Monday, July 25, 2022

Special Feature: Selected Poems for a Socio-Historical Understanding of the Pope's 6-Day "Apology" Tour for Indigenous Abuse

My Fellow Canadians and Readers:

Pope Francis landed in Canada yesterday for a six-day tour to apologize for the horrors of church-run Indigenous residential schools, marking the first papal visit to the country in 20 years.

Between 1881 and 1996 more than 150,000 indigenous children were taken from their families and brought to residential schools. Many children were starved, beaten and sexually abused in a system that Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission called "cultural genocide." The legacy of that abuse and isolation from family has been cited by Indigenous leaders as a root cause of the epidemic rates of alcohol and drug addiction on Canadian reservations.

Then in 2021, the remains of around 215 children were found at the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school, in Kamloops, British Columbia. More probable graves followed outside other former residential schools. After the discovery, Francis finally agreed to meet with Indigenous delegations last spring and promised to come to their lands to apologize in person (Associated Press, July 23: "Pope's Indigenous tour signals a rethink of mission legacy")

for a residential school survivor

alone, she stares 
through a half-open door ...
the EXIT sign
lights the priest's face
and a naked boy, bent over

PoemHunter, July 6 2021

FYI: The Canadian Press, July 28, 2022: Pope Francis denounces 'evil' of sexual abuse for first time on Canadian soil

“I think in particular of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, crimes that require firm action and an irreversible commitment."

to Justin Trudeau who feels sorry about the "terrible mistakes [Not Crimes] of the past."

bulky reports
on indigenous peoples
gather dust ...
we just lower flags for the kids
in an unmarked mass grave

NeverEnding Story, June 1 2021

unmarked children's graves
found in summer heat ...
another report on racism
waiting to to be written

NeverEnding Story, June 25 2021

children's mass grave discovered
church burned down in the dark ...
Elders stare into the camera, at us

NeverEnding Story, July 14 2021

the oldest 
residential school defaced
in gathering dark
one hundred ninety years ago
children's screams into silence

NeverEnding Story, July 14 2021

O Canada
on the first National Day for "Truth" and "Reconciliation" 

no clean water
from the taps on some First Nations
for decades ...
an Elder gazes at a lineup
for Every Child Matters shirts

in the spotlight
the PM's blah, blah, blah speech
on hard truths
a sea of orange shirts 
marching to Parliament Hill

NeverEnding Story, September 30 2021

Orange Shirt Day
an Elder's ten-year-old self
sobs into the dark

NeverEnding Story, September 30 2021

An Indigenous Mother of Seven

Tied to a gurney, she pleads for someone to get her out. Her cellphone video is live- streamed on Facebook as dusk gathers outside the hospital. Nurses dismiss her worries that the medication she's receiving could aggravate her heart condition.

“You’re dumb as hell,” one nurse yells at her, then mutters, “You’re better off dead. Better to f*ck than for anything else.” Another nurse scolds her for making poor choices and getting sick, adding, "and we’re the ones paying for it.”

She dies alone that same night. Silence shrouds the room until an orderly finds her the next morning. She was 37.

candlelight vigil ...
another hardcover report
on racism

Cattails, April, 2021

Nothing New under the Sun

Sunlight slants in through the study window, reaching the front page of today's newspaper on my coffee-stained  desk.  The headline story details the latest Auditor General's report. His report states that the socio-economic  gap on  reserves hasn't improved in the last two decades, and the gap in high-school graduation rates has actually  widened.According to the reporter, things got a little nasty Monday afternoon at the Indigenous Affairs meeting as  MPs grilled civil servants over the gap. One MP even warned, "heads need to roll if bureaucrats don't shape up on  First Nations education." His warning becomes today's eye-catching headline.

sixth graders
in the windowless classroom
on the reserve
a new teacher talks about
thinking outside the box

Atlas Poetica, 36, 2019

To conclude today's special feature post, I would like to share with you my reflection on this groundbreaking issue:

