Eighteen Canadians and one American waited anxiously for the second
lecture on "Genocide in Canada" to begin in the Canadian Auto Workers Union Hall last Monday on 12th St. in New Westminster, BC Canada.
It had been one whole week since lecture #1 and our heads and hearts were full of facts and figures we could only just begin to grapple with. If week one of the lecture series had been any indication of what was to come, then the inevitable bracing of every conscience in the room was sure to follow. And, that is exactly what happened as defrocked United Church clergyman Kevin Annett began to lecture on "Indian time."
First to Speak: Rev. Kevin D. Annett, MA, MDiv.
You could tell that as he began speaking, every conscience in the room began to brace itself for the onslaught of yet another Monday evening filled with details of the worst that the Church and State had perpetrated on the First Nations of Canada.
"People" was the operative word for the evening as Annett opened his part of the lecture with Raphael Lemkin's definition of genocide. According to Lemkin, who wrote the U.N. Charter of Human Rights afterWWII, genocide is a word which comes from "geno" meaning "people"and "cide" meaning "to kill." Genocide is the mass killing or "destruction of an ethnic group-- not necessarily immediate--but a coordinated plan to annihilate [specific] groups.
It has two phases--destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group, and the imposition of the natural pattern of the oppressor by any means necessary but usually through legal means or laws.
"Genocide at its core is the elimination of the memory of a group from the consciousness of the world."
No where in North America has there been such a coordinated effort by both Church and State to expunge from the national awareness a people group than the effort to eliminate through "law" the First Nations of Canada.
The lecture focused on the philosophical and legal roots, means and ways in which Church and State (Parliament) in Canada accomplished this feat. According to Annett, the legal foundation for Canada's genocide toward First Nations had a long tradition dating back toboth Greek/Roman philosophy melded with the rise of the Church/State hybrid under the Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century A.D.
It was between 310 and 340 A.D. when Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire and the teachings/sayings of Jesus were merely a backdrop to the philosophical/social/moral foundation of the Church which was emerging as a political and military power as the Roman Empire wound down.
By 332 A.D., the Church had become the state and vice versa. Property and political/legal power had been accumulated and the Roman Catholic Church began to replace the Roman Empire. The term "diocese" is a Roman term which means "province or district." The symbol which came to be placed on priestly vestments (Labernum) was worn by Roman soldiers.The fusion of Church and State under Constantine began the system of syncretism in the Church as Greek/Roman philosophy with their sense of "natural divisions in societies" came to be the philosophy of the Church.
It wasn't Darwin who invented natural selection. It was Aristotle writing before Christ in his treatise on slavery. He posited his theory that you are born a master, born a slave, born into a position in society. That is your life. You are born a conqueror, you are born the conquered. Just get used to it. It's the way it is.
Naturally, if you are the conqueror or master, you havemore rights, more privileges, more wealth in society. The converse is true. If you are born a slave or a conquered people, your place at the bottom of the food chain is natural.The Church/State hybrid with the Church beginning to dominate more and more, became the norm as the Church accumulated political and military power. This "arm" of the Church practicing violence throughout Europe and other lands has always dominated. Hence the terms "Christ's army" and "Onward Christian soldiers."
The other "arm" of the Church, the reforming arm, the monastic movements,the mystics and so forth have not been able to ever gain the upper hand in reforming the Church to the point that the violent arm is disarmed.
And so the world was divided into Eastern and Western Hemispheres by the Church. Spain took the West while Portugal took the East. The rest of Europe fought for control wherever they could. The "Inter Catera Bull of 1493" by Pope Alexander VI (blood thirsty Italian family of Borgia) authorized the conquest of non-Christian lands by Christian kings.
"Just War Theory" arose as a consequence of this bull and stated that:
- any act done in interest of the Church (rape, murder, etc.)is "absolved."
- all other laws are subordinate to the law of God (make Christians).
