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OTTAWA — As many as half of the aboriginal children who attended the early years of residential schools died of tuberculosis, despite repeated warnings to the federal government that overcrowding, poor sanitation and a lack of medical care were creating a toxic breeding ground for the rapid spread of the disease, documents show.
“The purpose of the [federal government's] policy is to eradicate Indians as a cultural group,” said Prof. Milloy, who has had more access to government files on the subject than any other researcher. “If genocide has to do with destroying a people's culture, this is genocidal, no doubt about it. But to call it genocidal is to misunderstand how the system works.”
Originally posted by brill
I don't think its genocide though.
The UN definition, adopted after the Second World War, lists five possible acts that qualify as genocide, of which killing is only one. The fifth act is described as “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Originally posted by Realtruth
I think this is one of the biggest travesties in history, both in Canada and the USA.
Originally posted by masqua
Was this done out of ignorance or was there a sick conspiracy behind this?
The phases of government’s in Australia and America at the end of the 18th Century relating to administering Aboriginal and Indian affairs, coinciding with the establishment of the Aborigines’ Protection Board (APB) in 1883 and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in 1891 will be discussed to reveal the similarities and differences in policy and practice between the two independent Nation States. Although, America was invaded by three separate Nation-States, the emphasis here in this paper is the English pattern of interaction with the Aboriginal and Indian peoples’ in Australia and America. This paper will show the parallels between American and Australian policies, in particular the American Assimilation & Incorporation period (1880-1933) and the Australian Protectionism & Assimilation mantles of government.
This comparative essay will also examine the motives behind the Australian and American Governments’ specifically designed legislation and consider how the policies impacted upon the social, cultural and economic well-being of the Indigenous peoples’ of Australia and America.
The parallel in the American and Australian Governments’ legislative approach and response in retrospect to their ‘Indian and Aboriginal problems’ is worth noting. The Indian Act and the Aborigines’ Act are an example of the specifically designed legislation that stem from the ethnocentric views of the day. Ultimately, the Acts were designed to justify and legally dispossess Indian and Aboriginal people of their ancestral land.
The Australian legislation was firmly grounded in and influenced by the Social Darwinist and John Locke’s land ownership theories, whilst American legislation reflected the concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’: ‘The Europeans and their descendants were ordained by DESTINY to rule all of America. They were the dominant race and responsible for the Indians-along with their land’ (Brown; 1975: 7). Both in Australia and in America the inferior stereotype of the Indigenous people ‘seems to have submerged the favorable portrait in order to help rationalize unjust policies’ (Jacobs; 1976: 48) and conceal English greed for the wealth that would come from owning Aboriginal and Indian lands. Star Chief Carleton’s great hunger for Navajo land due to his interest in establishing mining operations on Indian lands, is an example of the real Colonial motive, as he called it “a magnificent pastoral and mineral country” (Brown; 1975: 17). Further testimony to this is ‘among the coastal Indians of North America and Aborigines of Australia, hunting and living areas were usually well defined. These were quickly penetrated by land-hungry whites because of the fertility of the soil and agreeable climate conditions’ (Jacobs; 1976: 39).
One significant difference in legislative approach is that in the later part of the 1700’s, the US Government ‘recognising that the US was not strong enough militarily to take Indian land by force and that peace with Indian Nations was a national security’ (Hirschfelder & Kreipe de Montano; 1993: 10). Subsequently, the US Government channeled it’s attention to land acquisition through deception, negotiating treaties with Indian people for their land. ‘The basic structure of what was to become the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) began to emerge’ (Hirschfelder and Kreipe de Montano; 1993: 10) to implement and administer treaty negotiations.
In 1775, three Indian department’s, Middle, Northern and Southern were created to conform to the ‘first official US Indian policy’ (Hirschfelder and Kreipe de Montano; 1993: 10). Each department was appointed a Commissioner to report directly to Congress. In order for Indian affairs and treaty negotiations to be controlled Nationally, the three departments were later reorganised into two regions in 1786. The Commissioners were replaced with Superintendents, who from then on, responsible to the Secretary of War.
Colonial government in Australia on the other hand did not need to consider this approach as Aboriginal people were denied political status. An example of this is in 1835, the Batman Kulin Treaty was ‘significant as it was perhaps the only formal treaty negotiated with a local group of Australian Aboriginal people’ (Cunneen & Libesman; 1995: 11).
The Batman Kulin Treaty was declared ‘void’ as negotiations were with an individual rather than a governing body. This seemed common practice under the assumed sanction of government when similarly, George Augustus-Robinson, appointed by the Crown to improve relations and overcome hostility with the Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples’, successfully negotiated an ‘unwritten’ treaty. The treaty resulted in the Aboriginal people of that area to be relocated to Fraser Island. The agreements made in trust to incorporate the Aboriginal people’s desires and wishes in relinquishing their land were unsubstantiated as these ‘verbal promises were broken’ (Cunneen & Libesman; 1995: 11).
