Native Student and Family Disappointed After Meeting With University President Re Native Genocide

Courtesy Cindy La MarrNative American Student Chiitaanibah Johnson (Navajo / Naakaí' Diné and Konkow Maidu) recently met with her University President Robert S. Nelsen. Johnson says she is disappointed Nelsen said his 'hands were tied.'
Courtesy Cindy La Marr
Native American Student Chiitaanibah Johnson (Navajo / Naakaí’ Diné and Konkow Maidu) recently met with her University President Robert S. Nelsen. Johnson says she is disappointed Nelsen said his ‘hands were tied.’


Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today


One week after 19-year-old Native American student Chiitaanibah Johnsonof California State University, Sacramento says she was disenrolled from her U.S. History class for disagreeing with her professor over the existence of Native American genocide, Johnson and her family met with Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen to discuss the matter. Though Johnson and her family say the meeting was cordial and sincere, they feel disappointed and say they fear neither the school nor the president will be taking any action that will satisfactorily address their concerns.

President Nelsen agreed to meet on Thursday with Johnson as well as her mother, Martina Johnson, father Kurt Johnson and Cindy La Marr (Pit River and Paiute), Executive Director of Capitol Area Indian Resources, Sacramento, an organization that advocates for the academic and cultural rights of American Indian students. Nelsen told the family and the University has told ICTMN in an email that the President will also be meeting with Professor Maury Wiseman, the professor involved in the matter, at a later time.

READ MORE: History Professor Denies Native Genocide: Native Student Disagreed, Then Says Professor Expelled Her From Course 

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Johnson says she was comforted by the meeting’s informality but fears a viable solution may never happen. “The president was respectful, open and I didn’t expect it to be just him,” she said. “I thought someone would be recording it or there would possibly be a lawyer present, but there wasn’t.

“But when we pressed for a solution,” says Johnson, “the president told me that his hands were basically tied. I thought at least the professor’s class might be monitored or evaluated on some level. But the professor is still teaching and going on with his class.”

Cindy La Marr, who has worked with public schools and universities for many years for the benefit of Indian country, says she was not as impressed by Nelsen’s cordial demeanor. She told ICTMN that some of Nelsen’s proposed solutions were not sufficient. La Marr said Nelsen told them about a proposed University ‘California Native American Day,’ on September 25th that would hold seminars on Native Americans. “I asked if the instructor would be required to attend this, and he said, ‘No.’”

La Marr says that when she and the family asked if there was going to be any disciplinary action against the professor, President Nelsen said Professor Wiseman was protected by his faculty’s labor union. “I asked if there was a vetting process for hiring part-time adjunct faculty and he said he did not know,” Lamar told ICTMN. “He said he was new and there were binders full of policies that protected faculty that he had not reviewed. I asked if part-time adjunct instructors were protected by faculty labor unions. He said, ‘Yes.’”

La Marr says after the Johnson family’s repeated attempts to ask if the professor would be disciplined were deflected, they decided to leave. “I continually asked, ‘What is your plan?’” Martina Johnson said. “The President just told us, ‘It is out of my hands.’”

In addition to speaking to ICTMN, student Chiitaanibah Johnson also issued a written statement addressing her thoughts on the meeting.

The President was fair, open and welcoming in hearing my concerns. I appreciated his candor regarding the bureaucratic and regulatory restrictions his office is subject to with regards to the limited actions he is allowed to take with regards to the issues at hand.

However, I am particularly concerned that while CSU-Sacramento officials are working to transfer me into another course, Professor Wiseman, under protection of the faculty teacher’s union and legal team, is still teaching under no observation or supervision while under investigation and that curriculum changes to actually address GENOCIDE are even less likely. 

Having met with the CSU-Sacramento President, a fair and reasonable resolution to these issues appears unlikely within the current bureaucratic bounds of the university.

There are three very important points we want to make very clear:

·         Genocide is and always has been wrong.

·         Teaching otherwise is wrong.

·         Instructors demonstrating such lack of academic rigor and acting in a manner both aggressive and intimidating manner of stifling student questioning should be held accountable in a manner both fair and timely.


Chiitaanibah Johnson’s father Kurt Johnson added to his daughter’s remarks and told ICTMN, “The professor’s statements were a product of a direct lack of academic rigor. Academic freedom does not preclude academic responsibility.”

ICTMN has reached out to Sacramento State regarding the meeting. University spokesperson Elisa Smith replied in an email with the following statement:

President Nelsen had an extensive, fact-gathering meeting with Ms. Johnson and her family as he attempts to achieve a positive resolution in this matter.  He also is meeting with Prof. Wiseman.

As the fact-finding continues, and because this is an ongoing personnel matter, we cannot comment further at this time.

In the meantime, President Nelsen’s message to the campus earlier this week speaks for itself:

We at the University believe in academic freedom, and we also believe in civility and rigorous academic research. Our standards must be high, and we must follow the processes that we have put in place to ensure that the rights of students and faculty are protected.

