Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State

Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State


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Originally approved as a master of laws thesis by a respected Canadian university, this book tackles one of the most compelling issues of our time—the crime of genocide—and whether in fact it can be said to have occurred in relation to the many Original Nations on Great Turtle Island now claimed by a state called Canada. It has been hailed as groundbreaking by many Indigenous and other scholars engaged with this issue, impacting not just Canada but states worldwide where entrapped Indigenous nations face absorption by a dominating colonial state.Starblanket unpacks Canada's role in the removal of cultural genocide from the Genocide Convention, though the disappearance of an Original Nation by forced assimilation was regarded by many states as equally genocidal as destruction by slaughter. Did Canada seek to tailor the definition of genocide to escape its own crimes which were then even ongoing? The crime of genocide, to be held as such under current international law, must address the complicated issue of mens rea (not just the commission of a crime, but the specific intent to do so). This book permits readers to make a judgment on whether or not this was the case.Starblanket examines how genocide was operationalized in Canada, focused primarily on breaking the intergenerational transmission of culture from parents to children. Seeking to absorb the new generations into a different cultural identity—English-speaking, Christian, Anglo-Saxon, termed Canadian—Canada seized children from their parents, and oversaw and enforced the stripping of their cultural beliefs, languages and traditions, replacing them by those still in process of being established by the emerging Canadian state. She outlines the array and extent of the destruction which inevitably took place as part of the effort to bring about such a wrenching change—forcible indoctrination by means of massive and widespread death by disease and dilapidated living conditions, torture, forced starvation, labor, and sexual predation—collateral damage to Canada's effort to absorb diverse original nations into one larger, alien and dominating body politic. The cumulative effects of genocide continue to be exhibited by the survivors and their descendants who suffer from the trauma and dysfunction, primarily in healthy proper parenting, which results in ongoing forcible removals via the child welfare systems to this day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998694771
Publisher: Clarity Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/01/2018
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Tamara Starblanket is Spider Woman, a Nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) from Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Treaty Six Territory. Tamara holds an LLM (master of laws) from the University of Saskatchewan, and an LLB from the University of British Columbia. She is the Co-Chair of the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus (NAIPC).

Ward Churchill has achieved an unparalleled reputation as a scholar-activist and analyst of indigenous issues. He is a former Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a leading member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), and the author of numerous books, including A Little Matter of Genocide, Struggle for the Land, and Fantasies of the Master Race.

Sharon Venne LLB (Notokwew Muskwa Manitokan) is an Indigenous Treaty person (Cree) and by marriage a member of the Blood Tribe within Treaty 7. Sharon has published materials on the history of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations since 1977 and an article on the problem of NGOs and their interference in Indigenous Peoples’ exercise of the right to self-determination within international law. In 2015, Sharon was given the lifetime achievement award from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians for her work for Treaty Peoples.

Read an Excerpt



American imperialism is often said to have begun in 1898, when Cuba and the Philippines were the main prizes. What was new at this time, however, was only that America took control of countries beyond the North American continent. As John Bassett Moore, who had been an assistant secretary of state at that time, later wrote:

It is true that the expansion of 1898 involved ... the taking of a step geographically in advance of any that had been taken before; but so far as concerns the acquisition of new territory we were merely following a habit which had characterized our entire national existence.

This statement is of utmost importance, because it points out that, already in 1898, imperial conquest was a long-standing habit of American policy makers. America had been engaged in expansionism from the outset.

1. The Creation of the American Empire

Maintaining that US imperialism began only in 1898 depends on an artificial distinction between "expansionism" and "imperialism," holding that conquests are imperialistic only if a sea has been crossed. If that distinction were otherwise enforced, the Mongol Empire created by Ghengis Khan and his sons, the most extensive empire created until that time, could not be called an empire.

Historians who reject this artificial distinction date the origin of America's empire much earlier. For example, in his important book The Rising American Empire, Richard Van Alstyne reported that "before the middle of the eighteenth century, the concept of an empire that would take in the whole continent was fully formed." The War for Independence, he added, was fought "under the spell of [the] imperial idea ... that the continent of North America belonged, as of right, to the people of the thirteen colonies."

The right referred to here was a divine right. One way of expressing this sense of divine authorization was to call America the "new Israel." But the phrase that really caught on was "manifest destiny," which John O'Sullivan, urging the annexation of Texas, coined in 1845 to signify the mission of the United States "to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions."

One problem with this assessment of the divine will, of course, was that "our" millions encountered the millions of people who were already here. Experts now estimate that at the time of the European invasion, the Native American population of the area that is now the continental United States was about 10,000,000. By 1890, that number had been reduced to about 228,000. This means that in the interim, about 95 percent of the native population had been eliminated. Many of the deaths were, to be sure, due to the new diseases brought by the Europeans, to which the Native Americans had no resistance.

