a tragic chronicle of unrelenting global Indigenous genocide

It’s almost too much to bear, but it’s my fervent belief that we should willing to bear witness to the continual patterns of evil perpetrated on our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and in this case, especially the children.  And oh, my, his title might almost stand as a warning for all that comes next.  But be brave as you can be, as we only live all the following horrors vicariously, even as they pierce our hearts and souls, or react viscerally.

From ‘Darkness Bringing Us Down’  by Michael Welton, July 31, 2019, counterpunch.org

“If you dare enter the door of [Ojibwe] Tanya Talaga’s Massey Lectures of 2018, [the book form] All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward, be prepared to face some dark truths. These terrible truths explode in our faces like mines buried on a battlefield as we traverse the disconsolate pages. An accomplished and honoured journalist (author of Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City [2017]), Talaga writes with acid dripping from her pen.

“Talaga tells the truth through emotionally powerful stories. Her central, and very disturbing, focus for All Our Relations is on the staggeringly high rates of suicide amongst Indigenous youth around the world. The expansive focus gives this lecture series special interest because we are forced to see all of the youth suicides world-wide as part of one history of European white settler colonization.”

Welton notes that we’re used to thinking in national compartments, and adept at separating the Indigenous suicides from the Canadian government’s assaults on Aboriginal peoples’ land, language, culture, sacred places and spiritual practices, much less providing the resources to alleviate that suffering. As well, he writes, we tend to shy away from linking suicides as inextricably bound to genocidal practices.

“Talaga’s stories are hard to take. On every page one finds stories about women like Sandra Fox from Wapekeka who came home after doing an errand to find that her daughter, Chantell Fox, twelve years old, had hanged herself. In all, seven girls between the ages of 12 and 15 living away from their First Nations communities took their lives. The people of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), a political organization comprising forty-nine First Nations spread out over the northern two-thirds of the province of Ontario, want their children to stop dying. The native leaders discovered that some of their kids had made “suicide pacts.” They sought help from the Federal government for a grant of $376,706 to create a mental health team of four workers able to deliver prevention and intervention programs. This cry for help went unanswered.

If ever Canadians doubted that First Nations’ suicides are shockingly out of control, reading Talaga will scrape that idea from your mind. Across the NAN territory, Talaga tells us, from 1986 through December 2017, 558 suicides occurred. Eighty-eight of these deaths were children between the ages of ten and fourteen. Similar statistics can be found for the Sami population in Scandinavia and indigenous people of Brazil and Australia. Drs. Ernest Hunter and Helen Milroy (the first Aboriginal psychiatrist in Australia) exclaim: “We have come from a history of genocide, and genocide is about the deliberate annihilation of a race; it is about wanting to remove us from the Earth permanently, which is a very different concept from transgenerational trauma. It is trauma on a more massive scale – psychologically, physically, spiritually, culturally. It is another level of trauma again.”

He quotes Talaga urging her listeners and readers to sit for a while with this disquieting truth:

“Indigenous children and youth are born under the staggering weight of history: the historical injustices of colonization; the forced removal off the land by extermination or segregation; the cultural genocide effected by government policy and religious indoctrination; the intergenerational trauma stemming from years of poverty, abuse, and identity oppression.”

Welton writes that a spiritual awakening is underway throughout Indigenous communities scanning the globe. ‘Through hell and highwater, pride in being a native person is being recovered and affirmed day after day in the face of considerable government resistance.’

He cites but a few examples of Telaga’s many tales of genocide, sociocide, and cultural annihilation, this about the government assaults on the Inuit in the northern reaches of Canada between the 1950s and 1970s:

“Inuit were removed from their lands and placed in western-styled homes. During this period, Inuit sled dogs were culled and became targets of mass killings. Talaga comments acerbically: “Just as the massacre of the bison in 19th century America helped usher in the demise of the Plains Indians’ traditional way of life, so too was the killing of the dogs a powerful act of subjugation.” “Both acts symbolically severed the Indigenous peoples’ spiritual connection to the land by eliminating a major sources of their sustenance and economy.”

