[Marxism] Cruel experiment on aboriginal children
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 22 10:03:22 MST 2013
On 12/22/13 11:49 AM, Ken Hiebert wrote:
> Hungry. I'll always remember having been so hungry
> http://www.albernivalleynews.com/news/234683481.html Tseshaht tribe
> member Randy Fred finished eating an orange and was about to dispose
> of the peelings when the pangs of an old experience struck him.
> Fred paused after eating his orange then bit into the peel, just as
> he had done so many times in 1956 while a student at the Alberni
> Indian Residential School (AIRS). “It brought tears to my eyes not
> because of the acidity of the orange, but because of the memory of
> eating leftover orange peels and apple cores when I was a kid,” he
"The Circle Game": a review
The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School
Experience in Canada
Roland Chrisjohn and Sherri Young, with Michael Maraun
Theytus Books Ltd., Penticton, BC, Canada; 1997
327 pages, C$ 16.95
Combining scholarly prowess and Swiftian irony, "The Circle Game" makes
the case that Canadian residential schools were not just an unfortunate
accident. Rather they were elements of a calculated policy of cultural
and physical genocide. To destroy the Indians as a people was a
precondition to gaining control of their land.
Since the authors have solid academic credentials, they are in a
position to recognize and refute apologies for genocide sprouting from
the academy as well as the church. Roland Chrisjohn, a Haudenausaunee,
received a doctorate in Personality and Measurement from the University
of Western Ontario in 1981. Co-author Sherri Young and contributor
Michael Maraun are specialists in the fields of Applied Social
Psychology and Statistics respectively. Dispensing with the "value-free"
stance found in academia, the authors join a long tradition of advocacy
made proud by scholars such as Noam Chomsky, Edward Said and Ward Churchill.
Canada has a reputation of being more civilized than the United States.
Images of smallpox blankets, forced marches to Oklahoma and outright
massacre are as prominent a part of the US's historical memory as gas
chambers are of Germany's. So is the term genocide appropriate to bland,
Keeping in mind that United Nations Genocide Convention--to which Canada
became a signatory on November 28, 1949--defines "Forcibly transferring
children of the group to another group" as constituting a form of
genocide, there can be no doubt that Canadian residential schools fall
into this category. Canadian leaders like Duncan Scott spoke openly
about the "Indian problem" in terms similar to Hitler's "Jewish problem":
"I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of
fact, that this country ought to continuously protect a class of people
who are able to stand alone. That is my whole point. Our objective is to
continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been
absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question..."
Whether or not violence was used "to get rid of the Indian problem" is
immaterial. As the authors state, "We repeat: the Nazis could have
carried out the Holocaust politely; their crime wasn't simply that they
implemented it in a cruel and disagreeable fashion".
That being said, there was plenty of violence. The authors recount some
of the findings of the First National Conference on Residential Schools
in Vancouver, June 1991:
--Sticking needles through the tongues of children, often leaving them
in place for extended periods of time;
--Inserting needles into other regions of children’s anatomy;
--Burning or scalding children;
--Beating children into unconsciousness;
--Beating children to the point of drawing blood;
--Beating children to the point of inflicting serious permanent or
semi-permanent injuries, including broken arms, broken legs, broken
ribs, fractured skulls, shattered eardrums, and the like;
--Using electrical shock devices on physically restrained children;
--Forcing sick children to eat their own vomit.
The response of the Canadian government and churches has been one of
damage control. That is why "The Circle Game" is so important. It
demolishes the foundation of lies upon which the Canadian establishment
and its stolen land rests.
Canadian apologists for genocide, especially those in academic circles,
have a defense that sounds a bit like that of hate radio personality
Rush Limbaugh, who is tired of complaints about what happened to African
slaves or American Indians one hundreds years ago or more. The more
sophisticated version says that actions in the past should only be
judged by values and standards that existed 'back then'. Unless the
actions were judged as evil in the past, they can be forgiven. This is
the same kind of forgive and forget attitude that was on display when
Reagan put flowers on the graves of Nazi officers at Bitburg.
The authors slash this defense to ribbons by pointing out that the
people being wronged, whether slaves or Indians, had no way of providing
input into the marketplace of values and standards. Referring to a study
by Michael Parenti on crimes against African-Americans, they write,
"That they [the slaves] didn't have access to the forums of debate and
policy-making back then doesn't mean that they (and non-slaves
sympathetic to them) accepted their lot; it simply means that their
oppression precluded any effective means of protest." When dealing with
the genocide against the Indian, it is simply impermissible to argue
that the malefactors were conforming to social standards of the period.
