Family searches for man missing on island in traditional healing journey

Travis Damon Thomas is shown in a handout photo. Occasionally, the 41-year-old who is listed as a missing person by the RCMP has been spotted. (Alfred Dick-Facebook/The Canadian Press)

Family and friends believe Thomas was dealing with deeper mental illness than they were aware of

The evidence of Travis Damon Thomas’s survival is scarce but his uncle says it’s scattered around a remote island off the coast of Vancouver Island: a circle of footprints, the remains of a sea urchin, a burned log.

Occasionally, the 41-year-old who is listed as a missing person by the RCMP has been spotted.

Thomas was sent to Bartlett Island near Tofino in July as part of an Indigenous tradition to help him heal from addiction and other ailments, said Alfred Dick, his uncle.

But the traditional method of the Ahousaht First Nation didn’t go as planned, Dick said, when Thomas didn’t return home after two weeks.

“Something just went awry on this one,” Dick said.

Seven months later, friends and family visit the island daily to leave food and other supplies for Thomas and try to coax him home.

“When we start a healing journey within our nation — if you’re having troubles, maybe addiction or something of that sort — we usually bring them to an island or isolated area where they can be by themselves and find themselves for roughly about two weeks before we let anyone join them and start helping and counselling them,” Dick said from the island as he dropped off supplies.

“He got put on the island and when they come to check on him he wasn’t around. All the signs were here that he was here, but he was nowhere to be seen, he went into the bush.”

Difficult search

Family and friends now believe Thomas was dealing with deeper mental illness than they were aware of. He had also faced several devastating challenges in recent years including the death of his wife, Dick said.

The island, which is only about 1.5 kilometres long and 700 metres wide, has regularly been used as a site for traditional healing but members of the First Nation usually stick to the beaches instead of the dense inland forest.

The RCMP say Thomas was last seen on the island on Aug. 7. When he couldn’t be found, his family conducted its own search.

The evidence of Thomas’s survival is scarce but his uncle says it’s scattered around a remote island off the coast of Vancouver Island: a circle of footprints, the remains of a sea urchin, a burned log. (Alfred Dick-Facebook/The Canadian Press)

Dick said five days was the longest stretch of time that passed without any evidence of Thomas.

RCMP ground and air patrols, local search and rescue teams, and the Canadian Coast Guard have conducted an extensive but unsuccessful search. On Oct. 18, more than 200 ground search volunteers and 20 vessels combed the island and surrounding waters, the RCMP say.

“Our search is unfortunately very difficult given the island’s extremely dense forest and brush area,” Sgt. Todd Pebernat says in the statement issued in November, which the Mounties say still stands when they were asked for an interview earlier this month.

Mental state unknown

The missing person file remains open and while the formal search has been suspended, local efforts continue.

The Mounties say they have no information to suggest Thomas had left the island but “are alive to the possibility that he may no longer be there.”

“The desire to find Mr. Thomas remains within all of us. To this end, the RCMP has maintained its presence of trail cameras on the island and examines any new reports of possible sightings or compelling leads,” the statement says.

Elder Dave Frank, who is a cultural support worker with Ahousaht’s wellness department, said he believes Thomas just needs more time.

“Without seeing him or talking to him, I don’t know what his mental state is right now. On a physical state, he’s doing OK,” Frank said.

When an individual is sent to the island, it’s a decision made by the family, he said. But the department provides support, including sending a counsellor to the island for one-on-one time with the individual, he said.

“Where I come from, we live in the best of two worlds. We live in a Western society with Western expertise and medical and all those things, and we also live in a world of the old ways too,” he said.

‘It changes you’

Providing an individual with supplies is also newer practice, he said, because in the past a person would only be left with tools and medicine.

The department leaves it up to the family to decide when a loved one is ready to return home.

There have been cases when a family has pulled the individual back early because he or she appears to be suffering instead of healing, he said, and there are cases where someone hasn’t returned home for one or two years.

There have been more successful cases than failed ones, he said.

“When you get out there, it changes you, you’re forced to look within yourself,” he said. “They begin to take a look at themselves and move forward.”

About half a dozen family and friends visit the island every day and Thomas’s Facebook page express love and affection for him.

“We’re just praying and hoping that he comes to us soon,” Dick said.

Amy Smart · The Canadian Press · Posted: Mar 17, 2019 by CBC News

[SOURCE]

2000-year-old artifact redefining age of tattooing in western North America

2,000 year old tattoo needle made of cactus spines discovered in Utah

Archaeologists have discovered the oldest Native tattooing artifact in western North America.

