by Kevin D. Annett
Thousands of children died in the (residential) schools and their families were not informed of the deaths or the burial sites.
- Murray Sinclair, chair, ”Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (TRC), to Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, September 29, 2010
The lingering remnant of my home-bred naivety and trust in authority – even a murderous one – did a leap for joy today when I read these words by Murray “Tonto” Sinclair. In my dreams, I suddenly envisaged the police raiding the offices of the Catholic and Anglican and United Church and hauling away records and fuming church officers, now that mass murder by these august bodies has been admitted.
But only for a moment.
My Dad once observed that studying a problem is a typically Canadian way to avoid doing anything about it. And we won the war against the Indians, after all. Winners don’t arrest themselves for their crimes: even when they finally are forced to look at all the dried blood on their hands. What they do is absolve themselves of everything and wash the blood away, just like Pontius Pilate did: with the help of their paid stooges among their victims.
It’s more than comical that a genocidal mortality first cited in The Ottawa Journal as early as November, 1907 is suddenly being “discovered” by the latest batch of overpaid federal Commissioners. Or that the same folks are pretending that their “discovery” will mean anything at all, when the churches and government responsible for the slaughter have already legally indemnified themselves for the crime.
I was nevertheless pleased by Sinclair’s words, because it’s good to be vindicated. All the late-night research and public protests and head-banging and unanswered media releases over nearly twenty years has done something. Old Joe Hendsbee, a blacklisted communist and soul brother, called it the “piss on them enough” factor: You piss on anyone long enough and they’ll have to respond.
In the spring of 1997, when I first released to the Canadian press my collection of testimonies and documents demonstrating the enormous residential schools death rate now “officially” recognized by the ones who did it, nobody in the media responded. I repeat: nobody.
This non-response continued down through the years, even after a United Nations affiliated Tribunal confirmed my evidence in 1998, and two books and a documentary film of mine elaborated in detail the facts of a church-sponsored Canadian genocide to the world.
As I describe in my latest book, Unrepentant: Disrobing the Emperor,
Without exception, the media meekly continued their policy of the previous five years. With canine curiosity, they had initially sniffed around the edges of what they perceived as an opportunity to improve circulation, but with the more recent sound of a commanding corporate voice, they contented themselves with lifting a collective hind leg over the residential schools issue, and then trotting off in pursuit of their normal coverage of worldwide oddities and community trivia. (p. 138)
My favorite example of media indifference (read censorship) happened in October, 1998, when I gathered five survivors of sexual sterilization programs at the Nanaimo Indian Hospital who all wanted to tell their story to the press. A national Globe and Mail reporter in Vancouver hemmed and hawed when I called him up with the news, and he finally asked if I could transport the five of them to his office, rather than him go to them. Then he added quickly,
“On the other hand, don’t bother. No-one would believe this stuff anyway.”
Almost as hilarious was the reaction of a CBC TV reporter at our first Aboriginal Holocaust Day rally in April, 2005, who challenged me by declaring,
“But what proof do you have that children were actually murdered in residential schools?”
I turned and pointed to Harriett Nahanee, an aging woman who had seen teenager Maisie Shaw kicked to her death by United Church minister Alfred Caldwell at the Alberni residential school, and I said to the reporter,
“Talk to Harriett. She’s an eyewitness to a killing.”
The CBC woman turned pale, frowned, and actually hurried off in the opposite direction.
But that’s all behind us now, so it seems. It’s in vogue to talk about dead Indian kids in Canada – at least, from a distance, and without, perish the thought, any talk of who is responsible or bringing them to trial.
My friend Peter Yellow Quill of the Long Plains tribe in Manitoba said it best, at a protest we held against the TRC last June in Winnipeg.
“Imagine somebody steals your car. Then he knocks on your door and apologizes for doing it; but then he drives away again in the stolen car. That’s what Canadians like to call Healing and Reconciliation towards Indians: lots of nice words and apologies are said, but nothing ever changes.”
Being under our boot his entire life, Peter Yellow Quill is a total realist, and bears the truth that isn't fit to print. But I have been accused of being a cynic.
So let’s give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, as we are so good at doing. Let’s imagine, for a moment, that all the lawyers and confidentiality agreements suddenly die, and church and state become willing to tell the whole truth, put themselves in the dock, and actually do justice according to the victims, rather than themselves. What would we see?
We’d witness precisely what would happen if 50,000 and more white children had have been done to death in aboriginal-run “Caucasian residential schools”:
A massive criminal investigation. Arrests of church and government officers, and their prosecution. The canceling of tax exemptions to churches that killed children. Public memorial sites and museums. History books that reflected the real history. And a nation-wide repatriation program that would finally give all the murdered children a proper burial.
That’s what would satisfy a white traitor like me. But it’s still only my view. To Peter Yellow Quill, and Harry Wilson, who is dying on the streets of Vancouver, nothing short of the return of everything that was stolen from them will suffice: starting with the land itself.
Of course, the world doesn’t listen to Indians like Peter and Harry: only to the bought and paid for ones, like Murray Sinclair of the TRC. Which is why we’ll continue to hear a lot about healing and reconciliation - and why 50,000 little corpses will vanish.
Would you have it any other way?
Kevin Annett is a community minister, author and award-winning film maker who works with the London-based International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State. His latest book Unrepentant: Disrobing the Emperor (O Books, UK, 2010) can be ordered on Amazon Books.
Kevin's New Radio Show is at - http://www.blogtalkradio.com/hiddenfromhistory/2010/10/16/resurrection-kevin-annett-is-back-on-the-air