From the biographical preface to In My Own Voice: Explorations in the Sociopolitical Context of Art & Cinema
by Leah Renae Kelly
Copyright 2001 Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2-91 Albert St., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3B 1G5
Published: Dark Night field notes #17
Let it be said, first of all, that I don’t write on personal themes. It is not a form to which I’m accustomed, to which I’ve aspired, with which I’ve ever been the least comfortable. This is all the more true in the present instance, devolving as it does on the destruction and death of my wife, my chosen one, the person who in her very presence afforded me a sense of direction, fulfillment and completeness I’d neither known nor believed possible. In her absence, I will never know it again.
Whatever the scale of my anguish, its real measure can never be found within me. What was lost was, after all, vastly more decisive for her than me, no matter how tightly I was and will always remain bound to her. In ways both tangible and not, moreover, hers is a loss shared by everyone, without exception, irrespective of whether they know or are willing to admit it. Anything I might have to offer will come only in an effort to explain, however clumsily and imperfectly, why this is so.
Leah Renae Kelly was not simply an “inebriated pedestrian killed by [a] car,” as the local newspaper so casually remarked on the date she died. There were reasons why that young, beautiful, incredibly promising and catastrophically drunk Ojibwe woman was running barefoot down the middle of the road that night. Whether she thought she was running away from something, towards something else, or whether she was capable of thinking anything at all in that moment are things beyond my power of knowing. In a larger sense, however, I do know why she was drunk, why she was a drunk and therefore why things ended for her as they did. From there, I cannot avoid the meaning of it all. Leah’s is the quintessential story of contemporary North America. It is thus ours, each of us, to the extent that we live on this continent. From this, squirm as one might, there is, can be no escape.
The essential elements of Leah’s story emerge from the realities of her identity as an American Indian and, consequently, the nature of her life and sense of self. Inevitably, these take shape only within the framework of such considerations for Native North Americans more generally. And with equal certainty, this cannot be understood apart from the structural relationship presently existing between the continent’s immigrant (settler) society and the peoples indigenous to what many of us call Turtle Island. It follows that an honest accounting must be made of the flows of impact and benefit involved, as well as an unequivocal repudiation of the elaborate veils of evasion and denial behind which such unpleasantness is habitually concealed.
What Leah desired most – aside, perhaps, from the fleeting moments of happiness we spent together – was to “be somebody,” to “count for something” beyond the immediacy of herself. This she told me often, and with a yearning that quite literally broke my heart. No matter that she was in fact somebody, somebody very special, and that to me she counted for absolutely everything. I knew what she meant and why she meant it that way. To the extent that her suffering can now serve to illustrate and reveal the grinding horror that destroyed her, she will have in some way succeeded in her desire, claiming the dignity she was due all along from the very indignity forced upon her at the instant of her birth.
Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian
It should surprise no one that Leah might have ended her days an alcoholic. Liquor and other intoxicants, after all, replaced Gatling guns and smallpox as the greatest killers of native people during the twentieth century.1 Long before the dawn of the new millennium, upwards of half the continent’s indigenous people were known to be suffering or recovering from the effects of acute alcoholism, while on some Canadian reserves – Alkali Lake, Grassy Narrows, Cross Lake, Norway House and others – the tally included every adult.2 Children, too, are afflicted, although their chosen substances run more towards gasoline, spray paint and nail polish remover. Seventy percent of the youngsters in northern Manitoba were found to be addicted to such toxics by the mid-1980s. In some villages, it had become necessary to post guards outside implement buildings to prevent nine-year-olds from breaking in and sniffing gas or solvents, deliberately and permanently blotting out their consciousness through the resulting brain damage or death.3
The toll is everywhere apparent, evidenced not only along the skid rows of most North American cities, but in the disintegration of indigenous family structures and communities, sometimes whole societies.4 Alcohol-related patterns of domestic violence, spousal abandonment and child neglect or abuse, unheard of in traditional settings, have become endemic facts of contemporary native life.5 Deaths from accidents and exposure, the great majority involving inebriation, reached catastrophic levels decades since.6 So, too, deaths resulting from cirrhosis and other degenerative illnesses associated with chronic alcoholism.7 Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a condition permanently impairing the offspring of alcoholic mothers, embodies yet another crisis for native people.8
Physical debilitation accruing from chronic alcoholism also figures prominently in the abysmal picture painted by American Indian health data overall.9 American Indians die from readily-survivable maladies like flu and pneumonia at a rate three times the norm in both Canada and the US.10 Nutrition related illnesses, often associated with binge drinking, abound. Diabetes is “almost a plague,” afflicting upwards of half of native adults.11 Death from tuberculosis occurs among Indians at a rate four times that of the general population.12 Hepatitis, eight times. Strep infections, ten times. Infant mortality, up to fourteen times. Meningitis, twenty times. Dysentery, a hundred times.13 Rounding out the picture, “the suicide rate for Indian youths ranges from 1,000 to 10,000 [percent] higher than for non-Indian youths.”14
The bottom line is that reservation-based aboriginal men experienced a life-expectancy of less than 45 years, our female counterparts only three years longer in 1990. This, in the world’s most advanced industrial countries, where “mainstream” women outstrip the 71.8 year average lifespans of males by nearly a decade.15 Viewed from this standpoint, it can be asserted with an undeniable degree of accuracy that every time an Indian dies on a reservation, one-third of a lifetime has been lost. And, since the pattern is intergenerational, having lasted now for more than a century, the observation can be inverted with equal precision: each baby born on a reserve represents a third of a lifetime that will remain unlived. Nor for their part, do urbanized natives fare appreciably better.16
So ubiquitous are the effects of alcohol among native people that a whole mythology of “drunken Indians” has been contrived by the interloping Euroderivative settler society.17 The centerpiece of this complex of fables, promoted by everyone from the “scientific community” to pseudoreligious “self-help groups” like Alcoholics Anonymous, and internalized as an article of faith by many native people, is the claim that aboriginals are “congenitally predisposed” to suffer the “disease” of alcoholism. 18 No one bothers to explain why, if this were so, we suffer it at rates virtually identical to those evident among the Irish, say, or the Scotch Irish “hillbillies” of Appalachia, inner city blacks and the poorer sectors of the Angloamerican mainstream itself.19 All told, there are some twenty million alcoholics in the US, only a half-million of them native; a similar proportionality prevails in Canada.20
In truth, there’s never been a shred of credible evidence to support claims that alcoholism is either “hereditary” or in any physiological sense a “disease.”21 On the contrary, there is every indication that such addictions are “normal” concomitants of poverty and feelings of powerlessness, irrespective of the racial/cultural pedigree of those afflicted.22 Frantz Fanon, Albert Memmi and others have further demonstrated that self-destructive pathologies like alcoholism correlate to conditions of colonial domination.23 Such conclusions are validated by the fact that while “drunken Indians” and “drunken Irish” share virtually nothing in terms of peculiarities in our DNA, we have everything in common when it comes to experiencing the ravages of centuries-long colonization.
