Iimagine that they take away your six-year-old daughter or son and tell you: we are going to educate you; And you know, the State knows, that you will grow up in discriminatory living conditions, outside of your cultural tradition and exposed to physical, psychological and emotional diseases.
This is how Dr. Elio Masferrer Kan, an anthropologist of religions, describes what was experienced in boarding schools for indigenous children in Canada and others located in the United States and the Republic of Ireland, where thousands of minors died.
It is a form of genocide and although it sounds strong, it must be called as such, “he said in an interview with Excelsior the president of the Latin American Association for the Study of Religions.
Last May, at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, located in British Columbia, they found 215 graves of indigenous children, the event shocked the world and began to emerge testimonies about the abuses to which minors were subjected, such as the prohibition to speak their tongue or to wear typical clothes.
After the discovery in Kamloops, the Cowessess tribe found 750 graves at the Marieval Indian Residential School and last Thursday they found 182 graves at the former St. Eugene’s Mission School.
They were children taken from their family in a coercive way, by a decision of the State, of a State that knew they were going to go to those places and the treatment they gave there, “said Masferrer Kan.
He stressed that in the case of Canada there was a joint work of the Catholic and Anglican Church. “Religious orders and congregations are involved in a process of reeducation of children, a forced process, one of deculturation, where there is an obligation to lose cultural patterns of a certain people.”
The case of Canada is not unique. A report presented in 2013 pointed out that in Ireland, between 1922 and 1998, some 9,000 minors died in 18 shelters operated by the Catholic Church.
The Irish Commission of Inquiry into Maternal and Child Homes indicated that there were “disturbing” levels of infant mortality in these places and that they were subjected to forced labor, studied little and were forbidden to practice their traditions.
In the Republic of Ireland they did something more sadistic. Indigenous women who became pregnant, generally girls or young women who had been abused, many of them by religious men, were locked up in re-education boarding schools, they were forbidden to speak their language, and when their children were born, they were taken from them to re-educate them, ”he told this newspaper Masferrer Kan, emeritus research professor at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Masferrer Kan added that, according to research, many of those women died from the chlorine they used to wash clothes for most of the day.
The national researcher said that in the United States they did the same. “The same ethnic group, for example the black skin, they divided into four or five reserves and mixed them with other ethnic groups, and then sent them as missionaries to different churches, so that they would not form their own church.”
He recalled that indigenous people in the United States did not have citizenship rights and were considered prisoners of war until 1912.
In addition, Florida reported abuses and “mysterious” deaths of students at the Arthur G. Dozier reformatory, which operated from 1900 to 2011. The Geosyntec cleanup company found 27 “anomalies” on the school grounds and treated them as “graves ”. These were added to another 55 discovered in 2013.
The process of deculturation was also seen in Mexico, where a similar process has been documented, as in the Colegio de la Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, where they demanded the entry of upper-class indigenous children to acculturate them, Masferrer Kan said.
Although Pope Francis expressed his “sorrow” over the discovery of the remains of indigenous children in Canada, calls for an apology from the Catholic Church increased.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deplored the Pope’s refusal to acknowledge his “responsibility” and “part of the blame” in running the boarding schools for indigenous children.
At that time it was believed that outside the Catholic Church there was no salvation ”said Masferrer Kan.
The church launched a deculturation company, he said. The Church’s management in these internships “was transformed into a cascade of abuses of the rights of boys and girls.
It is an ethnocide, which is when they eliminate the culture of a people and are forced to replace it with Western culture in the worst possible way, ”he stressed.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has 70 dioceses, of which 16 have been related to residential schools for children.
Each diocese and religious community is corporately and legally responsible for its own actions. In Canada, the Catholic Church has not been related to residential schools or to the CCCB ”, says the organization on its website.
In this sense, in July 1991 the Conference of Oblate Missionaries offered an apology to the original communities “for the role they played in cultural, ethnic and religious imperialism, which was part of the mentality that constantly haunted the way in which the communities were treated by the civil government and churches ”.
That message included an apology for maintaining the residential school program that was active for some 150,000 children.
The Canadian Episcopate Conference would have to step up and apologize, and behind it the Pope, Masferrer Kan added.
-With information from Verónica Mondragón
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