Killing The Indian In The Child
June 29, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Canada has apologised for forcing more than 100,000 aboriginal children to attend state-funded Christian boarding schools aimed at assimilating them. Controversial former Minister Kevin Annett has written two books on the subject of residential school abuse in Canada [Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust and Love and Death in the Valley]. Unrepentant - Kevin Annett and Canada's Genocide reveals Canada’s darkest secret - that the Canadian residential school system, the Christian churches along with state authorities implemented a policy of genocide against Canada's native population. Related: Deliver Us From Evil
posted by chuckdarwin (28 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I first heard about Annett's claims a couple of months ago, and found some questioning of the validity of his claims. It seems that he doesn't have support from much of the aboriginal population, so I'm not sure what to make of him.
posted by heatherann at 8:59 AM on June 29, 2008

(This is an amazing post but you should never, ever link to because it's the definition of batshit insane. They also have pages explaining the the Catholic Church invented professional sports to distract Americans from their nefarious deeds, and another claiming that psychiatric medications exist to rob people of their psychic powers).
posted by moxiedoll at 9:04 AM on June 29, 2008

...which is why I added the word 'controversial'. Chomsky likes him... which gives me a little faith in the guy.
posted by chuckdarwin at 9:07 AM on June 29, 2008

Noted, moxiedoll. This sort of issue (religious genocide) attracts craziness like moths to a flame.
posted by chuckdarwin at 9:08 AM on June 29, 2008

It is for this reason that we invite you to remember not only the 50,000 children who died in the residential school death camps, but the silent victims today who suffer in our midst for bread and justice.

"school death camps?"

C'mon sending Eskimo childrens to x-tian schools in an attempt to civilise the savages was (misguided) pretty common 19th century social policy in the commonwealth. Genocidal death camps were a 20th century invention.
posted by three blind mice at 9:08 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

The apology and reconciliation procedures are a good start, despite being horribly belated.

I don't know how I feel about Kevin Annett, though. It's obvious that the residential school system was a truly malicious act of cultural genocide, but as heatherann's link says, he's ascribed some ideas that would make the most addled conspiracy theorist do a double-take.

At best, his advocacy will draw attention to the issue and encourage people to learn more, but at worst, he's a charlatan who's muddying the waters with disinformation and creating whole new problems for the process.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:16 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well fuck, it's about bloody time we apologized. Why did I think we'd apologized a couple of years ago? I had this idea that Paul Martin apologized. I probably dreamed it.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:38 AM on June 29, 2008

joannemerriam , I think this was 11 June 2008
posted by chuckdarwin at 9:43 AM on June 29, 2008

I've seen Deliver Us From Evil. It's a good movie, but it's a stretch to say that it's related to the rest of this post -- unless your point is simply lolevilxtians.

Don't get me wrong -- I like me some lolevilxtians as much as the next guy -- but a lone Irish Catholic priest diddling the kiddywinks in California is hardly genocide.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:00 AM on June 29, 2008

Why did I think we'd apologized a couple of years ago?

Maybe because of this?

The government's apology is part of a C$2bn ($1.9bn; £990m) package of measures agreed with aboriginal communities in 2005, known as the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Which kind of implies it's not that big of a secret?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2008

My great-grandfather attended the "Carlisle Indian School", even though he was only 50% Chippewa. He ran away when he was 17. After reading up on it, I don't blame him.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:21 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

it's never been a secret, it's just that most of canada hasn't cared or wasn't paying attention.

in port alberni, where i spent much of my life the aftermath of the residential schools is still ruining lives. it wasn't genocide in the american "shoot-em-dead" sense, but as far as wiping out the native culture, language and family tradidions (you learn how to be a parent from your parents, after all), it was pretty damn effective.

but the key to all this really has nothing to do with the church and everything to do with the government. it's not unusual for governments to use missionaries as a lever to open up inhabited land for colonisation or exploitation.

for an extreme example, read Leopold's Ghost.
posted by klanawa at 10:24 AM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

> Genocidal death camps were a 20th century invention.

Although I'm not vouching for the accuracy of the material, the link discussing the schools as "death camps" suggests both that their purpose was to kill (via intentional exposure to TB and denial of medical treatment), and that they existed well into the 20th century. If true, it's not really that far off. (They're talking about a 40% mortality rate in some of the schools; I think that's on par or at least in the same ballpark with some Nazi forced-labor facilities.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:09 AM on June 29, 2008

There need to be different terms for those events where, if you stacked the dead you'd have a pile 400 ft. across and 400 ft. high and those where people went forth in some hamfisted way to teach the primitives how to live in the modern world. While the later was rarely done in the spirit of universal peace and brotherhood, and pretty much universally ended up a giant train wreck, it's a very different kind of bad from, "I know, I'll round them all up and you get on the phone and order a mess of insecticide".