For Indians, this translates into dispossession of some 98 percent of our lands, the balance and the astonishing abundance of resources with which it is endowed – administered in a unilaterally imposed and permanent “trust status” by Canada and the US.24 Exercise of this self-assigned “plenary power” has enabled the settler governments to siphon the residual assets of native peoples into their own economies – paying less than a dime on the dollar of market royalty rates for minerals extracted, to offer but one example – while leaving native peoples increasingly destitute.25 The upshot is that Indians, still in nominal possession of the largest per capita landholdings of any sector of the North American population and thus potentially the wealthiest of all groups on an individual basis, experience the practical reality of being far and away the poorest.26
As the remnants of traditional subsistence economies have been ever more thoroughly undermined, the very survival of native people has been rendered increasingly dependent upon our ability to participate in the settlers’ wage/cash system. Yet so complete has our marginalization been in this respect that our overall unemployment rate has hovered in the mid-sixtieth percentile for the past half century. On some reservations, more than ninety percent of the workforce has remained jobless during the same period.27 Per capita annual income in many communities barely exceeds $2,000 US, while it has been officially estimated that in places, over 85 percent of the housing units are unfit for human habitation.28 On balance,it is fair to say that the situation shows no sign of improvement. Indeed, there are indicators that it may actually be worsening.29
In and of themselves, such conditions contribute substantially to the grim health and longevity statistics recited above. More to the point, they combine to create among those perpetually burdened with them a sense of such utter disempowerment, despair and hopelessness as to make the oblivion of chronic intoxication seem an attractive alternative to conscious awareness of one’s circumstances. That the compulsion to opt for such figurative self-nullification, and/or the literal variety attainable through outright suicide, has by now become pronounced among aboriginal gradeschoolers bespeaks as little else can the depth of the misery the settler society has imposed upon native people.30
Others have evidenced strikingly similar patterns of response. German Jews, for example, when subjected to a harsh régime of discrimination, dispossession and disemployment by the nazis during the 1930s, shortly came to evidence a suicide rate some three times that of the German public as a whole. During the early 1940s, as they were being relocated to Poland and concentrated there in reservations and urban ghettos – they were not yet aware of being slated for outright extermination – the Jewish suicide rate rose to a level approximately fifty times higher than that of non-Jews.31 The response of the Sinti and Romani or Gypsies to nazi persecution was much the same, if somewhat less pronounced.32 For that matter, the suicide rate among Germans rose steeply during the first years of occupation following their defeat in World War II.33
It follows that, were the North American settler population subjected to circumstances comparable to those imposed upon native people, it would soon come to exhibit many of the same “negative group characteristics” as do Indians (or Jews, Gypsies, Irish and inner city blacks). Just as clearly, holding Indians in a state of perpetual subordination/destitution is a prerequisite to maintaining the relatively lavish level of comfort enjoyed by the settlers, collectively announced as their own entitlement. The implications of this cause/effect relationship are ready-made to instill a sense of guilt among beneficiaries, the settlers – those so prideful of their self-proclaimed “humanitarian enlightenment.” Since guilty feelings are at best an uncomfortable sensation, the implications – or the nature of the relationship itself must be denied.
Better still that the victims themselves should be “held accountable” – that is, blamed – for the very fact of their victimization.34 Vacuous assertions that American Indians are “innately endowed” with a “congenital predisposition” to alcoholism or suicide serve this purpose quite nicely, as do oft expressed “concerns” that there may be some mysterious set of “factors” at work in native cultures producing much the same effect.35 Thus handily self-absolved of responsibility for what the system underpinning their privilege has wrought, the settler beneficiaries free themselves to enjoy its fruits absent the least discomfiting pangs of conscience.36 Indeed, they position themselves thereby to adopt a lofty air of “moral superiority” vis-a-vis those whose relentless agony pays the tab.37 The mentality at issue is not dissimilar from that of the twisted little boys known to delight in torturing cats, its effect in exacerbating the pain of the victims self-evident.
“To Educate the Indian Out of Them”
If all this were not enough, still worse will be found in the legacy of a comprehensive system of residential “Indian Schools” established during the early 1880s and maintained for a century thereafter. A linchpin of “assimilationist” policies through which the US and Canada alike sought to eradicate the last traces of indigenous culture in North America, the schools were meant to serve, in the words of US Indian Commissioner Francis E. Leupp, as “a great pulverizing engine for breaking down the tribal mass.”38 Leupp’s northerly counterpart, Duncan Campbell Scott, was clearer and more blunt, observing that the “objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada” culturally identifiable as such.39
Such sentiments permeated the settler society. The goal of residential schooling, as articulated by the editors of the Calgary Herald in 1892, was nothing less than to “wipe out the whole Indian establishment.”40 At about the same time, US Superintendent of Indian Schools Richard Henry Pratt – an army captain whose main qualification for the job seems to have been that he’d earlier presided over a military prison in Florida to which Geronimo and other “recalcitrant” native adults were sent to be broken – explained to wide applause that his object was to “kill the Indian, spare the man” in every pupil.41 In Canada, the formulation was to “educate the Indian out of each student.”42 Statements of this sort were legion, and made right into the 1980s.”43
The techniques employed in such endeavors were as brutal as they were straightforward. Aboriginal children as young as five were “caught” by government agents and forcibly removed to facilities “located away from reserves so that parental influence would be reduced to a minimum.”44 Thus isolated from all that was familiar, the youngsters were shorn of their hair, outfitted in “proper” Euroamerican/ Eurocanadian attire, their personal effects impounded or destroyed. Thereafter, they were subject to military/penal style regimentation.”45 Crowded into barracks-like living quarters where disease often ran rampant, they were fed on about one-third the officially estimated minimum cost of providing adequate nutrition to children their age.46
Severe corporal punishment – whippings, solitary confinement, restriction to bread and water rations – was routinely employed to prevent students speaking their own languages, practicing or in many cases even knowing about their spiritual traditions or anything else associated with the autochthonous functioning of their cultures.47 Not infrequently, this harsh “discipline” was transmuted into outright torture, as when children were chained to walls or posts for days, sometimes weeks on end, burned or scalded, had needles run through their tongues, were forced to eat their own vomit, subjected to electrical shocks and/or denied medical attention.48 Sadism was often conjoined by the sexual predations of staff members, a pattern of abuse now proven to have been pervasive in many institutions (and covered up by responsible officials).49 Under such conditions, death rates among students were extraordinarily high.50
Those who survived were held for an average of ten years, living in a state of perpetual anxiety – or abject terror – as they were systematically “deculturated” through a process elsewhere described as “education for extinction.”51 In actuality, the entire procedure in many ways resembled the hideous “depatterning” techniques developed for the CIA by McGill University psychiatrist Ewen Cameron during the agency’s notorious MK-ULTRA Project of the early 1960s.52 More appropriate still, given Captain Pratt’s seminal role, it might be seen as prefiguring the methods currently employed in supermax penal units to force ideological conversion upon politicized inmates, or failing that, to reduce them to “psychological jelly.”53
The form of conversion demanded of residential school students is not especially mysterious. Operating under government authority, the schools were administered mainly by the Anglican, Catholic and other Christian churches.54 It follows that, as their own spiritual beliefs were expunged, students were subjected to intensive indoctrination in “the true faith,” spending about twice the time each day undergoing religious training as they did receiving academic instruction.55 As recently as 1993, the Anglicans were still prepared to defend this “civilizing mission” in terms of the unabashed white supremacism it entailed.
