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Globe and Mail article calls Indigenous peoples "savage

 
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joe emersberger



Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 513
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada

Post Post subject: Globe and Mail article calls Indigenous peoples "savage Reply with quote

Toronto Globe and Mail Article calls Indigenous peoples "savages"
Posted by emersberger on October 26, 2008, 6:58 pm
GLOBE AND MAIL Article – First Nations peoples were “savages”

Below, you will a Globe and Mail article (major Canadian newspaper) in defense of racist, Euro-centric views that First Nations peoples in Canada were “savages”. (“What Dick Pound said was really dumb – and also true”, By MARGARET WENTE, Globe and Mail, October 24, 2008)

Below, you will also find an initial response to the Globe and Mail, and a link to a facebook page set up to address Wente’s article.

Rights Action will soon distribute a response to the Globe and Mail’s publication of this hateful article …

… but meanwhile, we encourage you to read it and send it around widely and consider sending your own responses to the Globe and Mail.

To get on/ off Rights Action's email list: http://www.rightsaction.org/lists/?p=subscribe&id=3

= = =

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081024.wcowent25/BNStory/specialComment/home

WHAT DICK POUND SAID WAS REALLY DUMB – AND ALSO TRUE

By MARGARET WENTE, Globe and Mail, October 24, 2008

Was Canada once a land of savages? And is saying so tantamount to racism? Many people would answer no, and yes. That's why Dick Pound, the high-profile Olympics figure, is in a heap of trouble for describing the Canada of four centuries ago as “un pays de sauvages.”

He was talking to a reporter from La Presse about the Beijing Olympics and the issue of human rights. “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,” he said.

Not surprisingly, native groups are up in arms. “Mr. Pound must apologize to first peoples and educate himself about the history of first peoples in this country,” insisted Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Some want Mr. Pound to resign from Vancouver's Olympics organizing committee, and some want him to quit his post as chancellor of McGill University.

He says he wasn't referring to today's native peoples, and he didn't mean to give offence. But critics aren't mollified. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell calls his remarks “disgraceful.”

“Stupid” is another word that comes to mind. The B.C. government and VANOC have been working furiously – and sparing no expense – to get aboriginal groups on side for the 2010 Winter Games. The last thing they want is for native protests to steal the spotlight. Comments about “savages,” in whatever language, are not helpful.

Mr. Pound's choice of words was inflammatory, to say the least. But what about the underlying thought? Is it fair to say that the Canada of 1600 was not as “civilized” as China?

Yes, says Frances Widdowson, who, along with Albert Howard, is the author of an impressive new book on aboriginal policy and culture. Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry (to be published next month) knocks the stuffing out of the prevailing mythology that surrounds the history of first peoples. That mythology holds that aboriginal culture was equal or superior to European culture. At the time of contact, North America was occupied by a race of gentle pastoralists with their own science, their own medicine and their own oral history that was every bit as rich as Europe's.

The truth is different. North American native peoples had a neolithic culture based on subsistence living and small kinship groups. They had not developed broader laws or institutions, a written language, evidence-based science, mathematics or advanced technologies. The kinship groups in which they lived were very small, simply organized and not very productive. Other kinship groups were regarded as enemies, and the homicide rate was probably rather high. Until about 30 years ago, the anthropological term for this developmental stage was “savagery.”

“Never in history has the cultural gap between two peoples coming into contact with each other been wider,” Ms. Widdowson says.

Today, however, it is simply not permissible to say that aboriginal culture was less evolved than European culture or Chinese culture – even though it's true.

Ms. Widdowson argues that the most important explanation for aboriginal problems today is not Western colonialism but the vast gulf between a relatively simple neolithic kinship-based culture and a vastly complex late-industrial capitalist culture. “It doesn't mean that they are stupid or inferior,” says Ms. Widdowson. “We all passed through the stage of neolithic culture.”

The fact that North American cultures never evolved further can be explained, as American evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond showed, by geography, climate and a host of other material factors.

But today, it's not acceptable to argue that some cultures are more highly developed than others, or that cultural development is a force for good. Instead, our policies are based on the belief that aboriginal culture is equal but separate, and that the answer to aboriginal social problems is to revive and preserve indigenous culture on a “separate but equal” parallel track.