Initially in America, ‘these Englishmen and their Indian neighbors lived in peace, but many more shiploads of white people continued coming ashore’ (Brown; 1975: 3). Unfortunately, as the white settlers pushed westward in the search for more land and with the discovery of gold in California in 1848, ‘the displacement of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands became common place’ (www.smithsonianmag.si.edu...). Indian resistance to displacement and dispossession of their tribal lands was fierce. War invariably occurred in each region as whites encroached upon their territory; ‘between 1795 and 1840, the Miamis fought battle after battle, and signed treaty after treaty, ceding their rich Ohio Valley lands until there was nothing left to cede’ (Brown; 1975: 5).
In 1829, Andrew Jackson, also known as ‘Sharp Knife’ by the Indian peoples was appointed as the President of the United States. Jackson would turn Thomas Jefferson’s unsuccessful removal policy in 1803 into a legislative reality in 1830, to deal exhaustively with the Indian people who refused to cede their lands. ‘During his career, Sharp Knife and his soldiers had slain thousands of Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks and Seminoles, but the Southern Indians were still too numerous and clung stubbornly to their tribal lands which had been assigned to them forever by white men’s treaties’ (Brown; 1975: 5).
Sharp Knife, adamant that whites and natives could not live together ‘recommended that all these Indians be removed westward beyond the Mississippi’ (Brown; 1975: 4). And so, in 1830, Jackson ‘sponsored the Indian Removal Act, which called for the forcible removal of Indian people from their homelands in the eastern US to tracts of land west of the Mississippi’ (Hirschfelder & Kreipe de Montano; 1993: 12), thereby freeing up these lands for white settlement. In 1862, General James H. Carleton referred to the resisting Indians as ‘wolves that run through the mountains and must be subdued’ (Brown; 1975: 17). Carleton intended to kill or capture Indians and then confine survivors on a worthless reservation: Bosque Redondo; ‘the government of the day did nothing but force the Indians on to reservations, this was done in an arbitrary fashion and no treaty was signed, nor was any recompense offered for the land of which they were being deprived’ (Geddes Large; 1968: p 4-5). US policy ‘switched from peaceful co-existence to aggressive destruction of the Indian way of life. This was to be accomplished either by the physical removal of Indians or by making Indians indistinguishable from white Americans. Both the first option, “removal,” and the second, “assimilation,” became government policy for many years’ (Hirschfelder and Kreipe de Montano; 1993: 11)..
English and Aboriginal relations in the Fraser Island and Widebay region from 1770 into the 1800’s, changed when these strangers did not assimilate but colonised. Fierce Aboriginal resistance to European settlement started once dispossession of Aboriginal tribal land was evident. Subsequently, a long and protracted guerilla war began in Australia. The Government, under increasing pressure to control the ‘violent savages’, led to the arrival of mounted police in 1857 to the Maryborough region. Assaults on the ‘natives’ intensified, and British retaliation in October that year, was ‘massive, indiscriminate, unrelenting and viscously unrestrained’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 57). The frontier resistance ended in 1857. The Widebay district finally succumbed to defeat.
In 1853, the pacified ‘natives’ struggled to survive off the land. Prevented from circulating freely on the newly acquired Crown land, Aboriginal people would now suffer from dispossession through starvation. By the 1870’s, the ‘natives’ prepared to ‘submit to any arrangement that would secure them safety and bare existence’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 61).
[edit on 27-4-2007 by NJE777]
Vulnerable to the white hardened frontier attitude, the ‘violent savages’ were abused and exploited. The ‘natives’ desperate in the struggle for food were starving. It was common for wages to be paid in alcohol, opium or tobacco. The substance abuse was encouraged and heightened by the strong concoction of liqueur that whites would not dare drink. The sight of these nude, ‘sub-human’ savages drunk in the streets caused outrage. The urgency to remove the ‘natives’ from the proximity of town was the start of the ‘segregative impulse to the answer to the Aboriginal problem, which colonial dispossession had created’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 66). The later 18th Century saw the rapid introduction of reserves and missions in order to ‘protect Aborigines from violence and harassment and to segregate them from the orderly development of colonial society’ (McConnochie, Pettman and Hollinsworth; 1993: 82).
In 1883, the NSW Aborigines Protection Board (APB) was established to ‘protect’ Aboriginal people themselves and white society. Those Aborigines that had survived the frontier violence were rounded up and removed to missions or reserves to be ‘civilised’ and kept under the strict control of the Aboriginal Protection Board. The massive intervention of the Crown to control the lives of Aboriginal families became the central catastrophe.
The Aborigines Protection Act had ‘enormous authority over Aboriginal adults’ (Brock; 1993: 16). The Unconditional Exemption From The Provisions Of The Aborigines Act, 1934-1939 is an example of that authority. The Act was another means to completely control and regulate Aboriginal people. The exemption ‘dog tag’, expected an Aboriginal person to ‘cease’ being an Aborigine, to be of a certain standard of character and intelligence to assimilate into white society. Section 11a of the Aborigines Act, 1934-1939, once signed by an Aboriginal person and ‘approved’ by the Aboriginal Protection Board, lifted the restrictive control over the said person. The Act stipulated that the said person could no longer associate with other Aboriginal people. If the ‘exemption form’ was not signed, the Aboriginal people were denied social status and restricted from circulating freely. European control over Aboriginal adults extended through to their children.
