Indigenous Race relations; police and a short history of the Residential Schools

By Doug Whitlow

A native born Indigenous person by any other name (Indian; native; Eskimo; aboriginal; etc.) would still be treated just as bad by Canada’s government (s); police; Children’s Aid; and a majority of non-native people.

It is the summer of 2020 and the natives are restless. The Black Lives Matter protests which began in the United States have been ongoing for months. The movement quickly moved from the US to almost every country in the world. Here in Canada, the Indian Rights movement which has been ongoing forever in Indian country has mixed with the Black Lives Matter protests and almost every day somewhere somebody or some group puts on a demonstration. Now; all this is well and good as it keeps the governments on their toes and the protests cause the police to keep their hands on their side arms and their fingers on the trigger.

When one turns on the daily news from Canada or the United States; cops shooting Black people in the U S and (Indians) in Canada has become an almost daily occurrence. This killing phenomena is not a new thing as the U S has been at it for several hundred years prior to and after President Lincoln freed the black slaves. Here in Canada the Northwest Mounted Police (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police/RCMP) began their own endless Indian killing spree shortly after the force was formed and mobilized in the late 1800’s. The official story states that the new Canadian Mounted Police were sent into the Canadian west to provide protection to the native Indians on the plains who were being besieged by American whiskey traders and other scurrilous individuals.  However; in the first major armed confrontation in the near west, the Mounted police faced off with the very people they had went west to protect; Indians and Metis people. Ever since the now infamous Duck lake battle; the Indians have been on the losing side whether the war (s) were fought on the battlefield or in the courts. Today in the 21st century the name Northwest Mounted police has been replaced with the name (Royal Canadian Mounted Police/RCMP), but the results in armed or unarmed confrontations beginning in the late 1800’s until the present remains unchanged. The Indians and the Metis continue to lose in battle and in the courts. In July 1995, at the little known Pre-planned Siege of Gustafson Lake, (a book is coming) a heavily armed and armoured force of 900 RCMP officers and soldiers from Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry used a small group of mostly unarmed Indians and white people as live targets in a 35 day mock war (without the consent of the participants) and then charged and convicted the small group on domestic terrorism and other false criminal charges.

The recent uptick in unarmed Black people versus armed white American police officers finally came to a head earlier this year as an American white-armed cop choked the life out of a black man on live T V and in the social media outlets. This event and others like it are occurring far too often in the U S and Canada as many American police officers teach their (shoot to kill and condemn the dead later) tactics in the few and select  Canadian police academies.  As people are calling for change; the changes should and must begin at places like the RCMP Depot in Regina and the Ontario Police College (OPC) at Aylmer, Ontario. Change must go up the Chain of Command; not down the chain as most old cops are too indoctrinated in their killing ways to change now.

Here in the Mohawk Territory (Six Nations of the Grand River) of the Grand River; the older (than 70) local citizenry has been witness to many changes not only in police tactics; but also in police services. Shortly after the world ushered in the 20th century, the RCMP came to live and (practice their unique methods of policing Indians) in the village of Ohsweken. The author’s generation (1948 and onward) grew up watching and being watched by the RCMP who were in reality an (occupation force) as the Mounties have always been a para-military force rather than just ordinary police officers. The age of an accused person here on the Rez after 1924 made no difference to the Mounties as one role of the RCMP was to (arrest and rend from their parents arms); send to the Mush Hole (Residential School on Mohawk land in Brantford) any child who had the terrible misfortune of becoming six years of age. The Mounties also acted as Truant Officers for the Reserve Schools and the Mush Hole and were constantly on the lookout for mostly boys who skipped school. The author knows from personal experience that when anyone was arrested and charged by the Mounties for any petty or major crime; there was only One (1) result in court; Conviction. Most Indians could not afford to hire lawyers and the local magistrate always believed the police officer (s) founded or unfounded story.

The Mounted police era ended here at Six Nations in the 1960’s and were replaced by the Brantford Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). As they say; a cop is a cop is a cop and the OPP were not much different than their federal counterparts. The only noticeable difference was the fact that the OPP did not live here.

As people tend to say; that was then and this is now. Today in the summer of 2020 much of the talk revolves around the Residential School experiment where native children were mentally, physically and forcibly detached from their families as first; the British and later the Canadian governments attempted to (take the Indian out of the child) in whatever manner worked the best. This was all part of the British Assimilation Project which was implemented in all countries of the world where the British control was the order of the day. Residential schools were set up in Canada; Australia; New Zealand and everywhere the British went.

In 2004 and 2005, while the author working on his B A at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he was carrying out the first ever study of Residential School survivors who had settled their cases out of court. The author had been granted permission to do live telephone interviews with the survivor participants and tape the conversations. (As usual UBC and Canada insisted that the author was never to divulge any of the data gathered in the experiment). This research project was an integral part of  a Practicum with the Residential School Survivors Society of West Vancouver. The author was also taking a Masters course in Advanced English. It was in this advanced study that he came across the Metray Prison which was included in his final report to the First Nations Studies Program at UBC. The Department Head, Dr. Linc Kessler accepted his findings on the Metray information which is now in the Archives at the First Nations House of Learning in the First Nations Long House.

The Metray officials had found over the years that the best way to control underage children was to completely separate the children from their families. The children were placed in dormitories where every child could plainly see the words: God Sees You. In addition to that, the children were always punished immediately for any infraction of the rules no matter how small or insignificant the wrongful act was. When the author read the information he said. Aha! There is the foundation for the Residential Schools.

When one studies the daily logs from any Residential School, it is easy to see how the British and later Canada took the information from the prison and used that as a basis for the Mush Hole in Brantford as it was the first of the inhumane facilities which the entire Residential School System was based on at least in Canada.

While many people today attempt to place the blame for the schools on past politicians and Prime Ministers; the blame for those disastrous facilities lies solely with the British Monarchy and later the English government. However; each and every Canadian Prime Minister and their political parties are to blame as well as none of those dishonourable people tried to stop the assimilation and inhumane treatment of the helpless native children who were forced into captivity just because they were Native children.

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