This belief has produced a sizable industry of academics, consultants, lawyers, social workers and bureaucrats, to say nothing of lucrative sinecures for many aboriginals themselves. Ms. Widdowson once belonged to this industry, as a government policy analyst in the North. She soon became disillusioned and switched to an academic career, where she has been a lonely voice in a world where native spirituality and “traditional knowledge” are held to be just as valid as Western science.

Today, “traditional knowledge,” which generally resides among the elders, is sought after by governments, studied in universities around the world, and recognized in environmental assessment processes.

But Ms. Widdowson says most of it is useless – a heap of vague beliefs and opinions that can't be verified or tested. Why have the muskoxen drifted west? Because, according to the elders, the animals were “following the people because they missed them and wanted their company.”

We have romanticized indigenous culture so much that it is often described (especially in native studies courses) as morally superior. Historically, aboriginal people were more spiritual, more egalitarian, more peaceable, less greedy and more ecologically minded than the rest of us. (To which Ms. Widdowson responds, “It's hard to damage the environment with a stone axe.”)

People are reluctant to challenge these assumptions. And they're not inclined to challenge indigenous spiritual beliefs, no matter how absurd. For example, anyone who questions the widespread belief that aboriginals originated in North America (rather than Africa, like the rest of us) is bound to be accused of disrespect and cultural insensitivity.

Claims about aboriginal contributions to civilization are also vastly overstated. Did the Iroquois Confederacy really influence the Declaration of Independence? Sorry, no. Do native medicinal herbs play an important role in modern drugs? No. Yet, some leading intellectuals try to argue otherwise. The thesis of John Ralston Saul's new bestseller is that we are at root a Métis civilization, even though he has no evidence to prove it. What is a Métis civilization? That's not too clear, either. But it's a good thing.

Much of our romanticism, of course, is fuelled by guilt. We robbed and mistreated aboriginal people for a very long time, and most of us feel terrible about it. Yet, Ms. Widdowson believes this denial of reality is extremely damaging. It dooms hundreds of thousands of native Canadians and their descendants to lives that remain isolated from the modern world, without the skills and aptitudes they need to make their way in an increasingly complex society. The message they get is that they need not, and should not, change.

But a neolithic culture cannot possibly give them a future. And it's time for us to face that. “The existing policy direction is so harmful,” she says. “Aboriginal people are people like everyone else. They deserve to interact with the modern world like everyone else.”

Needless to say, Ms. Widdowson, who currently teaches at Calgary's Mount Royal College, has been accused of hating aboriginals, and much else. “It doesn't mean that you're a racist or a colonialist if you recognize that there's a culture gap,” she says. “But to say that aboriginal people were just as sophisticated as the Europeans – that's just nonsense.”

= = =

WHAT TO DO?

Re-send this article widely to people you know.

Send your own responses to: Letters@globeandmail.com, egreenspon@globeandmail.com, sstead@globeandmail.com, nacampbell@globeandmail.com, pmartin@globeandmail.com, nhassan@globeandmail.com

= = =

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45016000567&ref=mf, mwente@globeandmail.com

Dear Editors,

I am shocked that the Globe and Mail, Canada's national paper of note, would publish something as false, inflammatory and racist as Ms. Wente's October 24 column 'What Dick Pound said was really dumb – and also true'.

This kind of rant has no place in a national newspaper, or anywhere else for that matter. Ms. Wente is wrong on each and every count -- including that "native groups" are the only ones that find this kind of language and its publication unacceptable.

These comments by Mr. Pound and Ms. Wente are clearly grounds for their immediate removal from their positions of influence and power.

I will not buy the Globe again until Ms. Wente is fired.

Dawn Paley, Vancouver, BC

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45016000567&ref=mf


Dear Editor,

In “What Dick Pound said was really dumb – and also true”, Margaret Wente “only acknowledges evidence that supports [her] own prejudices” - to quote what historian Eduardo Galeano writes about racism in his book “Upside Down, A Primer for the Looking-Glass World”. Galeano also writes: “Thinkers capable of elevating the prejudice of the ruling class to the category of science have never been lacking...”. Indeed.

