We Were Children

If you missed the recent broadcast of We Were Children you can still watch the full movie online. It will be available for viewing until April 23.

We Were Children

We Were Children is a 2012 Canadian documentary film about the experiences of First Nations children in the Canadian Indian residential school system. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada. For over 130 years, Canada’s First Nations children were legally required to attend Government-funded schools run by various orders of the Christian faith. ‘We Were Children’ is based on the testimony of two survivors.

A 24 hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is posted at the beginning of the film offering assistant to anyone who is distressed by the broadcast: 1-866-925-4419

The film was shot in Manitoba, in Winnipeg, St-Pierre-Jolys and at the former Portage residential school, now the Rufus Prince building, in Portage la Prairie. It was produced by Kyle Irving for Eagle Vision, Loren Mawhinney for eOne Television, and produced and executive produced by David Christensen for the National Film Board of Canada. The executive producer for the Eagle Vision was Lisa Meeches, whose parents and older siblings were sent to residential schools.

Meeches, who spent over seven years travelling across Canada to collect residential school survivors’ stories for the Government of Canada, has stated that the idea for the film originated from a discussion she’d had at the Banff World Media Festival.[6] It was Meeches who approached director Wolochatiuk with the project. CBC Manitoba reporter Sheila North Wilson assisted the production by translating material in the script from English to Cree.
We Were Children premiered on October 2, 2012 at the Vancouver International Film Festival, followed by a screening at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto on October 18. It was broadcast on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in March 2013, followed by a DVD release from the National Film Board of Canada on April 12, 2013. (background information taken from the wikipedia article written on the film).

Today, March 27, 2014 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada begins hearings at the Shaw Conference Centre. The hearings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged. As the TRC Mandate (1998) stated, it is not only the sincere “acknowledgement of the injustices and harms experienced by Aboriginal people” but also the community’s step for “continued healing” and “[paving] [of] the way for reconciliation” that is the overall aim of testimonies through the the context of the TRC.

The program for the TRC in Edmonton can be found here:http://www.trc.ca/websites/alberta/index.php?p=766

NO REGISTRATION NEEDED TO ATTEND.
Those wishing to provide a statement to the Commission may register onsite during the event.

CAN’T COME? The Alberta National Event will be livestreamed at http://www.trc.ca.

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Truth & Reconciliation Commission – Edmonton March 27 – 30, 2014

For 116 years, thousands of Aboriginal children in Alberta were sent to Indian Residential Schools funded by the federal government and run by the churches. They were taken from their families and communities in order to be stripped of language, cultural identity and traditions.

Canada’s attempt to wipe out Aboriginal cultures failed. But it left an urgent need for reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

There were more Indian Residential Schools in Alberta than in any other province. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) is holding its Alberta National Event in Edmonton this year.

Come and share your truth about the schools and their legacy. Witness and celebrate the resilience of Aboriginal cultures.
(excerpt from TRC.ca)

Alberta National Event – March 27 – 30, 2014 will be held in Edmonton at the Shaw Conference Centre 9797 Jasper Avenue. No registration needed to attend. Those wishing to provide a statement to the Commission may register onsite during the event.

You can download the program click here

On Thursday March 20 from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm at the University of Alberta, Lister Centre, Maple Leaf Room
Understanding the TRC: Exploring Reconciliation, Intergenerational Trauma, and Indigenous Resistance featuring:

Commissioner Dr. Wilton Littlechild
Dr. Rebecca Sockbeson
Dr. Ian Mosby
James Daschuk
Dr. Keavy Martin
Tanya Kappo
Moderated by Jodi Stonehouse

Reception 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm – Tea, bannock and berries. Event is free.

Gala Reading featuring:
Marilyn Dumont
Daniel Heath Justice
Eden Robinson
Gregory Scofield
Anna Marie Sewell
Richard Van Camp

Friday, March 21 from 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm in Humanities Centre L-1 (111th Street and Saskatchewan Drive)
Giveaways. Books for sale. Free Admission

You find this information and links to campus maps here

Sterilization Abuse in State Prisons: Time to Break with California’s Long Eugenic Patterns

An article by Professor Alex Stern, Living Archives Team Member, has been released today in The Huffington Post. The article, Sterilization Abuse in State Prisons: Time to Break With California’s Long Eugenic Patterns, reveals that at least 148 female prisoners in 2 California institutions were sterilized between 2006 and 2010. Tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.  Professor Stern’s work points to a discernible racial bias in the state’s sterilization and eugenics programs.