Canada … must increasingly become … a country of white men rooted and grounded in those fundamental scriptural conceptions of the individual, of society [and] of the state … as the same have been conceived and found expression through the struggles and conquests of the several peoples of British blood and tradition. The church felt it had a Christian responsibility to assist the Aboriginal people in this transition. Assimilation, like medicine, might be intrusive and unpleasant, might even hurt a great deal, but in the long run it was for the people’s own good…56
In other words, the idea was to infect students at the most primal level with a perception of Indians corresponding to the emphatically negative views embraced by their colonizers.57 Thus conditioned to see themselves and their heritage as consigned by god to a state of “natural inferiority” – if not as things “evil” or “satanic” – students suffered profound and permanent psychological/emotional damage. 58 Probably without exception, they left the residential schools with a deformed self-concept, their senses of self-esteem and confidence severely undermined. In the majority of cases, active self-loathing appears to be at issue.59
Meanwhile, in a rather close parallel to what the nazis planned for a residue of Slavs after conquering eastern Europe, initiatives were undertaken to “fit [students] into the lower echelons of the new economic order” in North America.60 To this end, many residential facilities were configured as “industrial schools” providing “vocational training to prepare their pupils to fill certain limited occupations.”61 In practice, this meant the children typically worked more hours per day than they spent in the classroom, the bulk of their wages impounded to offset the “expense of their education.”62 Thereby reduced to de facto slave status, it was drummed into them, year after year, that their “place” would be forever to toil as manual laborers and domestics serving the needs of their racial “betters” at discount rates.63
In the end, of course, the racial biases of the settlers were such that there were precious few jobs for graduates, even of these demeaning varieties. Thus “disemployed,” they were mostly forced into a posture of seemingly immutable material dependency upon those who most despised them. What the residential schools in effect produced were successive generations of increasingly desperate and dysfunctional human beings, incapable of valuing themselves as Indians and neither assimilated nor assimilable into the dominant society which had rendered them thus. Given the sheer impossibility of their situation, the self-negating pathologies evidenced by residential school graduates are, or should have been, perfectly predictable.64
Although it was originally intended that every aboriginal child between the ages of five and fifteen would be processed through the schools, attendance ultimately peaked at somewhere around half the youngsters in successive generations.65 The correlation between this proportion of the indigenous population and the percentage now suffering alcoholism is obvious. One suspects that were a list of native alcoholics compared to a list of those who endured the residential schools – along with their sons and daughters – a well-nigh perfect match would result.
Worlds of Pain
While the diagnosis has been rather scrupulously avoided by psychoanalysts and therapeutic practitioners over the years, the core of the devastation inflicted upon those incarcerated in the residential schools was a magnitude of psychological trauma most commonly associated with men suffering the aftereffects of heavy combat.66 “Emotional numbing,” “incomplete mourning” and a range of other symptoms of acute trauma afflicting survivors of the nazi genocide, the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings and comparable phenomena are equally apparent.67 So too, a confluence with the pathologies typically exhibited by hostages, rape victims, and the victims of political repression/state terrorism.68
The early age at which residential school victims typically incurred their traumas has also tended to amplify the impacts to a greater extent than those evident among the mostly adult counterpart groups noted above. In this sense, the pattern of ensuing pathologies more nearly resembles that displayed by victims of severe child abuse.69 This is especially true with respect to children suffering not a single traumatic incident (or cluster of incidents), but upon whom abuse has been visited in a chronic and protracted fashion.70 Thus layered and reinforced over a period of years, the result is not so much the classic “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD), with which so many combat veterans and rape victims are afflicted, as it is a sort of “Complex PTSD” recently described by Harvard Psychiatry Professor Judith Herman.71
Even Herman’s is an inadequate characterization of the “Residential School Syndrome” (RSS), however.72 For a condition to be accurately depicted as “post-traumatic,” it is of course necessary that the circumstance(s) generating the trauma first be eliminated. A rape victim, for example, is not experiencing “post-traumatic stress,” no matter how “complex,” while the rape is occurring. S/he is instead undergoing the trauma itself. By the same token, there can be no reasonable expectation that a child might be “cured” of the psychological ravages of abuse before s/he is removed from the abusive setting, or a Gypsy victim of the nazi genocide during his/her confinement in Neuengamme or Auschwitz.
Effective therapeutic strategies for those suffering trauma-induced pathologies, moreover, invariably devolve upon some form of generalized and tangible withdrawal of social sanction from those who perpetrated the trauma-inducing acts or processes.73 “Regular” rapists, child abusers and mass murderers are all viewed as criminals in a socially normative sense. They are not celebrated by the great majority of people in North America, nor are apologetics usually offered in their behalf asserting that however “misguided” they may have been in what they did, they acted on the basis of “the best of intentions.”74 Still less are their victims subjected to a broad and continuous bombardment of public scorn, ridicule and trivialization.