The artifact came from the very important Basket-maker II culture and is estimated to be 2000-years-old.

The tattoo tool made by the Ancestral Pueblo people, consists of a 3 ½ inch wooden skunkbush sumac handle bound at the end with split yucca leaves and holding two parallel cactus spines, stained with dark pigment at their tips.

A chemical analysis of the pigment on the tips found a residue of carbon which is often used in ancient tattooing ink.

Tattooing instrument recovered from site in the Bears Ears region. (WSU)

The artifact is about the size of a pen.

It had been sitting in storage for more than 40 years.

According to online sources, Andrew Gillreath-Brown, an anthropology Ph.D. candidate, was cataloging artifacts that were recovered from an archaeological site in the south of Utah in the Bears Ears region. These items had been unearthed in 1972 and deposited in Washington State University but not properly examined.

He is the lead author of a paper on the tattoo tool which was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

This is a close up of cactus spine tattoo tool discovered by WSU archaeologist Andrew Gillreath-Brown. Credit: Bob Hubner/WSU

The find is important because they are the “oldest tattoo artifacts in western North America” reports KEPR.tv.com.

Carbon dating shows it’s from between AD 79 and 130.

Before this tool was discovered, the oldest tattooing needle found in western North America was an artifact from Aztec Ruins in New Mexico that dates to between 1100 and 1280 A.D.

Whereas most modern tattoos are drawn with motorized machines that puncture the skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute, the Utah relic uses more of a stick-and-poke technique.

“You would’ve held it like you would have a pen and done a series of hand poking,” Gillreath-Brown said.

When European colonialists and missionaries invaded indigenous lands in North American and beyond, they often forbade the practice of tattooing among native peoples. In many places around the world, traditional tattooing all but died out.

Researchers asked tribal elders if their ancestors had practiced tattooing. Many, including from the Zuni, Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, said yes.

Tattooing had a cultural significance and was embraced by indigenous people. However, little is known about when or why the practice began.

B.C. Starts New Reconciliation Process With Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

Drummers play as Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Namoks (John Ridsdale), front left, enters the room as Indigenous nations and supporters gather to show support for the Wet’suwet’en Nation before marching together in solidarity, in Smithers, B.C., January 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS

British Columbia says it’s starting a new reconciliation process with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who are at the centre of opposition to a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

The province says in a release Thursday that the government and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en are undertaking a process focused on Wet’suwet’en title, rights, laws and traditional governance throughout their territory.

The release says B.C. has appointed Victoria MP and lawyer Murray Rankin as its representative to help guide and design the process, adding that Rankin has an understanding of the Supreme Court’s historic Delgamuukw decision that helped define Indigenous title.

It says the province and the Wet’suwet’en are committed to explore a path forward together that seeks to build trust over time and meaningfully advance reconciliation.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs oppose Coastal GasLink’s plans to build a pipeline from northeastern B.C. to LNG Canada’s export terminal in Kitimat, and RCMP arrested 14 people at a blockade last month before reaching a deal with the chiefs.

The province says its commitment to lasting reconciliation is not connected to any specific project, and the new process will build on discussions that have been ongoing since Premier John Horgan and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser visited the territory in August.

“We all recognize that the path forward will involve challenges. It will take a willingness to innovate and take bold steps together,” the province says.

“This engagement is a historic opportunity to advance Wet’suwet’en self-determination and self-governance, and for the province and Wet’suwet’en Nation to establish a deeper relationship based on respect and recognition of rights.”

[SOURCE]

CSIS gathered info on peaceful groups, but only in pursuit of threats: Watchdog

Demonstrators protest Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver. In its February 2014 complaint to the CSIS watchdog, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association alleged the spy service had overstepped its legal authority by monitoring environmentalists opposed to the now-defunct project. (Reuters)

Demonstrators protest Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver. (Reuters)

Committee concluded fears of CSIS surveillance were unjustified

Canada’s spy service collected some information about peaceful anti-petroleum groups, but only incidentally in the process of investigating legitimate threats to projects such as oil pipelines, says a long-secret federal watchdog report.

The newly disclosed report from the Security Intelligence Review Committee acknowledges concerns about a “chilling effect,” stemming from a belief that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was spying on environmental organizations.

