It’s almost too much to bear, but it’s my fervent belief that we should willing to bear witness to the continual patterns of evil perpetrated on our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and in this case, especially the children. And oh, my, his title might almost stand as a warning for all that comes next. But be brave as you can be, as we only live all the following horrors vicariously, even as they pierce our hearts and souls, or react viscerally.
From ‘Darkness Bringing Us Down’ by Michael Welton, July 31, 2019, counterpunch.org
“If you dare enter the door of [Ojibwe] Tanya Talaga’s Massey Lectures of 2018, [the book form] All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward, be prepared to face some dark truths. These terrible truths explode in our faces like mines buried on a battlefield as we traverse the disconsolate pages. An accomplished and honoured journalist (author of Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City ), Talaga writes with acid dripping from her pen.
“Talaga tells the truth through emotionally powerful stories. Her central, and very disturbing, focus for All Our Relations is on the staggeringly high rates of suicide amongst Indigenous youth around the world. The expansive focus gives this lecture series special interest because we are forced to see all of the youth suicides world-wide as part of one history of European white settler colonization.”
Welton notes that we’re used to thinking in national compartments, and adept at separating the Indigenous suicides from the Canadian government’s assaults on Aboriginal peoples’ land, language, culture, sacred places and spiritual practices, much less providing the resources to alleviate that suffering. As well, he writes, As well, we tend to shy away from linking suicides as inextricably bound to genocidal practices.
“Talaga’s stories are hard to take. On every page one finds stories about women like Sandra Fox from Wapekeka who came home after doing an errand to find that her daughter, Chantell Fox, twelve years old, had hanged herself. In all, seven girls between the ages of 12 and 15 living away from their First Nations communities took their lives. The people of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), a political organization comprising forty-nine First Nations spread out over the northern two-thirds of the province of Ontario, want their children to stop dying. The native leaders discovered that some of their kids had made “suicide pacts.” They sought help from the Federal government for a grant of $376,706 to create a mental health team of four workers able to deliver prevention and intervention programs. This cry for help went unanswered.
If ever Canadians doubted that First Nations’ suicides are shockingly out of control, reading Talaga will scrape that idea from your mind. Across the NAN territory, Talaga tells us, from 1986 through December 2017, 558 suicides occurred. Eighty-eight of these deaths were children between the ages of ten and fourteen. Similar statistics can be found for the Sami population in Scandinavia and indigenous people of Brazil and Australia. Drs. Ernest Hunter and Helen Milroy (the first Aboriginal psychiatrist in Australia) exclaim: “We have come from a history of genocide, and genocide is about the deliberate annihilation of a race; it is about wanting to remove us from the Earth permanently, which is a very different concept from transgenerational trauma. It is trauma on a more massive scale – psychologically, physically, spiritually, culturally. It is another level of trauma again.”
He quotes Talaga urging her listeners and readers to sit for a while with this disquieting truth:
“Indigenous children and youth are born under the staggering weight of history: the historical injustices of colonization; the forced removal off the land by extermination or segregation; the cultural genocide effected by government policy and religious indoctrination; the intergenerational trauma stemming from years of poverty, abuse, and identity oppression.”
Welton writes that a spiritual awakening is underway throughout Indigenous communities scanning the globe. ‘Through hell and highwater, pride in being a native person is being recovered and affirmed day after day in the face of considerable government resistance.’
He cites but a few examples of Telaga’s many tales of genocide, sociocide, and cultural annihilation, this about the government assaults on the Inuit in the northern reaches of Canada between the 1950s and 1970s:
“Inuit were removed from their lands and placed in western-styled homes. During this period, Inuit sled dogs were culled and became targets of mass killings. Talaga comments acerbically: “Just as the massacre of the bison in 19th century America helped usher in the demise of the Plains Indians’ traditional way of life, so too was the killing of the dogs a powerful act of subjugation.” “Both acts symbolically severed the Indigenous peoples’ spiritual connection to the land by eliminating a major sources of their sustenance and economy.”
