WBAI Interview With Doug Henwood: 6/18/98 Genocide Right Here, Right Now

Investigation of crimes of genocide in Canada WBAI Interview: 6/18/98 (Doug Henwood and Jim Craven)

Narrator: Tell us about this panel you’ve been serving on investigating crimes of genocide in Canada.

JC: This was an inter-Tribal court made up of tribal judges from different tribes and nations. It was sponsored by the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities which is a consultative body of the UN. It was a UN-NGO-observed tribunal. Any comments I make here are personal, not official findings as these findings have not been made public yet. The tribunal was conducted under the rules of tribal law. The director of IHRAAM was present, and it had to do with allegations of systematic and various forms of abuse of Indian children in the residential school system. It also had to do with allegations of genocide under the terms of the UN Convention on Genocide. This Convention defines genocide as follows: A. killing members of the group, B. causing serious bodily and mental harm to members of the group; C. deliberately inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, D. imposing measures intended to prevent birth within a group, or E. transferring children of the group to another group. So it was also to investigate the patterns in residential school systems and other things: de-Indianizing land, privatizing Indian land and whether they constituted genocide. And finally the Canadian government. has imposed a settlement of $326 million because there’s already been an admission of guilt to some extent in a British Columbia Supreme Court decision. We were also to investigate whether those monies had been paid to the victims, or the terms under which they would be paid, and whether there were other victims who should be covered under that settlement. So that’s basically it. As of now, none of that money has been disbursed and we are supposed to investigate. There are some disputes between some of the nations where some don’t want a blanket settlement. They want to fight it tribe by tribe, nation by nation, and the reason for that is because a blanket settlement – “we’re sorry, here’s $356 million, now the guilt is over” – some people feel we need to get out the particulars of what went on, not just to point the fingers of blame, but also to bring individuals to justice that need to be brought to justice and also to point out a pattern.

Listen, the word genocide came from a Polish jurist named Raphael Lemkin in 1944. It comes from “genos which means race in Greek and “cide” or the killing of, which is Latin. The UN has subsequently differentiated “ethnocide” where a group is progressively destroyed, but there may not be an intention to destroy that group as a group. An example is warfare, like in Bosnia let’s say, where one group is at war with another group and gets wiped out, but supposedly the intention is not to wipe out these people as a people. That’s called ethnocide. Genocide means that there’s a conscious, deliberate intention, what they call in law mens rea – an intention to destroy a people as a people. One of the reasons why some people are opposed to a blanket settlement is that it may gloss over or not allow us to get to exactly what is going on and whether there is genocide going on and not just ethnocide. I found it interesting: the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Cretien said “It looks like the Court has attributed (he’s talking about the BC Supreme Court) to the federal government some responsibility. If we had responsibility we have to meet our responsibilities.” The Canadian government was summoned to be at this tribunal, but sent no observer. The Catholic Church was asked to be there, because a lot of the residential schools were being run by them (UC, Catholic, Methodists, Anglicans, and there was some mention of Mormons), but they sent no one. Observers from these churches were asked to be there also. Not only to look at what has happened but to make sure it doesn’t happen again. They chose not to send any observers even though they knew this was an official UN tribunal. Another quote from Jerry Kelly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops: “This is a major threat to every church in the country.” “The potential costs are exceedingly high. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. The number of cases have just grown and grown.” So the churches are well aware that there are some serious allegations being made and they’re mounting, but they chose not to send representatives.

DH: The situation is that the churches were subcontractors of the Canadian government to run schools and they were essentially subcontractors for genocide.

JC: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily use that term “subcontractors” but I guess that would be proper. Under Canadian law in the case of broken families it’s a matter of law that the children are put into residential schools. The residential schools are run by the churches. So that gets into the forced assimilation issue as opposed to choosing to be assimilated. Under international law if people choose to assimilate with another group, that’s not a crime. But if people are forced to assimilate into another group, that comes under one of the particulars of genocide. We heard allegation after allegation of people whose parents put them in residential schools believing they were under a legal obligation to do so. We heard allegations that children were beaten for speaking their native language, being left handed, for practicing traditional rituals or practices. We heard testimony where children were forced off their traditional Indian diets and residential school diets designed to be cheaply provided, heavy on carbohydrates and fat, where you could feed a lot of people for very little. As a result a lot of them today are suffering diabetes and kidney failure and other kinds of diseases associated with diets they were pushed on to in the residential school system. We heard repeated allegations of sexual abuse, physical abuse, murder, intimidation when people reported murder, threats of retribution when reporting murder. We heard allegations of secret graveyards, of victims who were buried, graveyards of children the products of liaisons between a priest and children that were disposed of.