Johnson says when she first returned to the school after the incident, she felt as if people were looking her way but not overtly staring or being intrusive. Though she says she is disappointed in the outcome thus far, she is encouraged by the outpouring of support from Indian country.

“It is what it is. I had no idea what to expect based on what happened but I told myself not to be not to set on the idea that the professor would be reprimanded,” she says. “I thought they might make him apologize or something else. The president basically said his hands were tied and there was only so much he could do.

“I feel unresolved about the issue.  But my mom says, ‘There are Indian people all over the country that are supporting you because they know the truth and they know you stood up for them.’

“There is a conversation now,” says Johnson. “And people are talking about whether genocide has happened. My father said something that really affected me. He said, ‘Even if nothing else happens, the circulation of this story and the effects on conversations across the country are more than my own grandfather could have done.’ If I had done something like this back then, it could have gotten me killed. But here I am.

“I didn’t realize how good having the blessing of so many Indian people would feel. I’ve only known the natives of the outer rings of my family or in college, but I’ve never felt so connected to Indian country.”




UN Urged To Declare Canada’s Treatment Of Aboriginals ‘Genocide’

Cree students at the Anglican-run Lac La Ronge Mission School in Saskatchewan in 1945. (Archives and Library of Canada)
Cree students at the Anglican-run Lac La Ronge Mission School in Saskatchewan in 1945. (Archives and Library of Canada)


By Michael Bolen, The Huffington Post, Canada

A fresh campaign is underway to push the United Nations to label Canada’s treatment of First Nations people “genocide.”

On Monday, former National Chief Phil Fontaine, elder Fred Kelly, businessman Dr. Michael Dan and human rights activist Bernie Farber sent a letter to James Anaya, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, arguing that several specific crimes against aboriginal people in Canada qualify as genocide under the post-Second World War Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG)

Article 2 of the Convention states that “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”


The letter writers assert that at least three actions on the part of Canadian governments constitute genocide under those rules.

1. Sir John A. MacDonald’s policy of deliberately starving First Nations people to make way for settlers in the Canadian west.

2. The residential school system and especially the decision of Department of Indian Affairs chief Duncan Campbell Scott not to address rampant tuberculosis among students.

3. The forcible removal of aboriginal children from their homes for the purpose of adoption by white families, a practice known as the “Sixties Scoop.” Estimates put the number of children removed between the 1960s and the mid 1980s at around 20,000.

Farber and Dan have previously argued that the recently revealed nutrition experiments performed on children at residential schools also qualify as genocide.

The genocide argument has been criticized by Sun News pundit Ezra Levant, who wrote this summer that “Canada does not and never has had a policy of exterminating Indians. Genocides don’t normally include billions of dollars a year in government grants to the group in question, affirmative action hiring quotas, land reserves and other privileges.”

Levant accuses Dan of hiring Faber to curry favour with First Nations people so his Gemini Power Corp. can get permission to build power plants on reserves.

Farber told HuffPost Canada in an email that Levant’s characterization is inaccurate.

“Ezra, as usual, gets it wrong.”

The letter from Farber and company was sent as special rapporteur Anaya concluded a visit to Canada. He said Canada faces a “crisis” regarding its indigenous people and called for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The Conservative government pledged to renew efforts to address the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women in its throne speech Wednesday.

Earlier this year, former prime minister Paul Martin referred to residential schools as “cultural genocide.” In 2012, Justice Murray Sinclair, the chairman of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said the removal of children from their homes to residential schools was an act of genocide, but that it didn’t necessarily qualify under the UN Convention.

There have only ever been two successful prosecutions under the Genocide Convention, former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda and ex-mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu for crimes during the 1994 slaughter in that country. The UN’s highest court cleared the government of Serbia of genocide charges in 2007, but found it breached international law in failing to stop the killing and by not handing over officials accused of war crimes.

The push for action from the UN comes amid renewed violence between authorities and aboriginal peoples. On Thursday, police cars were torched during an attempt by the RCMP to enforce an injunction to end a demonstration against shale gas exploration in eastern New Brunswick. The Mounties said at least 40 people were arrested

The violence has sparked a renewal of the cross-country protests seen during the Idle No More movement last winter.

With files from The Canadian Press


Canadian Museum for Human Rights opening marked by music, speeches and protests

Demonstrators call for attention to First Nations issues and the Palestinian struggle


Canadian Museum for Human Rights officially opens amid protests
Canadian Museum for Human Rights officially opens amid protests


CBC News



It was a morning of music, dance, speeches, a little rain and a lot of protest as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights officially opened in Winnipeg.