Best wishes,
Gabriele Zamparini
London

The bigotry and ignorance displayed in Margaret Wente's article is unfortunately widespread in Canada. The way she expressed it was mild compared to what many Canadians, if they are honest, have heard expressed, or expressed themselves, over the course of their lives.

The Globe and Mail will probably run a few short letters to the editor that disagree with her, but as usual Wente will be spared the embarrassing task of having to defend, in any detail, the belligerent nonsense she has spewed - especially her vague and unsourced claim that Aboriginal homicide rates (prior to being nearly wiped out by genocidal Europeans) "were probably rather high".

On a positive note, the fact that Wente can dismiss Aboriginal peoples as "savages" in a national newspaper, without fear of dismissal, is ample evidence that, contrary to much denial, the racism that drove genocidal polices in North American is alive and well.

I do not know, and I'm certain Wente does not either, how the happiness and health of most Aboriginal peoples compared to most Europeans in 1600. If there is a sensible way to compare societies then answering that question would be essential. However, the most spectacular failings of European society, the various holocausts perpetrated over the last 500 years, were driven by the belief that certain peoples, especially those who stood in the way of elites, could be dismissed as worthless and expendable. Bearing that lesson in mind, we should study different societies with the aim of learning the different ways they failed and succeeded - and making our own more civilized.

Joe Emersberger

Dear All,

I am writing in reference to the following article:

WHAT DICK POUND SAID WAS REALLY DUMB – AND ALSO TRUE

By MARGARET WENTE, Globe and Mail, October 24, 2008

That this kind of an article could pass into a national level famed newspaper is shocking. To requote the article, this entire piece and all it's parts are "a heap of vague beliefs and opinions that can't be verified or tested". Publishing this is nothing more than a slap in the face of First Nations people based on Victorian era pseudo science and colonial ideologies.

Surely Pound's controversial comments require a sensitive and nuanced treatment from a serious paper - not simply repeating a bunch of simplistic racist nonsense. An apology needs to be given immediately.

Andy Best.
Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:44 pm
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joe emersberger



Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 513
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada

Post Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Sylvia Stead:
Thanks for replying.
Unlike others who were also dismayed by the bigotry and ignorance of Wente's article, I do not believe that she should be fired. The views she expressed are quite widespread in Canada and therefore need to be addressed in the open. The Globe should make Wente debate the unnamed scholars on Aboriginal peoples whom she called out as opportunists enjoying "lucrative sinecures" (as if she worked for minimum wage).
The spectacle of her defending the view that in 1600 aboriginals were neolithic (ie stone age) peoples who murdered each other at a higher rate than Europeans would be a useful one. If the Globe has any interest at all in eradicating ignorance about Canada's original inhabitants then you should already be organizing the debate.

More likely, you will publish short letters to editor and hope the whole affair blows over quickly.
That's a shame because an opportunity for Canadian culture to evolve will be missed.
Pundits like Wente will continue to take potshots at non-whites and hold us all back.

Joe Emersberger

PS: I'm glad the Globe also publishes some non-racist commentary but forgive me for not being impressed.


In a message dated 10/28/2008 5:49:46 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, SStead@globeandmail.com writes:
Dear Mr. Emersberger,

Thank you for your letter on Margaret Wente's column of October 25.

As a national columnist, Ms. Wente is paid to express her opinions. For
our part, we understand that many people might find those opinions
offensive for a variety of reasons. Indeed, we encourage our columnists
to speak with strong voices.

In this instance, a blunt and simplifying headline amplified Mr. Wente's
column, while she herself called Dick Pound's remarks "stupid" and found
his "choice of words" to be "inflammatory, to say the very least." She
went on to discuss the differences between the aboriginal cultures of
400 years ago, on the one hand, and those of Europe and China, on the
other. In her opinion, Europe and China were more technologically
advanced. She also took issue with some views of history that she
believes affect public policy today. These matters are within the bounds
of reasonable public discussion. At the same time, Ms. Wente made clear
that Aboriginals in Canada have been victims of grave injustice.

