What of our Stolen Sisters? A Post Mortem

I know everybody’s tired of it and of him.  But questions linger and the post mortems are just as, or more important than, the explosion of media reporting that accompanies the events.  We all know how bad that was.  Except for this, and I’m not sure if it counts since it’s on the blogs and not in print – John Cruikshank prolly doesn’t even know it’s there.

The post mortems are threatening to be equally bad, even when of the more, er, “thoughtful” kind.  Take this from The Globe and Mail:            

In 1941, American psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley published a seminal book about psychopaths called The Mask of Sanity, in which he described an intelligent and cunning person skilled at manipulating others and indifferent to their pain. A man like this, Dr. Cleckley explained, finds no real meaning in love or horror or humour, as if “colour blind” to human feeling.


Dr. Cleckley used interviews, observation and medical records to learn about his patients, but today, brain imaging offers scientists a new way to peer behind the mask. A growing number of them now see psychopathy as a neurodevelopmental disorder, one in which a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as neglect or poor bonding with parents, lead to deficits in the brain. And if biology is to blame, can society hold the psychopath responsible?

The brain deficits that neuroscientists have documented affect the ability of psychopaths to feel emotions and learn from their mistakes – as if they have a learning disability that impairs their emotional development, says Kent Kiehl, a neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico. The differences have been seen in the brain images of children as young as 5.

There is much that I find interesting and important in these theories and findings.  Including that it might be quite beside the point to “blame” and punish psychopaths – though it’s still important to find humane ways to protect ourselves from them.  But what they almost always leave out, as in this case, are questions about gender and race.  Perhaps that comes later for scientists and most media types but I think the issues need to be addressed now.

Why are criminal “psychopaths” most often male?  Why are their victims most often female (and children)?  If we remain obsessed by the neurobiological, importantand intriguing as it is, we fail to properly address the fact that psychopathology results from a complex process involving not just the biological but also the social and environmental.

Cops miss this too, even when they acknowledge the interconnections.  For instance, The FBI produced a monograph on serial murder after a “multi-disciplinary” symposium on the topic held in San Antonio in 2005.  Here’s something the monograph says about causality and serial killing:

Serial murderers, like all human beings, are the product of their heredity, their upbringing, and the choices they make throughout development.

Though the monograph does discuss this in somewhat more complex terms like “environment” it never really gets beyond the issue of “upbringing” within the family.  It never gets to the “social” at all, beyond pointing out that serial murders are present across racial and socioeconomic divides.  When it addresses the myth that serial killers are (mostly) white males, it explains how that is not so in terms of race but never deals with the issue of gender.

I’m thinking there weren’t any feminists at the symposium.  A feminist might ask why male psychopathy more often leads to serial death than female psychopathy.  Might also ask why the victims are more often women, especially when murder is combined with sexual assault.  A feminist might think certain social divisions need to be investigated.  Like women’s inequality.  Like the objectification and sexification of women.  Like the violent images of women’s victimhood so beloved in the Western world that they comprise a multi-billion dollar industry – and not just in porn.  Like the vulnerability often imposed on women by race and poverty.  Like the masculinization of power.

But while we’re on race and poverty.  One thing that I do like about the FBI monograph is that it points out how rare serial murdering is. 

Serial murder is a relatively rare event, estimated to comprise less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year. However, there is a macabre interest in the topic that far exceeds its scope and has generated countless articles, books, and movies.

We’ve certainly experienced that in Canada this past week.  There isn’t a way to diminish the suffering of the Lloyd and Comeau families or the tragedy of the deaths of these sisters and daughters.  But their deaths and the prurient and sensational interest in Colonel Williams and others like him does diminish our aptitude for further examination of the lives and suffering of others.  For instance, apart from a few brief mentions, does anyone seem to care much for the women who survived attacks by Williams?  That is, apart from Antonia Zerbisias.  And why isn’t the media all over the stories of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.  If Williams had chosen from among them, would anybody have noticed?  From Amnesty International Canada:

According to a Canadian government statistic, young Indigenous women are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence.

Indigenous women have long struggled to draw attention to violence within their own families and communities. Canadian police and public officials have also long been aware of a pattern of racist violence against Indigenous women in Canadian cities – but have done little to prevent it.