"Just War" guided the conquest of the world outside of Spain, Italy, Portugal, England and France because their common laws were more moral than other laws due to their Christian nation status.
Outside Europe, where the "heathens" lived, their laws were up for grabs. This was/is the rationale for their seizing of non-Christian lands and peoples and why they as superior moral persons due to their Christian status allowed them to rule over lands they had Christianized in a sort of "first cause" stance. Even if the heathens accepted Christ they were still their governors, having been "born" Christians and not made mere converts."Moral superiority" was imbedded in Just War Theory on the part of these Europeans and the idea that "conquest equals improvement" and "conquerors have higher moral authority."
Annett says that moral superiority is simply a doctrine posited by Aristotle in his treatment on slavery. Church scholars since Augustine (Bishop of Hippo, 300s) and Thomas Aquinas (1300s) were mixing Greek philosophy with Christian sentiment in order to justify their crimes of genocide. The Protestants took up Just War Theory, Martin Luther perfected it in Germany with his "basilea theo" or "fortress of God" mentality and his "Two Swords Theory" which said:
- The Church produces "good citizens" for the State
- The State protects the Church with her armies
Human rights according to the Church and State are not inherent but granted by sovereigns. All of this rationale was used by the Church to annihilate indigenous people all over the world. These countries believed that the land they were "discovering" was "terra nullius" or "the land of no one." Non-Christians were considered non-human. A non-human can be obliterated with no remorse.
Haida Elder Wilfred Price
After Annett finished tracing the philosophical roots of the Church's rationale for Genocide in Canada, Haida elder Wilfred Price started to talk about the Indian Act of 1876 and the B.C. Treaty process.Wilf was visibly "spent" as he tried to describe how it feels to talk about what has happened to aboriginals in Canada, how the environment is, how it is "always winter and never Christmas." That means that it is always cold and never warm with plenty of resources.
Wil talked about the Church/State hybrid that his people have lived under for 500+ years. He apologized to everyone for his lack of a systematic/cohesive presentation as he "rambled on last week" and "wandered all over the place" in an attempt to cover as much ground, as much history of his people in as much of a respectful fashion as he could.
He talked about the difficulty of speaking well, of not giving into anger, of being personally overwhelmed by the emotions that the storytelling evoked. He talked about seeing pictures of his father at age 10 being driven away from the reserve to the residential school on the back of a pick-up truck -- with the RCMP officer driving and the Christian minister riding shotgun.
He spoke briefly about the Aboriginal belief in Canada and elsewhere in North America that:
There is no difference between:
- Church and State
- Church and RCMP
- Church and Devil
He talked about this belief in the minds of millions of NA indigenous people that the Church and the Law and Devil are all one entity. They are all in cahoots together and their aim is to kill off the rest of the Aboriginals and take what is left of the land.
Aboriginals cannot trust the Church nor attend their services because the Church is evil (insert any denomination here you like) and must be avoided. The Church is death. They are murderers. He also talked about the Haidaprophecy that if something doesn't change by 2007-2008, the Haida and the rest of the world will be no more because a cataclysmic event is going to destroy the earth (WW III is upon us according to Wilf and his elders.)
This prophecy is elsewhere in Native North America asmany tribes say that unless the four races--white, black, yellow, red, get together and solve the problems, world wide destruction is immanent. The Ojibwe say we have to choose between nature or technology. We are choosing technology and our destruction is upon us right now).
Wilf continued to talk about the systematic genocide of his Haida people, a people who before the European-Missions encounters were 30-40,000 strong. By 1876 they were down to 600 people through smallpox, war, murder and cultural genocide.
When the Potlatch was outlawed in1876 by Canadian Parliament, the Haida did not know it was illegal. It was only when the Rt. Rev. W.H. Collison landed on Queen Charlotte Islands and told them and made them to understand what would happen to them if they didn't stop doing the Potlatch because "the Potlatch instills disrespect for private property and must be forbidden", that they decided to stop. Within five years of the decision, all of their totem poles had been cut down and the ceremony which "transmitted the life of the people" was no more.
