Abuse of First Nation

Canada is attempting to reconcile truth*!

Until the 1970s, aboriginal children were required to attend Christian schools.

The federal government admitted 10 years ago that physical and sexual abuse in the once-mandatory schools was rampant.

Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages and losing touch with their parents and customs.

That legacy of abuse and isolation has been cited by Indian leaders as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.

“It’s the darkest most tragic chapter in Canadian history and virtually no one knows about this,” Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations… [story]

From my previous post, a rare story reviewed at The Tyee:

Mothers of a Native Hell

Like an unwelcome memory of youthful stupidity, the residential-schools scandal keeps coming back to haunt us.

But what do we really know about how the residential schools came to be? Only that First Nations kids were stuffed into them for generations and once inside were sexually, physically and culturally abused.

Emma Crosby and Margaret Butcher shared an unquestioned assumption that white Christians had the right and duty to tear native families apart, to deprive children of their own cultures, and to impose Victorian sexual values on them.

‘Protecting’ the girls was implicitly to protect them from their own sexuality, if necessary by strapping them, overworking them, and malnourishing them.

This arrogation of control over their converts’ lives seems to have blinded the missionaries to the harm they were doing, so they could shrug off the natives’ death and suffering as just the price to be paid for progress.

* Aussies invoked a National Sorry Day.
* Update June 11, 2008: Canada’s PM is readying to apologize too. From Survival International:

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is due to deliver a formal apology today to the thousands of Aboriginal Canadians who passed through the country’s residential school system.

The widespread physical, psychological and sexual abuse committed in the schools has left a legacy of psychological damage whose consequences profoundly affect many Aboriginal Canadians today.

From the middle of the 19th Century to the 1970s, tens of thousands of Indian, Inuit and Metis children lived and studied in the schools, often hundreds of miles from their own communities. Although funded by the state, most of the schools were administered by the Church.

Children were commonly beaten for speaking their own language; the extensive physical and sexual abuse, however, has only come to light in recent decades.

The government has set aside US$ 1.7 billion to compensate the victims of the schools system, and established the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which started work this month.

Canada’s national Indian organisation, the Assembly of First Nations, describes the apology as ‘a momentous occasion that will represent an important milestone in the healing and reconciliation process for survivors, our families and our communities.’

Metis pride and consciousness

Canada's first Metis flagUsed by Metis fighters in 1816, this is the oldest Canadian flag used as a symbol of nationhood, predating Canada’s Maple Leaf by about 150 years.

An infinity symbol reveals a coming together of Aboriginal and European peoples to produce a distinctly new culture, the Metis, a new society with both traditions. The blue background suggests that Metis will exist forever.

Source: Gabriel Dumont Institute, from Canadian Design Resource, tip to Daniel Burka