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Residential schools: How the U.S. and Canada share a troubling history –



WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

A member of the U.S. federal cabinet says she wept when she heard news from Canada about what are believed to be unmarked burial sites of children’s remains near a former residential school.

The news made Deb Haaland think of her own Pueblo ancestors such as her grandmother, who as a girl was taken from her family, put on a train and placed in the American version of a residential school for five years.

After crying, Haaland took action.

The New Mexico politician now leads the federal department that ran U.S. assimilation schools — she’s the first Indigenous person to do so. 

And she’s launched an investigation into their legacy.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the first Indigenous person to run the department that operated U.S. assimilation schools. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

In a memo last month to the Department of the Interior, she said the news from Canada should prompt a reflection on what Americans refer to as native boarding schools. 

She requested a report by next year on the schools, their cemeteries and on the possibility of finding unidentified remains.

“I know that this process will be painful. It won’t undo the heartbreak and loss we feel,” she said in a speech announcing the initiative. 

“But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future we’re all proud to embrace.”

It’s only fitting that movements to assess the legacy of assimilation schools in both Canada and the U.S. should occur simultaneously.

That’s because they’ve been intertwined from the start. That point was made several years ago in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

2 countries with a shared history

An architect of Canada’s residential schools policy, in a 1879 paper, looked at boarding schools just established in the U.S. and urged Canada to create similar ones.

On the basis of that paper from Nicholas Davin, Canada’s federal government opened three such schools, starting in 1883 in the future province of Saskatchewan.

Both countries borrowed ideas from reformatories being constructed in Europe for children of the urban poor, said the Truth and Reconciliation report.

Richard Pratt developed a model for boarding schools in the U.S. that influenced the creation of residential schools in Canada. (U.S. Library of Congress)

Haaland’s great-grandfather was taken to the institution that most influenced Canada’s program: the now-defunct Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. 

The founder of that school, army officer Richard Pratt, infamously voiced the philosophy behind his program: “Kill the Indian [in him] … and save the man,” meaning Indigenous peoples should be assimilated, not exterminated.

That philosophy inflicted waves of trauma on families.  

‘Our house was a battleground’

Warren Petoskey, a Lakota and Odawa man from Michigan, said one generation of children would be separated from their parents, and it affected their own parenting of the next generation.

He said his father wouldn’t talk about his experiences at a boarding school — just like his grandfather before him refused to.

Petoskey said his aunt was slapped in the face by a teacher for speaking her mother tongue, and another woman he knows was punched and suffered lifelong damage to her jaw.

Warren Petoskey, 76, is still trying to learn his ancestral language and says assimilation schools did incalculable damage to his family. (Submitted by Warren Petoskey)

His aunt also described how a janitor would sexually abuse female students, one of them a member of his family he says was scarred for life.

“I never could understand growing up why our family was so dysfunctional,” said Petoskey, 76.

“Our house was a battleground.”

Petoskey has spent a lifetime trying to learn his ancestral language, Anishinaabe, which his father refused to teach him.

Taught to loathe own culture

Students were taught to hate their own culture.

It’s not just that lessons presented a rose-tinted version of American history that glossed over uncomfortable details, like Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence — which talks about all men being created equal and then refers to Indigenous peoples as “merciless Indian savages.”

Young men in a metalworking class at the Carlisle assimilation school in Pennsylvania in 1904. (U.S. Library of Congress)

It was occasionally rendered more explicit.

In South Dakota, James Cadwell recalls that at his church-run boarding school, decades ago, students were assigned to read books that referred to Indigenous peoples as savages.

“I’ve often thought, as I’ve gotten older, ‘How detrimental was that to me as a young man?’ ” Cadwell said in an interview.

Then there were rumours, Petoskey said, about children who died while at the schools and were quietly buried. 

Re-examining burial sites

A project is underway to discover whether there were any deaths covered up at the Michigan school Petoskey’s father attended, the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School

The ​​Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is working with archeological researchers to better understand the history of the property that once housed the school, which operated from 1893 to 1934.

Ione Quigley, the Rosebud Sioux’s historic preservation officer, attends a ceremony in Carlisle, Pa., on July 14, where children buried at a boarding school were disinterred. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

The official record shows several children died while attending the school. Yet the tribe’s own research raises broader questions: there’s no record for 227 students who were enrolled there ever returning home.