DH: And these horrors were something in the distance past, right? We’re talking about fairly recent events?

JC: Oh yes, going back to the 30’s all the way up to the present. The allegations we heard go right on up to the present.

DH: And this is not just freelance abuse but part of a pattern amounting to genocide?

JC: Yes. What we are looking for is whether there is a pattern. Lemkin, when he wrote his original book on genocide, said that genocide involves two phases: The first phase is the destruction of a national pattern of the oppressed group; the second phase is the imposition of a national pattern of the dominating group. So what we heard were allegations of the destruction of the national pattern of Indian peoples, meaning diet, religion, language, culture, family structure, belief systems, moral value systems – all of it. Then we also heard that the residential schools were being used to de-Indianize, and impose the national pattern of the dominant group – to Christianize them, to de-Indianize them.

DH: Why were they doing these things?

JC: There are various motives involved. One is economic. For example, one of the cases we heard that was typical was known as the Lot 363 case. This had to do with traditional native ancestral land on Flores Island which is off BC, of the Ahousaht people. This land was expropriated by the UC, sold in 1953 for about $2,500 to the grandson of a church missionary despite repeated protests of the Ahousaht elders, and that land was then sold to McMillian-Blodell for over $1 million in 1994 – it was very rich in old-growth timber. So part of the motive had to do with de-Indianizing children as a way of breaking their connections with their tribes, their nations, but also breaking the connection of the nations with their ancestral lands, to privatize ancestral lands. The second motive we heard of course is the usual arrogance of some of the mainstream religions that, you know, “We are the true church,” Our way is the only way,” “These children are savages practicing a savage religion,” “They represent an affront to the mainstream culture,” and so on.

DH: Again, we’re talking about the present, not the 19th century?

JC: That’s right. It goes on today. We heard allegations, for example, of just recently very very severe beatings by RCMP and others, and again it seemed that if you’re Indian, you have no protection, no rights, it’s just open season. We heard allegations of public beatings within a context that probably people from other groups would not suffer the same intensity. We heard about not only priests and church officials being involved, but members of the RCMP, allegedly, members of the government.

Narrator: We hear all about NAFTA, the economic borders between the US and Canada supposedly disappearing rapidly. You told me a case this afternoon of people who were prosecuted for crossing the border to trade wheat with other tribe members.

JC: Yes. Among the Blackfoot people, there are four main tribes, the Akaina or Blood, the Northern Peigan, the Siksika which are Blackfoot, and the Southern Peigan or Blackfeet which are in Montana. There was a case of one person, Harvey Franks who brought wheat down across the border to sell to the Blackfeet tribe in Montana (keep in mind that these are all part of one natural people who existed there long before there was a Canada or a United States or indeed any kind of border.) He was put on trial in Alberta for violating the Wheat Export Control Act because in Canada all wheat is brokered through the Wheat Board. So his argument was that Blackfoot people are a whole people, that members of one tribe have every right to sell to fellow Blackfoot, and further that this interfering with commerce between tribes of one nation is effectively helping to promote the destruction of that whole nation. I’m not sure where the case stands right now, my understanding is that it’s in abeyance right now as a result of protests against it. But this is an example of whereas NAFTA is supposed to break down borders for free trade, free commerce, here’s someone who just from one tribe of a nation came to sell to his fellow tribal members and was put on trial for it. I suspect part of the reason is because of the sovereignty implications of it. In other words, because we have the Jay Treaty which the US has recognized but Canada doesn’t which calls for free and unmolested travel on both sides of the border between indigenous people (so many of the nations are divided because of the border) and in order to keep one nation together and preserve what’s left there has to be free exchange back and forth. This has been interfered with on both sides of the line.

DH: The border exists at the pleasure of capital and the state.

JC: Indeed. As to the tribunal, we took it very seriously, it was conducted under tribal law, everybody understands that allegations are not facts in and of themselves, they may lead to facts, but they’re not facts in and of themselves. I suspect personally that non-Indians got a much fairer hearing from Indians than Indians have ever received from non-Indians in their courts.

