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June 12, 2008

Canada Recognizes Past Wrongs Against Native Americans

Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister made a formal apology to Native American tribes for past wrongs. Residential schools that were set up to assimilate First Nation people into mainstream culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The original customs, religions and languages of the First Nations people were forbidden at residential schools and those that attended were expected to completely assimilate into white culture.

It has been a long haul for first Nation and Native American populations in North America. Europeans came to north America and claimed it as their own, “buying” and stealing land from Natives. No respect was given to the way of life that had been established long before any white faces were present in North America. Recognizing that wrongs were done that the assimilation of First Nations people was wrong is very important.

The idea of killing the Indian child was one that was widespread at certain points in Canada’s history. The proliferation of English culture across the vastness of the country threatened Native and French customs. Both of these groups have fought long and hard to keep their spirits alive and hold on to the essence of their cultures. Native groups are steadily recovering the history that was almost stolen from them. The prime minister acknowledging what was done is a huge step in the healing process. Many students at residential schools have scars that will never heal from abuse and the systematic attempts to change who they are.

In 2006 Canada settled lawsuits brought against the government for extensive abuse. Moneys were paid out to those the survived the torture of the residential schools. Unfortunately there are many students that are buried in unmarked graves that will never know the retribution that was handed out. The residential schools were in operation from the 1870’s to the 1970’s. There is so much painful history that we will never truly know. There are still an amazing 80,000 students still alive that were in residential schools. Many of these students were taken from their families with force. Some of them watched their siblings die in these schools or were separated from them for many years. The settlements for the class action lawsuits will never be able to fully heal the wounds that the residential schools have left on Native communities.

Other countries are starting to recognize their wrongs against minorities as well. Australia is another country that is working to make amends for the assimilation process they force onto Aboriginals in their country. Mixed race children in Australia were taken from their families and put into schools similar to those that operated in Canada. Families were torn apart, leave personal histories that can not be recovered. Australia has issued a public apology for the troubles it caused the Aboriginal people that live there.

We must all be careful to not let our arrogance color our judgment when it comes to others. Remember that life is very subjective. We live in the times we are born into and one person’s custom is another one’s crime.

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