Frank Cloutier, a spokesman for the tribe, said there are several possible explanations: children might have run away, documents might have been lost or perhaps something more sinister occurred. 

“We don’t want to jump to those conclusions,” said Cloutier.

“We’re not naive in thinking that there won’t be any discoveries. But we want to handle this methodically and with some reverence and respect.”

He said the news headlines from Canada helped raise awareness of the issue.

Remains being brought home 

Ceremonies to repatriate the remains of children were already underway at the native boarding school founded by Pratt, Pennsylvania’s Carlisle school.

Gravestones of children who died at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The property now belongs to the U.S. Army War College, and the army has a process allowing family members to move relatives’ remains. (U.S. Library of Congress)

Lauren Peters brought home the body of her great-aunt, Sophia Tetoff. 

The Unangax̂ girl was taken from Alaska and spent five years at the school between 1901 and 1906, although, Peters said, she was rarely in a classroom and was mostly loaned out as a domestic worker.

The girl contracted tuberculosis and died. On her tombstone at the school, her name was misspelled and her tribe was misidentified.

This month, Peters saw to it that her relative was buried at home, in Alaska, in the same cemetery as her family, by a church on St. Paul Island.

She said she was deeply moved during the ceremony. 

Peters, a doctoral student in Native American studies at the University of California, credits a group of schoolchildren for starting the repatriation project. 

She said the Rosebud Sioux students were struck by the cemetery they saw when they stopped during a field trip at the site of the Pennsylvania school, which closed in 1918.

Lauren Peters, right, and her son, Andrew Peters, arranged to remove the remains of a relative who died in 1906 from the cemetery at the site of the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School. They held a funeral in Alaska where she was buried near her family members. (Curt Keester/U.S. army/Submitted by Lauren Peters )

“Out of the mouths of babes — they said: ‘Why are they still here? Why can’t we take them home?’ ” Peters said. 

“And that really started the process with the [U.S.] army,” which now owns the site. Relatives can file paperwork to move remains.  

Peters said Americans should brace for news similar to Canada’s about undocumented deaths. In fact, she said: “I think it’s going to be way worse,” because there were many more Indigenous boarding schools in the U.S., more than 500 in all.

What will U.S. inquiries find?

The author of a book on the history of American Indigenous boarding schools said he’s not certain the U.S. will find as many unmarked graves as appears to be the case in Canada.

David Wallace Adams said the U.S. schools, mostly government-run, were subject to more frequent inspections than the mostly church-run institutions in Canada. 

“It remains to be seen,” he said in an interview. 

Children in an undated photo play outside Michigan’s Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School, which closed in 1934. The Saginaw Chippewa tribe is investigating what happened to 227 students who vanished from public records. (Submitted by the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways)

Yet his book, Education For Extinction, chronicles in detail the coercion, abuse and deaths that did occur in these U.S. schools.

By 1926, more than 80 per cent of Indigenous school-age children were attending boarding schools in the U.S., Adams wrote.

The system was scathingly criticized in a 1928 think-tank report and again in a congressional study led by Sen. Robert Kennedy published after his death. 

“We are shocked at what we discovered,” said the 1969 report, Indian Education: A National Tragedy, A National Challenge.

“Others before us were shocked. They recommended and made changes. Others after us will likely be shocked.”

It called the treatment of Indigenous peoples a stain on the national conscience.

Around the same time, in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson gave a speech titled The Forgotten American. 

Lauren Peters arranged to have the remains of her great aunt, Sophia Tetoff, buried this month in a cemetery on St. Paul Island, Alaska, near her family. (Submitted by Lauren Peters)

He demanded an end to assimilationist policies and a shift toward self-determination. Johnson earmarked funds for community-driven curricula. A landmark 1975 law then shifted authority for government-run schools to the tribes.

The system today

The Department of the Interior still runs four off-reserve boarding schools today in Oklahoma, California, Oregon and South Dakota.

Haaland said these remaining schools bear little resemblance to their historical antecedents. 

Once, children were beaten for speaking their ancestral language.