The pattern looks like this:

  • Racist and sexist stereotypes deny the dignity and worth of Indigenous women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with acts of hatred against them.
  • Decades of government policy have impoverished and broken apart Indigenous families and communities, leaving many Indigenous women and girls extremely vulnerable to exploitation and attack.
  • Many police forces have failed to institute necessary measures – such as training, protocols and accountability mechanisms – to ensure that officers understand and respect the Indigenous communities they serve. Without such measures, police too often fail to do all they can to ensure the safety of Indigenous women and girls whose lives are in danger.

What about our stolen sisters?  A new report has added 62 more names to a growing list of missing or slain aboriginal women and girls across Canada.

The report by the Native Women’s Association of Canada pegs the total as at least 582.  The data is drawn from the last three decades, with 153 of the cases occurring between 2000 and 2008.  Most of the women in the database were killed, while 115 are still missing.

I challenge the mainstream media to make a big event of these numbers and the lost lives of these women.

Stephen Harper certainly won’t.

Women Unite, Defeat the Right!

In his 2008 article “Facism Anyone?”, Laurence W. Britt enumerated the key elements of facism under well-known historical regimes such as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia.  Number 5 on Britt’s list: 

Rampant sexism.  Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses. 

Stephen Harper began his CON regime by cutting funding to the Ministry of the Status of Women and to countless women’s groups across the country, including the highly successful Court Challenges Programme which LEAF had used effectively to challenge government actions and legislation that it believed breached the Charter rights of women.  Of course, Harper also gave us the charming Helena Guergis to perform as his talking doll in the Ministry, though she has proven less than charming

But let’s have a look at more recent HarperCON activities that fit into the “blatant sexism” category. 

Let’s begin with the federal budget for 2010.  Most commentators said it was the “do nothing” budget but of course, all budgets do something, even if by neglect.  Professor Kathleen Lahey from Queen’s University Law School did the math.  Here’s her over-all assessment: 

The big picture: Women are half the population in Canada and nearly half the official labour force – but still do 62% of all unpaid work, and receive only 40% of after-tax incomes. 

This Budget: The government claims that it is providing one last $19 billion ‘stimulus’ package this year, shorn of new tax cuts or spending items. This is highly misleading. New corporate tax cuts and continued huge PIT and GST cuts bring the total to $41.9 billion for 2010/11. 

Gender gaps: This $41.9 billion is being delivered in forms that will benefit far more in Budget 2010: men than women, widen gender gaps even further, and continue to drive up poverty rates among women and single parents. 

Of course, women were unattended to in the “Stimulus Budget” as well: 

 Budget 2009 not only fails to target the most vulnerable, but it seems to have been carefully crafted to exclude women from as much of the $64 billion in new deficit-financed spending and tax cuts as possible … [see how

Then there’s the issue of child care.  HarperCON carefully eliminated the 5 billion dollar daycare agreement that the Paul Martin government had reached with the provinces before it lost the 2006  election and replaced it with a $100 per month per child benefit that Jim Flaherty said was meant to emphasize “choice” for families with daycare aged children – in terms of social policy conservatives have always insisted that individuals be responsible for the full costs of reproduction and the tiny benefit they extended did little to ameliorate those costs for working families or single parent families, most of which are headed by women.  In his most recent budget Flaherty added $100 per month per child under the age of six.  I don’t think there’s anybody who believes that will be truly helpful. 

In addition, the money Flaherty is extending is counted as taxable income in the hands of lower income parents so its true value is actually less than its face value: 

Because the child care allowance will increase their income, families will pay more federal and provincial/territorial income taxes, while at the same time receiving less from geared-to-income benefits such as the federal Canada Child Tax Benefit and GST credit as well as provincial/territorial child benefits and tax credits. Thus the true value of the child care scheme will be considerably less than its $1,200 a year face value – significantly less in the case of many working poor and modest-income families, who will get a smaller after-tax benefit than middle- and upper-income families. One-earner families with a parent who stays home will do better than lone-parent and two-earner families. But even for one-earner couples with children, those who earn the most would get to keep more of the proposed benefit.  [here]   

The women of Canada thank you for that cool “choice” Jim.  Helena Guergis seems to have another solution, though she won’t give details: 

Then why did status of women minister Helena Guergis tell Canadian delegates at the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women this month that Israel has such “strong family values there that they don’t need a national daycare plan! Wouldn’t it be great to figure out how they’re doing that?” 