Corey G. Johnson of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) published on July 7th a detailed expose’ of unauthorized sterilizations of unwilling women in California prisons. Johnson’s excellent report brought international attention to a scandal that some activists and researchers have at least partially documented. It is important to note that, as the CIR report says, these sterilizations were illegal: Federal and state laws ban inmate sterilizations if federal funds are used, reflecting concerns that prisoners might feel pressured to comply. California used state funds instead, but since 1994, the procedure has required approval from top medical officials in Sacramento on a case-by-case basis. Yet no tubal ligation requests have come before the health care committee responsible for approving such restricted surgeries….

How could this happen?

Governor Gray Davis apologized in 2003 for California’s twentieth-century sterilizations, 20,000  procedures carried out under an explicitly eugenic law. He did so  quietly, via press release, and with no attempt to discover or  compensate the victims. (Recognized experts on American eugenics were  disappointed at the time: Paul Lombardo called it “premature” and Alexandra Minna Stern said it was “preemptive.”) Now his statement seems like a sham. The  fault is no longer the law, it’s the failure to follow the law.

North Carolina is still struggling to pass a budget that includes compensation for its victims of eugenic sterilization.  California has barely started the process of coming to terms with its  troubled history.

The California state prison system is overcrowded — Governor Jerry Brown is appealing a federal court order to release inmates — and conditions are so bad that 30,000 are on  hunger strike. If this report about sterilization helps to usher in a  period of genuine reform, that would be wonderful.

We would still need to educate all too many people, inside and  outside the jail system, about the moral and practical harm of modern  eugenics. Based on some of the remarks by state officials that Johnson  reported, and on some of the comments on coverage of his investigation,  people slide right back into eugenic ways of thinking.

Justice Now is an organization that works with women in prison. Their website has links to the CIR  reports and videos.

Professor Stern’s article in the Huffington Post raises awareness about eugenic practices and calls for a new era of human rights and the protection of vulnerable populations. Tony Platt co-authored the post. The original article can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-stern/sterilization-california-prisons_b_3631287.html

Nutritional Experiments on Aboriginal Peoples in the News

As a follow-up to the previous post, “Hungry aboriginal kids, adults were subject of nutritional experiments“, here is some coverage of the events through the Toronto Star and CBC.  Article highlights are as follows.

After World War II, the Canadian government subjected aboriginal children and adults to nutritional experiments without their consent.  Many of these experiments were conducted in order to gather information about what the human body needs in terms of vitamins and nutrition.  It resulted in lack of dental care for Aboriginal peoples as well, in order to use gum health as an undistorted measuring tool for scientists (Livingstone, Toronto Star).

Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, states in the Toronto Star that

“This discovery, it’s indicative of the attitude toward aboriginals,” Sinclair said. “They thought aboriginals shouldn’t be consulted and their consent shouldn’t be asked for. They looked at it as a right to do what they wanted then.” (Sinclair, July 21 2013)

It is likely that even at the time, these experiments were seen as ethically dubious (perhaps especially after the atrocities of World War II), and therefore probably why Ian Mosby, the post-doctorate from the University of Guelph, whose research brought these policies to life, uncovered only “vague references to studies conducted on ‘Indians'” while researching the development of health policy for a different project (Livingstone, Toronto Star).

Mosby elaborates, again suggesting the classification of Aboriginals as less than other people,

“I think they really did think they were helping people. Whether they thought they were helping the people that were actually involved in the studies — that’s a different question.” (Mosby, July 21 2013)

The CBC provides archival material from via historian James Daschuk, of a 1946 report of the lives of First Nations in Northern Manitoba.

