate rather than fix the root issues.

In Hennepin County, where the ICWA Law Center is located, Native Americans account for roughly 26% of those living in poverty, although they make up just 1% of the population, according to the county's 2018 report "Child Protective Services: Reform and Child Well-Being."

"There are so many indigenous families living in poverty," says MartinRogers. "It's hard not to consider it neglect … if the caseworker walks into the house and there's no food in the refrigerator or the kids don't have a bed to sleep on or other things that can result from someone just being really poor."



Friday, February 4, 2022

Williams Lake First Nation unveils findings

 Canada: Indigenous community finds 93 potential unmarked graves

Williams Lake First Nation unveils findings of preliminary search at former ‘residential school’ known for abuse.

A child stands next to candles representing unmarked Indigenous child graves
A child stands next to candles during a vigil on Canada's first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, in Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada [File: Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

Canada – An Indigenous community in Canada’s western province of British Columbia has found dozens of potential unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential school, the latest such discovery over the past year.

Williams Lake First Nation announced on Monday that preliminary results of the first phase of a geophysical search at St Joseph Mission Residential School uncovered 93 “reflections” – believed to be unmarked gravesites.

“Ninety-three is our number,” Chief Willie Sellars told reporters.



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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.


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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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