On Monday, at the most heavily covered Status of Women Committee meeting ever, Liberal status of women critic Anita Neville tried to pin the beleaguered Guergis down on what she meant by “family values.”  [more

Onward then.  Over the course of the prorogation HarperCON’s mouthpiece, Bev Oda (he sure knows how to get women to work for him) announced that her government would work to promote maternal health by targetting foreign aid for this purpose.  What could be wrong with that?  Well, in the first place, Flaherty’s budget will freeze foreign aid next year and that just can’t help.  On top of that, both Oda and Lawrence Cannon have now made it clear that “maternal health care” does NOT include contraception and access to safe abortionCannon says the government’s initiative on maternal health care is mean to save lives, not provide birth control. 

These are actually contradictory policies.  The best way to reduce the abortion rate is to provide sex education and contraception.  That much seems obvious.  Perhaps less obvious (to men) is the fact that when women get pregnant and don’t want to continue their pregnancies, they have always and always will find ways to terminate them.  Unfortunately, in countries where abortion isn’t legal or accessible, this leads to unsafe abortions and the deaths of approximately 68,000 women worldwide, per year.  When mothers die their children have an increased risk of dying within a few years.  The government has also failed to extend funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation through CIDA.  So the question for HarperCON is, do pregnant women have a right to live?  Just to cite an obvious recent example, what about the women of Haiti

A lack of education, limited access to reproductive health care, and the rape and violence that Haitian women face have led to a country with a staggeringly poor set of vital statistics. These include a high maternal and infant mortality rate and a high illiteracy rate, with only half the population able to read and write. Because of the high birth rate and abject poverty, hundreds of thousands of children are given up to over-burdened orphanages. Before the quake, an estimated 380,000 children had been placed in just 167 orphanages and care centers; that number of orphans, observers say, may have doubled as a result of the quake and could now be as many as one million! 

HarperCON isn’t offering real help to boost maternal health in its foreign aid policy.  What about the health of Canadian women and infants?  Well, unsurprisingly, the money isn’t forthcoming here either.  The Canada Prenatal Nutrition Programme, for instance, has been effective in helping women who suffer from extremes of poverty, isolation, abuse  and addiction to improve outcomes for their newborns.  But the Programme hasn’t had a funding boost since 1999.  As Dean Beeby reports, 

After a decade of inflation, that represents an effective cut of $4 million, without accounting for population growth. And spending in 2008-09 was down by $200,000 from the previous year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which runs the program. 

Add to that the fact that neither the government nor the media has had anything to say about a recent report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that fetal and infant mortality rates are 2.7% higher among Inuit women than elsewhere in the country and you should get some sense of the depth of HarperCON’s commitment to the health of mothers and their infants in this country. 

Another way of helping women in developing countries to stay alive would be an effective strategy for combatting violence against women.  HarperCON seems aware that they should have such a commitment, they just don’t take it seriously.  Through CIDA, Canada has invested $15 million dollars into a campaign against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo: 

An internal Canadian government report obtained by The Globe and Mail concluded that Canada was spending too much money on T-shirts, vests, caps, cardboard folders and gaudy posters while failing to make progress on the bigger issues of prevention and justice. Ms. Bihamba chuckled grimly as she described the foreign- aid projects. The simple problem with the campaign, she said, is that most perpetrators of sexual violence are illiterate – they can’t read the printed messages. 

This despite the fact that gender violence blocks progress in every major development target. 

… violence–from rape during armed conflicts to domestic violence–is a leading cause of death and disability among women of all ages, and costs nations billions of dollars as it drains public resources and lowers economic productivity. 

In his own country, PM Harper indicated in the Speech from the Throne that his government intends to support a Private Member’s Bill to abolish the long-gun registry – one small measure that has actually had some impact in preventing and intervening in domestic violence against women.  And there’s little doubt that he will re-introduce the crime legislation that includes increased and extended mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain crimes including small-time drug offences.  That will mean more Aboriginal and African Canadian women in jail for longer periods of time (men too) and discrimination against other vulnerable groups as well.  [link to Facebook Note] 

The women of Canada have no reason to be grateful to HarperCON and every reason to protest its actions while it remains the government of this country.  Even more reason to be active and stay active in every movement they can find that wants to oust the creep and his coterie in the next election – according to some pundits, not far off. 

Women Unite, Defeat the Right

Harper & Canada’s ‘Indian Problem’

From Corvin Russell at rabble:

From the days of Jean Chretien’s White Paper in 1969, federal governments have dreamed of completing the process of colonization and assimilation through making Aboriginal rights disappear through a strategy of deceit: making Aboriginal rights disappear in the name of “giving” Canada’s Indigenous peoples the “same” rights as other Canadians.