Where a supportive environment exists, “healing” the effects of severe trauma is extraordinarily difficult.75 Where it does not, as is to a noticeable extent the case with Vietnam combat veterans and much more so with the victims of political repression, it is largely impossible. Vietnam vets continued to suffer disproportionately high rates of alcoholism, drug usage, incarceration and suicide until those who’d borne the brunt of ground combat were largely and quite prematurely dead.76 Although far less research has been done with respect to those suffering the aftershocks of state terrorism, there are indications that they manifest the same pattern in a still more pronounced form.77
For survivors of the residential schools, none of the criteria requisite to psychological “recovery” apply. Although the facilities themselves have by-and-large been phased out, the material incentives prompting the settler society to establish them in the first place – that is, the comprehensive dispossession/disempowerment of native people – were fulfilled long since. The results remain very much in effect and are treated as a “natural entitlement” by the perpetrator population. Other than those judicially proven to have engaged in specific acts of sexual predation, even the persons most directly involved – those who worked in and presided over the schools – are not normatively viewed as criminals.78 Indeed, while the Canadian government has lately offered a tepid “expression of regret” for a carefully-limited range of “negative impacts,” it has formally declined to so much as apologize for the criminality inherent to the residential school system as a whole.”79 The US has yet to rise even to this token level of acknowledgement.80
Meanwhile, the iconography of settler triumphalism is everywhere and always apparent, from annual celebrations of “Thanksgiving” and “Columbus Day” to the enshrinement of patently genocidal personages like Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt on national currencies, from the exalted statuary littering public spaces to the names bestowed upon the places themselves. And then, to be sure, there is the haughty supremacist aura with which the settlers have imbued their culture – and by extension themselves – in the canons of their literature, their cinema and the academic (mis)representations that continue to be imposed upon native youth with more force and sophistication today than ever before.81
The flip side of the triumphalist coin concerns a proliferate iconography of degradation and outright dehumanization where aboriginal people are concerned. This will be found in the same literary and academic texts through which the settler society lends a false burnish to the contrivances of its own image in the 2,000-odd westerns released by Hollywood over the past century, in some 10,000 television segments produced between 1950 and 1990, in “Tumbleweeds” cartoons and product names like Jeep “Cherokee” and “Winnebago” recreational vehicles, in sports team names and mascots like those of the Washington “Redskins,” Cleveland “Indians,” Atlanta “Braves,” University of Illinois “Fighting Illini” and Florida State University “Seminoles,” in the wooden Indian caricatures adorning tobacco shops across the continent, and in the more than 1,000 North American place names presently featuring the word “squaw.”82
In effect, the consciousness of residential school survivors continues to be inundated with the “lessons” imparted in those institutions, every waking moment of their lives (and perhaps in their dreams as well). The primal source of their psychic wounding thus remains hyperactive at all times, ripping away emotional scabs before they’ve had the least opportunity to form. Exacerbating the victims’ situation still further is a grotesque and increasingly aggressive posture of denial on the part of the settlers that anything is being done to them at all.83 While some survivors have obviously found means of coping with these circumstances, theirs remains – how could it be otherwise? – an unremitting world of pain.84
By Any Other Name
My use of terms like “criminal” to describe the actions and attitudes of the settler society is neither rhetorical nor a mere “matter of personal conjecture or opinion.” A rather vast range of black letter law has been systematically violated, and in most cases continues to be violated, in the course of creating the situation sketched out in preceding sections.85 Not least is the 1948 Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, an element of international customary law making it a crime against humanity to undertake any policy intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such” Indians, of course, fit all four classifications.86
Among the categories of policy/action specifically delineated as genocidal in the convention’s second article are those “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group… deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”87 Unmistakably, the conditions imposed upon native people in both Canada and the US fall well within the parameters of these criteria, so much so that they tend to validate Jean-Paul Sartre’s “controversial” observation, made on entirely functionalist grounds, that “colonialism equals genocide.”88
Under the convention’s third article, it is made clear that, aside from direct involvement in the perpetration of the crime, one is guilty of genocide if one participates in planning or conspiring to commit it, inciting it or is otherwise complicit in the process.89 This last has been construed to mean simply ignoring or acquiescing in others’ commission of the crime. In effect, where genocide is concerned, virtually every member of a perpetrator society not actively engaged in opposing it is, by definition, legally guilty of it. Obfuscation and denial are thus to be seen as part and parcel of the crime itself.90
The complaint is usually heard at this juncture, always from those benefiting quite tangibly from the ongoing genocide of American Indians, and in the aggrieved tone invariably adopted by all such offenders, that such framing of legal obligation is “unreasonable.” That the opposite holds true is also a matter of black letter law. As the matter was put by US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson during the trial of the nazi leadership at Nuremberg in 1945, responsibility for ensuring that its government adheres to the rule of law resides first, foremost, and by all available means in the citizenry of each country.91 Default upon this responsibility by any citizen is a matter of legal culpability. There can be nothing “apolitical,” no “bystanders” or “innocents” among beneficiaries of the “incomparable crime.”92 It follows that North America’s “Good Settlers” are no less guilty than were the “Good Germans” of the Third Reich.93
This is The Law to which all parties endorsing or participating in the Nuremberg proceedings bound themselves and their constituents. As Justice Jackson put it, “We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we are not willing to have invoked against us.”94 His assertion was then enshrined in the 1946 “Affirmation of the Principles of International Law Recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal,” a covenant to which both Canada and the US are signatories.95 Further, neither the Nuremberg Doctrine nor customary law more generally affords either country a legitimate recourse but to comply with the principles, whether or not they’ve formally subscribed to or even agree with them.”96
Officially – and this speaks volumes to the extent of their mutual awareness that they are in violation of it – both governments have done their utmost to mask the implications of The Law. For its part, having taken the lead in formulating the noble principles espoused at Nuremberg, the US has adopted the naziesque posture of refusing the jurisdiction of any international judicial body.97 Similarly, having been instrumental in shaping the content of the Genocide Convention, it declined to ratify it for forty years, purporting to do so in 1988 only after attaching a “sovereignty package” through which it claims a unique “right” to exempt itself from compliance whenever it finds an interest in doing so.98 A list of international human rights laws the US has treated in similar fashion over the past half-century would be exceedingly long.99
Canada’s path to the same end has been more slippery. Although it claims to have ratified the Genocide Convention in 1952, it did so in a tellingly circumscribed fashion. After much discussion, the parliament simply deleted from the statute defining the crime in Canadian jurisprudence those criteria – causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a target group, and the forced transfer of their children – describing the policies in which Canada was most clearly engaged with respect to native peoples.100 In 1985, the statute was further “revised” to remove yet another criterion (imposing measures intended to prevent births within a target group).101 Where the 1948 Convention lists five discrete categories of genocidal policy, the Canadian legal code now acknowledges but two.
In 1998, an Ontario judge, James McPherson, went still further, disregarding black letter law and expert witnesses alike to rule that abridged dictionary definitions would henceforth be considered binding in Canadian courts.” This juridical absurdity, which has prompted no correction from the country’s higher tribunals, had the effect of constraining Canada’s “legal understanding” of genocide to a single criterion: engagement in nazi-style mass extermination programs. Absent incontrovertible evidence that such actions are being undertaken as a matter of state policy, the judge opined that allegations of genocide constitute “an enormous injustice … bordering on the grotesque … cavalier and grossly unfair” to perpetrators.”102 He concluded with a gag order seeking to constrain anyone, especially the victims of Canada’s most genocidal policies, from saying otherwise.103
This, in a country where public denial of “the” Holocaust – by which is meant the fate of the Jews at the hands of the nazis, and exclusively so – has long been a criminal offense.”104 The significance of the disparity is by no means lost upon native people, residential school survivors perhaps most of all. McPherson’s performance, emblematic as it is of the overall settler sensibility, was precisely what one might have expected of a nazi jurist/intellectual a couple of generations after a German victory in World War II. Therein lies the distinction separating the nazis from North America’s settler élite: the former, unlike “the Nordics of North America” they consciously emulated, were losers in their drive to assert dominion on a continental scale. The mentality involved is neither more nor less genocidal, win or lose.105 And genocide denied or by any other name remains genocide. 106
Down Through Generations
Even had the full range of genocidal policies reflected in the residential schools been terminated when the schools themselves were phased out, and the mentality of the perpetrating society magically transformed into a complete opposite of itself, it would be unreasonable to expect that everything might suddenly have become “okay” for the victims or those in close proximity to them. While trauma is no more hereditary or a disease than its “symptoms,” alcoholism and suicide included, its effects are often extremely longlasting.107 It is also not especially uncommon for traumatic wounding to work along the lines of a time-delayed bomb, its effects reappearing, often quite suddenly, after extended periods of apparent dormancy.”108 Such characteristics mark the malady even in cases where trauma has been induced by natural disaster rather than the malevolence of human agency.”109
Given the nature of its effects, as well as their duration and sometime recurrence, they can be transmitted in an almost epidemiological fashion. This is to say that, unaddressed “trauma begets trauma.” People suffering complex traumatic stress are apt – and in some circumstances all but guaranteed – to traumatize others, especially those closest to and most dependent on them. In this sense, the spouses, and more particularly the children, of trauma victims are those most vulnerable to being traumatized by them. There is no reason to expect this to be less true among residential school survivors than among other victim groups: survivors of the nazi genocide, for instance, or former POWs and combat veterans.110 Quite the contrary, given the sources of ongoing wounding described above, it might be reasonably anticipated that it would be more so.