Advocacy and environmental groups Leadnow, the Dogwood Initiative and the Council of Canadians are mentioned in the thousands of pages of CSIS operational reports examined by the review committee.

But after analyzing evidence and testimony, the committee concluded the fears of CSIS surveillance were unjustified.

The heavily censored review committee report, completed last year and kept under wraps, is only now being made public because of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s challenge of the findings in the Federal Court of Canada.

In its February 2014 complaint to the CSIS watchdog, the association alleged the spy service had overstepped its legal authority by monitoring environmentalists opposed to Enbridge’s now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

It also accused CSIS of sharing this information with the National Energy Board and petroleum industry companies, deterring people from expressing their opinions and associating with environmental groups.

The review committee’s dismissal of the complaint has been known since September 2017, but a confidentiality order by the committee prevented the civil liberties association from releasing the report. As the association fights to overturn the dismissal, redacted versions of the detailed findings and related documents are being added to the public court record.

Info collected fell within CSIS mandate: review

The association, which became concerned about CSIS activities through media reports, told the committee of a chilling effect for civil society groups from the spy service’s information-gathering as well as comments by then-national resources minister Joe Oliver denouncing “environmental and other radical groups.”

A CSIS witness testified the spy service “is not in the business of investigating environmentalists because they are advocating for an environmental cause, period.”

Still, another CSIS witness spoke of the need for “domain awareness” to identify “potential triggers and flashpoints” — in part to ensure the service is aware of what is happening should a threat arise, the report says.

Ultimately, the review committee concluded CSIS’s information collection fell within its mandate, and that the service did not investigate activities involving lawful advocacy, protest or dissent. The report indicates that any information on peaceful groups was gathered “in an ancillary manner, in the context of other lawful investigations.”

The report also says there was no “direct link” between CSIS and the chilling effect groups mentioned in testimony before the committee.

The civil liberties association considers some of the findings contradictory, pointing to the 441 CSIS operational reports deemed relevant to the committee’s inquiry, totalling over 2,200 pages.

For instance, one of the largely censored CSIS records, now disclosed through the court, says the reporting was further to “the Service’s efforts in assessing the threat environment and the potential for threat-related violence stemming from (redacted) protests/demonstrations.”

Another refers to the Dogwood Initiative as a “non-profit, Canadian environmental organization that was established in 1999 ‘to help communities and First Nations gain more control of the land and resources around them so they can be managed in a way that does not rob future generations for short-term corporate gain.”‘

The passages before and after the description are blacked out.

“It’s our view that these documents demonstrate that CSIS was keeping tabs on these groups, even if they weren’t formal targets,” said Paul Champ, a lawyer for the civil liberties association.

“But we maintain it’s unlawful to keep information on these groups in CSIS databanks when they are only guilty of exercising their democratic rights.”

The committee report says CSIS should review its holdings to ensure it is keeping only information that is strictly necessary, as spelled out in the law governing the spy service.

The report cites “clear evidence” CSIS took part in meetings with Natural Resources Canada and the private sector, including the petroleum industry, at the spy service’s headquarters, but says these briefings involved “national security matters.”

The committee also concludes CSIS did not share information concerning the environmental groups in question with the National Energy Board or non-governmental members of the petroleum business.

Even so, the perception of CSIS discussing security issues with the oil industry can “give rise to legitimate concern,” the committee report adds. “This needs to be addressed.”

The committee urges CSIS to widen the circle of its public security discussions to include environmental and other civil society groups.

By Jim Bronskill · The Canadian Press 

[SOURCE]

Woman charged in connection with triple homicide near Oneida Nation

(Left to right) Michael Shane Jamieson, Melissa Trudy Miller, and Alan Grant Porter, are pictured in this composite image of photos released by Ontario Provincial Police on Nov 15, 2018. (Handout /OPP)

Six Nations woman charged with accessory to murder

An arrest has been made in connection to the murder of three people just outside the Oneida of the Thames First Nation in Ontario.

The deceased, Melissa Miller, Alan Porter and Michael Jamieson, were all members of Six Nations of the Grand River, a First Nations community near Brantford Ont.

They were found dead with a stolen grey 2006 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck in a field around 10 a.m. on Nov. 4., in Middlesex County. Police would not say how the victims died.

According to media reports, Ontario Provincial Police, with the assistance of the Six Nations Police Service, arrested 36-year-old Kirsten Bomberry of Six Nations on Friday and charged her with three counts of accessory after the fact to murder.