Now the Harper government is trying to implement much of the same agenda through the back door. Harper’s American mentor, Tom Flanagan, thinks he knows what’s best for First Nations in his book, First Nations, Second Thoughts. And much of that has to do with the abolition of Aboriginal rights and the municipalization of First Nations, with a concomitant increase of dependence and “accountability” to Ottawa, instead of to Indigenous Peoples: as Flanagan says, “Call it assimilation, call it integration, call it adaptation, call it whatever you want: it has to happen.”

This leaked secret memo to cabinet and this memo sent to chiefs and councils suggest that once again, white bureaucrats and politicians in Ottawa are devising solutions to the “Indian problem” that will make life easier for the colonial government and business interests. This time, they’ve learned the lesson of overly public, overly explicit changes to First Nations governance — instead, they are pursuing a strategy of administrative reform whose main advantage, according to the memo to cabinet, is that it can be done without “the need for extensive or time-consuming engagement with First Nations or third parties.”

Read the whole thing here

Wente & Canada’s “Savages”

Any time you’re aching for a dose of ignorance and (deliberate?) stupidity, head over to Margaret Wente’s column at The Globe and Mail.  I stopped reading Wente a long time ago because I felt I was in danger of stroking out.  Sometimes I miss important things though.

Last week, I posted about Dick Pound’s offensive comment to La Presse during the Beijing Olympics referring to Canada’s Indigenous people as “savages”.  In her Saturday column at The Globe, Wente “argues” that Pound’s comment was unfortunate, but correct.  I have to put the word “argues” in quotes because Wente wouldn’t know an argument if she ran into one.

Nevertheless, the woman writes for Canada’s national newspaper so I assume she does have some readers and that some of them may be affected by what she writes – they might think she knows something.  It makes me very happy to direct you to an article in today’s Globe in which Hayden King shreds Wente and points readers in a rational direction in his article “Indigenous cultures rivalled those of civilizations around the world”.  Here’s a bit:

Thomas Jefferson once remarked that those who don’t read newspapers are better informed than those who do, even as the former may know nothing, the latter only know falsehood and error. This brings to mind Margaret Wente’s recent column about Olympic official Dick Pound, who said, “400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages.” Ms. Wente’s Saturday column has likely set back the first nations’ campaign for an accurate representation of native peoples in the mainstream media by 10 years.

In fact, a brief survey of the original peoples of this continent illustrates an array of accomplishments that rival civilizations around the globe, including those in Western Europe. Yet today, in North America, the ancestors of those from both continents live side by side, separated by a canyon of misunderstanding. To gain insight, we need only turn to indigenous oral traditions, wampum belts, birchbark scrolls and Tsalagi and Aztec texts. In addition, scholars of all stripes from all corners of the globe have contributed to a greater knowledge of indigenous cultures.


Please read the rest here.

Many years ago, Wente wrote an article about fetal alcohol syndrome in which she stated that, unbeknownst to average Canadians, the majority of children born to aboriginal people in this country are born with FAS.

That would have been news to me, so I wrote to Wente and asked her to direct me to the research she used to support her conclusion.  She wrote back to me to say she had done no research but had a friend who was an aboriginal person and a social worker and she’d relied on him for her information.  ‘Nuf said.

Note:  In fact, judging by the number of articles she’s written on the subject, Wente is obsessed with the FAS issue.  I can’t direct you to the article I read way back because you’d have to purchase it to read it, but there are plenty more here.  Don’t pay to read any of them.

Meantime, here’s another Globe article, this time by Joe Friesen, in which we learn about one of the long-term consequences of European colonization:

The gap in high-school graduation rates for aboriginals and non-aboriginals has grown in recent years, while the percentage of aboriginal people with a university degree has increased only slightly compared with a massive boom among the general population, new research shows.

Both are troubling figures that indicate much more needs to be done in one of the great social-policy challenges Canada faces, according to a study published yesterday by the C. D. Howe Institute.

“Clearly, we’re not doing well enough, and clearly, we should be highly concerned about it,” said the study’s author, John Richards, who teaches public policy at Simon Fraser University.

“A marginalized community, such as aboriginals, living in a modern economy can only escape poverty through an educational transformation.”


Read the rest here

EDIT:  I had to come back to fix the link to Hayden King’s article – thanks Vesper!


Uh, hello Dick Pound?  Is there an operational brain working in your head?  I missed Pound’s comment during the Beijing Olympics in which he compared China’s 5,000 year old civilization to Canada’s nation of “savages” a mere 400 years ago.  I missed it because it seems it received coverage only in Montreal’s francophone La Presse and there doesn’t seem to have been any follow-up till now.