If anything, the only proper behavior would have been that of Huck Finn,
who defied conventional values and standards by making common cause with
a runaway slave.
What explains the cruelty of Canada's colonists? As is so often the
case, greed is a sufficient explanation. In order to gain access to
grazing land, timber and mineral riches, it was necessary to get rid of
the native population. Legal indigenous ownership of the land was
undeniable. The only way to break their control was through war, treaty
or termination of the legal line of descendants. In Canada, due to the
peculiarities of established British policy, it became necessary to end
Indian control without violating British laws through outright warfare.
Genocide by cultural obliteration was geared to this need. As a program,
it consisted of four elements:
1. Reduce the number of indigenous people who could make a legal claim
as descendants of a tribe or nation. Through forced assimilation,
residential schools would reduce the number of people who would be
thinking of themselves as Indians and consequently demanding ownership
of what belongs to them. In effect, the goal was to lobotomize an entire
2. Eliminate the economic and social relations that constitute the basis
of Indian life. By turning a hunter or a fisher into a shoemaker or a
seamstress, it would make it more difficult to defend traditional social
3. Make life as difficult as possible for those who assert Aboriginal
identity. If you are beaten at a residential school for speaking an
Indian tongue or wearing your hair long, you will get the lesson soon.
Stop being an Indian. When you are no longer an Indian, then you might
forget about the land that legally belongs to you.
4. Make integration into white society as easy and safe as possible. The
residential schools prepare the Indian for a meager existence in the
cities of Canada. Also, by pumping ideas of an Afterlife into the heads
of pupils in church-run institutions, suffering in this world might
The authors define the residential schools in terms of Erving Goffman's
'total institutions'. Goffman, a Canadian himself, developed this
analysis in the 1961 "Asylums". Even though Goffman's study does not
include residential schools, it is clear that they fall within his
purview, which includes institutions such as homes for the aged,
asylums, monasteries, prisons and concentration camps. The authors write:
"He called such places total institutions, defined (in 'family
resemblance' terms) as social institutions which were 'walled off' in
some way from the world at large; which 'broke down' the barriers that
existed in greater society between places of work, sleep, and play; and
which enforced and maintained an extreme power disparity between a large
inmate population and a smaller supervisory staff (which continued to be
integrated with the outside world.)"
The goal of such institutions is to 'unmake' the people over they gain
control. More importantly, the goal is not to create a new self, but no
self at all. For this goal to be realized, it is often necessary to
intern people at an early age, when the true self has not had a chance
to assert itself. This is why Indian children were taken from their
parents at the earliest possible age.
Such a process could not fail to produce deeply traumatized individuals
with problems such as alcoholism or sexual dysfunction. The Canadian
political and religious establishment has tried to address the human
consequences of their genocidal operations as a 'therapeutic' problem.
Victims of these 'total institutions' are supposed to receive treatment
for 'Residential School Syndrome'.
This proposal receives a bitterly ironic commentary from the authors,
who feel that there is a 'Residential School Syndrome', but of a
somewhat different character than that defined by their establishment
foes. They describe it in part as follows and recommend that it be
included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV:
301.82 Residential School Syndrome
Residential School Syndrome is a personality disorder manifested in an
individual’s specific behavioral action of (1) obliterating another
people’s way of life by taking the children of the group away from their
parents and having them raised in ignorance of, and/or with contempt
for, their heritage; while (2) helping himself/herself to the property
of the target group. The behaviors are closely related, and indeed, some
theorists have suggested that the "theft" of the target group’s children
should be seen as merely another manifestation of the overwhelming urge
to steal everything belonging to the target group. People with this
disorder have a grandiose sense of self-importance and unjustified
feelings of moral superiority, and, while they seldom bother to actually
respond to protests of the aggrieved group, they are sometimes heard
repeatedly to mutter empty platitudes like "It’s for your own good," or
"I’m the expert, I know what I’m doing."
"The Circle Game" includes seven appendices revolving around legal and
psychological issues related to residential schools that make an already
essential book that much more worth owning. Portions of it can be read
online at: http://www.treaty7.org/document/document.htm. The print
version may be ordered from U. of Toronto Press at 1-800-565-9523.
(Louis Proyect is the moderator of an Internet mailing list at
www.marxmail.org. He has written on indigenous issues for "Organization
and Environment", "Canadian Dimensions" and "Review of Radical Political
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