DH: We’re running short on time, but is one of these tribunals planned for the US?

JC: Yes. It’s still in the works right now. This was the first tribunal of its kind to investigate not human rights in China, in Tiennaman Square or whatever, but now we’re talking about genocide inside our own borders. And the people who are doing this know how to use that term very carefully. So what’s being planned now is inside the borders of the US because the Boarding School system, which is equivalent to the residential school system in Canada, many of the same atrocities and abuses allegedly occurred in those schools, too. There are so many Indian nations in the US who have made these kinds of allegations for years and they’ve never been investigated. So the next stop will be inside US borders to look at the same kind of thing.

Narrator: Has this tribunal been publicized well in Canada, do people know about it?

JC: What happened was at the tribunal we had people who brought to us how they had allegedly been threatened inside the tribunal. We had false press releases sent out telling people to go to another place at another time so that press wouldn’t show up. The government of Canada and members of the churches refused to show up even though it was a UN tribunal. Right now I’m sitting on another phony press release saying that findings have already been made from this tribunal which is not the case. We also saw during the tribunal numerous examples of attempts to sabotage what was being done there. So yes, it was publicized but not as widely as you might think because there were some forces at work there trying to prevent it from being fully publicized. Nevertheless it did occur and it was generally conducted with a great deal of integrity although we did have some problems internally.

DH: Any idea of who was doing these disruptions?

JC: I can only speculate, but I suspect it was the people who were being examined, they would have the greatest motive to do so.

DH: How would you compare the status of the Indian peoples in the US vs. those in Canada?

JC: The fact that something like this could even go on in Canada is indicative of something. On a formal level, I believe that in terms of indigenous rights and so on, Canada is probably ahead of the US. On the de facto level, perhaps that’s another question. But I think the Canadian is probably more “advanced” than our own government in the US in terms of being willing to consider the possibility that there were some serious crimes and wrongs that need to be addressed and prevented in the future. The settlement for $356 million, as much as that may be a blanket settlement and designed to not deal with the specifics that may be uncomfortable to deal with, is a heck of a lot farther than what we’ve seen here in the US. In capitalist law, if you wrong somebody, you’ve got to pay damages. It’s the same thing here: some people have been horribly wronged and until we’re honest about ourselves and our own history we’re going to have a real tough time pointing to human rights violations in China, and Burma and other places, when there’s genocide going on right inside the borders of the US and Canada.

BACK TO TOP

BIA Apology 00 September ’00: Indian Affairs Head Makes “Apology” comments by Eugene Johnson (Selitz) and Jim Craven (Blackfoot)
from AP report by Matt Kelly:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The head of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs apologized Friday for the agency’s “legacy of racism and inhumanity” that included massacres, forced relocations of tribes and attempts to wipe out Indian languages and cultures.

By accepting this legacy, we accept also the moral responsibility of putting things right,” Kevin Gover, a Pawnee Indian, said in an emotional speech marking the agency’s 175th anniversary. Gover said he was apologizing on behalf of the BIA, not the federal government as a whole. Still, he is the highest-ranking US official ever to make such a statement regarding the treatment of American Indians.

The audience of about 300 tribal leaders, BIA employees and federal officials stood and cheered as a teary-eyed Gover finished the speech. “I thought it was a very heroic and historic moment,”’ said Susan Masten, chairwoman of California’s Yurok tribe and president of the National Congress of American Indians. “For us, there was a lot of emotion in that apology. It’s important for us to begin to heal from what has been done since non-Indian contact.” Lloyd Tortalita, the governor of New Mexico’s Acoma Pueblo tribe, welcomed the apology but said, “If we could get an apology from the whole government, that would be better.” . . . Canada’s government has formally apologized for abuses in government-run boarding schools for Indians but has rejected calls for a broader apology.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also has rebuffed repeated calls for an apology to that country’s Aboriginal population for similar abuses there. Gover recited a litany of wrongs the BIA inflicted on Indians since its creation as the Indian Office of the War Department. Estimates vary widely, but the agency is believed responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indians. “This agency participated in the ethnic cleansing that befell the Western tribes,” Gover said. “It must be acknowledged that the deliberate spread of disease, the decimation of the mighty bison herds, the use of the poison alcohol to destroy mind and body, and the cowardly killing of women and children made for tragedy on a scale so ghastly that it cannot be dismissed as merely the inevitable consequence of the clash of competing ways of life.”

