The exhibition Community and Continuity: Native American Art of New York is culled from the New York State Museum’s collection of contemporary Native American art. NYSM is known for its historical and archeological Indigenous objects, which number in the millions and range in date from 13,000 years ago to the early 20th century. But in 1996, the museum began acquiring works by living Algonquin and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) artists to celebrate the continuing vibrancy of these communities.
This is the story of the courageous all-female Apache 8 firefighting unit which has protected their reservation and responded to wildfires around the nation for 30 years. This group, which recently became co-ed, earned the reputation of being fierce, loyal and dependable–and tougher than their male colleagues.Despite facing gender stereotypes and the problems that come with life on the impoverished reservation, the women became known as some of the country’s most elite firefighters. The film focuses on four women from different generations of Apache 8 crewmembers who speak tenderly and often humorously of hardship, loss, family, community and pride in being a firefighter.Official Selection at the American Indian Film Festival.
Thousands of Canada’s indigenous children died in church-run boarding schools
Armed with everything from school attendance records to drones, researchers across Canada are racing to shed light on a bleak part of the country’s history: How many indigenous children died at residential schools, and where are their unmarked graves? From 1883 to 1998, nearly 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families and sent to the government-funded, church-run boarding schools in an attempt to assimilate them. Once there, they were frequently neglected and abused. What happened at the schools was akin to “cultural genocide,” concluded a 2015 report from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also found that at least 3,200 students died at residential schools over those 115 years — a much higher rate than for students elsewhere in Canada — though the commission contended that the number was probably much higher and merited further investigation.
The religious organizations that operated the schools — the Anglican Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Jesuits of English Canada and some Catholic groups — in 2015 expressed regret for the “well-documented” abuses. The Catholic Church has never offered an official apology, something that Trudeau and others have repeatedly called for.
Most journalists also said we didn’t bother to cover Indigenous peoples because there was no journalistic payoff. We, reporters, preferred to do stories to improve situations and conditions, by pointing out things that didn’t work properly. We looked for bad guys, stories about corruption or inept business owners, government administrators, politicians, cops, for example. Yet similar stories about Indigenous communities never went anywhere. Things never changed. Also, by telling these stories, we faced accusations of concentrating on the negative. (See comment above about racism.)
The drama, executive produced by Clint Eastwood, is based on the late Richard Wagamese’s novel about an Ojibway residential school survivor and hockey player.
When Canadian director Stephen S. Campanelli showed his new film Indian Horse to his mentor, Clint Eastwood, the four-time Oscar winner was in disbelief.
In theatres Friday, the drama is based on late Canadian author Richard Wagamese’s acclaimed novel, about an Ojibway residential school survivor who faces racism and systemic barriers as he becomes a formidable hockey player.
The story gives an unvarnished look at the brutal history of the residential school system in Canada, and Eastwood was floored.
“He didn’t believe it,” Campanelli, who grew up in Montreal and lives in California, recalled in an interview at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival.
“He was like, ‘What? You Canadians did this?’ I said, ‘Yeah, believe it or not.’ He said, ‘How come no one knows about this?’ I said, ‘Well, they will soon.”‘
Eastwood then signed on as an executive producer to help promote the film.
David Groulx is a poet of Indigenous and French-Canadian heritage who was raised in Elliot Lake, Ontario in Canada. His recent book of poetry, Wabigoon River Poems, has Canada’s Indigenous experience at its core, but places this history into a global context. A single poem can leap from Algeria to Vietnam, always within the context of a post-colonial viewpoint. The name of the book comes from the Wabigoon River near Kenora, Ontario, which suffered mercury pollution from a pulp and paper plant, with tragic results for local peoples.
The final poem in the first section is a meditation on a picture of the poet’s mother taken at the “St. Joseph Residential School for Girls.” In Canada, perhaps 150,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their families and placed in Church-run and government-financed schools, which were designed to assimilate them into Euro-Canadian culture. They failed, but caused immense suffering. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has sought to document this history, and has issued recommendations to address this legacy. Still it remains to be seen whether these findings will be truly embraced by the federal government, educational institutions, churches, and average Canadians. Although Canada is a developed country with a progressive reputation, the nation has always had a curious blind-spot regarding its own history of colonialism, as though colonialism was a European sin eradicated with Confederation.
