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215 Dead Little Indians

In late May and early June 2021, the story broke of the discovery of at least 215 children buried at Kamploops Residential School, non-survivors of the Indian Residential School system.

Canadians were shocked and angered. But it is hard to know why. We knew. The locations may be unknown, but the Truth and Reconciliation Commission told us. The names are unknown and may be unknowable due to parents and other relatives dying and churches refusing to turn over records, and the federal government talking, talking, talking but not doing, doing, doing, but the TRC was clear, there is an unknown number of deaths and unmaintained cemeteries and unmarked graves and undiscovered remains of runaways who died trying to get back home.

The title of this piece is a riff on the ditty from childhood, "Ten Little Indians", but I did not know then of the Semptimus Winner version and the inherent violence therein.

But, I should know, and I should be a witness and acknowledge my participation in what is a genocide perpertrated by Canada and Canadians on the original peoples. So, here I hope to make a list of useful links to some relevant reading. The TRC reports are too massive for me to host, but they exist online. So does this piece by Scott Hamilton which is a nice intro with illustrations.

You might want to read the UN version, but I like the still-unimplemented-but-we-are-talking-about-doing-it-version of UNDRIP.

And the Indigenous communities spokespeople say we should all read the Calls to Action.

I am not an acitivist by nature, but I really think I need to push our federal (and junior governments) to do something. I think all meetings between colonial govts and Indigenous people should take place on reserves. Maybe the feds will be able to provide potable water if they have to drink the water on the reserve. I think premiers and ministers who tolerate things like Grassy Narrows should visit there and eat the fish.

My impetus is totally selfish, of course. I am tired of being labelled a colonist. I just want to be someone who lives here too, and shares the wealth, and maybe then we will not destroy it all. I remember going to school out in the bush with a bunch of Indian kids, and not noticing they were. And when I left the bush, and moved to town, the Indians were no longer there, not in school, not anywhere visible. Then, I had no idea why. When I went logging, there they were again. Some of the funniest guys I ever met in logging camps were Indians. A skidder operator on then Queen Charlotte Island, now Haida Gwaii gave me a Haida name; that felt good. Later I learned it meant "Raven Shit". That felt even better. In hindsight I wonder if that innate humour was like the humour of Russians in the Soviet Union, the subversive way of dealing with it, the regime.

Even as the story is breaking, the feds are fighting in court to avoid responsibility. My message? Just do the right thing, instead of paying lawyers to fight these colonial entrenchmnet exercises.

These are the top guys to blame, along with their Indian Affairs ministers and the entire rest of their Cabinets. In this list of infamy, MacDonald deserves a specal shout out for his energetic role in the creation of the apparatus of genocide, but, to be fair, the junior Trudeau has not kept his promises to fix it. They are all to blame, except maybe Kim Campbell, who had too little time in office to make any difference. At the end of the day, we are all to blame. Either for doing harm or for not doing good.