Originally posted on Warrior Publications: WarriorPublications.wordpress.com
What is a Warrior Society?
A warrior society is a group organized to defend their people, territory & way of life.
Traditionally, most warrior society’s carried out 3 main functions: military, police & social. Their military function involved armed defense of people & territory. Their police function involved punishing anti-social crimes, & overall security of the village. Their social function involved feasts, camaraderie, and ceremonies. Many warrior society’s were also secret and/or ceremonial society’s.
As colonization does not rely solely on military action, but involves political, economic, psychological, & cultural aspects, we must apply this same thinking to decolonization.
Decolonization is not a legal struggle, nor is it purely military, or economic, etc. It involves all of these. It should be noted, however, that colonialism was imposed through military force. Ultimately, it is the system’s monopoly on the use of violence that enables it to impose its will.
Considering this, it can be seen that the activities of modern warrior society’s must involve much more than military training in order for their defensive roles to be realized. That is why it is said that modern warriors must be communicators, organizers, and leaders, able to inform & inspire others, and mobilize them into the resistance movement.
Military training, however, is an essential part of a warrior society. This is because the defensive role of the warrior will always include the potential for armed conflict against an enemy force (one of the greatest dangers to any nation).
At the same time, under present conditions, these aspects of the warrior society are not used often, and even then are mostly defensive actions. As defense is for times of insufficiency, the primary military function of a warrior society at this time is for self-defense.
Military training helps instill values such as confidence, self-discipline, teamwork, etc. Warrior training also involves traditional culture, including ceremonies and field-craft. Ceremonies help instill similar values as military training (including patience & endurance), while reconnecting one to the spiritual world and their culture. Field-craft (i.e., hunting, gathering wild foods, making tools & shelter, etc.) also reinforces traditional culture and will become vital to the survival of future generations.
The Positive Aspects of Warrior Society’s
When Native military resistance was defeated (by 1890 in N. America), along with colonization came the disbanding of warrior society’s. Confined to reservations, warriors were condemned to a life without purpose. Many turned to alcohol out of despair & hopelessness.
Along with trauma experienced in Residential Schools & loss of identity, today’s generations continue to live lives with little apparent meaning or purpose. The result is widespread drug & alcohol abuse, high suicide rates, imprisonment, etc. This is compounded by feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, poverty, etc.
A warrior society can help stop these negative trends by instilling in youth traditional values, a sense of purpose, and meaningful, challenging activities that also serve the common good. This is in part what made warrior society’s such an important part of traditional Indigenous society.
Casualties & Attrition
Many fear the potential consequences of organizing warrior society’s, which can include state violence & repression. We must remember, however, that colonization is by its nature violent. It is a society sustained through violence, here & abroad.
While many fear potential casualties from combat, real casualties are occurring now in the streets & reservations, through suicides, drugs & alcohol, prison, disease, interpersonal violence, etc. Many Native youth are now being recruited into gangs, who engage in anti-social criminal activity among their own people. Through drugs, prostitution, theft & assaults, gangs lead to division & demoralization among our people.
As well, every summer, hundreds of Native youth from across Canada undergo military training—as either cadets or in Canadian Forces Aboriginal-specific training courses (i.e., Bold Eagle & Raven)– where platoons of Natives are given training in firearms, field-craft, drill, military law, map & compass, etc.
In addition, we must remember that in Asia, Africa and South America, people are routinely killed, tortured & massacred to maintain the global system.
We can see, therefore, that violence & casualties are occurring now as a result of colonial oppression. It is this oppression the warrior society is meant to defend against. In fact, the very formation of a warrior society can help give purpose & direction to misguided youth, for whom institutional means have thus far failed (including schools, jails, jobs, etc.).
Fear and Propaganda
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to organizing warrior society’s among our people is fear. This fear is maintained through the corporate media & entertainment industries, which reinforces people’s belief that the government is their protector, & which portrays the system as all-powerful.
This fear is compounded by enemy propaganda (primarily through corporate media), which portrays warriors as criminals, thugs or terrorists.