Editorials are the voice of the newspaper. On the same day as Ms.
Wente's column, an editorial strongly chastised Mr. Pound for his
comments, calling them bizarre and offensive. The editorial said in
part: "Let's not kid ourselves. North America 400 years ago was not a
paradise...But then China, under Mao, is credited with what some
scholars believe was the greatest genocide in history. There is nothing
North American natives can be accused of that can hold a candle to what
the Nazis did to Europe's Jews. And, oh yes, Europeans, in their efforts
to spread civilization to the natives of the Americas, also spread
microbial pestilence and practised what has been characterized as
"purposeful genocide," killing tens of millions of people."
Columns by Gary Mason and Rod Mickleburgh also discussed the controversy
in different terms from Ms. Wente. A number of Letters to the Editor
were published chastizing her. We also published a comment article by
native scholar Hayden King who explained why native civilization was
superior to European civilization. We believe in free speech and robust
debate accepting that at times it will offend.

The Globe and Mail has long been a leader in writing about First Nations
issues, notably including the residential schools, and we are building
on that record. We also understand that these topics are very sensitive
and are sorry if the discussion upset you. We hope and trust that you
will continue to read and engage with our newspaper.

Yours truly,

Sylvia Stead
Deputy Editor

-----Original Message-----
From: Jemersberger@aol.com [mailto:Jemersberger@aol.com]
Sent: Sunday, October 26, 2008 9:08 PM
To: Letters
Cc: Greenspon, Edward; Salutin, Rick; Wente, Margaret;
info@rightsaction.org
Subject: Globe and Mail articles calls indigenous peoples savages

The bigotry and ignorance displayed in Margaret Wente's article is
unfortunately widespread in Canada. The way she expressed it was mild
compared to what many Canadians, if they are honest, have heard
expressed, or expressed themselves, over the course of their lives.

The Globe and Mail will probably run a few short letters to the editor
that disagree with her, but as usual Wente will be spared the
embarrassing task of having to defend, in any detail, the belligerent
nonsense she has spewed - especially her vague and unsourced claim that
Aboriginal homicide rates (prior to being nearly wiped out by genocidal
Europeans) "were probably rather high".

On a positive note, the fact that Wente can dismiss Aboriginal peoples
as "savages" in a national newspaper, without fear of dismissal, is
ample evidence that, contrary to much denial, the racism that drove
genocidal polices in North American is alive and well.

I do not know, and I'm certain Wente does not either, how the happiness
and health of most Aboriginal peoples compared to most Europeans in
1600. If there is a sensible way to compare societies then answering
that question would be essential. However, the most spectacular
failings of European society, the various holocausts perpetrated over
the last 500 years, were driven by the belief that certain peoples,
especially those who stood in the way of elites, could be dismissed as
worthless and expendable. Bearing that lesson in mind, we should study
different societies with the aim of learning the different ways they
failed and succeeded - and making our own more civilized.

Joe Emersberger
Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:55 am
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joe emersberger



Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 513
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada

Post Post subject: Reply with quote

INDIGENOUS CULTURES RIVALLED THOSE OF CIVILIZATIONS AROUND THE GLOBE, By Hayden King, Globe and Mail, October 29, 2008

Below, you will a response to the Globe and Mail article in defense of racist, Euro-centric views that First Nations peoples in Canada were “savages”. (“What Dick Pound said was really dumb – and also true”, By MARGARET WENTE, Globe and Mail, October 24, 2008): http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081024.wcowent25/BNStory/specialComment/home

We encourage you to read Hayden King’s response (and Margaret Wente’s article), re-send it around widely, and consider sending your own responses to the Globe and Mail.

We pursue this issue of critically looking at the Globe and Mail and Wente’s article because issues of European and western racist and cultural superiority are used not only to justify historical European expansionism and ethnocide and genocide against Africans and Indigenous peoples of the Americas, but also because racism against Indigenous peoples and Afro-Americans is an on-going factor today in the repression and exploitation-poverty that Rights Action and our partner groups are working to end in southern Mexico and Central America.

To get on/ off Rights Action's email list: http://www.rightsaction.org/lists/?p=subscribe&id=3

= = =

INDIGENOUS CULTURES RIVALLED THOSE OF CIVILIZATIONS AROUND THE GLOBE
By HAYDEN KING, Globe and Mail, October 29, 2008
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081028.wconatives29/BNStory/specialComment/home

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.