Groulx undermines nationalist mythologies within Canada, as in his poem “They’re Not Looking for the Franklin Expedition.” The Franklin Expedition set out from Victorian England in 1845 to search for the Northwest Passage, only to disappear with all hands. As Margaret Atwood discussed in her book, Strange Things, the expedition has become a trope in Canadian literature. Last year one of the two ships from the expedition was found in the Victoria Strait, upright and remarkably preserved. While fascinating in its own right, the focus on this expedition also has served at times as a foundational narrative, in which Arctic history begins with the British explorations. This approach elides the Indigenous history of millennia in the region. It is this perspective that Rudy Wiebe sought to challenge in his novel, A Discovery of Strangers, which tells the story of Franklin’s earlier expedition of 1819 to 1821. His novel wove an Indigenous point of view throughout a familiar narrative. In his poem on the Franklin Expedition, Groulx similarly shifts perspective to Indigenous women and the painful legacies of colonialism.
Groulx works also locates the experience of Canada’s Indigenous peoples with a global context. Groulx’s poetry has a special focus on the epistemologies that justified conquest, whether they focused on race, law or economics. The book’s second poem is titled “Hobbesian notions.” The work also deals with the environmental damage caused by economic philosophies, as in the poem “Global Warming,” which has the striking image of fish howling. Groulx’s work is particularly caustic towards Christianity, as part of the intellectual armature of conquest and dispossession. This attitude comes through in poems such as “I Have Given You God,” “Blind Mind’s Eye,” “God Scab” and “Coyote Cosmos,” with its reference to the Jesuits. This perspective is unsurprising given the legacy of the residential schools in Canada, which is a key theme in Canadian Indigenous literature, such as the work of Tomson Highway. In lesser hands, the discussion of Western thinkers might have come across as precious, and the rage as a screed. Groulx balances the tension between the intellectual and the emotional to create a narrative thrust that runs through his poems, which read as a global tour of colonialism and its legacies. This poetry has a coiled power and beautiful imagery.
The second section of the book is a study in erudition. Many of the names have footnotes, which was helpful when rereading the poems for a second time. I had never heard of the Gracci brothers, who advocated for land reform in Ancient Rome. I teach about Hayek’s life and work in my “Foundations of Global Studies” class, but did not know that his work had influenced the dictatorial regime of Chile’s Pinochet, even though my first book was on military terror in Brazil. Groulx leaps from references as diverse as Auschwitz to Rousseau, in poems such as “I Wretched Red.” The depth of his knowledge is impressive, and this work is an intellectual treat.
A little over a year ago I attended a Global Studies conference in York, England. The keynote address was on the African art of the Atlantic diaspora, and it was brilliant. At the time, I thought about how unlikely it would be to have such an address at the International Studies Association. In the United States we pay homage to the role of the Humanities in International and Global Studies, but the presence of the Humanities in conference programs is limited. Groulx’s work shows why the Humanities should be central to these programs. His poems allow one to view the world through a post-colonial prism, which challenges the epistemology of Western Civilization in a way that is fascinating, beautiful and horrifying. The work would be a good supplementary text for Global Studies courses that address the post-colonial experience. We need more such works in Global Studies syllabi. Of course the classic works and social science studies still stand. Everyone should graduate from an International and Global Studies program having read Kwame Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism and Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Groulx’s erudite and frightening collection of poems will similarly challenge students, and give them food for thought long after the course. They are also simply beautiful to read.
The windigo is a cannibal spirit prevalent in the traditional narratives of the Algonquian peoples of North America. From Labrador in the north to Virginia in the south, and from Nova Scotia in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west, this phenomenon has been discussed, feared, and interpreted in different ways for centuries. Dangerous Spirits tells the story of how belief in the windigo clashed with the new world order that came about after European contact.
Dismissing the belief as superstitious, many early explorers, traders, and missionaries failed to understand the complexity and power of the windigo—both as a symbol and as a threat to the physical safety of a community. Yet, judging by the volume of journal entries, police records, court transcripts, and other written documents about windigo cases witnessed recounted by Euro-Canadians over three centuries, it was a matter that perplexed outsiders greatly. Drawing primarily on these written documents, historian Shawn Smallman does not seek a logical explanation for what was believed to be a supernatural phenomenon. Rather, he asks how windigo narratives reflected the societies in which they were told and how the arrival of colonial authorities changed these narratives. How did the outsiders who heard these stories understand them, and how did they use the windigo to further their own political, economic, and religious goals? In a contemporary context, why have ethnic groups outside the Algonquian world appropriated the symbol of the windigo, and how have First Nations artists and writers reclaimed it? In an age where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are demanding truth and seeking reconciliation, Dangerous Spirits is a revealing glimpse into cross-cultural (mis)communication and the social and spiritual impact of colonialism.
Shawn Smallman is a professor of International Studies at Portland State University. He received his PhD in history from Yale University and is the author of three critically acclaimed academic books, Fear and Memory in the Brazilian Army and Society, The AIDS Pandemic in Latin America, and (with Kim Brown) An Introduction to International and Global Studies.