“Now it’s encouraged,” Haaland told a Washington Post podcast.

“[Enrolment is also] voluntary.” 

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland attends a news conference at Bears Ears National Monument in Utah in April. (Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press)

Cadwell witnessed a culture shift first-hand. 

He recalls being a traumatized student, over a half-century ago, at a church-run boarding school in South Dakota.

He would cry himself to sleep during thunderstorms, with nobody to console him. 

He recalls an alcoholic priest who drank while driving kids around — the priest told them to keep quiet about his drinking,and let them smoke cigarettes. 

He later became a teacher at the same school, renamed Crow Creek Tribal School. Now semi-retired, Cadwell has taught industrial arts, the Dakota language, cultural programs and the planting of traditional crops like turnips.

“I don’t remember digging turnips [as a student]. I don’t remember going to dances,” he said in an interview.

“If you fell and hurt yourself, the nurturing was not there at all. There was no nurturing.”

Ciricahua Apache students are shown at the Carlisle school in Pennsylvania, around 1885. (U.S. Library of Congress)


Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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Biden says United States would come to Taiwan’s defense



The United States would come to Taiwan‘s defense and has a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday, though the White House said later there was no change in policy towards the island.

“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which has complained of mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty.

While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

In August, a Biden administration official said U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed after the president appeared to suggest the United States would defend the island if it were attacked.

A White House spokesperson said Biden at his town hall was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and “there is no change in our policy”.

“The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” the spokesperson said.

Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world,”

“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.

“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views.”

Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.

Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.

China says Taiwan is the most sensitive and important issue in its ties with the United States and has denounced what it calls “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Thursday, China’s United Nations Ambassador Zhang Jun said they are pursuing “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan and responding to “separatist attempts” by its ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

“We are not the troublemaker. On the contrary, some countries – the U.S. in particular – is taking dangerous actions, leading the situation in Taiwan Strait into a dangerous direction,” he said.

“I think at this moment what we should call is that the United States to stop such practice. Dragging Taiwan into a war definitely is in nobody’s interest. I don’t see that the United States will gain anything from that.”

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Alec Baldwin fires gun on movie set, killing cinematographer, authorities say



Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on a movie set in New Mexico on Thursday, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza, authorities said.

The incident occurred on the set of independent feature film “Rust,” the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office said in a statement.

“The sheriff’s office confirms that two individuals were shot on the set of Rust. Halyna Hutchins, 42, director of photography, and Joel Souza, 48, director, were shot when a prop  firearms was discharged by Alec Baldwin, 68, producer and actor,” the police said in a statement.

A Variety report said the shooting occurred at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a production location south of Santa Fe in New Mexico.

No charges have yet been filed in regard to the incident, said the police, adding they are investigating the shooting.

Baldwin’s representatives did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.


(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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Trudeau 'confident' other countries will accept Canadians' proof of vaccination –



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he’s “very confident” countries around the world will accept Canadians’ proof of vaccination.

Today, the federal government announced that Canadians will be able to use a standardized provincial or territorial proof-of-vaccination documentation to travel internationally — although it will be up to foreign governments to accept them or not.

Government officials, speaking on background during a briefing this morning, said they worked with the provinces to come up with a “pan Canadian” format and are confident it will be widely accepted.

They added the government is working with other countries to ensure acceptance abroad.

“We are very confident this proof-of-vaccination certificate that will be federally approved, issued by the provinces with the health information for Canadians, is going to be accepted at destinations worldwide,” Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa today.

The standardized COVID-19 proof of vaccination includes the holder’s name and date of birth, the number of doses received, the type of vaccine, lot numbers, dates of vaccination and a QR code that includes the vaccination history. Canadians can also request the proof by mail.

The documentation was designed with what the government calls a “common look” featuring the Government of Canada logo and the Canadian flag.

The official Canada wordmark on the top right of an Ontario vaccination proof document. (Government of Ontario)

The government said that as of today, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon are issuing the standardized proof of vaccination.

Trudeau said all the provinces and territories have agreed to issue the accepted credentials ahead of the holiday season.

“Not every province has yet delivered on that but I know they are all working very quickly and should resolve that in the weeks to come,” he said.