In order to counter this, warrior culture & fighting spirit must be strengthened among our people. Most importantly, warriors must conduct themselves in such a way that they inspire hope & confidence among our people.
LONG LIVE THE WARRIOR!!!
Originally published in Warrior No. 1, Spring-Summer 2006
Dozens of people gathered in an Ottawa community centre Monday to learn more about the federal government’s proposed multimillion-dollar settlement for survivors of the ’60s Scoop — and why they should reject it.
The National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network arranged the information session to scrutinize the $800-million deal, which was announced last October but has yet to receive court approval.
“There are so many things that are wrong with this,” network co-founded Colleen Cardinal told the gathering, made up in part of survivors and supporters.
“It’s really important that this information gets out there, by survivors for survivors,” she said. “The federal government is not going to make sure that every survivor knows what their rights are. Our mission is to get out there and let people know what is happening.”
The ’60s Scoop saw thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes by the federal government and placed with non-Indigenous adoptive and foster families across the country starting around the 1950s.
The government’s compensation proposal includes $50 million for an Indigenous Healing Foundation.
Cardinal denounced the deal, saying the federal government should have first asked survivors what they wanted.
“They don’t even know how many survivors there are,” Cardinal said, disputing the estimated $20,000 to $50,000 payment per person.
Cardinal also criticized the settlement for excluding survivors who are Metis and non-status Indians.
The office of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett has said the proposed settlement is a first step and the government is committed to using negotiation to resolve any ongoing litigation.
“We know that there are other claims that remain unresolved, including those of the Metis and non-status,” she said a statement from her office.
An Ontario Superior Court judge will hear arguments in Saskatoon and Toronto in May on whether the proposal should be approved.
If the settlement is allowed to proceed, the network will push for at least 2,000 survivors to opt out in an effort to void the deal.
But the government could still push ahead regardless of how many people say they don’t want to be part of the settlement, lawyer Brian Meronek told the gathering.
There is also no guarantee that provinces won’t revoke income assistance payments if someone becomes ineligible after receiving a settlement payout, said Meronek, who represents a group in Manitoba that opposes the settlement.
Cardinal and other organizers have warned survivors to be wary after hearing reports of some lawyers offering to help navigate the settlement in exchange for exploitative contingency fees.
The network is a survivor-led organization based in Ottawa founded in 2014 that offers information and support for survivors. The group has 300 members, and Cardinal said it reaches thousands more online, through its toll-free number and via presentations and gatherings.
The network is also involved in two research projects, the first by Raven Sinclair at the University of Regina about the experience of the ’60s Scoop survivors, using interviews and archival research.
The second is a geographic information system that maps the diaspora of survivors, including their origins and where they were placed.
The Canadian Press, Feb 19, 2018
Sources say the agreement includes a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant.
The federal government has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to survivors of the ‘60s Scoop for the harm suffered by Indigenous children who were robbed of their cultural identities by being placed with non-native families, The Canadian Press has learned.
The national settlement with an estimated 20,000 victims, to be announced Friday by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, is aimed at resolving numerous related lawsuits, most notable among them a successful class action in Ontario.
Confidential details of the agreement include a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant, to a maximum of $750 million, sources said.
In addition, sources familiar with the deal said the government would set aside a further $50 million for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation, a key demand of the representative plaintiff in Ontario, Marcia Brown Martel.
Spokespeople for both Bennett and the plaintiffs would only confirm an announcement was pending Friday, but refused to elaborate.
“The (parties) have agreed to work towards a comprehensive resolution and discussions are in progress,” Bennett’s office said in a statement on Thursday. “As the negotiations are ongoing and confidential, we cannot provide further information at this time.”
The sources said the government has also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees — estimated at about $75 million — separately, meaning the full amount of the settlement will go to the victims and the healing centre, to be established in the coming months, sources said.
The settlement would be worth at least $800 million and include Inuit victims, the sources said. The final amount is less than the $1.3 billion Brown Martel had sought for victims of the Ontario Scoop in which at-risk on-reserve Indigenous children were placed in non-Aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.