Mr. Pound has held posts at the IOC on the international stage for a good many years and is now the Chancellor of McGill University.  He should know better.  And it pisses me off no end that he thinks the problem is simply a matter of political correctness.  No Mr. Pound, it’s an issue of human decency; of extending to Aboriginal Canadians the respect they are due.  A man who has missed the moments in our history when some Canadians have begun to understand the gross indecency, genocide, ethnic cleansing and resulting discrimination and desecration of First Nations perpetrated by white Europeans ought not to hold his position.  I can’t imagine a context in which his comments either make any sense at all, or are acceptable.

Apologize publicly, Mr. Pound, and resign as Chancellor.  Take your brainless head and bury it back in he sand.

Here’s the story from The Globe and Mail:

An aboriginal rights group has reported former International Olympic Committee vice-president Dick Pound to the IOC’s ethics committee, accusing him of making racist and intolerant comments about Canada’s native peoples and demanding that he be denounced ahead of the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

André Dudemaine, director of LandInSights, a Quebec-based aboriginal advocacy group, said Mr. Pound made comments in an interview with Montreal’s La Presse newspaper in August, in which he called 17th-century Canada “a land of savages.” The comments were discriminatory and contrary to the IOC code of ethics, Mr. Dudemaine said.

Mr. Pound, speaking in French in a story about the Olympics published Aug. 9, was responding to a question about the potential embarrassment of holding the Games in China, where dissidents had been jailed and a Tibetan uprising crushed.

“We must not forget that 400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages, with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European descent, while in China, we’re talking about a 5,000-year-old civilization. We must be prudent about our great experience of three or four centuries before telling the Chinese how to manage China,” Mr. Pound told journalist Agnès Gruda.

Yesterday, Mr. Pound said he had no intention of making a racist remark, and that it could be clarified by a better understanding of the context.

“I was defending the IOC [and] its choice of Beijing against assertions by the North American media,” he said. “Yes, I’m sure that there’s probably a more politically correct way of expressing it in this day and age. But I was saying think back to what it was like 200 or 300 years ago before you start lecturing a 5,000-year-old society. It wasn’t a comment on the government of whatever the aboriginal peoples might have been. It was a comment about the U.S. in its current incarnation having a solution to everybody’s problems.”

Mr. Dudemaine said the use of the word “savages” is troubling, and that Mr. Pound’s words suggest aboriginal people had no culture or civilization, a myth thoroughly discredited by historians.

“He just hit the nail in the middle of very old prejudices that somehow are still present in Canadian society,” he said. “It is exactly this kind of statement by a very respected person that damages all of the progress we wish to make in Canada.”

Mr. Pound said a fair reading would indicate this is a manufactured controversy. He said his use of the word “savages” was a historical reference.

“That was the word used at the time in all the literature by the Jesuits who were here. They were just generally les sauvages,” he said.

Ghislain Picard, chief of the assembly of First Nations of Quebec, said he was outraged by Mr. Pound’s comments, and called on him to resign as Chancellor of McGill University.

“Mr. Pound should himself understand the immense discourtesy of his remarks and offer to resign,” the chief said.

Historical reference my ass.  Mr. Pound said nothing to indicate that he disagreed with the Jesuit assessment of First Nations.  Mr. Pound’s comments are not only racist, they’re also inaccurate.  What a Dick!

Xeni Gwet’in

Nemaiah Valley, British Columbia

About the Xeni Gwet’in people:

The Nemiah Aboriginal Wilderness Preserve is our spiritual and economic homeland: from the lakes of Chilko, Taseko and Tatlayoko, where we fish for salmon and trout; to the mountains where we gather wild potatoes and berries; to the pristine forests where we hunt, gather medicinal plants and practice our sacred and spiritual ways.

This is a special land, where spawning salmon make their incredible 300-km journey up the Fraser and Chilcotin Rivers to Chilko Lake. Bighorn Sheep, grizzly and black bears, deer and wild horses are just some of our neighbors you just might encounter on your visit here.

This biggest surprise is that Nemiah is inaccessible rather than remote.  Physically, it lies less than 200 kilometers northwest of Vancouver, but with the Coast Mountains looming in between, the only road access from BC’s largest city is through the Pemberton Valley or up the Fraser Canyon to Williams Lake and then west into the mountains.  Figure eight or 10 hours by car, but preferably truck.  This is not a nice road.  For most of the last 100 kilometers, it is not even up to the standard demanded by the Ministry of Forests for logging roads.  You bounce and slide and pray (pointlessly, it turns out) that you don’t get a flat tire.  But the most important thing about the road is that until 1973, it didn’t exist at all.  While that made life difficult then, today the road brings new problems as well as opportunities which the Xeni Gwet’in hope to maximize.