In Ontario, for example, fully vaccinated residents can download a QR code built to the SMART Health Card standard, which includes the Government of Canada “wordmark” or logo.

WATCH |  Canadians will be able to use their provincial vaccine certificates for international travel

Canadians will be able to use their provincial vaccine certificates for international travel, says Trudeau

10 hours ago

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that as more provinces and territories require the use of vaccine certificates, he is ‘confident’ that foreign governments will accept these documents from Canadians travelling internationally. 2:01

The SMART Health Card standard is a set of guidelines, approved by the International Organization for Standardization and endorsed by Canada, to store health information and is used by a number of tech companies, including Apple. 

The government said it’s talking to other countries to encourage them to recognize those who have received mixed vaccine doses as being fully vaccinated.

“This includes sharing Canada’s evidence and experience with mixed schedules of Health Canada-authorized vaccines for both AstraZeneca/mRNA and mixed mRNA doses,” says a government release.

“Initial outreach has focused on the ongoing exchange of technical and scientific information to advance this time-sensitive work.”

Proof can be used for domestic travel too

The standardized proof of vaccination can also be used when the requirement for proof of vaccination to travel domestically kicks in at the end of the month, although travellers can continue to use their old provincial proof of vaccination if their province is not yet issuing the standardized credentials.

As of Oct. 30, all travellers aged 12 and older taking flights leaving Canadian airports or travelling on Via Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains must be fully vaccinated before boarding. Marine passengers on non-essential passenger vessels like cruise ships must also complete the vaccination series before travelling.

Mike McNaney is president of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest air carriers — including Air Canada, Air Transat and WestJet. He said he welcomes the standardized approach and urged the government to ease off on other pandemic measures.

“With aviation becoming one of the only sectors requiring fully vaccinated employees and customers, it is imperative that the government work with us and determine what other travel measures can now be amended in keeping with global practices,” he wrote in a media statement.

“Such as elimination of blanket advisories against travel, elimination of mandatory PCR testing pre-departure for fully vaccinated international travellers coming to Canada, and enabling children under 12 to be exempt from de facto home quarantine.”

Officials said they considered other options, including federally issued credentials, but decided that would have “limited value” given that provinces and territories administered the shots and held the data.

They also said the global health travel advisories will soon adopt a destination-based approach, so that Canadians can better prepare travel plans.

Dispute over mandatory vaccine rule for MPs continues

Trudeau’s announcement comes as a fight brews over making vaccination mandatory for MPs ahead of Parliament’s return next month.

Earlier this week, the House of Commons’ governing body introduced a new mandatory vaccination policy for MPs and anyone else entering the House of Commons.

Conservatives said they oppose the “secret” move by the Board of Internal Economy and object to the idea of more virtual sittings of the chamber.

“While we encourage everyone who can be vaccinated to get vaccinated, we cannot agree to seven MPs, meeting in secret, deciding which of the 338 MPs, just elected by Canadians, can enter the House of Commons to represent their constituents,” said a statement from the party Wednesday.

 WATCH| ‘It’s not too much to ask’ — Trudeau discusses mandatory vaccination rule for MPs

‘It’s not too much to ask’ — Trudeau discusses mandatory vaccination rule for those working in the House of Commons

10 hours ago

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for MPs, which will be in place when Parliament resumes in November. 2:04

While the Conservative Party says that it supports vaccination as the “most important tool to get us out of this pandemic,” it did not require all of its candidates in the federal election to be fully vaccinated. It also didn’t reveal how many of its candidates were vaccinated.

Both the Liberals and NDP required that their candidates be vaccinated during the election campaign, though they did not extend that requirement to staff members. The Bloc Québécois said during the campaign that all of its candidates were vaccinated. The Green Party told CBC that both of its MPs have been fully vaccinated.

“It is puzzling to me that there are people out there that think that just because they are members of Parliament they do not need to keep themselves, their loved ones or their constituents safe, when the vast majority of Canadians have done the right thing,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

“It is on Mr. O’Toole to explain why he thinks people should not be fully vaccinated if they want to serve as members of Parliament, and why indeed he doesn’t even think there should be a hybrid model so those who aren’t fully vaccinated can still speak up for their constituents in the House of Commons.”

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