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Native Americans want compensation

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    Native Americans to demand compensation By Marty Logan The Final Call May 24, 2004 UNITED NATIONS (IPS/GIN) - The policy was to kill the Indian and keep the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2004
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      Native Americans to demand compensation
      By Marty Logan
      The Final Call
      May 24, 2004

      UNITED NATIONS (IPS/GIN) - The policy was to "kill the Indian and
      keep the man."

      The aim of a boarding school system established by U.S. officials in
      the 19th century was to assimilate Native American children into the
      dominant White society, speakers told a panel discussion at the UN
      Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on May 12.

      That meant forbidding their languages, clothing, hair styles—their
      culture, in fact—using as much violence as was needed, they said.

      And now they are demanding restitution on their own terms.

      "Under international human rights law, the U.S. is still accountable
      for any continuing effects," which include the loss of indigenous
      languages and the violence that today permeates many Indian
      communities, said Andrea Smith from the University of Michigan at Ann

      She and other women have started the Boarding School Healing Project
      (BSHP), which has four main goals: heal the schools' victims; educate
      people about the attempted genocide of the Native American; document
      how that process worked, and build a movement that will demand
      compensation from the U.S. government.

      The residential school system began with president Ulysses Grant's
      1869 "Peace Policy" and continued well into the 20th century, taking
      100,000 Native American children from their homes to live and study
      in Christian boarding schools.

      Students, as young as two years of age, were placed in the schools
      until the age of 18, many returning home speaking a different
      language (English) than when they left. Many were also physically and
      sexually abused.

      "Some of my peers committed suicide, some drank themselves to death,
      some died violent deaths. They don't know how many were abused, but
      one thing we know: the oppressed became the oppressors when they
      returned home," said one former student quoted in a short film about
      a similar school system established in Canada on the U.S. model.

      Among its impacts, the boarding school system in both countries
      implanted forms of violence in native communities that still exact a
      high cost today, said speakers at the UN.

      "Sometimes I have to say I'm sorry to my children, because I have
      behaved in the way the missionaries, the education of the residential
      schools, made us," said Eulynda Benalli of the Crownpoint Institute
      of Technology on the Navajo Nation in the U.S. state of New Mexico.

      Among their impacts, the boarding schools replaced traditional
      practices performed by women with patriarchal systems, which led to
      the "devaluing of native women in our communities," said Ms. Smith.

      The chairman of the Permanent Forum told the opening session of the
      annual meeting that Indigenous men worldwide must do more to stem
      domestic violence and ensure gender equality in their communities.

      "Indigenous cultures rely on gender complementarity, a symbiosis that
      values both women's and men's business, that affirms both with
      respect and balance," added Ole Henrik Magga.

      The Permanent Forum, the only full-time UN body devoted to indigenous
      issues, meets until May 21, and focuses this year on Indigenous women.

      During the two-week session, its 16 members will hear dozens of
      submissions on human rights, environment, education, culture,
      economic and social development and health, from some 1,500 delegates.

      An advisory body only, the forum's recommendations will go to the UN
      Economic and Social Council, which will decide which will be
      forwarded to September's General Assembly of all UN member states.

      While the Boarding School Healing Project is just starting, a group
      of indigenous people on Canada's west coast have nearly finished an
      eight-year process to help heal their communities.

      The native people of Haida Gwaii, officially known as the Queen
      Charlotte Islands, have repatriated the remains of more than 400 of
      their ancestors who were stolen from their graves for study in the
      19th and 20th centuries and then stored in museums throughout North
      America and beyond.

      The Haida, who number about 4,000 people on their islands off the
      coast of British Columbia, taught students to make blankets
      and "bentwood" boxes from the cedar trees of their temperate
      rainforests for each set of remains, which were then buried in a
      special ceremony, the most recent on May 8.

      After contact with White settlers, many Haida were sent to
      residential schools, while their land, sometimes called the "Canadian
      Galapagos" for its unique flora and fauna, was logged and mined
      without their permission.

      "Germ warfare" nearly wiped out a population that may have reached
      30,000 at one point in the past, says Andy Wilson of the Haida
      Repatriation Committee. The 1915 census counted just 588 Haida.

      Repatriation "was a way to say, `were not taking this any more and
      anything that you took from us, we're here to take back.'" Someone
      said at the May 8 burial ceremony, talking about the repatriation
      committee, that all the respect and honor they showed the ancestors
      helped start the healing.

      Ms. Smith said the BSHP would discuss how to take the United States
      to account for the continuing damage to Indigenous communities caused
      by the boarding schools. The options include approaching the school
      system as a violation of international human rights or as a legal
      wrong, to be put right in a U.S. court.

      Unlike in Canada, though, the group will not recommend that
      individuals receive compensation from the government. "We want to
      approach this from a sovereignty framework, because what has happened
      has happened to us as a whole people," Ms. Smith said.




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