Henry Solomon was the Xeni Gwet’in chief in 1973 and he remembers the wrenching effort required to get the road finished.  The project was started by an entrepreneur trying to improve transportation to a nearby fishing lodge.  He ran out of money, however, leaving the Xeni Gwet’in scrambling for resources to finish the job.  Solomon and band members lobbied the federal government for aid and support until, finally, the Army Corps of Engineers stepped into the breach.  Life changed overnight, Solomon says in his native Tsilhqot’in, his daughter translating.  “Before, no one wanted to help the Indian. We never got welfare or anything and we had to make our own money,” he said.

Earning a living in this isolated valley was no easy feat.  The Nemiah ran cattle and trapped through the winter, gardening and fishing in the finer months.  Once a year, they hitched up their horses, loaded the wagons and journeyed into Williams Lake, driving cattle for sale and buying seeds and dry goods for the coming year.  The trip took a week, one way.  It was a life little changed from 100 years earlier, when the survivors of the short-lived Chilcotin War withdrew into the valley to live in safety apart from the white man.

Before the road came in, the Xeni Gwet’in communicated in Tsilhqot’in.  Today, almost everyone over the age of 25 is still a fluent speaker.  If outsiders came into the valley back then, Solomon said locals would default into Chinook, a lingua franca derived from aboriginal languages, English and French and shared by natives and non-natives from the BC coast into the Interior.  There was some knowledge of English but not much affection for a language drummed in at the Oblate Mission school in 150 Mile House, east of Williams Lake.  “They were pretty mean,” Henry Solomon says of the missionaries.  “We couldn’t speak to each other, couldn’t speak Tsilhquot’in.”  Smiling, he adds, “But they couldn’t hold the kids; the kids would run away,” as he did before he reached his teens.  And life just seemed to get tougher.

Friends of Nemaiah Valley

What got me interested in Nemaiah Valley and the Xeni Gwet’in people was this lovely documentary:

Wild Horses, Unconquered People explores the intriguing relationship between the Xeni Gwet’in, a tiny band of Tsilhqot’in Indians, and hundreds of wild horses that mysteriously roam B.C.’s rugged Nemiah Valley – described as Canada’s Nepal. For what is arguably North America’s last true horse culture, the untamed spirits are an economic and spiritual resource – a powerful icon in a century-old fight with the government for control of this unconquered land.

Travelling the River Side By Side

Historically the Haudenosaunee were nations of people who practiced very sophisticated, yet simple, diplomatic principles in their dealings with other nations.

When the Haudenosaunee first encountered the representatives of certain European nations, they found that they were unaware of these principles, and had the potential for disrupting the peaceful ways that Haudenosaunee people wished to live.

Because our cultures and lifeways were so different, it was essential that a relationship be established based on mutual respect.

The Haudenosaunee proposed a treaty of peace, respect and peaceful co-existence, known as the Kas-wen-tha, or Two Row Wampum belt.

The belt was made with two parallel rows of purple wampum on a bed of white beads. The white was meant to symbolize the purity of the agreement. The two separate rows of purple beads, were made to symbolize and encompass the spirits of Haudenosaunee and non-Haudenosaunee people and ancestors. Between the two rows of purple beads, three rows of white beads, were placed. These were made to stand tor the friendship, peace and respect between the two nations.

It is said, that the two rows of purple beads, further symbolize, that two nations of people in separate vessels travel down the river, parallel from each other. The Onkwehonwe (Native people) are in their canoes. This symbolizes their culture, their laws, their traditions, their customs and other lifeways. The non-Native people are said to be in their own ships, which symbolizes their culture, their laws, their traditions, their customs and other lifeways.

It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other, or interfere or impede the travel of the other.

The Two Row Wampum is a treaty of respect for the dignity and integrity of the other culture and stresses the importance of non-interference of one nation in the business of the other, unless invited.

The early principles established in the Two Row Wampum Treaty formed the basis of all Haudenosaunee treaties with other Nations, including the Dutch, the French, the British, and then the Americans.