“With the placement of this final stone, at the heart of our circle, it is with great pleasure that we now declare open the Canadian Museum for Human Rights,” Gov. Gen. David Johnston stated as the centre stone — part of a circle of hand-gathered stones from national parks and national historic sites — was set in place during the opening ceremony Friday.

Inside the event, hundreds of dignitaries gathered and heard speeches about the genesis and purpose of the $351-million museum.

Meanwhile outside, dozens of protesters used the media spotlight to bring attention to issues of murdered and missing women, First Nations water rights, the disappearing traditional lifestyle of First Nations and the Palestinian conflict.

“What happens when these guys over here, with their suits and ties and their outfits, destroy everything?” one First Nations protester yelled.

‘You have to shine a light in some dark corners in Canada’s history because we have to know, I think, where we came from to know where we’re going.’— Stuart Murray, museum president and CEO

As strains of O Canada rang out, it mixed with songs of First Nations women protesting and was punctuated by a woman yelling, “Your museum is a lie.”

One of the first groups to arrive brought their message of the struggle of Palestinian people in Gaza.

They said they feel overlooked and will continue to push in the hopes that eventually they will be featured in the museum.

The protesters said they were upset the issue is not being recognized at the museum, even though they have met with museum representatives over the past couple of years to have it featured in one of the galleries.

Other protesters called on the museum to recognize what they said was the historical “genocide” committed against First Nations by the Canadian government. They drummed, performed ceremonial smudges, chanted and carried placards.


Buffy Sainte-Marie
Buffy Sainte-Marie told reporters on Friday afternoon that Canada and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights should be using the term ‘genocide’ to describe the residential school experience. (Jillian Taylor/CBC) 

Their sentiments were echoed by legendary Canadian musician Buffy Sainte-Marie, who is performing at the museum’s opening concert Saturday night.

Sainte-Marie told reporters that Canada and the human rights museum should use the term “genocide” to describe the residential school experience.

“I think the museum needs to be much more honest, much more bold and much better informed,” she told reporters Friday afternoon.

“I don’t really think that some of the museum people are truly aware of what our history has been.”

Sainte-Marie admitted that she hadn’t seen all the galleries in the museum yet, but added that her expectations were not high.

Group cancels performance

Saturday’s concert was supposed to feature First Nations DJ group A Tribe Called Red, but the group pulled out on Thursday, citing concerns about how the museum portrays aboriginal issues.

“We feel it was necessary to cancel our performance because of the museum’s misrepresentation and downplay of the genocide that was experienced by indigenous people in Canada by refusing to name it genocide,” the group said in a statement Friday.

“Until this is rectified, we’ll support the museum from a distance.”

Museum president and CEO Stuart Murray said the museum will and should spark protest and debate. The vision for the museum has always been to allow people to voice their opinions, he said.

“The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will open doors for conversations we haven’t had before. Not all of these conversations will be easy. We accept that but we will not shy away,” he said.

Officials said they are open to talking to different groups and will update the museum’s content as human rights issues unfold around the world.

‘The journey is finally beginning’

In addition to the opposition from protesters, the museum has faced construction delays leading up to Friday morning’s grand opening ceremony, which began with an indigenous blessing led by elders, including a First Nations prayer, a Métis prayer and the lighting of an Inuit qulliq, or oil lamp.


  •  A peak inside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on opening day.

​The ceremony was attended by numerous dignitaries including the Governor General and former Manitoba premier Gary Doer, who is now Canada’s ambassador to the United States.

Current Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and the museum’s national campaign chair, Gail Asper, spoke at the event, while the program also featured special performances from Canadian vocal quartet the Tenors, YouTube singing star Maria Aragon and Winnipeg singer-songwriter and fiddle player Sierra Noble.

Asper paid tribute to her late parents, Babs and Israel Asper, who were the driving forces behind the museum.

“Neither my father Israel nor my mother Babs [is] here alive to celebrate with us, but I know they would be filled with gratitude and joy that the journey is finally beginning, this beautiful journey of education and, most importantly, action,” Asper said during the ceremony.

A children’s dance finale, representing Canada’s next generation of human rights leaders, concluded the opening ceremonies program.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn’t in attendance. A spokesperson said his schedule did not permit him to be there.

Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, who attended the opening ceremony, said the museum is an important space.

“This is a museum that will provide information and an educational opportunity to so many Canadians, and it’ll make you proud to be a Canadian,” she said.

When asked about the protesters outside, Glover said she would like people to take a look at the museum before judging what’s inside.

Lightning rod for protests, questions

The country’s new national museum is located next to the Forks National Historic Site, where the Red and the Assiniboine rivers meet in downtown Winnipeg.

Designed by world-renowned architect Antoine Predock, the museum with its Tower of Hope and sweeping windows forms a new silhouette on the city’s skyline.

The museum has been a lightning rod for protests, and some academics say they’re concerned the content may be susceptible to interference by governments, donors and special interest groups.

