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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Is $1,500 too much for boarding school punishments?

A paper in Manitoba is reporting that the federal government of canada is reviewing(read: challening) $1,500 that an 87 year old, Long Plain First Nation, woman has accepted as compensation for the punishment she received while at the Portage Indian School.

Flora Merrick survived 10 years-from age 5 to 15- at the Portage Indian School. When she was 15, Flora's mother died and she and her siblings were not allowed to attend. Instead, they were locked in a room for crying too much. They managed to run away, were caught, and were punished by being strapped on the forearms and hands.

Flora's attorney filed a claim under the Alternative Dispute Resolution process and Flora was offered $1,500, which she accepted, as she could use the money for home repairs and groceries for her children.

The federal department of Indian residential schools resolution asked for a review.

a Department of Indian Residential Schools Resolution spokeswoman who said she couldn’t discuss specific cases, suggested the chief adjudicator was asked to review Merrick’s matter because it didn’t meet dispute resolution (DR) standards.

“We’re very clear ... for which issues we are compensating,” Nicole Dauz said. “This is a new process to resolve residential school claims. It’s key to the integrity of the process that the adjudicators hearing these claims
take a consistent approach.”

According to a copy of the requested review supplied by Troniak, the government argues the adjudicator exceeded his jurisdiction because under the DR process the strapping wasn’t improper -- it was done to enforce the rules of the school.

“It was not open to the learned adjudicator to look to the claimant’s motive for running away, and then to characterize the running away as a complaint and the resulting discipline as a reprisal,” said the request signed by the residential schools resolution department deputy minister, Mario Dion. full article

Says Flora
“It doesn’t matter to me. I wasn’t after the money,” Merrick said from her room at Portage District General Hospital. “I can live without it. If they want it, they can have it.”

$1,500 dollars is really no compensation to offer an adult who, as a child, had to survive 10 years of boarding school. We can be sure that none of the feds who asked for the review have ever had to endure such a childhood. A childhood in which they are stolen from their families, punished for speaking their language, abused under the guise of "displinary action," become the targets of sexual abuse, and in Flora's case, made to miss their mother's funeral.

Her experience isn't an isolated incident. Generations of native children, both in the U.S and Canada, were made to suffer through similar realities.It was part of a systematic process to, as the saying goes, "kill the indian and save the man." Those attempts at forced assimilation have traumatized generations of native peoples and left scars across communities.Giving an elderly woman $1,500 dollars would seem to be the least the federal government could do to make up for what their policies did to her.


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