Check out GrannyRantsON

Germaine Greer on “Rage”

Germaine Greer, with more than a little help from the MSM and their inability to render complexity, has set off a bit of a firestorm in Australia with her essay on rage in aboriginal communities.  Here’s part of an interview:

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: And with me in the studio now is Professor Germaine Greer. Thank you for coming in. What I would like to do is take you through points raised in that story so we could hear your responses. But if I could start more generally, for people who have not read your book, what is your central objection to the Federal intervention?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER, ACADEMIC AND AUTHOR: It is not about the Federal intervention. It is about rage, it’s an essay on rage itself. It begins with a white example of somebody who feels his people have been unfairly discriminated against by government policy. I am talking about Bob Katter trying to deal with what’s happened to his people in the Northern Territory and in Queensland in particular who have been disenfranchised and driven to the wall in fact by government policy. The farmers who are killing themselves. What it tries to do is look at the spectrum of hunter gatherer violence, not just Aboriginal violence but hunter gatherer violence which has a particular shape. It involves self-destruction, high levels of suicide but also high levels of extraordinary violence against the people closest to the perpetrator, the perpetrator’s own children and the women folk in his own family.

LEIGH SALES: And this is what you think is happening in indigenous Australian communities?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: I don’t think there is any doubt about it. If you read the women’s task force report on violence, they talk about these extraordinary levels. This is not the same as free floating violence in a football crowd, for example. This is different and it’s, we’ve had, you know, clever essays about do we need a new sue Sinology [sic] to understand what is happening in black communities and I say no. If we begin to understand that suicide is caused not by grief, you can live with grief forever but you can’t live with rage because rage involves body chemicals that literally rip you to piece pieces. And everything you do will be made part of that self-destructive scenario. So you will abuse alcohol or petrol or your car or anything. So I am trying to talk about why these levels are there. I am not actually, most of what is extrapolated is wrong. I think the intervention will fail, unless the problem of rage is addressed. And then you have to ask how do you address it. I would say first of people all people have to find a way to express it because it’s never been said that it’s so particularly noxious and poisonous. So what we need is a political structure. What I’ve argued for is a treaty. What is so tough about that idea?

LEIGH SALES: Why would that allow people to express rage? Wouldn’t it just be something symbolic?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, I don’t think Aboriginal people are uncomplicated and I do think that many things that appear symbolic to us do not appear at least in symbolic to them. That they’re real things. If you believe this is your country, if you believe it’s your bauxite they’re taking out or your uranium, then to have somebody to say we need to talk to you about what we’re doing to this country is not merely symbolic.

LEIGH SALES: OK, but surely isn’t the first step that the violence has to be controlled and some sort of intervention is the only way to do that in the short term so you can look at the bigger, long-term issue?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Look, if what you’re talking about mainly self-destruction and we have to take into account para suicide, the extraordinarily high number of accidental deaths that afflict Aboriginal communities, we’re not even going to deal with them because there is no criminal profile there. You see, one of the things that bugs me is that a lot of the mischief is still being done by white men and we could fix it. We could stop them. For example, lorry drivers abusing under age girls in Nhulunbuy. We know about that. There is not an auto train in this country that we can find whenever we want to, 24/7. Why have we never arrested those people? Why have we let them go on and doing that? Why in dry communities for the last 10, 15 years, boot legers have brought in booze after dark? Dumped it in the bush and all that kind of thing. They’ve left a paper trail a mile wide. Why do we never pick them up?

LEIGH SALES: If I can look at some of the points raised in the package and have you respond to them. You write that Aboriginal women humiliated their men by seeking the white fellas help in the intervention.

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Hang on a minute. That is not how it’s put.

LEIGH SALES: Well, page 86, ‘once more the white man was being chosen over the black man as the protector of children, the defeat of the black man was absolute’. In those circumstances what option did the women have?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, what I am saying there is that when we had all the sort of black meritocracy saying, yes, yes, we have to ride in now and rescue women and children from their own men folk who, by the way, are their children. Remember the book is dedicated to Mum Shell, and remember Mum Shell dealt with young men in prison in Sydney. What I am saying is that’s how it’s set up to appear. It’s set up to appear as if the black man is disenfranchised yet again. He is seen as the perpetrator of the violence.

LEIGH SALES: That might be true.

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: And there are plenty of statements about that.

LEIGH SAKES: What other option did the women have? They couldn’t go to the men for help because those men were the perpetrators of the violence. What else could they have done other than ask for government and ask for outside assistance?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: It’s also view true that there are other men in the community who are managing and there are male elders in the community who are managing. Well, I do see that it was a recourse in emergency here. All I’m saying is that unless we deal with the pathology that underlies it we won’t get anywhere. We won’t actually stop the violence. we may even cause it to escalate. But it’s not a viable proceeding unless you look at the pathology. It’s, I don’t think it’s a simple situation at all. I also in my worse moments I think we might be way too late.