But the "American Holocaust," said David Stannard in his book of that title, was a result of "microbial pestilence and purposeful genocide." Stannard's book dealt with South as well as North America, and the number of indigenous peoples exterminated was far greater in the southern hemisphere. Nevertheless, our own forebears made a significant contribution to what was, in Stannard's words, "the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world."

This genocidal process was made all the more ignoble by a long series of lies and broken promises. The European Americans signed treaty after treaty with the Native Americans — some 400 in all — and broke almost every one — a fact making the expression "Indian giver" one of the great ironies of history.

For example, Secretary of War Lewis Cass promised, in an 1825 treaty with the Shawnees and Cherokees, that if they would move to new lands west of the Mississippi,

The United States will never ask for your land there. This I promise you in the name of your great father, the President. That country he assigns to his red people, to be held by them and their children's children forever.

In perhaps the most famous of all the promises, President Andrew Jackson told his "Choctaw children" and his "Chickasaw children" that if only they would move beyond Alabama and Mississippi, they would be "in possession of land of their own, which they shall possess as long as Grass grows or water runs." Jackson's efforts resulted in the 1832 Treaty of Washington — which was broken within a few days.

Breaking promises was, at least in some cases, premeditated. Treaties with Indians, a governor of Georgia said, "were expedients by which ignorant, intractable, and savage people were induced without bloodshed to yield up what civilized peoples had a right to possess."

This sense of rightful ownership reflected the idea that the Native Americans were destined to disappear to make room for the new empire. That this idea was shared even by ordinary troops is suggested by a young soldier whose regiment had the task of destroying Iroquois villages on behalf of the State of New York, which was thereby violating a treaty it had recently forced the Iroquois to sign. "I really feel guilty," he said in a letter home, "as I applied the torch to huts that were Homes of Content until we ravagers came spreading desolation everywhere." But then, surmising that he might be serving a higher cause, he said: "Our mission here is ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire that we pillagers are carelessly sowing the seeds of Empire?"

For European Americans, their genocide of Native Americans did not necessarily conflict with the idea that they were fulfilling a divine plan; Anglo-Saxon white racism shielded them from any such realization. This dimension of the idea of manifest destiny was exemplified by a congressman who said:

I take it for granted, that we ... must march from ocean to ocean. ... We must march from Texas straight to the Pacific ocean. ... It is the destiny of the white race.

An even more imperialistic version of Anglo-Saxonism was expressed by a senator from Virginia, who said:

It is peculiar to the character of this Anglo-Saxon race of men to which we belong, that it has never been contented to live in the same country with any other distinct race, upon terms of equality; it has, invariably, ... proceeded to exterminate or enslave the other race.

The question today, of course, is whether this "race" is willing to live in the same world with any other people "upon terms of equality."

In any case, as this senator's brutally honest statement indicated, there was perceived to be only one alternative to extermination: enslavement. The other great crime against humanity perpetrated during that period of empire-building was the massive slave trade. In addition to all its unspeakable indignities and sufferings, this trade resulted in an enormous number of deaths during capture and transport, with the North American part of the slave trade likely being responsible for about 10 million African deaths.

Neither was the conviction of being divinely guided necessarily regarded as being in conflict with the act of military conquest. In the midst of the war with Mexico, one senator, explaining in what sense he subscribed to "the doctrine of 'manifest destiny,'" said:

I believe we should be recreant to our noble mission, if we refused acquiescence in the high purposes of a wise Providence. War has its evils ... but however inscrutable to us, it has also been made, by the Allwise Dispenser of events, the instrumentality of accomplishing the great end of human elevation.

No matter how brutal the methods, Americans were instruments of divine purposes.

The expansion to the Pacific, in any case, led to a further expansion of the American sense of manifest destiny. In 1850, an editor named James DeBow wrote:

We have a destiny to perform, a 'manifest destiny' over all Mexico, over South America, over the West Indies and Canada. The Sandwich [Hawaiian] Islands are as necessary to our eastern, as the isles of the gulf to our western commerce. The gates of the Chinese empire must be thrown down ... and the haughty Japanese tramplers upon the cross be enlightened in the doctrines of republicanism. ... The eagle of the republic shall poise itself over the field of Waterloo, after tracing its flight among the gorges of the Himalaya or the Ural mountains, and a successor of Washington ascend the chair of universal empire!

As DeBow's remarkable statement shows, Americans in those days spoke openly of the American empire, associated it with commerce as well as Christianity, and, at least in some cases, already had a vision of a global empire. One of the first steps in realizing this vision was taken four years later. Commodore Perry, using his heavily armed ships to force "the haughty Japanese" to open their country to American commerce, declared: "The World has assigned this duty to us."