In an unprecedented class action begun in 2009, Brown Martel, chief of the Beaverhouse First Nation, maintained the government had been negligent in protecting her and about 16,000 other on-reserve children from the lasting harm they suffered from being alienated from their heritage.
Brown Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was taken by child welfare officials and adopted by a non-native family. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.
Her lawsuit, among some 17 others in Canada, is the only one to have been certified as a class action. Her suit sparked more than eight years of litigation in which the government fought tooth and nail against the claim.
However, in February, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba sided with Brown Martel, finding the government liable for the harm the ‘60s Scoop caused. Belobaba was firm in rejecting the government’s arguments that the 1960s were different times and that it had acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards.
While Bennett said at the time she would not appeal the ruling and hoped for a negotiated settlement with all affected Indigenous children, federal lawyers appeared to be trying to get around Belobaba’s ruling. Among other things, they attempted to argue individuals would have to prove damages on a case-by-case basis.
A court hearing to determine damages in the Ontario action, scheduled for three days next week, has been scrapped in light of the negotiated resolution, which took place under Federal Court Judge Michel Shore.
One source said some aspects of the many claims might still have to be settled but called Friday’s announcement a “significant” step toward resolving the ‘60s Scoop issue — part of the Liberal government’s promise under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people a priority.
Jeffery Wilson, one of Brown Martel’s lawyers, has previously said the class action was the first anywhere to recognize the importance of a person’s cultural heritage and the individual harm caused when it is lost.
The Canadian Press
April 9 marks 100 years since Canadian troops began the battle for Vimy Ridge
At the bottom of the list of names etched into the cenotaph at the legion in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., there is one that stands out from the rest.
Henry Norwest’s name is in a different format. The white paint, which has not yet faded like the others, still gleams.
If the name looks like it was an afterthought, it’s because it was. Norwest’s was added to the cenotaph in 2008, an action formally honouring the Métis marksman who died 90 years earlier, during the First World War.
Sunday marks 100 years since Canadian troops began the assault on Vimy Ridge in northeast France. By April 14, the Canadians had won the battle, but lost almost 3,600.
“There is no doubt in mind that he is in a place of peace,” says Marilyn Buffalo, Norwest’s great-granddaughter.
“There is a special place for warriors like him.”
Ranch hand and roper
Before he took to the battlefields in France and was among the thousands of Canadians who fought at Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Norwest was a married father of three who frequently moved around to find work.
Of French and Cree ancestry, he was a ranch hand and a roper who helped to wrangle bison in Montana in an effort to move herds north to Canada.
He listed his trade as “Cow Puncher” when he signed up to be part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in January 1915.
With war underway in Europe, he eagerly enlisted in Wetaskiwin, Alta., under the name Henry Louie, but his initial military stint was short-lived. Records from the time show that he was discharged three months later because of what was then referred to as “drunkenness.”
Still determined to fight overseas, he headed south to Calgary and enlisted again, this time under the name Henry Norwest.
Before he left for England, he went to say goodbye to his three girls, who at the time were living in a residential school in Ermineskin, Alta.
Buffalo remembers her grandmother telling her about the last time she saw him.
“There was a very handsome man who came to bid her goodbye at the residential school and that was her dad.”
A hunter turned sniper
Starting out earning a monthly wage of $15, Norwest quickly established himself as a skilled sniper while fighting in France with Calgary’s 50th Battalion.
Snipers typically worked with an observer, but Buffalo says she heard stories about Norwest sometimes creeping through no man’s land on his own, slipping out of the trench at night and returning to camp early in the morning.
During the war, First Nation soldiers were among Canada’s top snipers, and Norwest’s upbringing and experience as a hunter were evident, says Al Judson, curator of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment Museum, where one of Norwest’s rifles is on display.
“He could move well, quietly with stealth,” says Judson.
“He could use camouflage and the natural foliage around him to hide.”
He had a reputation that was feared by the Germans and revered by his comrades.
In military records, he is described by a fellow soldier as understanding “better than most of the us the cost of life and the price of death.”
“He showed complete detachment from everything while he was in the line.”
Off the battlefield, he was jovial and popular with the women in the dance halls, which is how Buffalo says her great-grandfather earned his nickname “Ducky.”