Perhaps most impressive among their findings is that indigenous peoples were adept farmers, originally cultivating and harvesting two-thirds of the foodstuffs the world consumes today. These include the tomato, peanut, potato, chili peppers and corn. In fact, at the time of contact, and long before Gregor Mendel's experiments with pea plants, the Huron in Ontario had genetically engineered 17 different varieties of corn. Not quite the Stone Age hunter-gatherers of Ms. Wente's column.

But the achievements don't end there. And because Ms. Wente uses European-inspired standards of success when measuring first nations "savagery," a comparison is in order. At a time when the Anishinabek had societal codes forbidding incest, the crowned heads of France and England were as inbred as poodles.

While Christians were burning "heretics" at the stake for suggesting the Earth wasn't the centre of the universe, the Mayans were charting the movement of the stars, creating a calendar within seconds of modern-day atomic clocks.

The Wet'suwet'en practised a matriarchal society, while on the other side of the Atlantic, women were the property of men.

In addition, and contrary to Ms. Wente's assertion, the Haudenosaunee did influence the U.S. Constitution. American "founding fathers," including Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson, explicitly recorded the first nation contribution. John Rutledge even articulated the structure of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and their "Great Law of Peace" to the drafting committee. (He spoke of a complex federalism whose leaders included executive, legislative and judicial branches — the latter of which were generally a group of elder women).

The Haudenosaunee actually practise a 900-year-old democracy and the longest lasting peace between nations in recorded history.

Yet another disturbing aspect of Ms. Wente's column was the dismissal of traditional ecological knowledge — this is the sum knowledge of a given first nation or Inuit community that has been accumulated and amended for thousands of years. Dismissing it reduces us to conclude, for instance, that the Inuit have survived in the world's harshest climate by sheer luck. Of course, this is nonsensical. Sophisticated knowledge of ice flows, animal migrations, wind patterns and temperature fluctuations ensured their success in the past and educates scientists, the military and resource companies in the present.

In fact, such traditional ecological knowledge also significantly contributes to Western medicine: essiac is a cancer treatment, evanta cures leprosy, foxglove aids heart care, kava kava reduces stress, and quinine treats malaria. All of the above are indigenous inventions. Not only can such ecological knowledge save lives, it may also help save the world.

First nations peoples have lived sustainably in North America for tens of thousands of years, respecting all life, however small, putting an emphasis on reciprocity and understanding that their relationship with ecosystems is one of life and death. At a time when first nations peoples can teach us so much, Ms. Wente would have us ignore them.

Indigenous cultures were and are diverse and vibrant. They lived in cities larger than those in contemporary Europe, had greater populations, taller buildings, sophisticated governance structures, varied art forms, tested scientific knowledge and on, and on.

What is truly savage is the perpetuation of a false representation of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, particularly when they've worked so hard to overcome racism and stereotypes. But perhaps Jefferson was right all along, we shouldn't expect much from newspapers anyway.


* * *

WHAT TO DO?

Re-send this article widely to people you know.

Go to: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45016000567&ref=mf.

Read Wente’s article and send your own responses to: Letters@globeandmail.com, greenspon@globeandmail.com, sstead@globeandmail.com, nacampbell@globeandmail.com, pmartin@globeandmail.com, nhassan@globeandmail.com, mwente@globeandmail.com

* * *

For more about Rights Action and our work funding and supporting Indigenous and campesino organizations in Central America and southern Mexico: info@rightsaction.org / www.rightsaction.org

To get on/ off Rights Action's email list: http://www.rightsaction.org/lists/?p=subscribe&id=3
Thu Oct 30, 2008 2:52 am
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joe emersberger



Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 513
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada

Post Post subject: Reply with quote

WHAT MARGARET WENTE SAID WAS REALLY RACIST AND HARMFUL – AND ALSO FALSE

By Grahame Russell, November 4, 2008

Margaret Wente should be let go by the Globe and Mail. More importantly, the GM should be let go.

Writing critical and hard-hitting articles (even if snide and mean-spirited, as Wente’s can be) is important and necessary (not the snide and mean-spirited parts). Publishing racist opinions that are harmful and fundamentally hateful should not be permitted or endorsed.