Actions Speak for Themselves
a tanka sequence-in progress written in response to the Pope's 6-Day "Apology" Tour for Indigenous Abuse

the Pope apologized
during a private audience
at the Vatican
just some Catholics, not the Church
a survivor lamented 

feathered headdresses
carved walrus tusks and masks
gathering dust
in the Vatican's storage room ... 
Pope's "apology" tour starts

the Pope 
in a wheelchair guarded
by four men ...
face to face with survivors
in manual wheelchairs

Pope's apology
delivered in languages 
once forbidden
in residential schools
survivors' faces in light and shadows

with her fist up
in the simmering heat
she sings in Cree
to the tune of O' Canada ...
to rebuke Pope Francis


FYI: Associated Press, July 21: "Vatican says they're gifts; Indigenous groups want them back." 

The Vatican Museums are home to some of the most magnificent artworks in the world, from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to ancient Egyptian antiquities and a pavilion full of papal chariots. But one of the museum’s least-visited collections is becoming its most contested before Pope Francis’ trip to Canada.

Official Canadian policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries also aimed to suppress Indigenous spiritual and cultural traditions at home, including the 1885 Potlatch Ban that prohibited the integral First Nations ceremony.

Government agents confiscated items used in the ceremony and other rituals, and some of them ended up in museums in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, as well as private collections.

It is possible Indigenous peoples gave their handiworks to Catholic missionaries for the 1925 expo or that the missionaries bought them. But historians question whether the items could have been offered freely given the power imbalances at play in Catholic missions and the government’s policy of eliminating Indigenous traditions, which Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called “cultural genocide.”

“By the power structure of what was going on at that time, it would be very hard for me to accept that there wasn’t some coercion going on in those communities to get these objects,” said Michael Galban, a Washoe and Mono Lake Paiute who is director and curator of the Seneca Art & Culture Center in upstate New York.

Gloria Bell, a fellow at the American Academy in Rome and assistant professor in McGill University’s department of art history and communication studies, agreed.

“Using the term ‘gift’ just covers up the whole history,” said Bell, who is of Metis ancestry and is completing a book about the 1925 expo. “We really need to question the context of how these cultural belongings got to the Vatican, and then also their relation to Indigenous communities today.”

“These pieces hold our stories,” he said. “These pieces hold our history. These pieces hold the energy of those ancestral grandmothers.”

And below is an excerpt from Pope Francis's Apology:

... I think back on the stories you told: how the policies of assimilation ended up systematically marginalizing the Indigenous Peoples; how also through the system of residential schools your languages and cultures were denigrated and suppressed; how children suffered physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse ...

I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which "many members of the Church and of religious communities co-operated," not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools ...

And The Canadian Press, July 26: "What Pope Francis left out in his words of apology to residential school survivors"

1 A revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery

2 An apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution

3 Any mention of sexual abuse — or genocide

4 A promise to release documents and artifacts

5. A commitment to reparations and compensation

And CBC News, July 29: "I couldn't stay silent," says Cree singer who performed powerful message for Pope Francis: Si Pih Ko was not reacting emotionally to the Pope’s apology, she says: she was rebuking him


the Pope preaching,
God calls us to love others...
women hold the banner
facing the congregation

FYI: CTV News, July 28: Want healing for residential school survivors? 'Rip up' the Doctrine of Discovery: activist

"Rescind the Doctrine"  was present at the Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre basilica on Thursday, spelled out in bold, red letters.

The Doctrine of Discovery is a "centuries-old papal pronouncement used to justify the colonization, conversion and enslavement of non-Christians and the seizure of their lands."

And Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer, July 29: "It just feels so raw": National Chief RoseAnne Archibald reflects on the papal visit

Is there a specific moment that stood out to you on this visit?

There were many moments. Two of them involved women.

When Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson went up to the stage after the apology and started shouting: “What about the Doctrine of Discovery? Revoke the Doctrine of Discovery!” That was a powerful moment.

The other was when [Si Pih Ko] was singing a prayer song. That was a really visceral moment, and she was almost right in front of me, and I was so moved by her strength and ability to stand in that moment with such emotion but to still sing that song. I felt that was a really healing moment for her and all of us.

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