The call to hold the Catholic Church responsible; Indian Residential Schools and Missions


TW: This play explores the active genocide perpetrated by the colonial nations of Canada and the United States, and contains a discussion of child abuse and death. The Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience: 1-866-925-4419. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a crisis counselor.

The discovery of over 751 unmarked graves in Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle Valley at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School came just weeks after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School .

The discovery of thousands of remains, mostly children, in Canada is a confirmation of the abuses that First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples have echoed for decades. Indigenous oral histories have always reflected the physical, mental and sexual abuse, forced labor, cultural assimilation, and language denial they endured at the hands of the colonizing nation of Canada, whose residential schools functioned as a genocide tactics.

Community members hold flags at a march and rally called “Bring our Children Home” on July 1, 2021 in San Francisco. Photo: Kathryn Styer Martínez

Calling it a “cultural genocide,” the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released a document in 2015 highlighting the impact of residential schools, schools set up to separate Indigenous children from their families in order to assimilate them from strength. This was done in the hope of the Canadian government to eliminate any financial, land or treaty obligations to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people because they would be so deprived of their culture that they were no longer. indigenous. It was part of Canada’s largest assimilative genocidal project “kill the Indian, not the man”. Residential schools were run by religious institutions, primarily Roman Catholic, Anglican, United, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, funded by grants from the Canadian government.


More than 50 percent of residential schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church, with more than 80 residential schools operating in the 1930s. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that of the more than 150,000 children who went through the system of boarding schools, thousands of children were lost.

Corinna Gould, who is Lisjan Ohlone and co-founder of the Sogorea Te ‘Land Trust, speaks at a “Bring Our Kids Home” march and rally on July 1, 2021 in San Francisco. Photo: Kathryn Styer Martínez

These recent finds in Saskatchewan and Kamloops are just two cases of residential school investigations, and these anonymous graves are more than just a symbol of cultural genocide against First Nations, Métis and Inuit, but also genocide. physical. Residential schools function as a technique of dispossessing settlers and settlers, who not only attempt to erase the indigenous identities and cultures of children, but impose Judeo-Christian religion and language on them, resulting in serious abuse and murder. ‘they refused.

The anonymous graves show the attempt to hide this genocide, simply by “killing” hundreds of children and refusing to return them to their families. As Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge, a child welfare service group for and by the people of Cowessess writes: “There are still children to bring home.


Community members hold flags during a march and rally titled “Bring our Children Home” on July 1, 2021 in San Francisco. Photo: Kathryn Styer Martínez

The history of the residential schools has been as complicit in human rights abuses and cultural genocide as that of Canada. In fact, the American residential schools paved the way for those in Canada. Called residential schools, they were also mainly run by the Catholic Church. The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) identified more than 367 assimilable boarding schools in the United States between 1870 and 1970, but could only locate 38% of their records.

Since the number of boarding schools and their records are still largely unknown, the number of children who attended, disappeared or died in such schools is deliberately obscured by this lack of access. Andrea Carmen, Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty Council, was quoted by NABS: “The plight of the many Indigenous children who never returned home after their forcible transfer from the United States to residential schools, including those who can be found in the many anonymous graves of the old boarding school. School sites remain a continuing violation of human rights under international law.

Participants in a “Bring our Children Home” march and rally on July 1, 2021 in San Francisco. Photo: Kathryn Styer Martínez

Calls have also been made to investigate the California missions, further questioning the role of Catholic churches in the forced assimilation and genocide of indigenous peoples. Weshoyot Alvitre, an artist from the Tongva Los Angeles Basin has written a call for the California missions to be held responsible for their genocide. “The United States has the same blood on its hands as Canada. The only difference? They haven’t started digging, “Alvitre wrote on social media on June 24, 2021.” Demand that the California missions be held responsible for the genocide. Demand that the Catholic Church be held responsible for their crimes. Demand the truth in Canada. Demand the truth here in the United States.

As residential schools and missions were both state-sanctioned institutions by Spain and the United States with the intention of forcibly assimilating natives through language and cultural denial, the Church Catholic has yet to issue a formal apology or take any action to acknowledge its role in the genocide.

Loyen Redhawk stands with his daughter at a “Bring Our Kids Home” march and rally on July 1, 2021 in San Francisco. Redhawk helped organize the event. Photo: Kathryn Styer Martínez

The legacy of residential schools and boarding schools is reminiscent of the larger colonial project that colonizing states like the United States and Canada employ to continually erase and disenfranchise the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Other examples include the arrest of water protectors on Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 oil sands pipeline in Minnesota, the desecration of burial sites and ancestors perpetuated by academic institutions, and the continued denial of return land to indigenous communities.

A flag of the American Indian Movement flies outside Old St. Mary’s Cathedral during a “Bring our Children Home” march and rally on July 1, 2021 in San Francisco. Photo: Kathryn Styer Martínez

The discovery of these anonymous mass graves in Canada and the investigation of residential schools in the United States represent children, with names, dreams, families, futures stolen in the name of the genocide. El Tecolote itself, as a Mission-based bilingual newspaper, operates on stolen and unceded Ohlone lands, as the Ohlone peoples fight for their rights to preserve what remains of their sacred graves.

Supporting and being in solidarity with projects like Save the Shellmounds in West Berkeley, paying your Shummi property tax are all necessary steps to take, as there is no reconciliation and formal “apologies” that can explain the stolen lives. by the colonizing countries. .

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