Bomberry briefly appeared in court on Saturday and was remanded into custody.

The court case is expected to take place in London Ont and a publication ban is now in effect.

This is the first arrest in connection to the triple murder.

OPP say there will be periodic closures in Six Nations as their investigation continues, in area of 4th Line at Tuscarora Road and Onondaga Road.

The landfill in Six Nations will remain open but will only be accessible from Onondaga Road. The closures are expected to last for a several days.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police tip-line at ‪1-844-677-5050‬, or the Six Nations Police Service at ‪519-445-2811‬. Should you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers at ‪1-800-222-8477‬ (TIPS)

Connection to similar incident in 2017

CTV News reports, Miller was seven months pregnant with a boy at the time of her death.

Police say Miller and Porter were cousins and Porter and Jamieson were close friends.

Sources tell CTV that Miller was Douglas Hill’s common-law wife.

Hill another Six Nations man, was found dead in 2017, in Oneida Nation of the Thames territory, not far from the location of the triple murder. Four people were charged in connection with his case including a 17-year-old girl.

The charges were all dismissed last month.

By Black Powder, RPM Staff

400 years later, Natives who helped Pilgrims finally being heard

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

(AP) – The seaside town where the Pilgrims came ashore in 1620 is gearing up for a 400th birthday bash, and everyone’s invited — especially the native people whose ancestors wound up losing their land and their lives.

Plymouth, Massachusetts, whose European settlers have come to symbolize American liberty and grit, marks its quadricentennial in 2020 with a trans-Atlantic commemoration that will put Native Americans’ unvarnished side of the story on full display.

“It’s history. It happened,” said Michele Pecoraro, executive director of Plymouth 400, Inc., a nonprofit group organizing yearlong events. “We’re not going to solve every problem and make everyone feel better. We just need to move the needle.”

Organizers are understandably cautious this time around. When the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing was observed in 1970, state officials disinvited a leader of the Wampanoag Nation — the Native American tribe that helped the haggard newcomers survive their first bitter winter — after learning his speech would bemoan the disease, racism and oppression that followed the Pilgrims.

That triggered angry demonstrations from tribal members who staged a National Day of Mourning, a somber remembrance that indigenous New Englanders have observed on every Thanksgiving Day since.

This time, there’s pressure to get it right, said Jim Peters, a Wampanoag who directs the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs.

“We’ll be able to tell some stories of what happened to us — to delve back into our history and talk about it,” Peters said. “Hopefully it will give us a chance to re-educate people and have a national discussion about how we should be treating each other.”

The commemoration known as Plymouth 400 will feature events throughout 2020, including a maritime salute in Plymouth Harbor in June, an embarkation festival in September, and a week of ceremonies around Thanksgiving.

The Mayflower II , a replica of the ship that carried the settlers from Europe to the New World four centuries ago, will sail to Boston in the spring. That autumn, it will head to Provincetown, at the outermost tip of Cape Cod, where the Pilgrims initially landed before continuing on to Plymouth.

Events also are planned in Britain and in the Netherlands, where the Pilgrims spent 11 years in exile before making their perilous sea crossing.

But the emphasis is on highlighting the often-ignored history of the Wampanoag and poking holes in the false narrative that Pilgrims and Indians coexisted in peace and harmony.

An interactive exhibit now making the rounds describes how the Wampanoag were cheated and enslaved, and in August 2020 tribal members will guide visitors on a walk through Plymouth to point out and consecrate spots where their ancestors once trod.

There are also plans to invite relatives of the late Wampanoag elder Wamsutta “Frank” James to publicly read that speech he wasn’t allowed to deliver in 1970 — an address that includes this passage: “We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end.”

Dusty Rhodes, who chairs a separate state commission working to ensure the commemoration has a global profile, said she hopes it all helps make amends for centuries of “mishandled and misrepresented” history.

“The Pilgrims were the first immigrants,” said Plymouth 400’s Pecoraro. “We’re in a place in this country where we need solidarity. We need to come together. We need to be talking about immigration and indigenous people.”

Plymouth, nicknamed “America’s Hometown,” is sure to draw a crush of 2020 presidential candidates who will use its monuments as campaign backdrops. With President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and other heads of state on the invitation list, state and federal authorities already are busy mapping out security plans.

Wampanoag tribal leader and activist Linda Coombs, who’s helped plan the commemoration, is skeptical that anything meaningful will change for her people.

