The History of the “Cultural Genocide” of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

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In recent weeks in Canada, hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered in various mass graves discovered near three former colleges for Indigenous peoples, known as Indian Residential Schools, which were widespread between the 19th and 20th centuries and then administered by the Catholic Church later by the state. These findings drew international attention to the history of oppression experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada and reopened discussion about the treatment of the descendants of immigrants who undertook the forced and violent integration into Catholic culture. The colleges were one of the main tools.

In fact, the debate in Canada has been going on for years and is also taking place at the official level. There have been a number of initiatives recognized by the Canadian government for “cultural genocide” perpetrated against Indigenous peoples, and the first blanket amnesty was granted to college survivors in 2008 when Conservative Stephen Harper was Prime Minister.

Over the next few years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which issued a full and comprehensive report on the issue of colleges. Representatives of tribal groups, however, believe that despite recent findings, there is still a long way to go to true reconciliation.

Photo by the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation (EPA / National Center for Truth and Reconciliation) showing tribal children at Kamloops College where the graves of hundreds of tribals were discovered last May

Indigenous peoples have lived on Canadian territory for thousands of years. It was explored and settled by Europeans. In general, they are divided into three main groups: the First Nations, the Inuit and the Medes (“Mestisos”). Despite the diversity of populations with different uses, customs, languages ​​and traditions within these groups, it can be said that the aborigines of the first countries were historically the so-called southerners of southern Canada. Tree line (above which there are no climatic conditions for trees to grow); The Inuit – a word meaning “people” – live more in the Arctic; The Métis differ because they live in western Canada and, as their name suggests, have mixed ancestry between Europeans and tribes.

The first contact with Europeans took place in the 11th century, when Norsemen traveled from Scandinavia to North America. But the largest and most structured colonial settlements began in the 16th century, and more and more European fishermen were drawn from the Canadian coast to the fishing seas, establishing contact and trading with the natives. The favorite and most expensive material of Europeans is fur. In the 17th century, competition between European monarchies on the New Continent intensified, while the colonies of North America developed. Canada soon became a garrison of the French, who then began to settle in the maritime provinces on the east coast.

Over the course of the century, a trade transport network of English and French regional outposts formed, around which the natives circled, adapting to the new arrivals and finding useful goods in exchange for furs: mainly weapons fired and processed furs. Steel products. However, the economic interests at stake often led to armed conflicts with the Europeans and rivalries between the British and the French who disputed the vast Canadian territory.

After a long war — in which Natives and First Nations supported the military deployment — the British won and France had to give up its territorial claims. In 1763, the British monarchy issued a state proclamation establishing the rules and limits of relations between the English colonies and the First Nations. Basically, areas near the east coast should be considered English-capable, they are west of the tribe. Coexistence is not very complicated at this time, the first countries often participating in British campaigns through a military alliance.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits a memorial in Ottawa for a mass grave discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School (Sean Gilpatrick/AB, via Canadian Press)

Things began to change in the following century, due to new immigrants from the now independent America and the demand for new land from the United Kingdom. Most of the land belonging to the aborigines was gradually given to the settlers to meet this demand, which should have guaranteed adequate land for the aborigines. For their way of life. Acquisition continued until the middle of the 19th century.

This changed the regional situation of the natives and also changed the attitude of the British towards them. If they had previously been seen as a worthy military ally in defending the unity of the colonies against external threats, the attitude would have changed over the years, and due to the peaceful situation in the South for peace with the States United after the war. States. Thus, in the 19th century, there was a tendency to consider the European way of life, especially the English, as superior to the Aborigines. The idea that the natives should be “civilized” was established, and it was up to the British to show them the way to free themselves from their main means of subsistence, semi-nomadism, hunting and fishing.

– Read more: Fighting to save Canada’s oldest trees

Cultural integration became the focus of immigrant initiatives and was implemented by a series of such laws. law of gradual civilization In 1857, the tribes received money and land until they gave up their way of life and agreed to study according to European canons.

But the most relevant law was enacted in 1876, nine years ago by the federal hegemony of Canada (the ancestor of the current state of Canada). L’Indian law, Which, as its name suggests, is one of the most modified and amended laws in the history of Canada, in an increasingly restrictive sense until 1927: it widens the field of intervention of the Canadian authority, fostering First Nations integration and coordination, and enforcement. They abandoned their customs and practices and banned their rituals.

introduces the concept of Copyright, Thus, any tribal male over the age of 21 who speaks and writes English can (a Where are you going) Until they cease to be considered tribal and become full members of British society, gaining citizenship and the right to vote, until they renounce their identity and deny their origin. For a time, this process – which included giving up one’s own name – became voluntary, then automatically changed for any tribe that met the criteria established in 1933.

Indian boarding schools, which began to spread in the late 19th century, played an important role in the cultural integration of the tribe. Some were open until twenty years ago. These religious colleges formed a network of 132 institutions where children were placed in hygienic conditions, often on the verge of survival, not speaking their language and forced to live thousands of miles from their families. Strength of their houses. Among other things, they had to convert to Christianity, many of them were assaulted and subjected to physical and psychological violence. To date, there are no precise estimates, but it is believed that thousands of them died of disease, malnutrition, neglect or suicide. Many died trying to escape.

For years, the Canadian government has attempted to piece together the tragic stories of many Aboriginal people who escaped from residential schools. Truth and Reconciliation Commission (now a permanent research center) took six years to collect testimony from 6,750 people, and its 2015 report concluded that the domestic boarding school system was a form of “genocide cultural “.

Despite advances, many representatives of Indigenous groups believe that the legacy of past repression still exists in some ways in Canadian society today. For example, a few weeks ago a law was introduced which, for example, allowed tribes who needed to change their name to regain their original identity in order to obtain official documents.

Other restrictions aimed at suppressing Aboriginal culture were in force until a few decades ago: this is the case of Inuit throat singing (Katajjak) was banned until the 1980s as the Church considered it a satanic practice. The slogan, usually performed by two women holding hands and challenging each other in an endurance competition, nearly died out during the ban. Today Known and transmitted by four women Originally from the small village of Puvirniduk in Hudson Bay.

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