1946 Report: Medical survey of nutrition among the Northern Manitoba Indians

You can read the full articles through the links below:

Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/07/16/hungry_aboriginal_kids_used_unwittingly_in_nutrition_experiments_researcher_says.html

CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2013/07/18/starvation-politics-aboriginal-nutrition-experiments-in-canada/

Hungry aboriginal kids, adults were subject of nutritional experiments

New historical research reveals that Canadian government bureaucrats conducted nutritional experiments on hungry aboriginal children and adults. Ian Mosby, PhD, is a Historian of Food and Nutrition and while doing postdoctoral work at University of Guelph he came across references to studies conducted on “Indians”.

“This was the hardest thing I’ve ever written,” said Ian Mosby, who has revealed new details about one of the least-known but perhaps most disturbing aspects of government policy toward aboriginals immediately after the Second World War.

Mosby — whose work at the University of Guelph focuses on the history of food in Canada — was researching the development of health policy when he ran across something strange.

“I started to find vague references to studies conducted on ‘Indians’ that piqued my interest and seemed potentially problematic, to say the least,” he said. “I went on a search to find out what was going on.”

Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children.

It began with a 1942 visit by government researchers to a number of remote reserve communities in northern Manitoba, including places such as The Pas and Norway House.

They found people who were hungry, beggared by a combination of the collapsing fur trade and declining government support. They also found a demoralized population marked by, in the words of the researchers, “shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia.”

The researchers suggested those problems — “so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race” — were in fact the results of malnutrition.

Instead of recommending an increase in support, the researchers decided that isolated, dependent, hungry people would be ideal subjects for tests on the effects of different diets.

“This is a period of scientific uncertainty around nutrition,” said Mosby. “Vitamins and minerals had really only been discovered during the interwar period.

“In the 1940s, there were a lot of questions about what are human requirements for vitamins. Malnourished aboriginal people became viewed as possible means of testing these theories.”

The first experiment began in 1942 on 300 Norway House Cree. Of that group, 125 were selected to receive vitamin supplements which were withheld from the rest.

At the time, researchers calculated the local people were living on less than 1,500 calories a day. Normal, healthy adults generally require at least 2,000.

“The research team was well aware that these vitamin supplements only addressed a small part of the problem,” Mosby writes. “The experiment seems to have been driven, at least in part, by the nutrition experts’ desire to test their theories on a ready-made ‘laboratory’ populated with already malnourished human experimental subjects.”

The research spread. In 1947, plans were developed for research on about 1,000 hungry aboriginal children in six residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Schubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

One school deliberately held milk rations for two years to less than half the recommended amount to get a ‘baseline’ reading for when the allowance was increased. At another, children were divided into one group that received vitamin, iron and iodine supplements and one that didn’t.

One school depressed levels of vitamin B1 to create another baseline before levels were boosted. A special enriched flour that couldn’t legally be sold elsewhere in Canada under food adulteration laws was used on children at another school.

And, so that all the results could be properly measured, one school was allowed none of those supplements.

Many dental services were withdrawn from participating schools during that time. Gum health was an important measuring tool for scientists and they didn’t want treatments on children’s teeth distorting results.

The experiments, repugnant today, would probably have been considered ethically dubious even at the time, said Mosby.

“I think they really did think they were helping people. Whether they thought they were helping the people that were actually involved in the studies, that’s a different question.”

He noted that rules for research on humans were just being formulated and adopted by the scientific community.

Little has been written about the nutritional experiments. A May 2000 article in the Anglican Journal about some of them was the only reference Mosby could find.

“I assumed that somebody would have written about an experiment conducted on aboriginal people during this period, and kept being surprised when I found more details and the scale of it. I was really, really surprised.

“It’s an emotionally difficult topic to study.”

Not much was learned from those hungry little bodies. A few papers were published — “they were not very helpful,” Mosby said — and he couldn’t find evidence that the Norway House research program was completed.

“They knew from the beginning that the real problem and the cause of malnutrition was underfunding. That was established before the studies even started and when the studies were completed that was still the problem.”

The original article can be found here: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/sci_tech/hungry-aboriginal-kids-adults-were-subject-of-nutritional-experiments-paper-215688421.html

Mosby’s published paper “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942–1952” can be found in the journal “Social History” Volume 46, Number 91, May 2013, pp. 145-172.

The abstract for Mosby’s paper on the study can be found here: http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/histoire_sociale_social_history/v046/46.91.mosby.html

Mosby’s blog can be found here: http://www.ianmosby.ca/