2. Going Abroad: Hawaii, Cuba, and the Philippines

As the use of force in Japan in 1854 illustrated, it is not strictly true that US imperialism did not go overseas until 1898. That date did, nevertheless, mark a new phase of American imperialism. Our intervention in Cuba initiated what is usually called "neo-colonialism" or "neo-imperialism," which--said Philip Foner in his great study The Spanish-Cuban-American War and the Birth of American Imperialism — became "the characteristic feature of American imperialism."

In this form, the imperial power does not take formal control of the country, as Britain did in India and other parts of its empire. Rather, the country is formally independent. Its rulers, however, must obey US directives or suffer intervention and overthrow, so there is no real independence.

American historians have generally called the fighting of 1898-1902 "the Spanish-American War" or simply 'the war with Spain." But these names obscure the fact that the primary combatants against Spain were the Cuban and Filipino rebels, not the Americans. Even more important, those traditional names obscure the fact that US military action was directed more at Cubans and Filipinos than against Spanish troops. This latter fact is acknowledged with regard to the Filipino rebels by speaking of the war in the Philippines as "the Philippine-American War." Likewise, Philip Foner acknowledged the truth about the war in Cuba, as indicated above, by calling it "the Spanish-Cuban-American War."

But although these names are improvements, they leave us without a label for the overall US thrust in the wars of 1898-1902, given the fact that the US took Puerto Rico and Guam as well as Cuba and the Philippines. The US actions of this period could be called "the wars to take Spanish colonies."

Annexing Hawaii

However, even that term is inadequate, because the United States also formally annexed Hawaii during this outburst of imperialist lust. There were several reasons for this lust, including the fact that Hawaii would be an ideal place to begin trade with China and to project military power across the Pacific. President McKinley said: "We need Hawaii as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is Manifest Destiny." The bill to annex Hawaii was submitted by the most imperialist member of the Senate, Henry Cabot Lodge, who — in Stephen Kinzer's words — "wanted the United States to dominate the world."

Lodge and his fellow imperialists — including Theodore Roosevelt, whom Lodge had groomed — were confronted by a growing band of anti-imperialists, which included many of the nation's leaders. The debate between these two movements is recounted in Steven Kinzer's 2017 book, The True Flag. One of the leaders of the anti-imperialists was Harvard professor Charles Eliot Norton, who said in a speech entitled "True Patriotism":

A generation has grown up that has known nothing of war. The blessings of peace have been poured out upon us. We have congratulated ourselves that we were free from the misery and the burdens that war and standing armies have brought upon the nations of the Old World. And now of a sudden ..., America has been compelled against the will of all her wisest and best to enter into a path of darkness and peril. Against their will she has been forced to turn back from the way of civilization to the way of barbarism.

The annexation of Hawaii was also opposed by Senator Allen of Nebraska, who called the debate about it "the greatest question that has ever been presented to the American people. The taking of Hawaii, he correctly predicted, would be only "the first act in the drama of colonization."

The War to Take Cuba

American policy makers and businessmen had long had an appetite for Cuba. In 1823, John Quincy Adams, explaining that there was a "law of political as well of physical gravitation," said US policy should continue to support Spanish sovereignty until such time that Cuba, when "forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain," would fall into US hands, just as "an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but to fall to the ground." In 1825, after all Spain's colonies in this hemisphere had achieved independence except Cuba and Puerto Rico, the USA — which had accepted France's help for its own war of independence — followed Adams' "apple policy" by preventing Mexico and Venezuela from helping Cuba liberate itself.

By the end of the century, the appetite for Cuba had become ravenous. In 1881, Secretary of State James Blaine said that this "rich island" is a crucial part of the American commercial system and "the key to the Gulf of Mexico." Accordingly, if it "ever ceas[es] to be Spanish, Cuba must necessarily become American." In an 1895 symposium — entitled "Ought We to Annex Cuba?" — a leading Wall Street figure wrote: "It makes the water come to my mouth when I think of the state of Cuba as one in our family." Another writer said that we could wait for Canada and the rest of Mexico: "But we want Cuba now."

What the Cuban people wanted was, in this discussion, not a desideratum, although they had been making clear for some time that they wanted independence. In 1868, rebel forces began the First War for Independence. But the USA did not help. While it sold rifles to Spain, it withheld recognition from the rebels, partly because of America's "apple policy" and partly because giving recognition would have released Spain from its obligation to protect US property. (This would be only one of hundreds of cases in which the American government's professed desire to promote freedom would take a back seat to the interests of the American economic elite.) Because this lack of recognition meant that the rebels could not borrow money or buy rifles, they had to give up their battle in 1878.

The Cubans' Second War for Independence began in 1895. Inspired by many Cuban intellectuals, especially José Martí, and led by many outstanding military strategists, especially Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo, the Cubans, without outside help, fought bravely and brilliantly. By 1898, it was clear that the Spanish forces, in spite of being much better armed and outnumbering the Cuban forces six to one, were not going to defeat them.