“He would dance all night and then duck out on the girls at the end of the night.”
On April 9, 1917, under a barrage of heavy fire, Norwest was among the thousands of Canadian troops who made the deadly push to capture Vimy Ridge.
Norwest was awarded a Military Medal for his efforts to help allied forces capture “the Pimple,” a significant point along the ridge.
In his award citation, officials said he showed great bravery and “saved a great number of our men’s lives.”
In the three months leading up the to the battle, he shot and killed 59 men from opposing forces.
In August of the following year, he fought during the battle of Amiens, taking out snipers and machine gunners. But just three months before the First World War ended, Norwest himself became the target of a German sharpshooter and the 33-year-old was shot and killed.
On his temporary grave marker, one of his fellow soldiers wrote: “It must have been a damned good sniper that got Norwest.”
‘Made me very proud’
At the time of his death, he had 115 confirmed kills, but the actual number of fatal shots he fired could be much higher because the military only recorded hits that had been observed by someone else. He was awarded a military bar posthumously to go along with his medal.
After the war, his remains were reinterred in a small church graveyard in Warvillers, France. In 2009, his great-granddaughter made an emotional visit to the site, where she performed a sacred Cree ceremony.
“It made me very proud,” Buffalo says.
“This is a part of the history, our contribution to the world and to the British Empire 100 years ago. It has to be honoured.”
As a self-described history buff, she says she’s tried to learn as much as she can about Norwest. She has reflected on what his contribution and his loss meant to her family.
Before he was killed in France, his wife died in Alberta, so his three daughters were left as orphans and spent most of their childhoods at residential school.
‘He should have been there a long time ago.’- Dutchie Anderson
Today, Buffalo says Norwest has hundreds of descendants, mostly concentrated around Samson Cree First Nation in central Alberta.
Some of them were there for a special ceremony in 2008, when Norwest’s name was finally added to the cenotaph at the Fort Saskatchewan legion.
“He should have been there a long time ago,” says Dutchie Enders, the services officer for the legion.
He believes Norwest’s legacy was previously overlooked because he was Indigenous. Enders himself had only learned about his story shortly before Norwest’s name was engraved.
“That is when we recognized that he had been neglected all these years.”
Two stones have also been placed in the community’s cemetery, each bearing a plaque recounting Norwest’s accomplishments during the war.
The legion’s canteen is now named in honour of Norwest. His black and white picture hangs in the room and pressed under the glass beside it is a single eagle feather, which is a sacred symbol in Cree culture.
“We had to do this,” Enders says. “He was one of our own.”
The Canadian Press | Feb 14, 2017
Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children who were placed with non-native families from losing their indigenous heritage during the ’60s Scoop, an Ontario judge ruled Tuesday.
The ruling in the long-running and bitterly fought class action paves the way for an assessment of damages the government will now have to pay.
In siding with the plaintiffs, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found Canada had breached its “duty of care” to the children.
The lawsuit launched eight years ago sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.
The plaintiffs argued — and Belobaba agreed — that Ottawa breached part of the agreement that required consultation with Indian bands about the child welfare program.
Belobaba was scathing in commenting on the government’s contention that consultation with the bands wouldn’t have made any difference to the children.
“This is an odd and, frankly, insulting submission,” Belobaba wrote. “Canada appears to be saying that even if the extension of child welfare services to their reserves had been fully explained to the Indian bands and, if each band had been genuinely consulted about their concerns in this regard, that no meaningful advice or ideas would have been forthcoming.”
Belobaba also took issue with the government’s argument that the 1960s were different times and that it acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards. As a result, the government had tried to argue, it could not have known the harm that might have been done to the children.
“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart.” — Marcia Brown Martel, lead plaintiff
“Canada’s submission misses the point,” Belobaba said. “The issue is not what was known in the 1960s about the harm of trans-racial adoption or the risk of abuse in the foster home.”
Instead, the justice said, there can be “no doubt” that what was well known even then was the importance to First Nations peoples of protecting and preserving their distinctive cultures and traditions, including their concept of the extended family.