With Inuit land appropriated, the Canadian state and churches could descend like hawks upon the Inuit. Take their kids and put them in residential schools. Plant churches. Coerce parents to live in permanent communities. It didn’t take long for Inuit youth to start taking their own lives and travel to the land where the roses never fade. The National Inuit Suicide Prevention report of July 27, 2016 provides the shameful evidence.”

But yes, all of that happened in the Amerikan portion of Turtle Island as well.
The children were to be assimilated into the far better white culture with their better God and prayers to Him.  Forbidden their language, clothing, prayer, their hair was shorn off, and most were beaten for the defiance of the rules, if not worse.  If history ever recorded the number of suicides, I’ve never learned of it.  Murders, yes, but most likely at the Jesuit missions (some say Franciscan) like Junipero Serra’s on the west coast, where the Indigenous were enslaved and often killed outright.  Pope Francis canonized him in 2015.

Welton then cites Talaga’s recounting of similar stories of mass Indigenous (some too grisly to bring you) genocide in Brazil in the 1950s – 1970s, and the “boom in rubber” and their predispositon to escape by suicide, plus this change in demographics: today there are only 59 Indigenous Nations left; the remaining population, 734,000, is down from five million at point of contact.”

Currently?  June 27th, 2019Brazil’s Bolsonaro Presses Anti-Indigenous Agenda; Resistance Surges’ by Sue Branford, earthfirstjournal.org

“APIB (the Articulation of Brazil’s Indigenous People), one of Brazil’s leading indigenous organizations, has been at the forefront of resistance. It launched a new strategy when it published a report, entitled “Complicity in the Destruction,” in April.  The report shows that soy, cattle and timber companies responsible for illegal deforestation and, in some cases, employing slave labor, are none the less openly negotiating with, and receiving funding from, companies and investors based in all three of Brazil’s main trading partners ­— China, the EU and USA. The document names 23 importing companies, including giants Bunge, Cargill and Northwest Hardwoods. Forest losses in the Brazilian Amazon jumped 54 percent in January 2019 compared to a year ago, while May 2019 saw a 34 percent increase as compared to May 2018. 

In the land now known as the United States, almost all of the tribes on the west coast and Florida were totally eradicated, few across the land survived, no matter which tribe.  He then features a few of the projects in Canada that are working to heal the children, restore their dignity, artistic expression, including Aboriginal clinics and traditional healing, including sweat lodges.”

This cbc.ca/radio page dated July 30, 2018 has some of the descriptions of the 54 minute radio programs (podcasts?) and a few videos of Tanya’s All our Relations lecture series.

The videos are brief, but they’re not youtubes.  I’ll bring one shortish youtube video, in which she northern Norway, the US, to her list of colonization from first contact onward, and cultural genocide abetted by racist laws, that underlies high youth suicide rates.  I’d have of course mentally added the New Zealand Maori to the list, and a quick check had found ‘Indigenous Suicide and Colonization: The Legacy of Violence and the Necessity of Self-Determination’ abstract from a 2015 study regarding the Maori and high suicide rates.

“Therefore, individual pain is inseparable from collective pain and the role of the collective becomes that of carrying individuals who are suffering. The state of kahupo or spiritual blindness (Kruger, Pitman, et al. 2004) is characterized by a loss of hope, meaning, and purpose and an enduring sense of despair. It bears the symptoms of chronic dissociation or separation of the physical from the spiritual and vice versa. We describe community empowerment practices and social policy environments that offer pathways forward from colonization towards tino rangatiratanga, or indigenous self-determination, noting significant obstacles along the way.

On a different CBC radio page:

“The rate of suicide in some Indigenous communities is so high that it starts to feel “normal,” according to journalist Tanya Talaga, who has studied youth in crisis for this year’s Massey Lectures.

My uncle took his life, my mother’s friend took her life, my friend took their life,” said Talaga, an Indigenous journalist at the Toronto Star.

“It’s in the lexicon, it’s in your everyday words and your actions, it’s all around you,” she told The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti.”

Dr. Michael Welton is a professor at the University of Athabasca. He is the author of Designing the Just Learning Society: a Critical Inquiry.