Such suspicions have been amply confirmed in a number of recent studies, the findings of which were partially – and rather politely – summarized in a 1992 report by the Health Commission of Canada’s Assembly of First Nations.111
The survivors of the Indian residential school system have … continued to have their lives shaped by their experiences in those schools. Persons who attended the schools continue to struggle with their identity after years of being taught to hate themselves and their culture. The residential school led to a disruption in the transference of parenting skills from one generation to the next. Without these skills, many survivors have difficulty in raising their own children. In residential schools, they learned that adults often exert power and control through abuse. The lessons learned in childhood are often repeated in adulthood with the result that many survivors of the residential school system often inflict abuse on their own children. These [victims] in turn use the same tools on their children.112
Much more is involved than nontransference of appropriate parenting skills, or the transference of inappropriate ones, of course. Even where residential school survivors both understand the requirements of good parenting and genuinely desire to be good parents – and this in all probability encompasses most cases – the dysfunctions with which they’ve been saddled by their trauma are likely to render them incapable of following through. The question is exactly how people burdened with a symptomology including somatism, dissociation, depression, fragmented personality structure, intense anxiety, hypersensitivity to slights (“paranoia”), inability to form stable or sustainable emotional bonds, panic attacks, nightmares and chronic insomnia, as well as a high degree of irritability may be expected to comport themselves as good parents irrespective of what they know or don’t know about the techniques of proper parenting.113
Add to their incapacity to meet the emotional needs of their children – or spouses – a systemically imposed inability to meet their material responsibilities faced by the preponderance of residential school survivors, and you’ve a perfect recipe for disaster. Ever deepening feelings of personal inadequacy, guilt, frustration and ultimately uncontrollable rage blend with the already volatile stew simmering in the survivor psyche.114 Unsurprisingly, especially but by no means exclusively among men, sometimes quickly, sometimes over a longer period, the process culminates in an explosion, a blind lashing out at whoever is unfortunate enough to be at hand.115 Assuming the victims are family members, which is most frequently the case, an even greater sense of guilt and unworthiness ensues. At this point, if not before, attempts at self-nullification via alcohol, other substances, or suicide typically set in, most often in conjunction with an escalating rate of externalized violence.116
For children caught up in this hideous cycle, the impact is in many ways far greater than that of the residential schools upon their parents. In the schools, those by whom youngsters were victimized could at least be seen as alien “others.” Such buffers are obviously removed when the victimizer is one’s own father, mother or both. Also, within the family setting, the pattern of abuse may well commence at an even earlier age than in the schools, sometimes at birth.117 Even in the relatively rare instances where domestic violence is not present, but where one or both parents are serious alcoholics, the depth of the traumatic effects upon children are very well-documented.118
The abused child’s existential task is … formidable. Though she perceives herself as abandoned to a power without mercy, she must find a way to preserve hope and meaning. The alternative is utter despair, something no child can bear. To preserve her faith in her parents, she must reject the first and most obvious conclusion that something is terribly wrong with them. She will go to all lengths to construct an explanation for her fate that absolves her parents of all blame and responsibility.119
In simplest terms, such “adaptations serve the fundamental purpose of preserving her primary attachment to her parents in the face of daily evidence of their malice, helplessness or indifference… Unable to alter the unbearable reality in fact, the child alters it in her mind.”120
When it is impossible to avoid the reality of the abuse, the child must construct some system of meaning that justifies it. Inevitably the child concludes that her innate badness is the cause. The child seizes upon this explanation early and clings to it tenaciously, for it enables her to preserve a sense of meaning, hope, and power. If she is bad, then her parents are good. If somehow she has brought this fate upon herself, then somehow she has the power to change it. If she has driven her parents to mistreat her, then if only she tries hard enough, she may someday earn their forgiveness and finally win the protection and care she so desperately needs.121
When this strategy also fails, as it all but inevitably must, the self-negation of gasoline sniffing and/or outright suicide often results. The disintegration of family/community structures in some quarters of Native North America has by now reached such a pass that parents traumatized in the residential schools have become desperate enough to request intervention by the very authorities who victimized them. Their premise, which holds a disquieting measure of undeniability, is that the youngsters probably stand a better prospect of physical survival in residential institutions than they do at home.122 Even in better case settings, the emotional damage already displayed by preschoolers is often staggering. Thus maimed before they begin, and trapped within an overall social construction in which they will be consistently denigrated, often openly reviled, and forever dispossessed of their birthright, they are forced with increasing frequency to hear sermons from their oppressors about how they should “stop whining and get over it,” that they’re now “as free as anyone else to become whoever or whatever they want.”123
It was in this nightmarish environment that Leah spent her formative years. A Lynx Clan Ojibwe, her name in her own language was Kizhiibaabinesik (roughly translated, “Being Who Circles with the Birds”). She entered the world on February 19, 1970, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the youngest of six siblings born in rapid succession.124 Her father, John Peter Kelly, is from Sabaskong Bay, a reserve of the Onegaming Ojibwe First Nation located near the Ontario town of Kenora. Her mother, Barbara, is from the nearby Couchiching Reserve, outside Fort Francis, where she, John, their parents and most of their relatives in their own generation attended Roman Catholic residential schools.125
At the point Leah arrived, the family was living crammed eight-deep in a small trailer house, struggling to make ends meet while John pursued an MA in Educational Administration. The first in his Band to complete an undergraduate degree, much less to take up graduate studies, his internalization of mainstream ideals led him to an angry repudiation of Ojibwe tradition and a period of self-imposed isolation from his people. A dark-complected fullblood, however, he was shortly forced to face the harsh reality that his skin-tone was in itself sufficient to prevent either his acceptance among the Eurocanadians he’d been conditioned to model himself after or employment in the sorts of positions to which he correspondingly aspired.126
The situation was complicated considerably by the devout Catholicism, a faith noted for its preclusion of birth control, into which Barbara had been indoctrinated at Fort Francis. The demands, both material and emotional, attending the resulting – and, for a time, seemingly endless – avalanche of children became overwhelming, magnifying John’s already substantial sense of powerlessness and personal inadequacy. By the time Barbara became pregnant with Leah, he’d had already commenced what would become a seventeen-year descent into what he now calls “the bottomless pit of alcoholism and despair.” It did not end until his children were scattered to the winds.127
One of Leah’s earliest recollections was of being told that she’d been “unplanned for,” a “mistake,” observations the little girl easily translated as “unwanted.”128 It was a feeling she would never escape,” along with an abiding sense of guilt that things might have worked out differently for her father if only she’d never been born.129 Other memories centered mainly on John’s stumbling in, blind drunk, night after night, and of the violence that often ensued. For the most part, Leah was a witness, although, somewhere along the line, she was herself on the receiving end.130 Barbara – battered, emotionally and otherwise, depressed and in a state of perpetual exhaustion – could offer little comfort or protection.
