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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Weekend Reading and Efforts to Resist the Dakota Access Pipeline

Below are brief synopses and links to articles. Pick the one(s) that speak to you:

  • The Canadian commitment to fully embrace the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Returning to Harmony, an essay about residential schools, intergenerational trauma, and healing by Richard Wagamese (Ojibwe)
  • A United Nations proposal to increase participation by indigenous governments — and some pushback
  • An update on resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline

 

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Local Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee Ceremony; Canadian TRC Issues Final Report; Power Struggle on White Earth

Healing Minnesota Stories/SPIN encourage you to attend the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Communities’ observance of Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee: Toward Indigenous and Global Healing.

The event is: Tuesday, Dec. 29, 12:00 noon at the Dupuis House, (northwest corner of D Street and Hwy 13, on site of Sibley House), 1357 Sibley Memorial Hwy, Mendota, (map). A pot luck will follow at 2 p.m.

This event responds to the Call for Healing on the occasion of the 125th Memorial Ceremony at the site of the Wounded Knee massacre, and the 25th Reunion of the Chief Big Foot Band Memorial Ride. This will be the Inaugural Global Ceremony to End Massacre. Communities around the globe are joining at noon in their own time zones with prayers and pledges to end massacres around the world.

Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Releases Final Report

On Dec. 15, the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report, including its 94 Calls to Action. Recommendations range from No. 1, detailing how to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in the Canadian child welfare system, to No. 94, changing the Canadian citizenship oath. Here’s the proposed new oath:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen. [emphasis added]

Recommendation 58 read:

We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.

At a news conference the day after the report’s release, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would seek such a formal apology from the Pope. The CBC report gives more details on Trudeau’s comments.

Power Struggle on the White Earth Reservation

MPR reported Dec. 23 that “A power struggle over constitutional reform on the White Earth Reservation could cost longtime tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor her job.”

A new White Earth constitution drafted by Vizenor and the tribal council would have drastically shifted the government structure and changed requirements for tribal membership. When implementation stalled, Vizenor wrote a federal official in the hopes of moving things along, a move critics said overstepped her authority.

Vizenor said critics were just trying to stop reforms.

“The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has no separation of powers,” she said. “It’s open to corruption. We need change, but they don’t want to lose power.”

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.