The indigenous people’s holocaust


How did Hitler learn genocide and eliminationism? By taking his cues from what happened in North America.

This concerns mainly what happened in the US, but in Canada it was not much better. Up here, we didn’t have a Trail of Tears, but the Catholic and Anglican churches organized “residential schools” whose ostensible purpose was to educate the “Indians”, but whose real purpose was to de-indigenize them–basically, to turn them into a lesser class of white people, to strip them of their native culture and languages. Many inmates in those “schools” suffered physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy people running them. Alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide are the inevitable fallout from such a holocaust.

And also, as Bruce Cockburn sings, “the local Third World’s kept on reservations you can’t see”. Here, as in the US, the indigenous people were often shunted off to the worst land–the good farmland was set aside for white settlers. And if oil or other valuable minerals were found under the land they were on, guess what happened. Land-claims cases are before courts in several provinces, and many of them don’t end well for the natives. Usually, it’s the corporate sector that wins–“mineral rights” trump human rights, it seems. Even something as presumably simple as getting an ancestral burial ground back can turn into a decades-long nightmare. And on rare occasions, that too ends in death for the unlucky natives, who are still seen as second-class citizens by the authorities, and especially police, who can get trigger-happy and, in any case, don’t need much to trigger their own racism.

What’s weird, though, is that all this racism has spawned some unexpected blowback: some natives think that the international Jews are behind their troubles, instead of drawing the more obvious and correct conclusion (it’s the gentiles, folks). Such was the case of David Ahenakew, who made headlines with some really stupid, bigoted remarks and who has since had a steep learning curve to climb. (Apparently, during his post-war military service, he met some old Nazis in Germany who filled his head with rubbish.)

But he’s not the only one; a few years back, I met members of a prominent Mohawk family of artists, and apparently they subscribe to something frightfully similar! I was horrified and nauseated and heartsick about it for days, wondering how such talented and obviously intelligent people could fall for such a stupid lie. It’s a no-brainer that instead of hating the Jews, they ought to be identifying with them instead, and looking for common ground.

After all, both peoples have suffered strikingly similar fates.

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2 Responses to The indigenous people’s holocaust

  1. Polaris says:

    Things have been improving for the American Indians but there is still a very long way to go.
    Many feel that using the word Indian to describe them is not really correct, but I wonder if what was, for a while, the more acceptable sounding Native American is accurate, because I would think anyone born in the Americas is a Native American.
    Lakota activist Russell Means has strongly rejected Native American in favor of Indian. Different terms will probably continue to evolve.
    Much was lost when most of this culture and its people was exterminated.
    I became interested in the Indian culture when I was in the Boy Scouts. Many of the Scout training manuals suggested the Scouts should learn the ways of the Indians. At one of the Winter Scout campsites we had some Indian advisors who erected an authentic Plains Indian tepee. It was very warm and comfortable in freezing weather with a small fire that was cleverly vented to carry away the smoke. During heavy rain or snow a type of ceiling is used so the structure can be ventilated without wetting the occupants.
    I learned about Indian marker trees. A young tree would be bent and tied down into an unusual shape as it grew, to eventually mark or point the way to an important place such as a salt or water source. Some trees would be bent into a U shape. Even today in highly urbanized areas you can still see many of these marker trees in the local forest preserves if you know what to look for.

  2. ceti says:

    The stupid hierarchy of oppression, that in fact can breed resentment is partially at fault for the division of oppressed peoples. Some anti-colonial, cultural movements also adopted these ideas. In India, Hindu nationalism predicated on the ancient nobility of Indian culture vis-a-vis the West was also influenced by the rise of fascism in the 1930s, to the point that Shubash Chandra Bose who led a rebellion against British India by allying with Germany and Japan, is even more universally venerated in India that Gandhi.

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