Verbal abuse was also endemic, often manifested in vituperative denunciations of the children’s “stupidity,” their “laziness” and supposed lack of hygiene.131 More insidious still were John’s expressions of resentment towards the lighter-complected among his offspring. Barbara is half white, her coloration reflected in three of the children, including Leah. Glass was regularly ground into this wound when she was greeted with much the same disparagement by potential playmates during summers spent visiting her grandparents at Couchiching.132 By the time she was four, she’d been thoroughly infected with the idea that there was something dreadfully wrong with the way she looked, a debilitating misperception that would stay with her the rest of her life.133
As John’s alcoholism progressed, the family underwent periods of outright disintegration. The children were sent to live for varying intervals with relatives, themselves active or recovering alcoholics.134 At other times, they would sleep whenever possible at the homes of friends. It was on one of these overnights, when she was perhaps twelve, that Leah was first sexually molested. The man was apparently the father of her best and perhaps only real chum, a figure of trust whom she’d embraced as an “uncle.” Again, there is no clear indication whether the abuse was repeated or if so, whether more than a single predator was involved.135
Meanwhile, the Kellys had relocated to the Southdale area of Winnipeg, a predominantly white suburban sprawl largely devoid of anything resembling redeeming value. For Leah, however, it initially represented something of a new start. Twenty-odd years later, she’d recount how, having been consistently rebuffed as “too white” by her hoped-for friends on the reserves, she’d trotted off to school her first day fully expecting to be accepted, eager for someone – anyone – to like her. Instead, she was chased all the way home by a rabid pack of little settler kids taunting her as a “squaw and a ”wagon burner.” As she put it, “I tried and tried, but I never really fit in with anybody, anywhere, ever.” 136
At fifteen, desperate to escape the effects of her home life and Southdale’s “mindlessly racist climate,” Leah struck out on her own. Supporting herself as a waiter in Winnipeg, she enrolled at The Collegiate, a highly-touted local prep school. She did quite well academically, but finding the students’ and faculty’s attitudes “pretty much the same as [she’d] already experienced, only more so,” she left before graduating. Her raw test scores gained her an early admission to Laval University in Québec. A year later, having mastered conversational French,137 she was back in Winnipeg, waiting tables at an upscale restaurant in the city’s fashionable Cordon district.
For a while, it seemed enough. For the first time, she had a small circle of friends, her first live-in lover and was earning enough money to indulge in clothes, a car and other accoutrements of what she then saw as “class.” She appears to have reveled in the sheer novelty of it all.138 Making the rounds of Winnipeg’s surprisingly vibrant music and café scenes, she quickly built a reputation as something of a hipster and the ingredients of an affirmative identity began at last to congeal. Soon, however, her relationship with her boyfriend soured and she found herself pregnant and alone. Before informing her partner that she was with child, Leah confided in friends that she would keep the baby and get married, revealing the depth of her longing to create the kind of idealized family environment she’d craved all her life. Her lover’s response to what she thought glad tidings – that he wanted no part of either marriage or fatherhood – played directly into the already profound sense of unworthiness and rejection she harbored. It also destroyed at a single stroke the most important of the redemptive fantasies she’d been nurturing. His dropping her at a clinic, leaving her to walk home was merely a cruel redundancy. After the abortion, the world she’d been constructing for herself crumbled very rapidly.139
Her diary reveals that she berated herself endlessly for this abandonment and having dared to dream aloud, bringing on what she felt as humiliating public exposure, worrying that she’d “once again become a laughing stock,” feeling the image she’d so carefully crafted slipping away. For weeks she actively contemplated suicide.”140 Instead, she bolted, leaving all her worldly possessions behind and setting out on what is still sometimes fondly remembered by those who knew her as “Leah’s grand adventure.”141 In retrospect, it might more accurately be described as a hurt and terribly frightened young woman, trapped in a blind alley, running for her life.
Little Girl Lost (and Found?)
All I saw when I first met Leah in November 1993 was a remarkably beautiful young woman, palpably shy but with bright eyes and a radiant smile. I knew nothing of her background and cared less. I was completely unaware that Leah’s lifelong sense of lonely futility had resettled over her recently like the chill of a North Beach fog, leading her to late night searchings along the Golden Gate bridge for an excuse for a final plunge into the murky depths below. Her diary at that time brims with passages declaiming “how nice it would be to just lie down in the snow, go to sleep, and never wake up.” Had I known, I can honestly say it would not have deterred me in the least from loving her, but I might have been able to help her more.
We saw each other only intermittently for the next half year, but in May 1994 we agreed that, upon her return from a trip to Ireland, I’d stop in and visit for a “couple of weeks,” maybe driving her up along the coast for a few days camping in the redwoods. Once I arrived in early July, I never left. We spent time in the redwoods and in the vineyards of Simi Valley, in the forests below Mount Shasta, along beaches watching sunsets as far north as Coos Bay. Most of our time, however, was spent in the city, she working, me prowling bookstores or coffee houses, chain smoking as I read the postmodernists from Baudrillard to Lyotard, waiting every night in the Dalva, a bar across the street from Ti Cous, to share glasses of cider at the end of her shift. Her off hours we spent constantly together, probing, exploring, laughing, holding hands or she my arm, as we strolled the streets. Common tastes were discovered in food and films, literature and music, art and much else. She displayed her knowledge of wines, refined through years of serving others. I showed off my talents as a gourmet cook, making her a batch of cioppino. In restaurants, she’d order for us both to my delight. We went willy-nilly from infatuation through mutual astonishment to genuine love for one another. In late August, as I was preparing to go home for the start of another school year – I’d pushed my departure back to the last possible hour of the last possible day, driving straight through and pulling into town as new students were undergoing orientation – we conducted something of a summit conference to decide what should come next. She, fearing that I, I now realize, might be just one more strand in her lengthening skein of intense but ultimately transient unions, flashed visible signs of distress.
Surprised at her level of anxiety, unsure of its source, I sought to reassure her, I offered to take a year’s leave from my job and simply stay on in San Francisco, if necessary finding permanent employment there. She considered this offer for only a moment before dismissing it as ridiculous with an irritated wave of the hand, but posed no alternative plan herself. As the sense of stalemate grew, she grew steadily more agitated. There seemed little I might say or do to calm her. Things were sliding downhill in a hurry.
At some point, though, I hit on asking her what she really wanted to do not just with me or for the next few months but with her life. An indecipherable wistfulness passed across her face, her voice filling with a kind of yearning I’d not heard from her before. She’d been spinning her wheels for years, she said, going nowhere, but always meaning to finish college, to “get to know things,” become an artist, a painter, a photographer, and above all, a filmmaker. Her words rushed forth as if of their own volition, at once pensive and excited, seemingly propelled by some force disconnected from her will.