The lead plaintiff in the Ontario action, Marcia Brown Martel, 53, is a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont. She was adopted by a non-aboriginal couple in 1972 at age nine and later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.
“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart,” Brown Martel said in a statement. “Our voices were finally heard and listened to. Our pain was acknowledged.”
The government did not immediately comment on the decision.
Belobaba said that while the 1965 agreement, strictly speaking, applied to the Indian bands and not the children, he hoped the government would not now try to make such a “formalistic argument” given the First Nations context.
The Liberal government indicated last week it was going to try to block Belobaba from releasing his ruling after Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced an intention to negotiate with ’60s Scoop survivors across the country. The government relented amid outrage by the plaintiffs and critics, who called the attempt to stop the ruling an unprecedented political interference.
Similar legal actions in several provinces other than Ontario are pending but none has been certified.
On December 29, 1890, the massacre of Sioux warriors, women and children along Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota marked the final chapter in the long war between the United States and the Native American tribes indigenous to the Great Plains.
For the entirety of his 27 years, Black Elk’s somber eyes had watched as the way of life for his fellow Lakota Sioux withered on the Great Plains. The medicine man had witnessed a generation of broken treaties and shattered dreams. He had watched as the white men “came in like a river” after gold was discovered in the Dakota Territory’s Black Hills in 1874, and he had been there two years later when Custer and his men were annihilated at Little Big Horn.
He had seen the Lakota’s traditional hunting grounds evaporate as white men decimated the native buffalo population. The Lakota, who once roamed as free as the bison on the Great Plains, were now mostly confined to government reservations.
Life for the Sioux had become as bleak as the weather that gripped the snow-dusted prairies of South Dakota in the winter of 1890. A glimmer of hope, however, had begun to arise with the new Ghost Dance spiritual movement, which preached that Native Americans had been confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs. Leaders promised that the buffalo would return, relatives would be resurrected and the white man would be cast away if the Native Americans performed a ritual “ghost dance.”
As the movement began to spread, white settlers grew increasingly alarmed and feared it as a prelude to an armed uprising. “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy,” telegrammed a frightened government agent stationed on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation to the commissioner of Indian affairs on November 15, 1890.
“We need protection and we need it now.” General Nelson Miles arrived on the prairie with 5,000 troops as part of the Seventh Cavalry, Custer’s old command, and ordered the arrest of several Sioux leaders.
When on December 15, 1890, Indian police tried to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was mistakenly believed to have been joining the Ghost Dancers, the noted Sioux leader was killed in the melee. On December 28, the cavalry caught up with Chief Big Foot, who was leading a band of upwards of 350 people to join Chief Red Cloud, near the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, which winds through the prairies and badlands of southwest South Dakota. The American forces arrested Big Foot—too ill with pneumonia to sit up, let alone walk—and positioned their Hotchkiss guns on a rise overlooking the Lakota camp.
As a bugle blared the following morning — December 29 — American soldiers mounted their horses and surrounded the Native American camp. A medicine man who started to perform the ghost dance cried out, “Do not fear but let your hearts be strong. Many soldiers are about us and have many bullets, but I am assured their bullets cannot penetrate us.” He implored the heavens to scatter the soldiers like the dust he threw into the air.
The cavalry, however, went teepee to teepee seizing axes, rifles and other weapons. As the soldiers attempted to confiscate a weapon they spotted under the blanket of a deaf man who could not hear their orders, a gunshot suddenly rang out. It was not clear which side shot first, but within seconds the American soldiers launched a hail of bullets from rifles, revolvers and rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns into the teepees. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Lakota offered meek resistance.
Big Foot was shot where he lay on the ground. Boys who only moments before were playing leapfrog were mowed down. In just a matter of minutes, at least 150 Sioux (some historians put the number at twice as high) were killed along with 25 American soldiers. Nearly half the victims were women and children.
The dead were carried to the nearby Episcopal church and laid in two rows underneath festive wreaths and other Christmas decorations. Days later a burial party arrived, dug a pit and dumped in the frozen bodies. For decades, survivors of the massacre lobbied in vain for compensation, while the U.S. Army awarded 20 Medals of Honor to members of the Seventh Cavalry for their roles in the bloodbath.