The Reclaiming of Native American Fashion
A new generation of designers gains visibility in an industry that’s misappropriated its culture for decades
I do not know if readers of this blog have followed what is happening in Canada and their years-long investigation called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In 2014 I heard Justice Murray Sinclair speak about TRC at Yale. READ HERE. He spoke about their findings and what the Canadian government promised to rectify the abuses in the residential boarding schools. Many churches and provinces were mandated and forced to release their records to the commission.
The definitions of genocide fit the TRC findings. They call it cultural genocide. Children lost their family. Some children lost their lives. Children. This happened to children.
What happened in Canada also happened here in the US. We don’t have an investigation by our government. WHY? I don’t know and I don’t know if it will ever happen.
After the residential schools in Canada, the 60s Scoop took even more children and placed them with non-Indian parents. And it’s not over. It’s ongoing there and here.
South Dakota Corruption TODAY
The Lakota People’s Law Project’s 35-page report reveals how private institutions and their relationships with those in the highest seats of power in South Dakota are responsible for the daily violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the systemic human rights abuses against the Lakota population in Indian Country. Read the Report Here
Some of the main findings of the report include:
Naming officials who have conflicts of interest including South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels, Department of Health Director Kim Malsam-Rysdon, former Department of Social Services Director Deb Bowman, State Attorneys Dan Todd and Kim Dorsett, and State Senator Alan Solano.
Identifying the mechanisms by which the aforementioned officials benefited either in their official public capacities or in private capacities, including reimbursing contractual payments with federal dollars and using their offices to leverage contracts for private institutions in which they were employed.
Exposing the racist underbelly of South Dakota’s state system, which targets the most disadvantaged group in the state and identifies the Department of Social Services as the division most responsible for the system-wide willful violations of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.
Depicting the intersection between the pharmaceutical industry and the foster care system, where those in Big Pharma used disadvantaged foster care children to enhance revenue by encouraging doctors to prescribe the off-label use of powerful antipsychotic medication for mild behavioral issues.
Revealing the antecedents for the introduction of powerful medication as being traceable back to a program called TMAP—the Texas Medication Algorithm Project.
Properly framing the current ICWA crisis in a historical context, including how Indians have been deprived of access to their own resources and how South Dakota is launching an assault on the last remaining resource—the Native American children.
I have no words for the pain this causes me, but if you watch this video and hear these stories in Canada, you will understand how this happened and why. The children who died in those schools cannot be returned to their families. [The children who were adopted out, they are hopefully finding their way home as I did.] The long-term affects of cultural genocide are still being felt.
Adoptees are called Lost Birds. Read much more at American Indian Adoptees here.
Here is an earlier story from Canada about experimentation at those residential boarding schools.
The only way to prevent this from ever happening again is sharing the truth and the horror.
Chemical Valley, Sarnia, Ontario: About 850 of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation live close by the U.S.-Canada border near Lake Huron where more than 50 industrial facilities, including oil refineries and chemical manufacturers reside. Image: Jonathan Lin/Flickr
Mothers and children of a First Nations tribe living in one of Canada’s most industrialized regions are highly exposed to estrogen-blocking chemicals, according to a new study. The research is the first to confirm the Aamjiwnaang community’s fears of elevated exposure to pollutants, and it may help shed some light on why the tribe has an unusually low percentage of baby boys. The findings do not prove that chemicals are causing fewer baby boys in the community, but they provide some limited evidence suggesting a possible link. “While we’re far from a conclusive statement, the kinds of health problems they experience – neurodevelopment, skewed sex ratios – are the health effects we would expect from such chemicals and metals, ”said Niladri Basu, lead author of the study and associate professor at McGill University in Montreal. The reservation is within 15 miles of “Chemical Valley,” a region along the U.S.-Canada border near Lake Huron with more than 50 industrial facilities, including oil refineries and chemical manufacturers. Forty-two pairs of Aamjiwnaang mothers and children were tested for the study. For four types of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the average levels found in the children ranged from 2 to 7 times higher than the average Canadian child. The mothers’ average levels were about double the Canadian average for three of the compounds. PCBs were widely used industrial compounds until they were banned in the 1970s in the United States and Canada because they were building up in the environment. Eating fish is the most common exposure route for PCBs. But a survey revealed the community eats very little fish, so the high levels of PCBs remain “a puzzle,” Basu said. He suspects the chemicals are still in the soil and air from decades ago. The Aamjiwnaang First Nation community has about 2,000 tribe members, with about 850 living on the reservation near Sarnia, Ontario, just east of Michigan’s thumb across the St. Clair River. The name Aamjiwnaang means “at the spawning stream,” a nod to the tribe’s rich historical relationship with the nearby river and its fish. Fish advisories warning