The International and Inter-generational Harm of Colonialism and Christianity – The Context Behind Finding This Particular Graveyard.
(Comments on this post will be closed. I don’t want or chose to invite the racism that I’ve seen on Twitter onto this piece. This is a very sensitive issue.)
Since the news broke this week, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what to say, what to feel. I do have people I have valued who were part of this story, but their tale isn’t mine to share.
In school in a European mostly area, raised in a fundie Christian church, in a nation that breathes British and French empire allegiances, we just weren’t taught that such history existed inside our own borders.
So I’ve been gathering this continuing history this past year. I took a course in Indigenous Canada history this past year.
This is heart-breaking to know. As it must be for other caring people in other lands. The Colonial nations and the Christian churches have a LOT to answer for. And we need to sit with that. We need to feel our shame. Our horror. Because now, we can’t claim ignorance anymore. It’s not just in Canada that we need to hear this tale either.
Empires come and go. Empires rise and fall. Their armies go forth and spread their faith, assimilating the children, killing the resistors. enslaving the ‘enemy’, taking property and expecting everyone to deal with it. That is what it’s always been, right?
Someone sees themselves as having divine right to do whatever they want, to whomever they want.
Till we come to why we just found a school graveyard in Kamloops BC:
It all began in Europe centuries ago.
First there came the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’
- Papal “Bulls of Discovery” (Doctrine of Discovery): Romanus Pontifex (1455) issued by Pope Nicholas V and Inter Caetera (1493) pronounced by Pope Alexander VI.
No matter who they ran over
People got tired of seeing the priests of the Catholic Church make money when they were supposed to be keeping their vows of poverty. And keeping concubines and wives when they were supposed to be chaste.
- And then along came Martin Luther in 1517 with a little something to say.
Things got crazy in Europe and the Catholic Church lost a LOT of it’s priests and church members.
- So the ‘loyal’ ones went looking for more. They decided to convert the heathen and set up schools to teach their young. In a time of mass enslavement of African people and reservations and enslavement for Indigenous people around the world.
Mission schools began in the 1600s around the world –
India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand (Maori) , Scandinavia (Sami) and North America as some of the earliest ones. Though there were others.
Children were mistreated. We know that now.
Spain in California – mission schools
Spain was responsible for the missions, which scholars believe were attempts to colonize the Pacific coast of North America. There were 21 missions in all, lasting from 1769 until about 1833.
United States – In 1879, the first off-reservation boarding school, Carlisle, was founded by Richard Pratt.
‘Indian’ residential schools existed in Canada since at least 1620. In that year the Recollect Order of Franciscans (Roman Catholic) established a boarding school at Quebec, which they operated until 1629.
- Canada –
residential schools became part of government and church policy from the 1830s on, with the creation of Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic institutions in Upper Canada (Ontario).
In 1879, Nicholas Flood Davin, a Regina Member of Parliament, sent a report to the federal government, advocating that Canada adopt a similar system to that of the United States of America established by Richard Pratt.
New Zealand –
New Zealand’s first mission school opens
12 August 1816
Following the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi that established New Zealand as a British Crown colony, the state began to use education as a means to ‘civilize’ the Maori peoples
Scandinavia – Lutheran missionaries arrived in Samiland during the 17th century and encouraged them to speak Finnish, the missionary language.
South India – began at first in Tranquebar by two young pioneering Danish missionaries Bartholomeaus Ziegenbal and Henry Plustschau. They established an institution in 1716 A.D for the training of teachers to be employed in the charity schools.
The European colonialists were bent on being the big wigs of the world. The French, Spanish, Dutch, Portugese, English spread over the world. And claimed it as their own.
The system we are now becoming familiar with in Canada :
The ‘Indian’ residential schools in Canada were predominately funded and operated by the Government of Canada and Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and United churches. To a lesser scale, some Indian residential schools were funded by provincial governments or by the various religious orders.
In Canada, the last school was closed in 1996. And you’d think the story would be closed?
- But the work of these schools is continued by Children’s Aid thru the foster care system. Many First Nations’ children are removed from their homes and are mistreated, have been from the 60s scoop till now, and even die in foster care today.
So the end of this story is yet to be written.
That is the context, but this week many are too deep in feelings to place it properly. And it may be too early to ask that of them when today’s picture is of a church with 215 tiny pairs of shoes on the walk in front of it. Of a little child dancing mourning in a beaded dress.
Now that we know there are children buried at one school, we need to check the others’ grounds too. We know now that they didn’t all run away and not go home. We need to find a way to honour these little lives without intruding on the people who mourn them. And I think it’s going to take some time and listening to figure out what that entails. But I’m pretty sure it should be more significant than Canada’s flag (or any nation’s) being lowered. Things need to change.