When Black Elk closed his wizened eyes in 1931, he could still envision the horror. “When I look back now from this high hill of my old age,” he told writer John G. Neihardt for his 1932 book “Black Elk Speaks,” “I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there.”
It was not the last time blood flowed next to Wounded Knee Creek. In February 1973 activists with the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the site for 71 days to protest the U.S. government’s mistreatment of Native Americans. The standoff resulted in the deaths of two Native Americans.
Red Power Media | Dec 15, 2016
After many years of successfully resisting white efforts to destroy him and the Sioux people, the great Sioux chief and holy man Sitting Bull is killed by Indian police at the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota.
One of the most famous Native Americans of the 19th century, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake) was a fierce enemy of Anglo-Americans from a young age. Deeply devoted to the traditional ways, Sitting Bull believed that contact with non-Indians undermined the strength and identity of the Sioux and would lead to their ultimate decline. However, Sitting Bull’s tactics were generally more defensive than aggressive, especially as he grew older and became a Sioux leader. Fundamentally, Sitting Bull and those associated with his tribe wished only to be left alone to pursue their traditional ways, but the Anglo settlers’ growing interest in the land and the resulting confinement of Indians to government-controlled reservations inevitably led to conflicts. Sitting Bull’s refusal to follow an 1875 order to bring his people to the Sioux reservation directly led to the famous Battle of the Little Bighorn, during which the Sioux and Cheyenne wiped out five troops of Custer’s 7th Cavalry.
After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and his followers fled to Canada for four years. Faced with mass starvation among his people, Sitting Bull finally returned to the United States and surrendered in 1883. Sitting Bull was assigned to the Standing Rock reservation in present-day South Dakota, where he maintained considerable power despite the best efforts of the Indian bureau agents to undermine his influence. When the apocalyptic spiritual revival movement known as the Ghost Dance began to grow in popularity among the Sioux in 1890, Indian agents feared it might lead to an Indian uprising. Wrongly believing that Sitting Bull was the driving force behind the Ghost Dance, agent James McLaughlin sent Indian police to arrest the chief at his small cabin on the Grand River.
The Indian police rousted the naked chief from his bed at 6:00 in the morning, hoping to spirit him away before his guards and neighbors knew what had happened. When the fifty-nine-year-old chief refused to go quietly, a crowd gathered and a few hotheaded young men threatened the Indian police. Someone fired a shot that hit one of the Indian police; they retaliated by shooting Sitting Bull in the chest and head. The great chief was killed instantly. Before the ensuing gunfight ended, twelve other Indians were dead and three were wounded.
The man who had nobly resisted the encroachment of whites and their culture for nearly three decades was buried in a far corner of the post cemetery at Fort Yates. Two weeks later, the army brutally suppressed the Ghost Dance movement with the massacre of a band of Sioux at Wounded Knee, the final act in the long and tragic history of the American war against the Plains Indians.
A $1.3-billion class action argues Canada failed to protect children’s cultural heritage, with devastating consequences
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press, August 23, 2016
TORONTO – Scores of aboriginals from across Ontario rallied Tuesday ahead of a landmark court hearing on whether the Canadian government robbed them of their cultural identities during a two-decade period in which native children were taken from their homes and placed with non-native families.
Some, who travelled for as long as two days to attend, listened as speakers denounced the ’60s Scoop and what they called the “cultural genocide” perpetrated by the government against indigenous people. Speakers called the practice a deliberate effort to assimilate aboriginal children.
“I just want to say to Canada: We will not allow the harm of our children. We need to bring our children home, the ones that were lost, the one’s that were stolen,” lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel told the crowd.
“(It’s) such a harm and injustice as a human being to have our children taken from us.”
Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was one of an estimated 16,000 aboriginal children who ended up in non-native homes. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.
The ’60s Scoop depended on a federal-provincial arrangement that operated from December 1965 to December 1984. The $1.3-billion class action argues that Canada failed to protect the children’s cultural heritage, with devastating consequences to victims.
“Treaties do not give you permission to take our children,” Regional Chief Isadore Day said.