of contamination have been ubiquitous there since the 1970s. The tribe received international attention in 2005 when scientists reported that baby boys accounted for only 35 percent of births there compared with 51.2 percent nationwide. The University of Ottawa researchers concluded that the decline may “partly reflect effects of chemical exposures.” The new study reported that the types of PCBs that are elevated in the Aamjiwnaang community are the same types linked to reduced male births in a small study of women in New York. “I’m struck by the elevated PCB levels,” said Nancy Langston, a professor of environmental history at Michigan Technological University who was not involved in the study. “And the fact that all are anti-estrogenic.” Some PCBs are anti-estrogenic, which means they block the hormone, while others are estrogenic, which means they mimic it. Hormones are necessary for proper fetal development but it’s not understood how, or if, hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment may alter human sex ratios. The new study was small and didn’t investigate any health problems, so it’s important to not jump to any conclusions, said Shanna Swan, a professor and vice-chair for research and mentoring at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Chemicals have been linked to altered sex ratios. But things like stress can alter ratios, too,” Swan said. No one has studied the tribe’s sex ratio since the original research, which was based on births from 1999 through 2003. Swan surveyed the community to see if there was interest in a follow-up study. The answer was no. “There was sensitivity to outsiders coming in and studying them. There’s no question there’s exposure, it’s clearly a polluted place. But this is their ancestral home … what do they get out of you telling them how badly off they are?” said Swan, who specializes in reproductive effects of environmental chemicals. In addition to PCBs, the mothers and children had elevated levels of cadmium, some perfluorinated chemicals and the pesticides hexachlorocyclohexane and DDT compared with the Canadian average. Sharilyn Johnston, environmental coordinator of the tribe’s health and environment committee, said the findings were somewhat expected, stoking a fear that already has changed Aamjiwnaang. “There’s a constant odor issue, many people just do not want to be outside,” she said. “We used to be able to go into areas to hunt and fish that are now blocked off with fence lines that say ‘No Trespassing.’ Centuries of industrial development have impacted traditions and land use.” In addition to the skewed sex ratio, 23 percent of Aamjiwnaang children have learning or behavioral difficulties– a rate about six times higher than children in a neighboring county, according to a 2005 community study. The asthma rate for children on the reservation is about 2.5 times higher than the rest of the county, according to a 2007 study by Ecojustice, a Canadian environmental organization. Birth complications also are commonplace. Of 132 women surveyed in the community in 2005, 39 percent had at least one stillbirth or miscarriage. The average for U.S. women is 15 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health. As oil sands production ramps up in Canada, there’s fear that Aamjiwnaang’s problems will worsen, Basu said. Enbridge, an energy transport company, wants to boost and reverse the flow of a pipeline that currently runs from east to west across Canada, in part to send oil sands petroleum to refineries in in Ontario and Quebec, according to a company press release. Suncor Energy’s Sarnia refinery already expanded its capacity to bring in crude from Alberta oil sands in 2007 as part of a $1 billion upgrade. Oil and gas investment in the oil sands – mostly located in northern Alberta – has increased from $4.2 billion in 2000 to about $26.9 billion in 2012, according to the Alberta Energy Department. Langston said the oil sands activity would “without a doubt” compound the problems for Aamjiwnaang and other indigenous communities in both Canada and the United States. Areas experiencing a boom in petrochemical refining are already experiencing health problems. Men in Fort Saskatchewan – downwind of refineries and chemical manufacturers and oilsands processors – suffer from leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma at higher rates than neighboring communities, according to a new study. Two known carcinogens – butadiene and benzene – were found at higher levels in rural Fort Saskatchewan than in many of the world’s most polluted cities, the authors wrote. Isobel Simpson, lead author of the study and a chemist at the University of California, Irvine, said it is not clear if the oil sands boom has spread its reach to Sarnia yet. But she and the co-authors have been advocating for a more cautious approach as refining communities increase production. “Things are really starting to ramp up. Fort Saskatchewan and other communities are frustrated with pollutants and have been trying for years to be heard,” Simpson said. “We are pushing for a more prudent approach, one that seeks to reduce known carcinogens and other harmful contaminants.” Johnston said the tribe’s focus remains on the more immediate problems. “We continue to go to the regulators – they’re the ones who are allowing these pollutants to be released,” she said. “They’re the ones who can refine and set standards that reduce pollution among our people.” Basu wants to conduct more research – including a larger sample and examining more health data. But it will take time, money and continued trust from a tribe that has long felt slighted by outsiders. The Ministry of the Environment directed media requests to the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, which did not return requests for comment. “The community has been complaining about health problems and pollution for decades,” he said. “We’d like to get to a point where we can look at a certain chemical and say ‘that’s causing these health problems.’” This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company. SOURCE: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=hormone-blocking-chemicals-found-in-native-american-families&print=true