During the Potlatch, the clans gathered and met one another, there were new births and new deaths to celebrate and mourn, there was instruction in lineage, chiefs elected, marriages, betrothals, spiritual traditions taught, language taught, resources of the land shared.
When the Potlatch ceased, so did the people and their knowledge of one another as well as the universe.Cultural death, spiritual death. Death and more death. Wilf says that no one knows who they are.
The Potlatch ceremony provided tribal identity, it gave names, it connected individuals to clans and to the land. No one remembers who is related anymore. Knowledge of the traditions is passing away. Like Lemkin says, genocide can kill an ethnic group slowly and for the Haida, this is true.
Wilf touched on how the Haida are slowly ebbing away as they collect their welfare checks at the end of each month from the Provincial/Federal government. So dependent have the Haida become on their "paychecks" (for that is what they call it now, although it is really a welfare check), that instead of logging a small growth of cedar that Weyerhaeuser gave them, they would rather keep cashing their checks and allow the net profit from the logging of $500,000 to go to "white people." They do not want to log or expend any effort to put this money in their pocket. Today, they just want to collect their checks and not be bothered.
Wilf was shaking his head as he named, by name, chiefs, elders, council people who are "bought off" by Ottawa and who are brilliant people who regularly fly to Ottawa to "take care of Indian business" but cannot get things done locally. They come to council meetings and fight and argue for three days over whether to accept or reject allthe items on the agenda, then they just go home having not been ableto discuss even one item, and have accomplished nothing locally for the Haida.
The Canadian government through the Indian Act of 1876 and through conquest has for many decades created a welfare-dependent people who are content to cash checks and not fight the big corporations. They believe they cannot fight anymore even though in 1985 Bill C31 was passed -- which prevented logging or any other industry in B.C. to take resources without first "consulting" with the Aboriginals.
This BillC31 is a fiction and the corporations take the resources and then send council members 3 inches worth of paper after the fact and call it "consulting."The Haida continue as non-persons as do many of the Aboriginals in Canada. The conquerors never have to answer for anything while the Aboriginals are led to believe that when they come to the negotiating table -- they are sovereigns. Nothing is further from the truth. As Wilf's father said, "One cannot negotiate as a nation if the other nation limits the ability to be autonomous." For the Haida, they do not "own" their homes, only papers which say they have "possession."That possession is based on the province of B.C. to let them stay in their homes, for if anything happens on Haida-Gwaii ("gwaii" meaning nation) that the province or feds don't like, they are booted off. Any by-law made by the Haida Council or enforcement of that law on Haida-Gwaii can be overruled by Canadian law at a moment's notice for the Haida have no power in their own land.
It is still separation, annihilation, assimilation and apartheid for the Haida who live in Canada. They are forced to live as "confused chameleons" having one foot in their territory and one foot in Ottawa. As Wilf says, "we are forced to become two-faced, forced into shame and forced into silence."
The evening closed with both Kevin and Wilf admitting that Canadian society at large refuses to acknowledge what has been done to the First Nations of Canada. Annett asked everyone present why only 19 people had showed up instead of 190 or 1900 or more. Why is it that a majority of Canadians refuse to believe what happened to the Aboriginals of Canada, refuse to believe or acknowledge a Canadian genocide and holocaust? The answer to that question will be investigated next Monday night as the CAW fills up once again with concerned Canadian citizens and one American reporting for the readers of Round Dance and the Salmon House.Next Weeks Topic: Genocide in New World- Jealousy, Power, Greed
NOTE FROM RAY: Elizabeth Levesque holds an MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has authored 2 volumes of the native/Christian devotional "Wisdom of the Chiefs" and has hosted 2 traditional Tlingit Potlatches for the Eagle Clan (Kaakwaantaan).