Courtesy Tamara Starblanket
“Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination in international law. Minorities do not have the rights of self-determination.”

Reconciliation Is the New Assimilation: New NAIPC Co-Chair

Terri Hansen

Tamara Starblanket (Spider Woman), Cree, from Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Treaty Six Territory, Canada, recently accepted the international appointment as Co-Chair of the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus (NAIPC). She was nominated by Indigenous participants from the U.S. and Canada attending the NAIPC gathering last March, there to discuss critical issues, find common ground and create a collective platform in preparation for the 15th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN Headquarters in New York City in May.

Starblanket is the Instructor and Program Coordinator for the Aboriginal Justice Studies Certificate Program at Native Education College. She used her education in law to prove that genocide occurred in Canada. She is the author of the forthcoming book, “Suffer the Little Children – Genocide: Indigenous Nations in the Canadian State.” Noam Chomsky said of her book, "Settler-colonialism reveals the brutal face of imperialism in some of its most vicious forms. This carefully researched and penetrating study focuses on one of its ugliest manifestations, the forcible transferring of indigenous children, and makes a strong case for Canadian complicity in a form of 'cultural genocide' – with implications that reach to the Anglosphere generally, and to some of the worst crimes of the 'civilized world' in the modern era."

We spoke with Starblanket about her new role.

What will be your priorities?

The NAIPC wants to raise awareness about state genocide against the Original Nations on Great Turtle Island. It is our responsibility and obligation to understand that our ‘original laws and instructions’ protect our Mother Earth. The effects of the residential school and boarding school system forcibly indoctrinated our Original Nations and Peoples through colonial violence. Our children were massively tortured for practicing their spiritual and cultural traditions. Examples of the torture include having needles through the tongue for a prolonged period of time, dry ice on the tongue, whippings, beatings, solitary confinement, starvation and many more other acts of genocide.

As the Original Nations, we depend on the continuance of the healthy characteristics of our societies and Nations. Instead, we pass off the colonial destruction through the generations because of the massive and widespread patterns of serious bodily and mental harm against our children that began in the residential school system. The colonial violence against the innocent has caused the high rates of the forcible removals in the child welfare system and other colonial institutions such as youth detention facilities, adult prisons and so forth. This is genocide. What’s not explained to most people is that the massive patterns of harm have manifested into our peoples and nations that do not “think, speak and write” in our original languages.

It is our responsibility to teach our children our laws and obligations that protect our Earth. Our spiritual laws are encoded in our original languages. An Elder said once that our languages are spiritual. So what we have today are people that make decisions on behalf of us that can have a detrimental impact. Examples of this include the land claims system or reconciliation process in Canada. People indoctrinated in a language that dominates the Earth will not understand that they have an obligation to protect the land for future generations. We are referring here to the assimilation of our Nations into the settler state systems. Examples of this can be the people who continue to insist that “organizations” such as the AFN and the IITC can speak on behalf of our Original Nations.

What issues were deemed the most critical for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues this May?

The present theme “Indigenous Peoples: Conflict, Peace and Resolution,” is missing a critical component of the experience of colonial invasion and domination. As one Elder noted at the caucus meeting, we cannot have peace and conflict in the same sentence. Another integral aspect is the truth and as far as we can tell, there is no truth taking place. Our treaties are being violated daily by the claiming of our lands and the forcible removal of our children into present times. Genocide in its various forms must be a discussion at this UNPFII.


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