“The most important concern is not the concern of individual communities who are disputing the exact manner in which their wrongs have been depicted, but rather the overall issue of independence,” said Michael Marrus, an expert on international human rights at the University of Toronto.

Glover said at the opening ceremony that the museum “must present a balanced and factually accurate account of both the good as well as the bad.”

Murray said the museum has not been subject to any interference, and the content does expose Canada’s human rights failures.

“You have to shine a light in some dark corners in Canada’s history because we have to know, I think, where we came from to know where we’re going,” he said.

You Won’t Believe This: Filmmaker Says Native Genocide Didn’t Happen



Indian Country Today


During a July 2 interview with Megyn Kelly, host of Fox News’ “The Kelly File,” filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza says the genocide of the Indigenous Peoples of this country didn’t happen.

Bill Ayers, an elementary education theorist and former leader in the opposition of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, went head to head with D’Souza during the interview.

“The American Indian population shrank by 80 percent over 150 years,” D’Souza says. “The main reason for that was not because of warfare or systematic killing, it’s because the white man brought with him from Europe diseases to which the Native Americans… did not have any immunities.”

D’Souza, who produced the film “America,” couldn’t be more wrong. The diseases weren’t only brought over from Europe, but literally handed to the Indigenous Peoples in blankets with the intention of wiping out the population to take their land. Do we even need to mention the Indian Removal Act or boarding schools?

Watch the full video and see Ayers and the YouTube commentator defend these positions.

Here’s a video from YouTube—start watching at 2:35—with some commentary:

Or read the transcript from the show here.



Standing Rock Sioux Move to Rescue Children, Accuse South Dakota of Genocide


Stephanie WoodardA view of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's reservation outside the capital in Fort Yates, North Dakota.
Stephanie Woodard
A view of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation outside the capital in Fort Yates, North Dakota.

Stephanie Woodard on

Indian Country Today Media Network


Citing the 1987 Proxmire Act, which enables the United States to prosecute acts of genocide, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has asked the federal government to file suit against the state of South Dakota for crimes against tribal children. The tribe’s homeland is in the prairies and badlands of North and South Dakota; one of its most revered leaders was Sitting Bull, who is said to have prayed Native forces to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Standing Rock’s tribal council urged the United States to take action in a September 17 resolution claiming that South Dakota has been taking its children into care and adopting them out of the tribe illegally, in violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The resolution was passed the day after a child-welfare advocate informed the council that a young tribal member whom the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) had placed with a white adoptive couple was homeless on the streets of Aberdeen, South Dakota.

The advocate, Shirley Schwab, recalled tracking down the 18-year-old. “When she came into the Burger King where we’d agreed to meet, I saw that her life had been reduced to what she could fit into a small blue duffel bag. No driver’s license, no money, no cell phone, little more than the clothes on her back.”

“When she turned 18, she exercised her right to live on her own,” said the teen’s adoptive mother, Wendy Larson Mette. “As far as I knew, she was living with friends, going to school.”

Schwab said a fellow Aberdeen resident had contacted her about the teen’s plight because of Schwab’s prior knowledge of the girl. Public court records show that in 2010, the teen and her siblings reported that their adoptive father, Richard Mette, had sexually and physically abused them for more than a decade. A deputy state’s attorney initiated a law-enforcement investigation. Police visited Richard and Wendy Larson Mette’s house and found sex toys and stacks of pornographic magazines and videotapes in bedrooms and common areas. The children were moved to another home. Schwab became their court-appointed special advocate.

DSS appears to have been long aware that this was a problem household. As early as 2001, Richard and Wendy signed an agreement, now a court document, with DSS. In the agreement, the couple, who are divorced, promised DSS officials to lock up their pornography and stop “swatting, spanking, kicking and tickling” the foster children placed with them. DSS later allowed the couple to adopt most of the children.

When asked if she believed her children had been sexually abused, Larson Mette said, “I fully believe and support my children in this accusation.” She said she found her ex-husband’s treatment of the children “horrifying,” but said that over the years, she had never noticed any indications of the sexual abuse, including related injuries or behavioral changes: “What are perceived to be the obvious signs were not there. They had great attendance in school.”

Larson Mette called the 2010 police report accurate in terms of “room location or quantity” of pornography, but claimed that over the years she had personally seen only some of the material.

Court records and local media reports show that South Dakota cut a deal with the father, who is now serving the relatively light sentence of 15 years for child rape. The state dropped cruelty charges against Larson Mette, and despite allegations that she had tolerated the sexual abuse, returned the children to her.

The state then undertook to discredit publicly the children and their advocates. This included a retaliatory prosecution of Schwab and the deputy state’s attorney, who were fully acquitted at trial. Court documents and sworn testimony show state criminal investigators took the teen and her younger siblings to a basement interrogation room in order to get them to recant the abuse claims. The children were interrogated individually, without an adult present on their behalf. They wept and said they were frightened, but none recanted.

