Today in the Americas, Harper's Apology

candad harper indians

Man oh man. Today last year (June 11, 2008), Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized the Canada’s Inuit, Métis and First Nations – for school abuse while taken from their homes and isolated in remote Canadian camps, abuse that continued for over a century (the last school closed in 1996!). This is similar territory for US citizens, as we sought to assimilate and destroy Native cultural identities in boarding schools from sea to shining sea.

The politics of apology are awkward at best. On the one side, you have those who never want to feel bad for what a nation has done. On the other, you have those who see the cynicism and will never accept an apology. Stephen Harper’s apology lands in the same camp as Bill Clinton’s apologizing for Guatemala – there’s glimmers of shame for getting caught. It’s not like they wouldn’t do it again.

In fact, today, many groups are still pushing Canada to sign the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People, which it’s protested in the past due to Article 19, which would require his government to secure the right to, say, drill in the tar sands of Alberta, or any indigenous land in regards to general public policy. But Harper is not alone, for all of the major epicenters of British colonialism (minus Indian-free Britain, of course) oppose the Declaration, including the United States. For you see, there is not reason to open new land claims, no reason to protect our original inhabitants, no reason to try to truly right that massive wrongs. Because, let’s face it, apologies are bullshit, especially if they’re televised, announced prior to the “event,” and backed up on absolutely NO fundamental change in governmental policy.

Unlike North America (and the rest of the white, English speaking world that should “apologize” for their hand in the various atrocities committed against indigenous people), Latin America has wised up and has taken concrete actions to prevent the, quite similar, genocides and cultural intimidation and assimilation that occurred in the US and Canada. Bolivia, the first country to sign the UN Declaration, has voted into office Evo Morales, who identifies with the Indian peoples of South America, something unimaginable even a few decades ago. Indian people’s have been accepted into governmental bodies now for the past decade, leading to greater viability. But, if not always good news (like the suppression of Awa Indians in Colombia, among others), people are still standing up and voicing their opposition to governmental oppression of those the people see as citizens like themselves. The self-denial of indigenous heritage in Central America and the inner harbors of South America stand in contrast to the sweeping under the rug the Anglo world has held as policy for far too long.

Yet I will not deny that the words help, surely they do. But when do apologies end? Will we be apologizing two hundreds from now for stealing the oil underneath their tar sands? Of course, we’ll use the “greed” excuse and rally behind the progress of human beings in denouncing the policies of Stephen Harper and his predecessors while declaring, in the year 2209, that we (if there is still a planet to call home) have changed. That we “apologize” for their sins.

The question, I guess, becomes what new sins will we be perpetrating against our original brothers and sisters throughout the next two hundred years? Only time will tell.

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~ by Daniel on June 11, 2009.

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