Are the United States and Canada ready to reconcile their national myth with a brutal truth of history?
This is Trahant Reports.
That brutal truth surfaced in Canada with the discovery of new graves at residential schools. Indigenous children were murdered and tortured.
In the last several weeks hundreds of unmarked graves have been found.
Yet this is not a new story. As Leena Menifie told me on Indian Country Today the survivors have been telling this story for a long time.
“Well, I have to say that everybody has been absolutely, um, impacted and our lives have kind of been, um, uh, brutally changed forever with the findings of Kamloops and the 215 children there. But then now there’s been Brandon Manitoba. And now that there’s, um, finally people paying attention to the Regina Industrial, uh, Indian School with their grave findings as well. Uh, everybody is been completely impacted by this, especially talking to residential school survivors who now have to, um, that brings up all of this, these issues again.
So, um, I, I don’t think it’s going to, as I said, we’re not having, uh, Indigenous day celebrations in the same way right now. I think a lot of people are doing ceremony and sort of acknowledging and taking time to deal with this kind of work, which is, um, emotional, spiritual, um, work.
Minifie said Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation report estimated that some 4,000 children were killed or missing from schools.
Last week Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, said the United States must face up to its own history.
She wrote in the Washington Post the stories from Canada made her sick to her stomach.
“But the deaths of Indigenous children at the hands of the government were not limited to that side of the border,” she said. “Many Americans may be alarmed to learn that the United States also has a history of taking Native children from their families in an effort to eradicate our culture and erase us as a people. It is a history that we must learn from if our country is to heal from this tragic era. I am a product of these horrific assimilation policies. My maternal grandparents were stolen from their families when they were only 8 years old and were forced to live away from their parents, culture and communities until they were 13. Many children like them never made it back home.”
Around the world a number of countries have been forced to reckon with these histories. New Zealand, South African, and yet the United States has yet to account for its own history, let alone offer an apology or help bring about community healing.
Perhaps this is a first step.
I am Mark Trahant.