“When I met the 18-year-old and saw what her life had become after such trauma, I was devastated,” said Schwab. “I could hardly breathe.”

Within a few days of Schwab contacting Standing Rock, the tribe had flown the teen to safety with tribal kin out of state. “Our chairman said, ‘She’s our relative, get the plane ticket now,’” recalled tribal councilwoman Phyllis Young, who added that adoptive and foster parents have been known to turn children away after they turn 18 and government subsidies end.

Young said that three Standing Rock children remain in the Larson Mette home, and the tribe is very concerned about their safety; as a result, it will sue for custody. The councilwoman noted that in recent years Standing Rock children have been victims in notorious and widely reported South Dakota cases involving sexual abuse by white adoptive fathers, all of whom are serving time.

“If they file, I will do whatever is necessary,” said Larson Mette. “My children are happy. I love them, they love me. We are trying desperately to put our lives back together and move forward.” She called that a “fair” representation of their situation.

In addition to moving to protect young tribal members, Standing Rock has requested that the South and North Dakota Congressional delegations hold hearings on Indian child welfare. The tribe has also contacted the United Nations about submitting material for the United States’ upcoming human-rights review.

Importantly, the tribe is working with the federal government to develop its own child-welfare infrastructure. This will help solve a problem that tribes and Indian-child-welfare advocates have long decried—South Dakota’s habit of taking Native children into custody and placing them in white households and white-run group homes, thereby undermining tribal culture and sovereignty. The Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes and the American Civil Liberties Union recently sued the state in a related matter.

“This all epitomizes the state of South Dakota’s total disregard for Native children,” said Schwab.

Neither South Dakota’s attorney general nor DSS director replied to requests for comments on any of these matters.

“The language of the Standing Rock tribal council resolution is both specific and global,” said Young. “We act on behalf of this teen and her siblings, and for all Native children who have been taken from their tribal communities.” The Proxmire Act includes reparations, she said, and the tribe wants the children’s reparations to include lifelong therapy for the abuse they have suffered.

“What is happening to our children is like war crimes,” Young continued. “We heard terrible things at hearings we just held at Standing Rock. Over the years, many Indian women have asked me to help get their children back. Some of our children the state has in its custody right now are Sitting Bull descendents. This has historic dimensions. We at Standing Rock are taking this to the limit.”

RELATED: South Dakota Sex-Abuse Perjury Case Collapses

RELATED: South Dakota Tribes Charge State With ICWA Violations

Harper Solicits Research to Blame First Nations for Murdered, Missing and Traded Indigenous Women

Pam Palmater, Intercontinental Cry

Canada’s shameful colonial history as it relates to Indigenous peoples and women specifically is not well known by the public at large. The most horrific of Canada’s abuses against Indigenous peoples are not taught in schools. Even public discussion around issues like genocide have been censored by successive federal governments, and most notably by Harper’s Conservatives. Recently, the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights refused to use the term “genocide” to describe Canada’s laws, policies and actions towards Indigenous peoples which led to millions of deaths. The reason?: because that term was not acceptable to the federal government and the museum is after all, a Crown corporation.

Aside from the fact that this museum will be used as a propaganda tool for Canada vis-à-vis the international community, Harper’s Conservatives are also paying for targeted research to back up their propaganda as it relates to murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women. This is not the first time that Harper has paid for counter information and propaganda material as it relates to Indigenous peoples, and it likely won’t be the last. However, this instance of soliciting targeted research to help the government blame Indigenous peoples for their own victimization and oppression is particularly reprehensible given the massive loss of life involved over time.

The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women was made very public by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) several years ago through their dedicated research, community engagement and advocacy efforts. Even the United Nations took notice and starting commenting on Canada’s obligation to address this serious issue. Yet, in typical Harper-Conservative style, once the issue became a hot topic in the media, they cut critical funding to NWAC’s Sisters in Spirit program which was the heart of their research and advocacy into murdered and missing Indigenous women.

To further complicate the matter, any attempts for a national inquiry into the issue has been thwarted by the federal government, despite support for such an inquiry by the provinces and territories. One need only look at the fiasco of the Pickton Inquiry in British Columbia to understand how little governments in Canada value the lives of Indigenous women, their families and communities. The inquiry was headed by Wally Oppal, the same man who previously denied the claims of Indigenous women who were forcibly sterilized against their knowledge and consent. The inquiry seemed more interested in insulating the RCMP from investigation and prosecution than it was about hearing the stories of Indigenous women.

Now, the Canadian public has to deal with a new chapter to this story – the sale of Indigenous women into the sex trades. The CBC recently reported that current research shows that Indigenous women, girls and babies in Canada were taken onto US ships to be sold into the sex trade. While this is not new information for Indigenous peoples, it is something that Canada has refused to recognize in the past. The research also shows that Indigenous women are brought onto these boats never to be seen from again.