Following the rally, the crowd marched behind traditional drummers to the nearby courthouse, where they filled the courtroom, to listen as their lawyer, Jeffery Wilson, called on Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba to decide the case, which began in early 2009, based on the evidence he already has.
The unproven claim – it seeks $85,000 for each affected person – alleges the children suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual harm due to the devastating loss of a cultural identity that Canada negligently failed to protect.
The ’60s Scoop, which occurred without any consultation with Indian bands, may have been part of the government’s hidden agenda to “remove the savage Indian from the child,” Wilson told court, but what exactly motivated the “abomination” is not clear.
By robbing the children of their First Nations identities, Wilson said, they were denied the kind of crucial cultural and language experience other Canadians take for granted. The harm is “profoundly ongoing,” he said, even if the events in question are now historical.
“A moral calamity occurred,” Wilson said.
Canada, which has tried on several occasions to have the case thrown out, argues among other things that it was acting in the best interests of the children and within the social norms of the day.
As had been previously agreed, Belobaba adjourned the hearing until Dec. 1, when the federal government will make its case – if it does not decide in the interim to try to negotiate a deal to settle out of court.
Last week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she would like to see that happen, a theme picked up on at the morning rally. Speakers, including New Democrat Charlie Angus, urged the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau to be on the “right side of history” and make good on his promise of a new era in Canadian-aboriginal relations.
Before court ended, Wilson cited a few words in Algonquin which he spelled out.
“Ati kati ci wepik,” he said. “We must never let this happen again.”
In an interview, Glen Hare, deputy grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, said he planned on doing his part to ensure it doesn’t happen again. His one regret, he said, is once having signed adoption papers for one of his band’s babies, who he believes was taken abroad.
“I will never sign another adoption, I don’t care who it is. You can lock me up first or shoot me,” Hare said. “Our kids are not for sale, that’s the bottom line.”
Ottawa has fought unprecedented class action every step of the way
The Canadian Press, Aug 22, 2016
Thousands of Indigenous people who argue the federal government robbed them of their cultural identities finally get their day in court this week but will have to wait months for Canada to make its case in the unprecedented class action Ottawa has fought every step of the way.
The plaintiffs and supporters from all over Ontario are expected to rally at the courthouse on Tuesday as their lawyers press for summary judgment in the legal battle started in February 2009.
The lawsuit turns on a federal-provincial arrangement — called the Sixties Scoop — in which Ontario child welfare services placed as many as 16,000 Indigenous children with non-native families from December 1965 to December 1984.
Their unproven claim alleges the children suffered a devastating loss of cultural identity that Canada negligently failed to protect. The children, the suit states, suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual harm from the lost connection to their Aboriginal heritage. They want $1.3 billion in various damages — $85,000 for each affected person.
“This is the first case in the western world (about) whether a state government has an obligation to take steps to protect and preserve the cultural identity of its Indigenous people,” said Jeffery Wilson, lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment to be heard Tuesday essentially calls on Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba to decide the case based on the evidence the court already has without the need for a full trial.
Canada has previously tried to have the case thrown out as futile. Among other things, Ottawa argues it was acting in the best interests of the children and within the social norms of the day. However, Divisional Court ruled in December 2014 that the plaintiffs deserved a chance to argue the merits of their position at trial.
“It is difficult to see a specific interest that could be of more importance to Aboriginal peoples than each person’s essential connection to their Aboriginal heritage,” the three-justice panel concluded.
In early March, the courts ruled the action should proceed over two weeks, starting Aug. 23. However, much to the chagrin of the plaintiffs, the government late last month asked for a delay, saying it needed more time to come up with experts to counter the claims. The court refused.
‘I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture.’– Marcia Brown Martel
But with buses ordered and courthouse rallies planned for Tuesday, the prospect of more government appeals and delays prompted the plaintiffs to agree to the one-day hearing. In exchange, the government since filed thousands of pages of materials, but has until November to file expert evidence. The hearing is slated to resume for two days on Dec. 1.
