Today, Sept. 30, is Orange Shirt Day, remembering Indigenous children who suffered in residential schools

If you happen to have an orange shirt in your closet, consider wearing it today (Monday, Sept. 30). Orange Shirt Day is a relatively new effort to raise awareness and remember the indigenous children who suffered in Canada’s residential school system, a system that stripped them of their languages, cultures, spiritual traditions and their very identities.

The practice is not as wide spread in the United States, which has a similar ugly history with American Indian boarding schools. Some people in the United States have followed Canada’s lead.

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Truth and Reconciliation Efforts Take a Step Back in Canada, Still Haven’t Started in the U.S.

Much has been written about Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation efforts with First Nations Peoples. But this work requires long-term commitment and the latest news from Ontario is about backsliding and what appear to be bureaucratic and euphemistic explanations for cuts.

At the last minute, the Ontario Ministry of Education cancelled a project to upgrade school curriculum around the devastating impact of Canada’s residential schools (what are referred to in the United States as Indian Boarding Schools). According to a July 9 story in the CBC.

The previous government of Kathleen Wynne committed in 2016 to update course content at the elementary and secondary levels — including social studies, history, geography and civics — to teach all students about the legacy of residential schools.

Indigenous educators and elders were to travel to Toronto to participate in the curriculum revision project over the next two weeks, but team members received emails on Friday afternoon telling them the plan was cancelled.

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Native Nations Sue to Protect Bears Ears Monument, and More

Bears Ears formation (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

You probably have read by now that President Trump took the unprecedented action to drastically reduce the size of national monuments in Utah, including Bears Ears, sacred lands to Native nations. As the New York Times reported:

President Trump sharply reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah on Monday by some two million acres, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.

The administration shrank Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, by 85 percent, and cut another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. The move, a reversal of protections put in place by Democratic predecessors, comes as the administration pushes for fewer restrictions and more development on public lands.

Native nations are fighting back, saying the President does not have the constitutional authority shrink national monuments, according to a statement from John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund.

Under the Antiquities Act, the president may create national monuments. That is all. He or she may not modify or revoke existing monuments — only Congress has that ability. Trump’s actions are illegal, unwarranted, and deeply unpopular. And they are a blatant attack on tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument a year ago. Native nations had pressed for that designation to protect their sacred places. As Echohawk explained:

Until the designation of Bears Ears, our sacred lands were under constant threat. Those unfamiliar with our cultures and our traditions contributed to the steady destruction of our sacred sites by looting, grave robbing, and indiscriminately drilling for oil and mining uranium at the expense of our heritage.

See the Native American Rights Fund website for more information. Continue reading

‘Stolen Childhoods’ Documentary Brings Home Historical Trauma in the Native Community

I’m sure many of you have had the experience listening to you car radio and getting caught up in an interesting MPR story; you get to your destination and regret missing the rest of the piece.

That was my experience recently, listing to: ‘Stolen Childhoods’: a documentary about the Indian Adoption Project. It is available online, and I just finished listening. It is a powerful way to understand the impact of federal assimilation policies and the tremendous trauma they created in the lives of children — and how that trauma got passed on to the next generation.

We have blogged in the past about the impacts of historical trauma, such as What Does Historical Trauma Look Like? The Native American Youth Suicide Rate and Native American Opoid Overdoes in Minnesota and Native Responses. The KFAI-produced radio documentary brings it home in a more powerful way, through personal stories by adults who suffered deeply from the adoption experience. One adoptee recalled the isolation she felt living in a rural, all-white town where none of the boys were allowed to date her; others recalled the shaming and abuse from their adopted families. (Props to producer Melissa Olson, who includes her mom, Judy, in the story.)

While this was federal policy, we need to remember that just as the case with boarding schools, churches had a big role in the harm that was done.

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Rosebud Youth Take Action After Carlisle Visit; Lawsuit Over Commercial Use of “Navajo”; Pow Wow Saturday

An article in Indian Country Today tells an important story of Rosebud Reservation youth learning about historical trauma and becoming stronger from it. The story is headlined: Bring Them Home’: Rosebud Sioux Seeking Return of Relatives Buried at Carlisle. It tells how youth are taking a leadership role to bring home the remains of their young relatives who died in a boarding school. According to the story:

… the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council of Rosebud, South Dakota, passed a resolution to bring home the remains of several Lakota children buried at Carlisle after hearing an impassioned presentation by the members of the Defending Childhood Initiative Youth Council …

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Creating a Virtual Indian Residential School; Capitol Art Update

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota is hosting a forum titled: “Embodying Empathy: Canadian Settler-Colonial Genocide and the Making of a Virtual Indian Residential School. The event is:

  • Tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m. at 710 Social Sciences Building on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank. Speaking will be English Prof. Adam Muller of the University of Manitoba.

Here is the promotional description:

Can we digitally represent the experiences of victims of atrocity in order to educate and cultivate empathy? This presentation introduces and reflects on some of the key challenges facing researchers involved with the multidisciplinary critical and creative Embodying Empathy project now underway at the University of Manitoba. Embodying Empathy seeks to construct a digital representation of a Canadian Indian Residential School (IRS) using virtual and augmented reality technologies. The project’s digital “storyworld” is being designed as a museum-quality educational tool that will instruct those immersed in it about Canadian settler-colonial genocide. It also seeks to ascertain whether immersive representations can bridge the empathetic distance separating victims from secondary witnesses to atrocity.
Here is the link to the Embodying Empathy website. And here is a 2014 article in The Manitoban (the University of Manitoba student newspaper) provides more background on the project:

The purpose of this project is to create a virtual Indian Residential School (IRS) in partnership with an interdisciplinary team of IRS survivors, indigenous communities, archivists, scholars, and technology experts …

To this day, few of the buildings that housed residential schools remain to serve as knowledge centres about the history of forced assimilation. This project aims to re-create residential school exhibits for educational purposes based on the testimony of survivors.

Click on the link above for more details. (Thanks to Steve Miller for passing this along.)

Capitol Art Update

The Art Subcommittee has posted new public input meetings, including these in the metro area. Please attend if you can.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Augsburg College, Christensen Center, 2211 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis
  • Tuesday, December 1, 6-8 p.m., Hamline University, Anderson Center, Rooms 304-5, Corner of Snelling Ave. N. and Englewood Ave., 774 Snelling Avenue N, St. Paul
  • Wednesday, December 9, 7-9 p.m., Minnetonka Community Center Community Room, 14600 Minnetonka Blvd, Minnetonka

The Art Subcommittee also posted this on-line survey on Capitol art.  Please take the time to fill one out.

We are up to 475 signatures on our petition: Make the Minnesota State Capitol more welcoming: Remove offensive art, add inspiring art. Please consider posting it to Facebook or sharing with friends to help up get to 500.

Capitol Art Petition Update and News Wrap

Healing Minnesota Stories’ petition “Make the Minnesota State Capitol more welcoming: Remove offensive art, add inspiring art” continues to gain support. We are approaching 300 signatures and have our first institutional co-sponsor, World Without Genocide. Thanks to everyone who signed. If you haven’t signed, please click on the link above and consider sharing with your networks. Thank you!

News Wrap: New Book Recounts Red Lake History, Seattle passes Boarding School Resolution; and More