The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women has now expanded to murdered, missing and traded women. One might have expected a reaction from both the Canadian government and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Yet, the day after the story hit the news, the AFN was tweeting about local competitions and the federal government was essentially silent. I say essentially, because while all of this was taking place, the federal government put together a Request for Proposals on MERX (#275751) to solicit research to blame the families and communities of Indigenous women for being sold into the sex trade.

Instead of making a call for true academic research into the actual causes and conditions around Indigenous women, girls and babies being sold into the sex trade, the federal government solicited research to prove:

(1) the involvement of family members in their victimization;

(2) the level to which domestic violence is linked to the sale of Indigenous women into the sex trade; and

(3) even where they are investigating gang involvement, it is within the context of family involvement of the trade of Indigenous women.

The parameters of the research excludes looking into federal and/or provincial laws and policies towards Indigenous peoples; funding mechanisms which prejudice them and maintain them in the very poverty the research identifies; and negative societal attitudes formed due to government positions vis-à-vis Indigenous women like:

  • rapes and abuse in residential schools;
  • forced sterilizations;
  • the theft of thousands of Indigenous children into foster care;
  • the over-representation of Indigenous women in jails;
  • and the many generations of Indigenous women losing their Indian status and membership and being kicked off reserves by federal law.

The research also leaves out a critical aspect of this research which is federal and provincial enforcement laws, policies and actions or lack thereof in regards to the reports of murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women, girls and babies. The epic failure of police to follow up on reports and do proper investigations related to these issues have led some experts to conclude that this could have prevented and addressed murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women. Of even greater concern are the allegations that have surfaced in the media in relation to RCMP members sexually assaulting Indigenous women and girls.

This MERX Request for Proposals is offensive and should be retracted and re-issued in a more academically-sound manner which looks to get at the full truth, versus a federally-approved pre-determined outcome.

It’s time Canada opened up the books, and shed light on the real atrocities in this country so that we can all move forward and address them.


Originally published at

Indigenous Nationhood

Science Says ‘Past is Present’ for Traumas Endured in Indian Country

Carol BerryProfessor Emerita Elizabeth Cook-Lynn spoke to attendees at the Pathways to Respecting American Indian Civil Rights conference in Denver, where she presented the keynote address opening the event that drew more than 350 people. Her writing and teaching center on the “cultural, historical, and political survival of Indian Nations” and she believes that “writing is an essential act of survival for contemporary American Indians.”

Carol Berry
Professor Emerita Elizabeth Cook-Lynn spoke to attendees at the Pathways to Respecting American Indian Civil Rights conference in Denver, where she presented the keynote address opening the event that drew more than 350 people. Her writing and teaching center on the “cultural, historical, and political survival of Indian Nations” and she believes that “writing is an essential act of survival for contemporary American Indians.”

Carol Berry, Indian Country Today Media Network

The historical roots of the baffling self-harm that persists in some Indian communities were explored in various workshops at a recent conference, but a contemporary scientific approach to intergenerational trauma was also offered as a way to understand the stubborn effects of violence and other social ills.

Initially, in a keynote address, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, professor emerita and author, discussed a United States history focused on the theft of land, termination and genocide.

Cook-Lynn also described the identity difficulties caused by the 1924 Citizenship Act, which conferred citizenship on Indian people in a strategy that sometimes resulted in “people of color” or “minorities,” rather than citizens of differing tribal nations.

But brain science may help in understanding the current and intergenerational outcomes of the tragedies, said Janine D’Anniballe, a director at Mental Health Partners, Boulder, Colorado. She talked as part of a workshop that was one of a dozen offered at a Pathways to Respecting American Indian Civil Rights conference August 8 in Denver.

“The past is present” neurobiologically, she explained, describing triggers of trauma response that can occur years after the original event.

To oversimplify, trauma registers in the reptilian, or primitive, part of the brain, where changes can take place that may trigger dissociation, high-risk behavior, substance abuse, indiscriminate sexual behavior, avoidance or withdrawal, eating disorders, and other attempts to cope.

Amplified states of panic and terror can be calmed by alcohol and some other drugs, while dissociative “flat” states can be offset by high-risk behavior like fast driving and self-harm, including cutting. These behaviors may work in the short term to “rebalance brain chemistry,” but can be destructive in the long term, she said.

The medical/scientific community has not universally accepted this trauma theory and questions remain, but there is strong interest, she said. Studies are now suggesting that women who have suffered trauma have highly reactive structures in the primitive brain that can be transmitted to unborn children, although research is still underway.

“A safe relationship can be a neurological intervention,” she said, citing one remedy.

The conference was sponsored by local, state and federal agencies, educational institutions, and private businesses.