You may remember that serial liar Prime Minister Trudeau had campaigned on promising to discover what happened to the many, many disappeared First Nations women. Four years later: what’s changed?toronto star

(cross-posted from Café Babylon)

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mimi's picture

Tanya Talaga has solutions? Since the early days at TOP i became aware of all the facts described here in your article. Nothing has changed at all in the last 15 years about it.

I don't get the meaning of equity. Since the days of early colonization by white Europeans, there has never been equity or equality. Why would Talaga believe her well meant words would change any of the conditions of indigenous people around the globe?

If you want prevent suicides, you have to give people a reason to live for. Many of the native Americans on their reservation land have none.

There needs to be a serious revolution to change the effects of colonialism. It seems really unlikely it will ever come. Contrary it looks it will way worse. But then, I feel something is in the air and coming. So, this darn hope thingy dies last.

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wendy davis's picture


all of this for so long; i was gobsmacked by the utter ubiquity of all tanya had discovered in her search. 'equity' essentially means 'equal human rights'. here's more of what i hadn't put in:

“What do we think? The fog is clearing. If we sever “tethers to the past” – spiritual, emotional and physical – we become unmoored, desolate and disconsolate. Untethered and abused Indigenous youth want to fly away from their internal wretchedness. We must know where we come from, where we are going, what our purpose is and who we are. For Indigenous peoples of the earth, the spirituality that the churches sought to destroy and malign teaches that they are part of a “greater life story, part of a continuum of all life on Earth, and that each individual being plays their own role as a custodian, safeguarding the land for the next generation. Every person born has a purpose, every person belongs.”

Native people are fighting hard against the destruction of their cultures and children. A few examples: “We Matter,” a national Indigenous-led non-profit organization started by a sister-and-brother team from Hay River, NW Territories, created the space for creative artist expression for the youth. They are taught “positiveness” and presented with uplifting role models. Everywhere across Canada we can observe, as well, the recovery and power of indigenous holistic healing that attempts to restore that which has been fragmented.”

The Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa is a brilliant illustration of how aesthetically pleasing a healing centre can be. If you walked up to the second floor, the Fire Floor, you’ll see a “giant doomed ceiling featuring a beautiful medicine wheel illuminated by a skylight.” There are gathering spaces and prenatal and primary care clinics and a Lodge used for sweats. And lots more.

The Wabano Centre moves us into a new world of healthcare, far removed from the awful Indian hospitals of the 1950s and 60s. Too many horror stories. Too much racial segregation. Too much neglect.”

there's t. telaga on twitter with more articles, activist groups, etc. but as noted: she's a storyteller, and hopes to inspire more and more activist healing and human rights equality. but no, there's no quick fix, especially as aboriginals are often 'hidden' as people, only to be exploited and annihilated. here she is on that subject:

thanks so much for reading, ma soeur.

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mimi's picture

@wendy davis
- and folks here might not like me to say so - dailykos' authors in the very, very early years I started to read them. I knew nothing ever about them before. Those authors are still over there and I am not forgetting them, just because Markos made mashed potatoes out of his site.
(and I like to eat mashed potatoes, that's the problem too ... darn it. ;-)).


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wendy davis's picture


correct your misapprehension that this post concerns 'native americans'; it's about the ongoing genocide of global indigenous, with focus on child suicides. perhaps that's why you've said you knew all of this before, i dunno, or maybe it's due to language differences? i was the only person who'd actually spoken to the similarities in the US, and during the 'discovery doctrine' times, and the maori in NZ as well. odd that telaga had breezed by that, and really only added 'the US' in that video, kinda as an afterthought.

but after having read kiwi author keri hume's the bone people...i'd actually looked to see if she might be on twitter, and might have been able to steer me in some relevant direction of other.

in canada, the indigenous tribes go by 'first nations', and they use the term 'reserves' rather than 'reservations' (also open-air concentration camps for a long time: "here! this is where you must live! you have no civil or human rights!) as the US calls them.

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mimi's picture

@wendy davis
understood carefully enough.

The content on this site (not yours alone) is too much for me to deal with. Please don't feel offended.

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mimi's picture

I think what Robert Sheer wrote and talked about is also a reason to kill oneself.
America Has Gulags in Its Own Backyard

I can't excerpt it, but I highly recommend to listen to it. There is a transcript at truthdig.

