Winter has set in. In a few days we remember those Indians lost at Wounded Knee. We also remember those lost to winter starvation, a tool utilized as a tactic of war in New York state and elsewhere. We remember, too, that all too often those targeted were elders, women and children. Finally, we remember that perhaps 100 million First Nations people perished in two hundred years of genocide in North America alone.
Once the Indian nations were forced to cease armed resistance to the European invasion, the United States government began a program of forced assimilation. This endeavor included any number of strategies to disrupt the remaining culture and cohesion in Indian communities. Residential schools, the Dawes Act, the transfer of Indian lands and legal jurisdiction to state and Federal control, and the forced or coerced removal of Indian individuals and families from tribal lands are only a few of the seemingly endless strategies for “saving the person by killing the Indian.”
Although no longer Federal policy, these strategies are still used by state, local, and,yes ,Federal governments and agencies to seize Indian lands in the United States. The past year witnessed a seemingly endless stream of conflicts and seizures, many of which involved traditional Indian sacred sites situated on contested lands of high mineral or commercial value.
Now the Conservative government of Canada has reached back and taken a page from the darkest era of American assimilationism. Through a series of initiatives, the government has passed comprehensive legislation seemingly designed to dramatically undermine the civil and human rights of Indigenous people, and to threaten the integrity of tribal cultures and lands. These legislative efforts have come on the heels of very public reports on the Federal governments’ role in residential schools, the failure of police at all levels to protect Indigenous women, and crises in housing, education, and healthcare for Native people throughout Canada. This year also witnessed the United Nations’ strong expression of concern regarding Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people.
The racism and greed inherent in the recent actions of the Canadian government are sad indeed. Canada has long been a model of sanity in a world increasingly marred by individualism, inhumanity, and hatred. The current government seems determined to turn a new leaf in the history of Canada, one that threatens to create a new legacy of colonialism and racism. One wonders why the good people of Canada remain overwhelmingly silent in the face of such behavior.
Want to know more? Vera Waabegeeshig has been following events in Canada, writing about them from a First Nations perspective, and reblogging information from other sources. The Native News Network and Indian Country Today have also been following events closely. I encourage you to read these excellent sources for more information.