Using the right word — genocide — to describe Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal peoples


JULY 31, 2013

While riding the elevator together, our Canada Post mail carrier peered over my shoulder at the front page of my newspaper. Pointing to the article on Aboriginal children being starved in government research experiments, in a strong Eastern European accent he exclaimed, “Shameful! Just like what the Nazis and then the Soviets did to us. And here in Canada we let them get away with it?”

According to Raphael Lemkin, the inventor of the term genocide and the reason we now consider it a crime, genocide is a coordinated plan aimed at destroying a group. Despite popular misconceptions, it doesn’t require killing all, or even some of the members of the group.

While there may not have been a master plan to execute every Aboriginal person in Canada, throughout much of our history there has been a deeply and widely held belief that First Nations, Metis and Inuit, as groups, should cease to exist. Reducing the number of Aboriginal people and eliminating those who weren’t willing to assimilate into Euro-Canadian society was helpful to this cause. Evidence of genocidal desires can be found in any number of government documents and public statements, and when the conditions were right, Canadians, whether bureaucrats, researchers, doctors, missionaries, social workers or entrepreneurs, felt justified in carrying out a range of genocidal acts.

The time has come for non-Aboriginal Canadians to wake up and stop hiding behind words like cultural genocide and convoluted legal defenses. Forcibly transferring children from one group of people to another, like in the Indian Residential School System and the “Sixties Scoop” which adopted out Aboriginal children to white families, is explicitly forbidden in article 2e of the UN Genocide Convention. Deliberately starving children is too according to articles 2b and 2c.

If it wasn’t for Canada, and a contingent of colonizing nations who in 1948 gutted a whole section of the UN Genocide Convention, the other “kinder” and “gentler” techniques of genocide we were and are still using against Aboriginal peoples would also be crimes. As historical research like Dr. Ian Mosby’s is beginning to show us non-Aboriginal Canadians — it’s not news to our Aboriginal neighbours — we used biological and physical techniques of genocide when we could get away with it.

If we really want to move ahead as a nation, reconcile with Aboriginal peoples, and ensure “Never again!” then an apology for their inhumane treatment in state sanctioned research experiments is not enough. Our government needs to put the pieces together and acknowledge that we did try to eliminate First Nations, Metis and Inuit as groups. Thank the Creator that we mostly failed.

Rochelle Johnston is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto on bystanding behavior in the context of colonial genocides. She has also worked for over a decade in various capacities as an advocate for the rights of young people in Canada and Sudan.

American Indian descendants of Sand Creek Massacre seek reparations

By Keith Coffman

DENVER | Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:32pm EDT

(Reuters) – Four descendants of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians slaughtered in 1864 by U.S. federal troops in Colorado sued the federal government on Thursday for reparations over what became known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver accuses federal authorities of reneging on an 1866 promise to compensate victims of the massacre, and is demanding an accounting for the money that was set aside to pay the claims.

The Sand Creek Massacre, which took place when Colorado was a U.S. territory still 12 years away from statehood, was one of many skirmishes in the 19th century Indian Wars as white settlers expanded westward.

The suit says the U.S. federal government is responsible for an army that “committed acts of genocide, torture, mutilation, harassment and intimidation” against Indians who were camped along the Colorado creek when they were attacked without provocation, the lawsuit said

A spokesman for the Interior Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

At dawn on the morning of the massacre on November 29, 1864, about 700 U.S. cavalry troops, commanded by Colonel John Chivington, descended on an encampment of some 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians along the Sand Creek near Fort Lyon, Colorado.

The Indians at Sand Creek were non-combatants in the Indian Wars and were led to believe under the terms of the 1861 Treaty of Fort Wise that they were in a safe haven. Nevertheless, cavalry troops opened fire with “artillery and 12-pound mountain howitzers,” according to the lawsuit.

An elderly Cheyenne Chief, White Antelope, ran toward the troops and crossed his arms, signifying that the villagers did not want to fight.

He was shot dead, and the “plaintiffs still have the bullet hole-riddled blanket” the chief wore when he was gunned down, the lawsuit said. An estimated 165 Indians – many unarmed women, children and the elderly – were killed over the next several hours.

The massacre grounds are now a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service.

The federal government conducted an investigation and promised to pay reparations to the survivors under the Treaty of Little Arkansas but never made good on the promise, the lawsuit claims.

“The DOI (Department of the Interior) is believed to have since 1866, controlled and held in trust reparations owed to plaintiffs and their ancestors,” the lawsuit said.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, which a federal judge must approve. The suit names the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs as defendants.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

Lakota to file UN Genocide Charges Against US, South Dakota

Jeff Armstrong in Native Challenges.
June 1, 2013 7:57 am est
Jeff Armstrong is a longtime journalist and activist in Fargo, North Dakota. This article originally appeared in Counterpunch.

