Editorial by Jonathan Garlow
In 1982, Central School in downtown Brantford was being rebuilt. As they were excavating the area they discovered a mass grave site. Local historians told officials that this was an ancient Irish burial ground from the early 1800s and because it was filled with victims of a Cholera outbreak certain precautions needed to be taken.
So they removed the human remains with Hazmat gear and repatriated the human remains and gave them a proper burial.
Whether you are indigenous or a descendant of immigrants to this land, we live our lives expecting to return to the soil from whence we came. It is the circle of life and a human right to be buried with dignity and ceremonial respect.
According to Samuel J. Redman of the History News Network approximately 500,000 Native American remains are being held in the collections of U.S. museums and another half a million skeletons of indigenous ancestors are thought to lie in similar collections throughout Europe.
This figure does not account for indigenous remains stolen by Canadian scientists and officials.
We have a million questions for the scientific establishment. Why do these people think they have the right to handle our grandmothers and grandfathers in this immoral way? Who gave them the authority to deny our people a proper burial? Why don’t they study their own bones for scientific research?
We could blame the Doctrine of Discovery for the malicious treatment of indigenous remains. This warped theory says that indigenous people have no souls. Like most forms of Colonial Christianity, the Doctrine of Discovery was created from blatant and intentional misinterpretations of the Jewish Bible.
In the bull of 1452, Romanus Pontifex, Pope Nicholas directed Portuguese King Alfonso to “capture, vanquish, and subdue the saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ,” to “put them into perpetual slavery,” and “to take all their possessions and property.”
It’s too bad the Pope was so unsophisticated he didn’t realize that the Six Nations accepted the Peacemaker and could be considered buddies with their Christ.
Anyway, this stupid papal order must have also included the theft of bones because it continues to this day.
Although the Doctrine of Discovery was upheld in Johnson v. McIntosh which was an 1841 Supreme Court case, there must be other, deeper reasons why our settler friends have been stealing our bones like grave robbing thugs.
Maybe it’s because “Indian bones” are evidence in a colossal crime scene. If Henry F. Dobyns was correct, upwards of 90 million innocent humans were killed here in the least talked about genocide of human history. Isn’t it convenient that the people who steal our bones are also the same people who are responsible for our deaths?
Does Canada and the U.S. have something to hide?
There is a popular meme circulating on the internet by @shutupmikeginn that captures the sentiment so very well. It says “The USA is having so many disasters and tragedies you’d almost think it was built on thousands of ancient Indian burial grounds.”
Yes, we were wiped out by smallpox and other diseases. No, it wasn’t the will of God. No, you didn’t conquer us – we are still here. We are standing strong.
But let’s get one thing straight. Indian bones are human bones and we will continue to suffer and grieve until our grandparents are returned to us. There will be no reconciliation until our ancestors can rest in peace.