LEIGH SALES: And what does that mean?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, it probably mean s annihilation of black communities. But there are some people who would say to you that they’re pretty well annihilated already, that everything that’s happened has gone wrong, that even allowing black communities to acquire land rights and to have their own territory and to have a system of self-government has been totally undermined. And is now, now it’s all to start again. What do we do now? We already had a problem that black land rights were not like anybody else’s. You could rescind them if you felt like it and there was a problem in international law which we never got to grips with about that. And, again, this very dubious title that people struggle so hard for that cost them more in resources than they had to spend is suddenly whipped away from them again because they’ve been set up for failure. And this has happened again and again and again. We have to think of something different. Now I quite understand that we cannot leave children in danger but those children and the young men are not a dis continuum. They’re the same people.

The rest is here

Sure wish I could ge holda that essay.

Hold Tory Feet to the Fire

On June 11th, Stephen Harper made an apology on behalf of all Canadians to Canada’s Indigenous people for the abuses they suffered as a result of our hideous policy of forcing their children into residential schools.  Many people were critisized for expressing scepticism about the apology in light of our government’s continuing abuse of our people.  It seems that they weren’t sufficiently grateful for words in place of action.

There is no better example of Canada’s ongoing abuse of Indigenous people than this:

Over the past months (here, here and here) I’ve been writing about the fight by the Cree community of Attawapiskat to get a new school to replace their long since condemned building. So far, that fight has fallen on deaf ears with the Conservative government, despite the amazing efforts of the parents and especially the children of this community and the thousands of children from other communities, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, from all across the country. If you want a good primer on the story, check out the piece written by the Toronto Star’s Carol Goar, because it really does the situation justice.

northwestern lad has issued a challenge to Canadian bloggers to help the kids of Attawapiskat get their school for gawd sakes.  Here’s the website the Cree community has set up to spread the word about their cause. 

And at Peterborough Politics, you’ll find more information about the community’s efforts, as well as these suggestions for things you can do to help:

Write a letter to Chuck Strahl , Minister of Indian Affairs

  • Sign the petition online
  • If you’re a student, teacher or parent, join the many schools that have started their own campaigns of support for the kids (read here about the campaign of St. Edmund Campion Secondary School in Brantford, Ontario)
  • Show the video created by the community to show the conditions in which these kids live.
  • And finally, and probably one of the best ideas that I have seen yet, write a letter of support to the children of Attawapiskat. Let the kids know directly that you are with them. Letters can be sent to the following address: J.R. Nakogee School
    Attawapiskat, Ontario
    POL 1A0

Spirit of Neil Stonechild

From the Globe and Mail:

The Saskatchewan Police Commission has dismissed the appeals of two Saskatoon officers fired after the freezing death of aboriginal teen Neil Stonechild.

Constables Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger were dismissed from their jobs in November, 2004, after an inquiry into Stonechild’s death ruled the officers had the 17-year-old in their patrol car the last night he was seen alive.

Mr. Hartwig and Mr. Senger have always denied they saw Mr. Stonechild that night in November, 1990.

The commission ruled it was reasonable to conclude Mr. Stonechild was in the custody of the two officers.

The police commission also decided not to consider new evidence of a career criminal who said his former cellmate admitted to beating Mr. Stonechild and dumping him on the outskirts of Saskatoon.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal earlier rejected a bid to overturn the findings of the public inquiry.

A little background on the Neil Stonechild story:

Stonechild froze to death in November 1990. His body was found in a north Saskatoon field, with marks across his nose and wrists. Justice David Wright, commissioner of a public inquiry into Stonechild’s death, found that constables Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger had Stonechild in custody the last night he was seen alive.

The commissioner described the police service’s investigation of Stonechild’s death as “superficial at best” in his October report.

The lack of action by police after StarPhoenix articles in 1991 and 2000 highlighted the suspicious circumstances of Stonechild’s death was also upsetting to the family.

“Leaving them in that state of suspended apprehension for that long and treating them in the fashion they did bordered on, if it didn’t cross over, into outright deceit,” Curtis said.

The police service offered false assurances that it thoroughly investigated Stonechild’s death and destroyed the teen’s clothing and belongings despite his mother’s request that police turn them over to her.