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wendy davis's picture


perhaps i can read the transcript later, but i did read the depressing OP.

i did get to remembering that (cree) buffy sainte marie had taken a sabbatical from music from 1997 to 2008, and had created 'the cradleboard teaching project' (their mission statement in part):

"The Cradleboard Teaching Project turns on the lights in public education about Native American culture - past, present, and most important for the children - the Future. It comes out of Indian country, and reaches far beyond, into the mainstream classroom and into the future of education.

Backed by lesson plans and an excellent curriculum, the Cradleboard Teaching Project is also live and interactive, and totally unique; children learn with and through their long-distance peers using the new technology alongside standard tools, and delivering the truth to little kids with the help of several American Indian colleges. Cradleboard reaches both Indian and non-Indian children with positive realities, while they are young.

This is the way of the future when it comes to offering a cultural study unit to a child, because it's alive! This is the future when it comes to offering the cultural "real deal" to youngsters half a globe away, in time, we hope, to benefit the lives of Indian children who wonder "Who am I?...and who do others think I am?"

During the five years that Buffy Sainte-Marie spent as a semi-regular on "Sesame Street", it was always her hope to convey in the Native American episodes one message above all: Indians Exist. We are alive and real, and we have fun and friends and families and a whole lot to contribute to the rest of the world through our reality.

It's our hope at Cradleboard that we can joyfully replace the old inaccuracies, with reality, delivered by teams of experts; to the lifelong benefit of Indian children; and that every mainstream child will have access to an enriching Native studies unit provided by Indian people, including children of his or her own age."

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mimi's picture

@wendy davis @wendy davis
and loved her a lot. Don't remember when that was, probably shortly after 2008/9, but that's only my guess. I won't try to search anything I said on dailykos... you might forgive me for that ... I don't want to get an unstable bowel syndrome condition ... Smile

It must have been way before or may be the posts showing her singing were from times way before.

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@wendy davis
push for separatism rarely (if ever) take into account the will (or even existence) of the first nations folk who are the primary occupants of much (most?) of Quebec, which is, like almost all of Canada more than 100 miles north of the US, very sparsely populated.

The last time there was any serious talk of an independent Quebec, one of the big points of argument was, what happens to the hydroelectric plants in northern Quebec, most (all?) of which were (of course) federal projects. At some point during that conversation, the Cree who lived up there sort of stood up in the media and said, hang on ... when did we ever agree that the part of Canada where we live would go with Quebec? Until that moment, nobody had ever even entertained the question.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

wendy davis's picture


thank you. to say the truth, i'd not even remembered the quebec independence movement, but i just pulled up the 'arguments against' section on the wiki, including first nations members' quotes, but regarding the cree:

"Similarly, the Cree have also asserted for many years that they are a separate people with the right to self-determination recognized under international law. They argue that no annexation of them or their territory to an independent Quebec should take place without their consent, and that if Quebec has the right to leave Canada then the Cree people have the right to choose to keep their territory in Canada. Cree arguments generally do not claim the right to secede from Canada; rather, the Cree see themselves as a people bound to Canada by treaty (see the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement), and as citizens of Canada.[14] The Cree have stated that a unilateral declaration of independence by Quebec would be a violation of fundamental principles of human rights, democracy and consent. If secession were to proceed, the Cree argue that they would seek protection through the Canadian courts as well as asserting Cree jurisdiction over its people and lands.[14]

Professor Peter Russell has said of Aboriginal peoples in Canada: "(they) are not nations that can be yanked out of Canada against their will by a provincial majority.... With few exceptions (they) wish to enjoy their right to self-government within Canada, not within a sovereign Quebec."[15] International human rights expert Erica-Irene Daes says the change "will leave the most marginalized and excluded of all the world's peoples without a legal, peaceful weapon to press for genuine democracy...."[15] This concern is connected to the claim that if Quebec were to be considered its own autonomous nation-state then it need not honour the treaties and agreements that were formed between Aboriginal peoples and the British and French monarchies and is now maintained by the federal Canadian government.[16] Concern for this may stem from perception of neo-colonial or eurocentric attitudes in the leadership of former premiers, such as Robert Bourassa and self-proclaimed "Conqueror of the North"

but expanding the first aboriginal arguments:

