During the Vietnam War, a captured Vietcong sniper said he saw the young soldier cautiously approaching. He took aim and fired.
He realized at that very instant when he killed the 19-year old kid, he also killed his mother.
The gruesome discovery of 215 unmarked graves on the grounds of the residential school in Kamloops added another tear-filled chapter in the sad history of Canada’s residential schools where the sole aim was to get the “Indian” out of the child.
Each grave contained the body of a child along with the broken heart of its mother. Each death told a story of suffering, illness, humiliation, and separation from family, terrifying and alone.
Some graves told of stories of escape, only to die a horrible death from the bitter, extreme cold from the unforgiving Canadian winters.
The heartbreak over the deaths of these children is more intense because their lives were tragically cut short because their art, their culture, and their religion were considered inferior to that of the White man.
They were even forbidden to speak their own language.
The unique Canadian excuse for forcibly taking the children from their homes was because their religion was so primitive, they would grow up to be savages. The Indigenous people were told that they should thank Canada for those schools – ignoring the fact that they were mentally, culturally, and sexually abused.
More than 4,000 children died in those schools and their parents were not even told about it.
Just who is to be held responsible for this horrible, sad, and tragic chapter in Canadian history?
If Prime Minister John A. Macdonald is credited for coming up with the idea of “civilizing” those “little savages,” he failed miserably for not setting up a task force to regularly check up on those schools, investigate the numerous complaints, and demand accountability from the Christian churches – p articularly the Catholic Church that ran those schools.
Macdonald is not alone.
For more than a century, each succeeding government took no action and as such those so-called “great Canadians” should be given failing grades. They took no action whatsoever.
All they did was give billions of dollars to the Indigenous people and told them to stay on their reservations and out of our faces.
Canada is not alone in the mistreatment of those people.
Consider the following: A Puritan minister in Boston quoted the Bible (Genesis 1-28) that God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, subdue it and have domain over it. He emphasized that the Indians ignored the Word of God, made no use of it and used it only for hunting.
A Baptist minister in Rhode Island explained that the driving out and the killing of the Indians was punishment for their sins and that God was pleased to make ready a place for the New England settlers.
The Governor of North Carolina referred to the settlement of his state where the Hand of God was seen in the thinning of the Indian population to make way for the White man. At other times, it pleased Almighty God to send unusual sickness among the Indians such as small pox and tuberculous to lessen their numbers.
The massacre at Wounded Knee took place as the local Indian tribe was performing their spiritual dance that involved many women and children. It is hard to believe that this tribe would start a fight with the heavily armed cavalry.
During the Second World War, the United States recruited many Navajo Indians and others from different tribes, trained them to use the radio and to communicate in their own language, relaying enemy positions. They were called the “Wind Talkers.” The Japanese, intercepting their messages, could not understand a word of it. Throughout the war in the Pacific, those Wind Talkers played a great role in the defeat of the Japanese and saved thousands of lives. Their code was never broken.
The irony of this was never lost. The U.S. governments – that was asking them to use their own native language to win the war – was the same government punishing the same people for speaking it at home.
It took more than 60 years before President George Bush acknowledged and honoured those brave men for their incredible contribution in the defeat of Japan. Most of them were already dead.
Since the initial discovery in Kamloops, another 751 unmarked graves were uncovered on the grounds of another residential school in Saskatchewan.
For more than a century, succeeding governments of Canada had been complacent, turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the cries, pain, heartbreak, anguish, the untold sorrow, suffering, and the mourning of the Indigenous people for their missing children.
It is NOT difficult to recall the words of a bloodied, battered, and abused Christ as he carried his heavy cross on the way to calvary to be crucified, “Weep not for me but for yourselves and for your children…”
Leslie Michael, Maple Ridge
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