NEW YORK – In April, a grassroots movement led by Lakota grandmothers toured the country to build support for a formal complaint of genocide against the United States government and its constituent states. Though temporarily overturned, the recent conviction of Efrain Rios Montt for genocide against indigenous Guatemalans should give US officials, particularly members of the Supreme Court, pause before dismissing the UN petition as a feeble symbolic gesture.

The tribal elders’ 12 city speaking tour culminated in an April 9 march on United Nations headquarters in New York and an April 18 press conference in Washington where the Supreme Court had just heard arguments in a challenge to the landmark 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. Attracting support from Occupy Wall Street and other non-Native allies in the New York march, the Lakota Truth Tour delegation was physically blocked by UN security officers from presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s office a notice of charges against the U.S. under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

lakota-march-on-the-unAn excerpt from the complaint, still being refined into its final, legal form, reads: “This letter serves notice as complaint, that the crime of genocide is being committed, in an ongoing manner, against the matriarchal Tetuwan Lakota Oyate of the Oceti Sakowin, an Indigenous First Nation people whose ancestral lands comprise a large area of the Northern Great Plains of Turtle Island, the continent known as North America.” As evidence, the Lakota cite systematic American usurpation of their land and sovereignty rights, imposition of third world living conditions on the majority of Lakota, US assimilation policies that threaten the future of their language, culture and identity, and environmental depredations including abandoned open uranium mines and the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline slated to invade the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Lakota grandmothers and their allies in the Lakota Solidarity Project have even produced a powerful, full-length documentary, Red Cry, available on DVD or online at »

But the UN complaint is just one facet of a multi-pronged legal, political and educational movement within the indigenous Lakota, Sioux, nation to stop the state removal of Native children from their families into white foster homes and institutions, arguably the most salient and best-documented evidence of ongoing US violation of the genocide convention. Article 2 of the convention defines acts of genocide as follows:

“…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Historically, one could make a case for the applicability of most, if not all, of the above provisions to official US policies over more than two centuries. Certainly the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Wounded Knee massacre, of which the perpetrators have yet to be stripped of their Medals of Honor, and Sand Creek slaughter perpetrated by the US military in the latter part of the 19th century, the General Allotment Act of the same time period, the Termination/Relocation policy of the 1950s, the FBI’s war on the American Indian Movement, and the cumulative legal decisions validating the above on explicit or implicit grounds of racial or cultural superiority, come to mind as constituting violations of contemporary international standards of crimes against humanity, if not genocide per se.

Indeed, the ink was scarcely dry on the Genocide Convention before the US deliberately set out to violate Article 2(e) by arbitrarily removing Native children from their families as part of a comprehensive strategy of abolishing reservation boundaries and absorbing indigenous peoples into the states that surround and besiege them. In 1950 President Truman appointed Dillon S. Meyer, fresh from his experience administering the Japanese internment camps with an iron fist, as Indian Commissioner to carry out the final solution to the Indian Problem, i.e., their stubborn refusal to fade into the mists of history, itself a genocidal concept, that has haunted this nation since its inception. It was the formal policy and procedure of the United States at the time to forcibly transfer indigenous children to white homes and boarding schools as a component of a strategy to “terminate” tribes as distinct peoples, meeting the essential threshold of intent under the Genocide Convention. It would have been embarrassing to say the least if the Soviet Union or its allies would have initiated legal genocide charges against the self-avowed fount of human liberty at the United Nations. So it was that the US celebrated its victory over genocidal Nazi imperialism by rebranding the practice in Indian Country as emancipatory individualism and refusing to ratify the 1948 convention until nearly 40 years later.

Ironically, it was the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 that enabled the US to ratify the Genocide Convention by manifesting its intention to stop the wholesale removal of Native children from their families and tribes. ICWA established minimal protections of due-process rights for indigenous parents and recognized the exclusive jurisdiction of existing tribal courts to adjudicate child welfare cases within reservation boundaries, also allowing tribes to intervene in state cases. Ratified by the US in 1986, the Genocide Convention was not implemented until 1989, and then only after denying universal jurisdiction and limiting prosecutions under the act to a five year statute of limitations for violations of the federal crime of genocide. As a measure of the government’s commitment to punishing the ultimate international crime, the federal offenses of arson, art theft, immigration violation and some crimes against financial institutions all carry a statute of limitations period longer than five years. Rios Montt himself would be immune from prosecution under the federal genocide act.

A remarkable 2011 National Public Radio series, Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families, revealed that the federal government not only fails to enforce the baseline standards of ICWA against the states. but actually underwrites the removal of Native children in some cases with additional funds, adding an economic incentive to the racial and cultural ones.

Focusing on South Dakota, a yearlong investigation by NPR reporters Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters found that 90% of the 700 Native children taken from their homes yearly in that state were placed in white foster homes or group homes, in blatant violation of ICWA provisions mandating that any Indian child taken into foster care be placed with a family member, tribal member, or other Native family in the absence of “good cause” to the contrary.

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