« back to article: Racism is Alive and Well in America and in the Northland, But So Are Militarism and Economic Oppression (per MLK)

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Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for genocide

As far as I could tell, Martin Luther King never mentioned the genocide of North American aboriginal people when these tribes, living harmoniously upon the land for thousands of years, “discovered” the helpless, lost, hungry (and greedy) Christopher Columbus and his pathetic, mutinous crew of sex-hungry rapists who had accidentally landed in Hispaniola, thinking that they had reached India. 

The aboriginal people there, the Taino Indians, unfamiliar with the superior steel weaponry of Columbus’ men, were slaughtered and starved into virtual extinction. Scholars agree that within 30 years of the arrival of Columbus, up to 90 percent of the Taino people had died. Ninety percent population reduction of a targeted group meets the definition of genocide.

The 90 percent figure for the ethnic cleansing of the Tainos and many other North American indigenous peoples holds true for both American and Canadian aboriginals as well. Between the 15th and 20th centuries, there was a genocidal campaign by the white dominant culture against the perceived “savages” and “heathen” aboriginal tribes that also constitutes what by definition is genocide. 

The “savages” needed civilizing and the “heathens” needed Christianizing, went the story, and no apologies or repentance was forthcoming. Not too long ago, however, the government of Canada, under the administration of Conservative Brian Harper, publicly admitted the Canadian government’s guilt in the genocidal activities and read out some apologies for having been a part of it. 

Harper’s apologies were considered by most of the indigenous survivors of the residential schools to be hollow. The victims were not allowed to face their persecutors. And the voices of the disappeared ones could not be heard, so their stories had to be told by witnesses and the survivors and the families of the disappeared. Was anyone in the Canadian government listening to those stories?

The United Church of Canada, which is not related to the United Church of Christ in the USA, has finally, and very belatedly, apologized for its role in the genocide. Four other denominations in Canada, besides the UCC, were instrumental in designing, operating and profiting from—usually with brutal efficiency—hundreds of residential schools throughout the land that, by law, took/kidnapped indigenous children, often as young as three years of age, away from their parents and forcibly placed them in boarding schools hundreds of miles away from their homes. 

I print here the UCC’s recent admission of guilt, taken from its website:

“The United Church accepts without question its complicity in the residential school system and the tragic impact that the system had on Aboriginal children, families, communities, and nations. (Approximately 10 percent of residential schools were affiliated with the United Church.) In 1986, The United Church of Canada offered its first apology to First Nations peoples. The church extended a second apology specifically to former students and their families in 1998, accepting responsibility for its involvement in the federal system of Indian Residential Schools.

“Since that time, the United Church has actively sought paths of justice, healing, and reconciliation. The church acknowledges its part in the colonial enterprise which resulted in a society that has been unjust, abusive, and racist. We consider that the treatment of Aboriginal peoples, including the imposition of the residential school system, constitutes a shameful chapter in Canada’s national history. The United Church deeply respects the courage of former students who are making known painful stories of suffering and abuse experienced at the schools, and in no way seeks to suppress these stories or to evade its responsibility. The United Church is committed to facing the ugly realities of the residential school system and to actively living out its apologies.”

It must be said that many of the aboriginal survivors of the church-administered residential school system (many schools of which were in continuous operation for a hundred years, resulting in untold generational trauma) feel that those church apologies are also, despite the appearance of sincerity, hollow. 

So far, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the multinational timber companies, equally guilty in the theft of aboriginal land in Canada and the RCMP’s enforcement of the amoral Indian Act laws of Canada, have not apologized.

This is what the end-result of what genocide looks like

Aboriginal children, victims of years of cruel, authoritarian, abusive and punitive “parenting” styles from the headmasters who had the switches (and spied upon by privileged snitches within their fold), often were forced to live in these military-style systems for as many as eight years, often leaving the schools at the end, never having known love, freedom, or their parents. 

These PTSD-afflicted children became permanent orphans with no experience of being raised by a caring adult and thus became, understandably and predictably, dysfunctional parents themselves, resulting in crippled tribal cultures for generations to come. Most of these victims found themselves outcasts among their own people when they tried to return to their tribes. And when they left the tribes, they became victims of white racism in the dominant society.

And the trauma spreads through the culture like the smallpox virus that was used so commonly in the early phases of the genocide, often unrecognized by the white society that treats the colonial victims with disdain, indifference, and with a near total lack of understanding.

The dominant society withholds economic and educational opportunities from minority groups and then calls them shiftless. This is the unfairness in the extreme.

Fortunately there are many opportunities for our Northland region during the upcoming Unfair Campaign, especially this coming weekend. Look for advertisements posted around town for some of those opportunities.