It is bitterly ironic, but not surprising, that the GM published Wente’s defense of Pound’s racist comments (“What Dick Pound said was really dumb – and also true”, Globe and Mail, October 24, 2008) at the same time as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is being established in Canada to investigate the abuses and harms caused by the Residential School system that the Canadian government, Churches and society forced upon First Nations peoples from the late 1800s through to 1996.

(Dick Pound should also be let go from Vancouver's Olympics organizing committee for his remarks: “We must not forget that 400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages, with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European descent, …”).

While there are differences between particular Residential Schools, in general, some 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and communities andsent to Christian Church schools where they were forbidden to speak their languages, sing their songs, celebrate their cultures and spiritual practices, even wear their hair long, and more. Numerous are the testimonies of physical and sexual abuse and suspicious deaths.

As the years and decades went by, as languages and cultural and spiritual practices were intentionally eliminated, family and community bonds were destroyed. The Residential Schools contributed to ethnocide.

Does Wente believe the Residential School system was a “cultural development” program that was a “force for good” aimed at, umm, exorcising the savageness from Indigenous children, thus giving them a chance “to interact with the modern world like everyone else”? (Words and phrases in quotes are drawn from her article)

But this is not only an issue about the racist opinion of one person concerning the Indigenous peoples of what is now known as “Canada”. The GM should publish a retraction and an apology. Wente is a well known conservative Canadian journalist such that when it published her article the GM was in effect stating that this is a debatable issue – whether or not the Indigenous peoples were “savages” when the so-called ‘civilized’ Europeans arrived. (Are "savages" even human?)

It is easy to come up with similar scenarios. Will the GM publish an article, using choice racist adjectives, that justifies Nazi Germany’s policies and actions based on arguments that Jews were lesser people? Or an article about the inferiority of Africans (“negros”, soon to be labeled by the “n” word), such that they could be bought and sold as slave chattel, tortured and killed?

Or how the less-than-human Indigenous peoples of all the Americas were “pagans” (a word like “savages” or using the “n” word), such that they should be forcibly converted by the Europeans to Christianity, or exterminated … and stripped of their land and resources, by the way?

While it is important and enlightening to discuss cultural differences, and there were many between the humans invading from Europe and the humans already living in what came to be known as the “Americas”, labeling the Indigenous peoples as “savages” and inferior has nothing to do with cultural differences. Harmful arguments advocating racial superiority (let alone any other category of fundamental human inferiority or superiority) should not enabled and supported.

Why does the GM believe it fair journalism to present arguments that the First Nations peoples were “savages”?

With the risk of over-generalizing, I think the answer to this question is that a majority of Europeans and people from nations created by European expansionism (Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) remain today incapable of accepting collective responsibility for our history based in part on the African slave trade (causing the deaths of tens of millions of Africans), the carving up of Africa into colonial, racist pieces of pie for the European powers, the extermination or subjugation of Indigenous peoples across the world, particularly in the Americas (causing the deaths of tens of millions), and the wholesale occupation (stealing) of lands and resources.

While Europeans and nations created by European expansionism comfortably caste moral judgment on other nations and nationalities that have committed atrocities at home and abroad through history (the Soviet Union under Stalin, China under Mao, Nazi Germany, for example), we refuse to acknowledge our historical participation in and benefitting from large-scale crimes against humanity.

Instead, we fabricate explanations that become justifications: ‘It really was not that bad, what happened here with the first “contact” of European “explorers”, because there really weren’t humans living here, only “savages”, “pagans”.’

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission faces a big and sad challenge of documenting “the truth of survivors, their families, communities and anyone who has been personally affected by the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) legacy” (http://www.trc-cvr.ca/indexen.html).

Mainstream Canada faces a more daunting challenge: to introspectively and critically look at how the racist convictions of Christian superiority of the Second Nations justified and enabled the conquest of what is now known as “Canada”, right through to justifying and enabling the Residential School system.

As the Globe and Mail will not fire itself, would it underwrite and open itself to its own ‘Truth Commission’ of sorts? Name a panel of independent media experts and historians to carefully review GM archives related to the Residential Schools and prepare a full report – holding no punches – as to how the GM did its part to justify and legitimize the Residential Schools for so many years?

* * * * * * *

Grahame Russell works with Rights Action (info@rightsaction.org / www.rightsaction.org)
Thu Nov 06, 2008 3:05 am
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