The World Today for July 05, 2021
NEED TO KNOW
‘Just Little Savages’
Canadian First Nation leaders found the remains of more than 200 former students – all Indigenous – at a school in British Columbia. A month later, they found another 200. And then there were those 750 unmarked graves near Marieval Indian Residential School discovered in the southeastern corner of Saskatchewan.
Canadians are reeling from the discovery of these graves dating from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century – especially the Indigenous community.
“All we ask of all of you listening is that you stand by us as we heal and get stronger,” Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said during a virtual press conference covered by the Washington Post. “We all must put down our ignorance and accidental racism of not addressing the truth that this country has with Indigenous people. We are not asking for pity but we are asking for understanding.”
As Al Jazeera explained, officials forced indigenous children to attend boarding schools to “assimilate” them into Canadian society. The Catholic Church operated these institutions from 1890 to 1970. The last school closed in 1996.
In an editorial that described the schools as “cultural genocide,” the Guardian asked if anyone could fathom the horror of the schools where school administrators appeared to dump the corpses of their charges without identifying them. More than 150,000 students were taken from their families and forced to endure forced separation and much, much worse.
“I was so scared all the time. I remember thinking, ‘don’t be noticed,’ because I saw what they did to the kids that were noticed,” a former student at Marieval told National Geographic, relating how she experienced physical, verbal and emotional abuse. “Whoever was killing them thought they were nothing … just little savages.”
Estimates put the number of deaths related to the schools at 15,000.
The impact of the discoveries has been far-reaching. Meanwhile, many Canadians questioned whether they should celebrate Canada Day on July 1 to mark the anniversary of the 1867 establishment of the Dominion of Canada, the New York Times reported. Many say the celebrations don’t feel right this year, given all the terrible news about the schools.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the church to address its role in the schools and apologize, ABC News wrote. Locals on First Nation lands have been torching Catholic churches in protest, too, as CNN reported. Pope Francis has agreed to come to Canada in December to address the issue.
The past can’t be ignored. Acknowledging it can create the space to learn, and heal.
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