Although without US intervention the war might have dragged on for many more years, the rebels did not believe they needed, and certainly did not ask for, US intervention (in spite of claims to the contrary by the US administration at the time and by many US historians since). The Cubans only wanted US recognition, which would have allowed them to borrow money and buy arms. Having warned from the outset that Cuban freedom would be compromised if it was won through military intercession by any other country, Antonio Maceo wrote, in response to discussion in the USA as to whether it should intervene to shorten the war:

[W]e do not need any intervention to obtain victory in more or less time. Do you really want to cut the war down? Bring Cuba 25,000 to 35,000 rifles and a million bullets. ... We Cubans do not need any other help.

Likewise, Máximo Gómez told President Grover Cleveland that the Cubans were confident of their strength and did not need others to do their fighting for them. Indeed, when the next president, William McKinley, decided to intervene while still refusing to give the Cubans recognition, one of the Cuban spokesmen said they would "regard such intervention as nothing less than a declaration of war by the United States against the Cuban revolutionists." All the Cuban leaders reflected the view of José Martí, who asked, rhetorically and prophetically: "Once the United States is in Cuba, who will get her out?"

There is no evidence, furthermore, that the USA entered the war because it thought that the Cubans could not win on their own. Instead, it evidently entered because it feared that they would. The written record suggested, said Foner, that the McKinley administration thought that "Spanish sovereignty in Cuba was collapsing" and that "if the United States waited too long, the Cuban revolutionary forces would emerge victorious, replacing the collapsing Spanish regime."

This interpretation certainly fits with America's "apple policy" and with its behavior after intervening. It also fits with the fact that McKinley's secretary of state, John Sherman, advised him that US policy toward Cuba "must be controlled by commercial interests rather than by sympathy with a people struggling for liberty."


Excerpted from "The American Trajectory"
by .
Copyright © 2018 David Ray Griffin.
Excerpted by permission of Clarity Press, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 9

Dedication 13

Foreword Reconceptualizing the Law and History of Indigenous Peoples' Genocide by Canada Ward Churchill 15

Introduction The Colonizer's Way of Genocide: Confronting the Wall of Evasion and Denial 21

Rubrics of Denial 23

Beyond the Wall 29

A Few Comments on Style and Terminology 36

Finally, Some Anticipated Criticisms 37

Chapter 1 Naming the Crime: Defining Genocide in International Law 39

Origination of the Term 40

The Litany of Definitional Distortions 45

Drafting the Genocide Convention 45

Ad Hoc and Sixth Committee Debates 48

Forced Transfer of Children 55

Elements of the Crime 58

Actus Reus 60

Causing Serious Bodily Mental Harm to Members of the Group 60

Forcibly Transferring Children of the Group to Another Group 66

Mens Rea 68

The Matter of "Specific Intent" 70

The Travaux and the Anti-Colonial Factor 76

Colonial Clause 78

Chapter 2 The Horror: Canada's Forced Transfer of Indigenous Children 89

The Goal of Complete Assimilation 90

Forcible Transfer and Resistance 95

Destruction of the National Pattern 99

Imposition of the National Pattern 110

Death and Disease 113

Torture 116

Forced Starvation 119

Forced Labour 123

Sexual Predation 124

Immediate and Long-Term Effects 127

Forcible Removals in the Child Welfare Systems 132

Traumatic Parenting Patterns 136

Photos 140

Chapter 3 Coming to Grips with Canada as a Colonizing State: The Creator Knows Their Lies and So Must We 153

The Colonial Framework 153

Civilizing Discourse 159

Cognitive Conditioning 160

Metaphors and Models 164

Definitions 166

Colonialism and Genocide 167

'Colonization' as Domination and Dehumanization 171

Indoctrination 174

Doctrines of Racial Superiority 180

The Invention of "Civilization" 184

Forced Transfer Affects Our Nationhood 186

Model of Domination and Dehumanization 190

Demonization, Isolation and Destruction 195

Chapter 4 Smoke and Mirrors: Canada's Pretense of Compliance with the Genocide Convention 206

Controversy 206

Genocide in Public International Law 209

The "Made in Canada" Approach to Genocide 211

Separating Rhetoric from Reality 219

Reserving the Right to Commit Genocide 222

The 1951 ICJ Advisory Opinion 223

Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 229

Applying the Law to Canada 232

Article 18 Application 232

Application ofthe UNGC 243

Forcible Transferring 251

Serious Bodily and Mental Harm 254

Intent 258

Forcible Transfers into the Child Welfare System 264

Conclusion The Way Ahead: Self-Determination is the Solution 269

Self-Determination is the Solution 278

Afterword Why the Chidren? Sharon Helen Venne 282

Endnotes 286

Index 365

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