"Professor Peter Russell has said of Aboriginal peoples in Canada: "(they) are not nations that can be yanked out of Canada against their will by a provincial majority.... With few exceptions (they) wish to enjoy their right to self-government within Canada, not within a sovereign Quebec."[15] International human rights expert Erica-Irene Daes says the change "will leave the most marginalized and excluded of all the world's peoples without a legal, peaceful weapon to press for genuine democracy...."[15] This concern is connected to the claim that if Quebec were to be considered its own autonomous nation-state then it need not honour the treaties and agreements that were formed between Aboriginal peoples and the British and French monarchies and is now maintained by the federal Canadian government.[16] Concern for this may stem from perception of neo-colonial or eurocentric attitudes in the leadership of former premiers, such as Robert Bourassa and self-proclaimed "Conqueror of the North".

but as of july, tanya telaga was back writing to the tornonto star, and if i get her drift this was her first column on return; it's about water emergencies in ontario:

"It should appall Canadians that they live in a country where First Nations people have to threaten to take their own lives in order to get the government’s attention over violations of their basic right to clean water.

It should appall us all that in the absence of such extraordinary protests the well-documented water crisis in Indigenous communities is accepted as an intractable, if unfortunate, reality.

No, it was not until two women in Attawapiskat, band councillor Sylvia Koostachin-Metatawabin and former Chief Theresa Spence, staged a 15-day hunger strike that Ontario and Ottawa finally determined that there was sufficient reason to act. Just this week a federal-provincial task force finally arrived in the community.

Attawapiskat is hardly the only nation where there isn’t a drop to drink. In the Nishnawbe Aski Nation or Treaty #9 (and parts of Treaty #5) territory, there are currently nine short-term boil water advisories and another nine long-term advisories. One of those long-term communities is Eabametoong First Nation."

i'll freeely admit that i hadn't known that that was one of idle no more/spence's demands, but if it comes under 'treaty rights', then yes, although i hadn't clicked into the 'read more'...

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wendy davis's picture

read and rec'd, but i'm not a night owl, but more of a morning meadowlark, me, so i'm closing down for the night, esp. as i have more RL chores (if pleasant) to accomplish tonight. g' night.

from the northern turtle island songstress and activist buffy sainte marie:

They got these energy companies who want the land
And they've got churches by the dozens
Want to guide our hands
And sign Mother Earth over to pollution, war and greed
Get rich... get rich quick.

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh.

We get the federal marshals
We get the covert spies
We get the liars by the fire
And we get the FBIs
They lie in court and get nailed
And still Peltier goes off to jail

My girlfriend Annie Mae talked about uranium
Her head was filled with bullets and her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands and told us she'd died of exposure...

(canadian Mi’kmaq anna mae aquash occupied wounded knee (a 71-day siege) with a couple hundred oglalas and AIM members on the pine ridge reservation in 1973)

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lotlizard's picture

Anywhere on the map where you see boundaries that are straight lines, odds are that genocidal conquest and colonization has occurred.

Surveyors, imperial victors, and real-estate developers draw boundaries that are straight lines — not the organic life processes of human communities.

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wendy davis's picture


i remember one of barbara kingsolver's critques on african settler neo-colonialism noting the exact same thing: 'this new and wonderful road Must Go right thru your villages!' on edit: and poof! no more villages, no self-sustaining inter-village trading systems...disposable lives.

but straight lines don't even taken natural geographical features into account: mountains, lakes,rivers...

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wendy davis's picture

stream on a more recent thread that i'd wished i'd saved the photo of john trudell and buffy sitting in profile across a table from each other before he'd crossed over and the zzzzzzt of love between them. i'd searched buffy's (rather glam) instragram photos to no avail.

but in one of those cosmic moments of propinquity? synchronicity? a first american fellow came to the café today on a dec. 2015 thread on which i was honoring trudell's transitioning to the other side. and wot the hell? this tweet was there, with the photo!

so thankful, i told Whispering Raven Thundering mountain that i'd honor him with the last song trudell had ever recorded (Rest in Power, brother john). let it be tonight's closing song.

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