The misery continued after the BIA became part of the Interior Department in 1849, Gover said. Children were brutalized in BIA-run boarding schools, Indian languages and religious practices were banned and traditional tribal governments were eliminated, he said. The high rates of alcoholism, suicide and violence in Indian communities today are the result, he said. “Poverty, ignorance and disease have been the product of this agency’s work.” Now, 90 percent of the BIA’s 10,000 employees are Indian and the agency has changed into an advocate for tribal governments. “Never again will we attack your religions, your languages, your rituals, or any of your tribal ways,” Gover promised. “Never again will we seize your children, nor teach them to be ashamed of who they are. Never again.”

Eugene Johnson: Kevin Gover is Indian. An apology coming from him is like having a black official in the U.S. government apologize to the black populace for slavery, Rosewood, the KKK, etc. It’s like having a Jew apologize to the Jewish populace for Nazi atrocities enacted during WWII. His apology is truly offensive to me. It reminds me of when the Methodists apologized for Chivington’s massacre of the Cheyennes at Sand Creek. Then I found out that it was Indian Methodists who were apologizing.

As for the so-called Indian “leaders” present at his “apology,” who are these Indian leaders? Were they Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) tribal council government “leaders”– mostly corrupt individuals who would gladly sell their own people off to the highest bidders–or were they traditionalists? Most likely they were IRA leaders, favorite “spokespeople” of the US government which does its best to avoid traditional leaders who can’t be manipulated.

Jim Craven: When I read this obscene cover-up masquerading as an “apology,” I immediately thought of Theresienstadt. That was the showcase concentration camp in Czechoslovakia that the Nazis used for Swiss Red Cross Inspections. They would kill off half the inhabitants, rushing them out to Auschwitz on “blitz transfers,” then paint the place up, put on operas sung by the remaining children (only 100 of some 10,000 survived), and even issue camp-specific “currency” in which the “workers” were being paid to give the illusion of paid workers. Of course the usual “Arbeit Macht Frei” was painted over the entrance; the Cremetorium was portrayed as a means to insure hygiene and sanitary disposal of any “unfortunate deaths.” This is truly sick. It reminds me of something my mother used to tell me as a child: There are more white trash [and their apple minions] (wearing three-piece suits) on Wall Street and in Washington DC than in the trailer parks of America.

Nuremberg was the major force for the origination and adoption of the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide (this word is never mentioned in Grover’s “apology”). The US was the major force at Nuremberg despite the fact it allowed US companies like JP Morgan, Standard Oil, Texaco, GM, Brown Brothers Harriman , and individuals like George Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush [grandfathers of George W. Bush] to trade with the Japanese, German and Italian fascists throughout World War II; despite the fact that the U.S. put wanted Nazi war criminals on CIA/US Government payrolls after the War. Yet the US refused to sign the UN Convention on Genocide until 1988. Even then it claimed a “Sovereignty Exemption” that US law would trump the UN Convention in the event of any contradiction (this exemption is itself in violation of Article VI Section 2 of the US Constitution).

Gover has explicitly stipulated to every single type of act mentioned in Article II of the UN Convention on Genocide as constituting genocide while refusing to use that word; killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a group; inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part; conducting measures to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children from one group to another group. And all of this while Canada and the U.S. commit troops to supposedly “stop” genocide in places like Bosnia and Kosovo and presume to lecture countries all over the world about “human rights.”

This is so typical of those who plunder. First they consolidate their positions, then they expect those plundered to just “get over it” while the plunderers keep the very system that was born and nurtured upon ill-gotten power and wealth. Notice the reference in the “apology” to the percentage of “Indians” at BIA. Yet Eugene Johnson (see his comments above), a Siletz Indian who worked for a subcontractor of the BIA, was let go for “failure to pass a security check” (required by all BIA employees so no “radicals” can get in.) After a FOIA request, the agency supposedly giving the security check claimed to have nothing on him. So much for what kind of “Indians” the BIA has working for them. There’s no mention of the fact that the BIA still clings to genocidal legacy of the 25% blood-quantum rule and arrogates the “right” to define who and what an Indian is, the clear intention of which is revealed in the following quote from a BIA Document:

“Set the blood-quantum at one-quarter, hold to it as a rigid definition of Indians, let intermarriage proceed…and eventually Indians will be defined out of existence. When that happens, the federal government will finally be freed from its persistent Indian problem.” (Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West p. 338).