“It’s a world stage, so we’ll have more visibility than we’ve had in the past,” she said. “We’ll see if it’s enough. It’ll be a measuring stick for all that has to come afterward.”

The Associated Press

[SOURCE]

Police identify victims of triple homicide near Oneida Nation

Bodkin Road was closed to traffic in the area where three bodies were found in Middlesex Centre, Ont. (CTV London)

Three members of Six Nations found dead

The discovery of three bodies just outside the Oneida of the Thames First Nation has turned into a triple homicide investigation.

The two men and one woman found dead on Sunday in Middlesex Centre, near Bodkin Road and Jones Drive, were from Six Nations of the Grand River, a First Nations community near Brantford Ont.

Police were called to the area at 10 a.m. Sunday after reports of a grey truck in a field.

The OPP would not say whether the bodies were found inside the truck, or outside.

Police confirmed the identities of the deceased as 37-year-old Melissa Trudy Miller, 33-year-old Alan Grant Porter and 32-year-old Michael Shane Jamieson.

On Wednesday, multiple OPP K-9 searches were done in the area where the truck and bodies were found.

While police revealed the names and ages of the victims, nothing was said about the cause of the deaths and few other details are known.

However police have zeroed in on the grey 2006 Chevrolet Silverado pickup and are asking members of the public who may have seen the truck in the area of Bodkin Road prior to 10 a.m. on Nov 4th to contact them.

Police have released a generic photo of a grey 2006 Chevrolet Silverado, similar to the one OPP say was located with the bodies.

According to Global News, though the grisly discovery wasn’t made on Oneida Nation land, its Chief, Jessica Hill, has been in contact with Six Nations.

“We’re sending our condolences to the community of Six Nations, to the families there” she said.

“We’re hoping the individuals responsible will be brought to justice.”

The OPP has set up a hotline for tips related to the homicide investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to call a new police tipline at 1-844-677-5050, the Six Nations Police Service at 1519-445-2811 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Police have confirmed that the homicides are not being investigated in connection with any other cases.

Similar incident in 2017

The remains of 48-year-old Douglas Hill were found on Oneida land, in Aug 2017. He was last seen in Six Nations on June 24th. Hill’s death was considered a homicide.

The cause of his death has not been made public. Four people were charged in connection with the case including a 17-year-old girl. The charges were all dismissed last month.

No information is available as to why the prosecution ended.

By Black Power, RPM Staff

In Saskatchewan, Indigenous people are worried that a new trespassing plan may stoke racial tensions

Debbie Baptiste, mother of Colten Boushie, holds a photo of her son during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 14, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

  • The Saskatchewan throne speech last month included a reference to changing trespassing laws to ‘better address the appropriate balance between the rights of rural landowners and members of the public’

A Saskatchewan grandmother who was confronted by a farmer with a gun says changing trespassing laws probably won’t stop crime but could increase racial tension.

Angela Bishop, a Metis lawyer, was driving on a rural road in Alberta in September with her two grandchildren who are visibly Indigenous. They were looking for a place to get out, stretch and go for a short walk during a long drive to Edmonton.

She noticed a vehicle driving up behind her, so she stopped.

A man got out and started to yell at her to get off his road, she said, despite her attempts to explain why she was there. She said she spotted a gun inside his vehicle.

Terrified for her grandchildren, Bishop said she tried to drive away — but the man pursued her.

She eventually pulled over, called law enforcement and requested a police escort. Officers told her that, in fact, it was a public road and she could be there.

As a rural land owner in Saskatchewan, Bishop said she can sympathize with frustration about property crime, but a life is more important.

“My concern would be that they believe they are legally entitled to take the law into their own hands,” she said from Quintana Roo state in Mexico.

The Saskatchewan throne speech last month included a reference to changing trespassing laws to “better address the appropriate balance between the rights of rural landowners and members of the public.”

The government said in an emailed statement that Justice Minister Don Morgan is prepared to meet with Indigenous people to discuss their concerns.

The province has already sought public input on whether access to rural property should require prior permission from a landowner, regardless of the activity, and if not doing so should be illegal.

A lawyer representing the family of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man fatally shot by farmer Gerald Stanley in August 2016, said she is worried the Saskatchewan Party government is engaged in political posturing which could stoke racial fear.

A Saskatchewan farmer was acquitted in the fatal shooting of a 22-year old Indigenous man. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

“Indigenous people aren’t feeling safe that the authorities or the police are going to protect them or that they are not going to be shot at,” Eleanore Sunchild said from Battleford, Sask.