Then, quite abruptly, she caught herself. Like a slamming door, a resigned guarded look closed over her eager hopefulness. Bitterly canceling her previous torrent, she offered a curt endgame observation that “none of it will ever happen, of course.” “Why not?” I replied, “It sounds do-able enough to me.” She appeared confused, unsure whether she should be startled, happy, or simply baffled. But I’d definitely captured her attention. “Really?” she asked, a bit incredulously. “Sure,” I said. ‘What’s the problem?”
An hour later, we had a plan. I’d base myself in San Francisco for the fall, commuting to-and-from Denver to teach my three days per week’s worth of classes at the University of Colorado. In December, Leah would move to Boulder and I’d arrange her admission at the University of Colorado. We’d live together in my house there and I’d support her living while she completed her undergraduate degree. After that, she’d take a job in some aspect of cinema and/or go to grad school. As she established her career, I’d begin phasing out of mine, turning an increasing share of our financial burden over to her. Perhaps I’d take early retirement and devote myself to writing, maybe even start painting again. Perhaps I’d secure an end-of-career position at a university in or near Winnipeg. In either event, we’d eventually move there. She’d be our primary breadwinner making movies or something similar, we’d buy a big house in an older neighborhood, possibly raise a kid or two. We were in for the long haul.
There had always been signs that all was not well with her. In San Francisco, she’d whimper in her sleep or wake trembling and terrified, unwilling or unable to name her terror.142 And there were the sudden and equally inexplicable rages, like the one on my birthday that first fall when after treating me to dinner at a favorite seafood restaurant, she me for no apparent reason with a looping right that split my lip so badly I was spitting blood two days later.143 The next morning, she tearfully apologized, saying she’d had too much wine and had confusedly lashed out at someone or something from another time, another place, she didn’t say who or what or why. I hugged her, said forget it, asked no questions, only too glad to believe her hostility had been directed at anyone, anything other than me….
Looking back, I see the undercurrents of what would happen surfacing mainly in the tension of her relationship with her father, the force of both their needs to bond with each other, the huge, futile efforts both made to achieve closeness and their mutual inability to get wherever it was they needed so badly to go. She would defend him fiercely to me about things I’d never said, thought or had any idea of, loving him in ways fathomable only in herself, struggling with all her might to absolve this small, remorse-ridden man of sins he’d long forgotten or perhaps never even knew he’d committed against her. Sometimes, she seemed to be displacing on me her anger at and hurt from her father, while reserving the tenderness that formed the other dimension of their compact for him.
From our first day in Boulder, she would spike a rage almost daily out of what I at first thought was a youthful unfettered jealousy of the fact that I’d had a wife and a life before her. I set myself to reassure her of the depth of my love and commitment to her, my respect and esteem for her. I spent virtually all my time with her, lavishing her with clothes, with shoes and boots and other such “finery” – her term – of the sorts she’d never had. We redecorated and furnished the house as hers. I constantly gave her presents, from new vehicles to drive to flowers, so thoroughly out of character it filled my friends with wonder.
Still, month after month, without warning, most often in the midst of something nice, she’d turn on me like a fury, disparaging me, my family, clawing, kicking, biting, jerking out clumps of hair.144 I reached my own snapping point in early 1996, when under this kind of assault, I broke and slammed her back against our bedroom wall, telling her that if she kept it up, she’d be apt to land in a hospital.145 The look on her face told me I’d confirmed some secret dread far surpassing anything I’d meant to say or do, but she never raised a hand to me again.146
Although our life seemed to level out for a while thereafter, even recapturing some of the richness of our first summer, later that spring, a miscarriage and Leah’s erroneous belief that I was unfaithful to her ended the fragile equilibrium.147 In the fall, she started drinking, abruptly, in full force, as if undertaking a conscious design.
Jumbled between the signs and signifiers of her life, Leah’s plunge into alcohol triggered not clarity but implosion, quickly eroding the feeble network of defenses she’d erected, stripping away the coping skills she’d fought so hard to gain. By the new year of 1997, there were nights when her frightened doe’s eyes, her mouth contorted into a Munch-like O, a ring of horror, her soundless screams – for help? mercy? – pierced me like rusty spikes. She’d found her own much worse version of that awful place where John had been. I was confronting a semblance of what that hideously maimed little girl had suffered, the one still hiding within the woman I valued above all others.
During the first months of her unraveling, I ran an emotional gamut from irritation to anger through frustration to confusion, arriving at bewilderment only to move on to a perpetual fearfulness, nibbling the edges of my soul constantly like a rat. My own feelings shifted with such swiftness and kaleidoscopic complexity, I never quite felt I had caught up with myself, reached a balance or perspective that might have let me grasp the magnitude of our trouble. I was nearly fifty when she began to crumble. I was used to thinking of myself as something of a tough guy I was completely unequipped with tools or toughness sufficient to retrieve Leah or even to hold myself together.
After I’d put her to bed when she passed out, I would later sit alone in the dark, swaying back and forth, hugging myself, weeping uncontrollably, mourning the comfort I’d last encountered as a three-year-old in the warmth of my mother’s protecting embrace. I myself had been some of the impossible places Leah had been, but I had been there as a full-grown man, battle-weary and seasoned. Unhappy, I could remember a good childhood place. Leah had gone to the impossible places as a child; unhappy, she had no such good place to go. How Leah or any child without that good place can possibly survive beggars my powers of comprehension. She held on for far longer than I could have.
What is usually called “consciousness” does not come preassembled. It is delivered along with each newborn in pieces, or more properly stated, in a cluster of flows or streams, each related to but operating more or less independently of the others. A foundational phase of both cognitive and emotional development in younger children concerns the integration of these discrete streams, bringing about a unified and internally coherent perception of both the child’s self and of the external world that self interacts with. Things like viable self-concept and personality formation depend entirely on this process occurring in an orderly fashion. Should it be significantly disrupted, psycho-emotional chaos can result, with one or more nonintegrated stream of consciousness competing and often conflicting with the others. The effect, which can be permanent, is that the child incurs multiple personalities or personality fragments, and thus, multiple perceptions of reality.”148
Early childhood trauma is a major – probably the major – cause of such disruption.149 Predictably, the pattern holds true particularly in cases where traumatic experience(s) is/are, chronic or prolonged.150 This, to an all but absolute certainty, is what happened to Leah. Almost from the start, she made mention of hearing “voices,” telling me of “others” who sometimes spoke to her and asking whether the same was so for me. At first, thinking she meant it in a traditional way, that this was her manner of informing me that she paid heed to messages conveyed by the spirits, I responded affirmatively, sometimes jokingly answering “yes, but only when I take the time to listen.” She’d laugh, but also look relieved, seeming glad to hear she was not the only one.