The first official power over Aboriginal children granted to the Board was through the Aboriginal Protection Act (NSW) in 1909. The changes in policy empowered the Aboriginal Protection Board to ‘assume full control and custody of a child of any Aborigine, if after due enquiry is satisfied that such course is in the interests of the child’ (Read; 1999: 28). The Amendment Act was complete in all States by 1915 and the removal of children was the ‘principal weapon on the new Acts’ (Read; 1999: 22).
US legislation corresponds with the Australian ‘segregation’ and ‘removal’ policies. Fraser Island was Australia’s first experimental reservation for Aboriginal people and the American equivalent: Bosque Redondo, a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico shares a tragic legacy. One of the most tragic episodes of exile was the Long Walk or ‘Trail of Tears’ in 1864, ‘8,000 Navajos were forced to walk more than 300 miles from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo’ (www.smithsonianmag.si.edu...). One in every four Navajos died from hunger, cold or disease. Those who survived the ‘Long Walk’ joined the Mescalero Apache in forced confinement as Bosque Redondo became a virtual prison camp, ‘the brackish Pecos water caused severe intestinal problems, and diseases were rampant. Armyworm destroyed the corn crop, and the wood supply was soon depleted’ (www.smithsonianmag.si.edu...). Despite the Indian people ‘planting crops, digging irrigation, building housing, nothing seemed to work. Drought, cutworms, hail and alkaline Pecos River created severe living conditions for the nearly 9,000 captives’ (nativenet.uthscsa.edu...). The Navajos endured the wretched camp for four years when in 1868, ‘the army finally admitted the failure of the Bosque Redondo’ (nativenet.uthscsa.edu...) and the Government relented and returned them to their homelands.
In May 1864, the Queensland Parliament raised the ‘utopian and visionary proposal for an Aboriginal reserve’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 68). The notion that Fraser Island ‘could become a model for other such ‘Christian’ experiments in the development of more penal settlements for the Aborigines’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 67). Under the auspices and control of the Church of England, Aboriginal people would be ‘converted from paganism to Christianity, and from barbarism to civilisation’ (Evans & Walker; 1977: 67). In 1897, displaced Aboriginal people from the Maryborough region were relocated to Fraser Island. In 1901, four years later, the mission experienced increasing financial difficulties, ‘the station was drifting into chaos …all the result of incompetent people being in charge’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 89). In June 1903, Captain Herbert Kent, assumed control and reported that ‘the Church was dilapidated, the fishing boats were holed and the nets ruined, none of the huts were left standing and the ‘natives’ were camping in all weathers under blankets…the children were half starved and nearly naked’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 89). The administrative failings of the Church and the Aboriginal Protection Board resulted in deaths of hundreds of Aboriginal people who died enduring appalling conditions, ‘Captain Kent penned the blunt and tragic memo to the Home Secretary: “Isn’t this one of the blackest pages in the history of the British Empire?”’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 90).
The Governments administrative failings whether carried out in Australia by the various Christian denominations or in America by the Army resulted in the inhumane treatment of both Aboriginal and Indian peoples’. The level of control over Aboriginal and Indian peoples’ lives became a legislative obsession. The experiences of reservation life for both Aboriginal and Indian peoples’ bears witness to this. In America, ‘the first decades of reservation life were harsh, marked by murders of Indians, systematic persecution of Indian leaders, withholding rations and other punishments designed to break the spirit of the people and force them to conform’ (Josephy; 1971: 349). Likewise in Australia, Missionaries controlled every aspect of the community’s life and ‘punishment for infringing the ‘bylaws’ were a caning or a night in the lock up, withholding rations. Other punishments included locking people in chains’ (Craig; 1980: 20). Far from being given an opportunity to learn to manage their own affairs, they were treated as prisoners or children; ‘the smallest detail was directed and handled for them by the Agent’ (Josephy; 1971: 349). On the reservations, religious practices were banned, every effort was made to ‘end tribal cultures and way of life, traditional means of livelihood disappeared but no suitable economy was introduced’ (Josephy; 1971: 350) producing serious disadvantage and financial problems for Indian and Aboriginal people long term.
In conclusion, the comparisons in Australian and American Government policy and practice of administering Aboriginal and Indian peoples’ affairs are numerous. Both Nations embraced ethnocentric ideology in order to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their land, designing specific legislation to deal with their respective ‘Aboriginal and Indian Problems’. Aboriginal and Indian people’s resistance to their loss of tribal land was fierce, war inevitably became the only alternative. The US Government’s negotiation of treaties only served to prolong the agony, whilst the Australian Government avoided the ‘negotiation façade’ due to the denial of Aboriginal political status. Both ‘removal’ and ‘assimilation’ policies were designed to offer protection, access to food, education and training of white ways, however, as the government policy obsessed with Aboriginal and Indian control, reservations became an inescapable regime. Ultimately, government policies and practice undermined Aboriginal and Indian people in the political sphere, a powerful tool to dispossess Aboriginal and Indian people of their land.