“It seems like there’s more of an approval to take vigilante justice in your hands, and if you are an Indigenous victim, nothing is going to happen to the non-native that shot you.”

Stanley was acquitted of second-degree murder after testifying that his gun went off accidentally. He said he was trying to scare away young people he thought were stealing from him. The Crown decided not to appeal.

Sunchild said the throne speech sends the message that the farmer was right to shoot the Indigenous man and that trespassing fears are justified.

Sunchild wonders what advice she would give her own children if they have car trouble or need help on a rural road.

“Do I tell them to go ask a farmer? I don’t think so.”

Heather Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said the Boushie trial and provincial response have many Indigenous people feeling afraid.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs shocked that downtown Winnipeg is a First Nations burial site

Treaty One Territory, MB. _ Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is shocked to learn there were 1,200 First Nations people who died from a small pox epidemic in the late 1700s and were buried in “the heart of the city of Winnipeg” on “the north bank of the river.”

“It is horrifying to learn of the impact of this small pox epidemic and the number of our people who died due to their contact with the settler society,” said Grand Chief Dumas. “This devastation of our First Nations population cleared the way for the appropriation of their lands and resources. The mere fact that there are a dozen burial sites within short distances of each other and that Winnipeggers do not know whose bones they are walking over, building over is astounding and disheartening.”

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Niigaan Sinclair wrote, a smallpox epidemic destroyed communities across southern Manitoba in 1781. These outbreaks came with a 90 per cent death rate. Scholars have noted that 800 lodges of Indigenous peoples resided at what is now known as The Forks in Winnipeg. First Nations people lived, travelled and traded for 6,000 years at The Forks.

“These epidemics had more than just the immediate effects of First Nations people perishing from the disease; they also altered the lives of not only survivors, but future generations. They affected First Nations’ cultural, social, and political institutions. Their everyday life changed forever. We need to work with the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg to honour those that perished from these outbreaks,” said Grand Chief Dumas.

This could include but not limited to a memorial statue, stories included in history books of Winnipeg and Manitoba, or a plaque at the site of The Forks detailing the small pox epidemic and the effects on First Nations citizens in Manitoba, suggested Grand Chief Dumas.

By Kim Wheeler | Oct 4th, 2018

[SOURCE]

Reader Submission 

First Nations child advocate says child welfare system ‘eats up’ Indigenous kids

Cora Morgan, First Nations Family Advocate at The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) in Winnipeg, Monday, February 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba First Nations children’s advocate says the child welfare system “eats up” Indigenous children and is designed to keep their families at a disadvantage.

Cora Morgan, with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women that the system is set up to apprehend children, not to support families.

“Any challenges that our families are faced with, it’s used against them instead of them being offered support. It victimizes our families,” she said Monday.

“A lot of these things are just perpetual. You can find five or six generations of a family where their children have been taken.”

The inquiry is holding hearings in Winnipeg this week and is expected to focus on child welfare.

Morgan said violence against Indigenous women and girls can be linked to child welfare because it not only removes them from their families, but also takes away their identity and self-worth.

“The system just eats up our children to the point where they lose value for life,” she said.

Manitoba has the highest per-capita rate of children in care and almost 90 per cent are Indigenous. The province said last week that the number of kids in government care dropped for the first time in 15 years to 10,328.

Morgan told the inquiry about a mother who had four children, all of whom were seized at birth primarily because of poverty.

Too much money is being spent on taking kids away from their families and not enough is invested in finding ways to keep them together, Morgan said.

“You keep hearing our government say apprehension is the last resort but it’s the first resort,” she said. “It’s always the first resort.”

Inquiry commissioners said they have heard about the effects of child welfare at every hearing. Qajaq Robinson said many people testified they were survivors of the system and that is “indicative of a huge problem.”

“Whether it’s children, who as a result of their mothers being murdered, ended up in care or women who, as a result of their children being apprehended, lost financial support or lost housing and then ended up in precarious situations having to resort to survival sex work,” she said, adding people are being failed in numerous ways.

“Every jurisdiction we have been to, I have heard it personally from witnesses,” Robinson said.

Morgan gave the inquiry a list of recommendations including supporting First Nations-led initiatives to bring children home and to stop penalizing victims of domestic violence by taking their children away.

The Canadian Press

Source: CTVNews.ca