With Inuit land appropriated, the Canadian state and churches could descend like hawks upon the Inuit. Take their kids and put them in residential schools. Plant churches. Coerce parents to live in permanent communities. It didn’t take long for Inuit youth to start taking their own lives and travel to the land where the roses never fade. The National Inuit Suicide Prevention report of July 27, 2016 provides the shameful evidence.”
But yes, all of that happened in the Amerikan portion of Turtle Island as well.
The children were to be assimilated into the far better white culture with their better God and prayers to Him. Forbidden their language, clothing, prayer, their hair was shorn off, and most were beaten for the defiance of the rules, if not worse. If history ever recorded the number of suicides, I’ve never learned of it. Murders, yes, but most likely at the Jesuit missions (some say Franciscan) like Junipero Serra’s on the west coast, where the Indigenous were enslaved and often killed outright. Pope Francis canonized him in 2015.
Welton then cites Talaga’s recounting of similar stories of mass Indigenous (some too grisly to bring you) genocide in Brazil in the 1950s – 1970s, and the “boom in rubber” and their predispositon to escape by suicide, plus this change in demographics: today there are only 59 Indigenous Nations left; the remaining population, 734,000, is down from five million at point of contact.”
Currently? June 27th, 2019 ‘Brazil’s Bolsonaro Presses Anti-Indigenous Agenda; Resistance Surges’ by Sue Branford, earthfirstjournal.org
“APIB (the Articulation of Brazil’s Indigenous People), one of Brazil’s leading indigenous organizations, has been at the forefront of resistance. It launched a new strategy when it published a report, entitled “Complicity in the Destruction,” in April. The report shows that soy, cattle and timber companies responsible for illegal deforestation and, in some cases, employing slave labor, are none the less openly negotiating with, and receiving funding from, companies and investors based in all three of Brazil’s main trading partners — China, the EU and USA. The document names 23 importing companies, including giants Bunge, Cargill and Northwest Hardwoods. Forest losses in the Brazilian Amazon jumped 54 percent in January 2019 compared to a year ago, while May 2019 saw a 34 percent increase as compared to May 2018.
In the land now known as the United States, almost all of the tribes on the west coast and Florida were totally eradicated, few across the land survived, no matter which tribe. He then features a few of the projects in Canada that are working to heal the children, restore their dignity, artistic expression, including Aboriginal clinics and traditional healing, including sweat lodges.”
This cbc.ca/radio page dated July 30, 2018 has some of the descriptions of the 54 minute radio programs (podcasts?) and a few videos of Tanya’s All our Relations lecture series.
The videos are brief, but they’re not youtubes. I’ll bring one shortish youtube video, in which she northern Norway, the US, to her list of colonization from first contact onward, and cultural genocide abetted by racist laws, that underlies high youth suicide rates. I’d have of course mentally added the New Zealand Maori to the list, and a quick check had found ‘Indigenous Suicide and Colonization: The Legacy of Violence and the Necessity of Self-Determination’ abstract from a 2015 study regarding the Maori and high suicide rates.
“Therefore, individual pain is inseparable from collective pain and the role of the collective becomes that of carrying individuals who are suffering. The state of kahupo or spiritual blindness (Kruger, Pitman, et al. 2004) is characterized by a loss of hope, meaning, and purpose and an enduring sense of despair. It bears the symptoms of chronic dissociation or separation of the physical from the spiritual and vice versa. We describe community empowerment practices and social policy environments that offer pathways forward from colonization towards tino rangatiratanga, or indigenous self-determination, noting significant obstacles along the way.
On a different CBC radio page:
“The rate of suicide in some Indigenous communities is so high that it starts to feel “normal,” according to journalist Tanya Talaga, who has studied youth in crisis for this year’s Massey Lectures.
“My uncle took his life, my mother’s friend took her life, my friend took their life,” said Talaga, an Indigenous journalist at the Toronto Star.
“It’s in the lexicon, it’s in your everyday words and your actions, it’s all around you,” she told The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti.”
Dr. Michael Welton is a professor at the University of Athabasca. He is the author of Designing the Just Learning Society: a Critical Inquiry.
You may remember that serial liar Prime Minister Trudeau had campaigned on promising to discover what happened to the many, many disappeared First Nations women. ‘Four years later: what’s changed?’ toronto star
(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)