Wilson said he hoped the hiatus would allow for a negotiated settlement — a tack the Liberal government now appears to favour. Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said last week she would like to see the case discussed at the table rather than in court.
The Ontario case differs from scoop lawsuits in several other provinces in that it does not take legal issue with the placement of Indian children in non-Aboriginal homes because it was done under court orders in the best interests of the child.
In addition, Ontario was the only province to sign a formal agreement with Ottawa to take over the protection and adoption of First Nations children. The case turns on a single provision the plaintiffs say essentially required the federal government to consult Indian bands and maintain oversight of the children’s welfare.
“I lost everything, including my name. I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture,” Marcia Brown Martel, the representative plaintiff in the Ontario case, told The Canadian Press. “This should never have happened. It was wrong.”
Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was taken by child welfare officials and adopted by a non-native family as a child. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.
Last week, five Aboriginal leaders wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge his government to settle, and admit the “immense wrong” done the scoop children.
“This moment is an opportunity for Canada to put an ugly legacy behind us,” the letter states.
Women among thousands of First Nations children removed from their families under federal program
CBC News Posted: Jul 04, 2016 / Last Updated: Jul 05, 2016
Sonya Murray and her sister Nakuset hadn’t heard from their youngest sister Rose Mary since she was around five years old.
The two older sisters were taken from their family home in Thompson, Man., one night as part of a federal government program that’s now known as the Sixties Scoop.
Decades after being forced apart along with thousands of other First Nations children and placed in adoptive homes across Canada, the two sisters were reunited with Rose Mary Monday on CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.
Between the 1960s and 1985, the government estimates more than 11,000 Aboriginal children were removed from their families – often without the parents’ consent – and adopted out under the program.
Others contend that as many as 50,000 children were adopted out under the program.
“One night, there was a knock on the door. Nakuset and I were alone in the house. I kind of opened door… and apparently some police came in and took us away,” Sonya said.
Nakuset and Sonya were kept in the same foster home for a brief period before they were separated.
‘She’s gone… that’s all I ever heard’
Sonya, who was around five years old at the time, was the eldest of the three girls.
“One morning I woke up and I looked in the bed over from me and it was all made up, and [Nakuset] was gone,” she said.
“I asked, ‘Where’s my sister?’ and they just said, ‘She’s gone.’ That’s all I ever heard.”
Nakuset was adopted by a family in Montreal, where she still lives, and Sonya was later returned to live with her mother and stepfather. She now lives near Kenora, Ont.
The emotions of that time are still raw for Nakuset, especially when she considers the loss Sonya felt and the effort she made to find her little sisters.
“Sonya made it her mission to try to find both of us, and she’s really the one that keeps us all together.”
That effort paid off last week, when she received a message from Rose Mary on Facebook last week.
The youngest sister had moved to Vienna, Austria, with her European father when she was around three years old.
“There were no goodbyes,” Sonya said. “She was just gone one day.”
The sisters’ four brothers were also taken from their mother and placed in homes.
‘She was the last missing piece of the puzzle’
The message from Rose Mary, who now lives in Horn, Austria, came as a welcome shock to Sonya.
“I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t sure. My head was asking if this is real,” Sonya told CBC.
Since then, the three say they’ve been going “crazy” together, and they finally feel complete.
“In Austria, I used to feel lost and I never knew why,” Rose Mary said. “Now, my heart feels wide open and I’ve found new happiness.”
Rose Mary was “the missing piece,” Nakuset added, a feeling that was echoed by Sonya.
“You have a sense of emptiness, there’s always a feeling that you’re not full, you’re not complete,” she said.
“In meeting with my two sisters — now it’s ‘us’, not just me and you, like it was with Nakuset. It’s not just me and you against the world, it’s us against the world. We’re complete. She was the last missing piece of the puzzle.”
Nakuset said she can’t imagine the loneliness her youngest sister felt so far away.
“I think about how hard that must have been for her to be the only Cree in a country, you know, where there’s no one else who looks like her,” she said.
Nakuset said they’re now keen to get to Europe and teach their little little sister all about Cree culture and language. Rose Mary is already planning a visit to Canada next summer.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make up for lost time,” Nakuset said.