History has pretty given us a pretty fundamental measure for genocide. Unfortunately for Mr. Annett's cause that measure is equivalent to taking the entire 1870's population of Canada (when this program began), killing them, and then doing it twice more. He, and the people whose plight he's trying to bring attention to, would be better served by avoiding the words holocaust and genocide and letting anyone trying to defend this mess be the ones who compare it to the acts committed by the Nazis.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:33 AM on June 29, 2008

I am not too happy with the term 'primitives'...
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:43 AM on June 29, 2008

PeterMcDermott, that's a fair comment, but I did want to give that doc a little exposure as well. Every little helps. Organised religion is a scourge.
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2008

There are a lot of things not to be happy with in this, but I think it sums up the attitude pretty well.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2008

I agree... I'm sure they had even less kind terms at the time. 'Savages' springs to mind.
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:00 PM on June 29, 2008

History has pretty given us a pretty fundamental measure for genocide. Unfortunately for Mr. Annett's cause that measure is equivalent to taking the entire 1870's population of Canada (when this program began), killing them, and then doing it twice more.

Kid Charlemagne, that doesn't make sense. If you wipe out a group of people, you wipe them out, regardless of how many of them there was to begin with. I agree that hamfisted assimilation policies are a different kind of bad from mass killings, but it's not the number of people involved that make the difference.

Although, I'm not convinced the schools were merely ham-fisted assimilation. There's plenty of evidence that the care of the children in those schools was at least criminally negligent if not outright murderous, and at the time, the general population of Canada really didn't care.

Thanks, PeterMcDermott, that must have been what I was remembering.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2008

I like the notion that it is not genocide as in the American sense. I had thought that genocide was to b e found in a number of countries. How about "culturecide"? Too bad the Canadians did not learn how to treat the original inhabitants the way we did with our Native Americans (aka=indians). I am not sure an apology does much after the fact.
posted by Postroad at 1:36 PM on June 29, 2008

Too bad the Canadians did not learn how to treat the original inhabitants the way we did with our Native Americans (aka=indians).

Holy shit, I hope that sentence was sarcastic.
posted by Caduceus at 2:03 PM on June 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

Flagged as "A-1 Axe Sharpening While You Wait" Is Two Doors Down On Your Right.
posted by dw at 2:21 PM on June 29, 2008

Chomsky likes him... which gives me a little faith in the guy.
Gaaah.. Does. Not. Compute.!
posted by whatzit at 3:44 PM on June 29, 2008

As one of my college-age internships, I was assigned a job transcribing hundreds of hours of interviews conducted by a professor. He was interviewing Indian alumni of one of these Catholic-run boarding schools in Ontario, probing for these sorts of abuses.

He came away empty handed however, as I spent hours and hours and hours typing up recountings of hockey games, vespers, and oatmeal-whether-you-liked-it-or-not.

Here's your typical interview: introduction, small talk, student background, "Do you remember Fr. So-and-so", which generally led to 15 to 60 minutes of story telling. After that, the professor would introduce the subject in a roundabout fashion - "You know, here in the states there's been allegations of mistreatment of students yadda yadda..." and the answer always an unequivocal "No". Not a single student that the professor had contacted every experienced any type of physical or sexual abuse from that school.

Certainly not murder, though I recall stories of two different students drowning in the nearby pond, both due to thin ice.

Most of the students had very fond memories of the school. Some expressed regret about being forcibly relocated, but a few had been removed from some nasty households apparently.

That's what I remember, other than their pleasing Canadian accents, eh.
posted by unixrat at 4:23 PM on June 29, 2008

Too bad the Canadians did not learn how to treat the original inhabitants the way we did with our Native Americans (aka=indians).
posted by Postroad at 4:36 PM on June 29

OMFG. Are you serious?
posted by joannemerriam at 5:38 PM on June 29, 2008

I'm pretty sure that Postroad is our resident troll.
posted by chuckdarwin at 10:48 PM on June 29, 2008

Here's Buffy Sainte-Marie on the subject.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:10 AM on June 30, 2008

Unixrat, that's not surprising-- many people who have been through traumatic experiences reframe them as "normal" and if you don't ask specific questions about particular practices, you are not going to find out if they were abused. Asking someone if they were abused is like asking an illiterate child bride if she's ever been raped-- by our definitions, she was raped every time she had sex since her wedding night till she reached adulthood, but she might not know to call it that.

I've interviewed hundreds of teens who have been through abusive tough love boarding schools and "rehabs"-- there are many who would tell you that being beaten, kept in stress positions, starved, kept up for days and emotionally brutalized for hours each day was not abusive and it helped them. They look back fondly on it and tell all kinds of cute stories that minimize it. That doesn't mean it wasn't abuse. Just because people try to make the best of whatever happens to them doesn't justify such practices-- but these kids had been taught that everything was "for their own good" and they bought it.

If you ask them about the specific experiences, they will tell you virtually the same stories as the kids who oppose the schools do-- but they frame the abuse as therapeutic.

What I want to know is when we're going to apologize to the hundreds of thousands of American teens whose own parents shipped them off for years of this kind of treatment in "tough love" programs [self-link] and when we're going to stop doing it? When will American teens have the right to appeal being sent to such a place without a trial, a determinate sentence or even a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis and treatment plan?

Sure, the Americans weren't sent for racist reasons and they only tended to stay 2-5 years-- but many nonetheless went through horrific things and were similarly permanently estranged from their families afterwards.
posted by Maias at 6:29 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

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