There’s no acknowledgement that the “legacy of racism and inhumanity” mentioned in the “apology” continues today in the more recent use of Indians for medical experiments, as objects of chemical/biological warfare, and in forced sterilizations, among other things. There’s no discussion of redressing broken treaties, or the possibility of reparations. There’s no discussion of the estimated $3 billion (plus interest) “missing” from BIA accounts. Where is it? There is an estimated $6 billion (plus interest) in royalties owned to Indian Nations. Where is it? Lost monies mean lost lives here and now.

There is no discussion of Indian Reservations being designated as dumpsites for toxic wastes (the nazis used to bring the victims to the gas chambers, the new nazis bring the gas chambers to the victims.)

Indian Nations are sovereign by the same international law that recognizes the US and Canada as sovereign nations. Nations do not make treaties with their own “citizens.” In the case of Canada, “subjects” do not make treaties with fellow “subjects” of the Crown. We do not need permission or recognition of our sovereignty or nation status; we need only continue to assert them and point out the hypocrisy and intentions of those bent on our extinction.

Posted by Jim Craven (Omahkohkiaayo i’poyi) at 8:23 PM

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About jimcraven10

About jimcraven10 1. Citizenship: Blackfoot, U.S. and Canadian; 2. Position: tenured Professor of Economics and Geography; Dept. Head, Economics; 3. Teaching, Consulting and Research experience: approx 40 + years all levels high school to post-doctoral U.S. Canada, Europe, China, India, Puerto Rico and parts of E. Asia; 4. Work past and present: U.S. Army 1963-66; Member: Veterans for Peace; former VVAW; Veterans for 9-11 Truth; Scholars for 9-11 Truth; Pilots for 9-11 Truth; World Association for Political Economy; Editorial Board International Critical Thought; 4.. U.S. Commercial-Instrument Pilot ; FAA Licensed Ground Instructor (Basic, Advanced, Instrument and Simulators); 5. Research Areas and Publications: International law (on genocide, rights of nations, war and war crimes); Imperialism (nature, history, logic, trajectories, mechanisms and effects); Economic Geography (time and space modeling in political economy; globalization--logic and effects; Political Economy and Geography of Imperialism); Indigenous versus non-Indigenous Law; Political Economy of Socialism and Socialist Construction; 6. Member, Editorial Board, "International Critical Thought" published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; International Advisory Board and Columnist 4th Media Group, http://www.4thMedia.org (Beijing); 7. Other Websites publications at http://www.aradicalblackfoot.blogspot.com; wwwthesixthestate.blogspot.com;https://jimcraven10.wordpress.com; 8.Biography available in: Marquis Who’s Who: in the World (16th-18th; 20th; 22nd -31st (2014) Editions); Who’s Who in America (51st-61st;63rd-68th(2014) Editions); Who’s Who in the West (24th- 27th Editions);Who’s Who in Science and Engineering (3rd to 6th, 8th, 11th (2011-2012) Editions); Who’s Who in Finance and Industry (29th to 37th Editions); Who’s Who in American Education (6th Edition). ------------------- There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state, to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
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One Response to WBAI Interview With Doug Henwood: 6/18/98 Genocide Right Here, Right Now

  1. Jim Craven’s work on the Canadian tribunal on genocide is to be praised. I’m confused as to the date of the interview, however. It appears to be dated June 18, 1998. Am I wrong on this? If not, why is this appearing now in November 2007?Also, I’d like to know what happened to the proposed follow-up tribunal Jim said he’d like to see take place in the U.S.?Finally, Jim’s comments on the ‘BIA Apology’ were really good to see. Not only did they reflect my view of the facts, but they evoked strong feelings outrage in me in response, especially the correspondences he pointed out to the Holocaust (I am a Jewish Rebbe, but adopted Modoc Indian).I would like to find a way to work with you more directly in the cause of advancing Indigenous rights in the Americas. I’m not sure how these blog comments work, so here is my email, Jim. yanyal@beitshemtov.org

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