The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada has concluded the country’s decades-long policy of forcibly removing indigenous children from their families and placing them in state-funded residential Christian schools amounted to "cultural genocide." After a six-year investigation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report concluded: "The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to aboriginal people and gain control over their lands and resources. If every aboriginal person had been 'absorbed into the body politic,' there would be no reserves, no treaties and no aboriginal rights." The first schools opened in 1883. The last one closed in 1998. During that time over 150,000 indigenous children were sent away to rid them of their native cultures and languages and integrate them into mainstream Canadian society. Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages and losing touch with their parents and customs. The report also documents widespread physical, cultural and sexual abuse.
We are joined by Pamela Palmater, associate professor and chair of the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, an Idle No More activist and author of Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity and Belonging.
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Due to Governor Paul LePage launching direct political and environmental attacks against the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes of Maine, leaders of those tribes have recalled their representatives from the state legislature and are asserting their sovereignty from the State of Maine.
“The Maine Indian Land claims Settlement act has failed and we cannot allow ourselves to continue down the path,” Chief Francis said. “We’re saying it’s a failed social experiment.”
In August of 2011, Governor LePage signed an Executive Order recognizing a “special relationship” between the sovereign State of Maine, and the sovereign tribes within the State. In this order, the Governor instructed all State agencies to include a tribal liaison, whose role would be to facilitate communication and direct policy in all areas of State jurisdiction in such a way as to include the voice and interest of native peoples. The Order instructs that “the State and Tribes should work together as one,” and Tribal interests should be heeded when developing policies and procedures “on matters that significantly or uniquely affect those tribes.”
Urged to rejoin the legislature by Speaker Mark Eves, former Representative Mitchell of the Penobscot Nation told supporters that the decision to leave non-voting positions in the legislature had been made, and that any return would “be on our own terms.” In the meantime, any interaction between the Tribes and the State of Maine will take place as separate and equal nations, not colonialized subservients to an occupying government that repeatedly refuses to respect Tribal interests.
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