Later, neither of us was laughing. I’d find her in the kitchen, standing at the sink, muttering, apparently to herself. If I asked who she was talking to, she’d start as if jolted from a trance. “Them,” she’d say and that would be that. As time passed and her condition deteriorated, “they” became far more threatening. Eyes wild, trembling with terror, she’d argue frantically with unseen others, gesticulating, pointing to corners where she imagined them to be.151 My attempts to calm her, to wrap her in my arms, met with a horrified recoil. She cowered, assuming a near-fetal position, arms up as if to ward off blows, pleading in a disembodied little girl’s voice: “Oh, please! Please, please! Don’t do that to me!”152
Then it would pass. Some nights, I’d sit with her, stroking her hair, sometimes singing for her in my flat-toned croak, and she’d smile a childish contented smile before drifting off to sleep. Perhaps in those moments I served in some way as a surrogate for her mother, or perhaps I emerged as some altogether other “alter,” but I doubt I was ever simply me. I’ll never be sure just who she thought I was or who she feared.153
For the most part, I tried to attribute Leah’s “problems” to the alcohol, conflating symptoms and causes.154 Not that the symptoms weren’t themselves worthy of attention. Smallish like her father, Leah would regularly drink an entire quart of hard liquor at a single sitting, rapidly, for effect, like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. She drank not to get high but for oblivion, to black out. During her last year, she sometimes required hospitalization.155
From early 1997 on, our lives were defined by the orbit of her alcoholism. We couldn’t go to a concert or a movie, a restaurant, public events or openings without Leah getting sloshed, often becoming so drunk I’d have to carry her to the car. She’d invariably humiliate us both, sometimes others as well. Morning plans lovingly made for a dinner at home were foiled by her staggering in late to cold food and melted candles, a meal she could only paw at with her fingers.
After a while, an emotional and physical pall of fatigue settled over us, intermittently broken by reappearances of the Leah I loved. Leah reached out to friends, and so did I. Yet much as she craved friendship, she’d suddenly and viciously turn on them as she had on me, driving them away. As she isolated herself further, I sealed myself in with her, trying to give her some solid point, the knowledge that at least I would always be there for her. I think she felt this in what had become an endurance test for us both.
For her to finish school well became her grail and mine, infused with an almost mystical significance. It was as if we were assuming that if only she accomplish that, everything could yet turn out as we’d dreamed. I still marvel that she rose every day, mostly with a hangover to daunt Hemingway, haggard and vomiting, to focus on Foucault, a film, a painting, signing on for credit-hour overloads, acing nearly all of them, seldom missing class. The respect Leah garnered, she earned.
Nowhere to Turn
Nonetheless by mid-1998, we both knew we were in over our heads. None of my behavioral, “token system” gimmicks made a dent.156 We tried many alcohol programs and eventually psychiatry, even though I am generally skeptical of “the therapy racket” and oppose psychiatry as a matter of moral principle. The upshot was a diagnosis “Bipolar Disorder” and a prescription for Depakote to “stabilize her mood swings.” 157 The drug made her hair fall out by the handful, worsening her long-festering image of herself. The psychiatrist’s subsequent reaction to “her lack of responsiveness to treatment” was to increase her dosage. Appalled, she ditched the guy in short order.
There followed a parade of equally inept practitioners, one suggesting she undertake something called “rebirthing therapy,” another offering to waive her fees if Leah would spend a few hours telling her all about Indians, still another recommending a four-week, $7,000 “alcoholism retreat” (“no guarantees, of course”). It was not until the spring of 2000, nearly two years after she’d begun to seek help and barely two months before her death, that she was finally and properly diagnosed as suffering a severe case of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), “suicidally ideated” to a dangerous degree. Offered immediate inpatient placement – which she declined – she went on an accelerated outpatient schedule and a strict régime of Antabuse to halt her alcohol consumption and a pager number accessing round-the-clock emergency intervention services.
It is doubtful whether anyone could’ve done much for Leah in the time remaining to her. BPD is “notorious” among therapists and clinicians for its virulence and apparent intractability, the very term striking “terror into the heart of a middle-aged comfort-seeking psychiatrist.”158 Exhibiting a “bewildering array of symptoms,” overlapping heavily with both Multiple Personality Disorder and Somatization Disorder, many “caregivers” avoid BPD patients like the plague, the joke running that the best means of treatment is to “refer them to someone else.”159 Small wonder it took the ”experts” so long to call her problem by its right name. If one of them had done so earlier, perhaps things could have worked out differently.
Or maybe not. Even the Charter Centennial Peaks Adult Recovery Program whose therapists finally did correctly diagnose Leah, refuses with the vast majority of its peers to recognize the source of BPD for what it is, and so be able to treat it effectively. Almost exclusively preoccupied with the “proximate causes” of stress – that is, things in their patients’ immediate environment – and with searching for “organic triggers” or “genetic causes,” they habitually evade the obviously high probability that deep, acute and complex patterns of trauma are at issue. 160
The role of actual parental abuse in the development of this disorder has never been systematically investigated. Occasional case examples that include severe physical or sexual abuse in the background of borderline patients are found throughout the literature; generally these are reported without any impact of the trauma. In the main, the idea that borderline patients may have been severely abused tends to be discounted or dismissed. Gunderson for example, writes: “It is commonplace for the borderline patients to see themselves as having been repeatedly victimized and mistreated through a long series of relationships, often beginning with their parents.” The possibility that this perception might have some validity is not considered.161
Studies in which such queries have been not only posed but pursued reveal that between 75 and 90 percent of all patients diagnosed as Borderline suffer the lingering trauma of child abuse.162 Where therapists have been willing to acknowledge this, and treated their patients accordingly, the “intractability” so commonly associated with BPD tends to evaporate rather quickly.
PTSD is often undiagnosed in cases where secrecy or stigma prevent recognition of the traumatic origins of [Borderline Personality Disorder]. Such patients often improve dramatically when the connection between symptoms and trauma is instituted… The negative therapeutic reactions so frequently observed in borderline patients might be avoided by early and appropriate recognition of the relationship between the patient’s current symptomatology and its origins in a traumatic history.163
It has been argued, in fact, that, for Borderline patients, “integration of the trauma is a precondition for development of improved affect tolerance, impulse control, and defensive organization, the validation of trauma is a precondition for a restoration of any integrated self-identity and the capacity for appropriate relationships with others [emphasis added].”164 In the alternative, “treatment” strategies often tend to compound rather than alleviate, much less “fix,” the problem.
So why do the bulk of “caregivers,” even those willing to correctly diagnose BPD, so resist seeing the malady for what it is so they can then provide those who come to them in desperate need of help with the only kind of therapy known to be effective. Unerringly, an answer emerges from the fact that they are institutionally integral to the maintenance and functioning of the status quo. The overriding objective of “the therapeutic state” is and has been since its inception to rationalize the psychological ravages of business as usual, convincing its victims that their wellbeing is ultimately contingent upon acceptance of things as they are, that they must devise ways to “adjust,” to “cope,” accommodating themselves to whatever elite-defined psychosocial “norms” are most useful to the system at any given moment.165
While this hegemonic enterprise has for the most part proven spectacularly successful, it breaks down where trauma is concerned. No therapist, irrespective of his/her ability to dissemble, can be expected to persuade a rape victim, for example, that what s/he suffered is a structurally-justified phenomenon, the inherent legitimacy of which s/he is bound to accept. Nor can responsibility be conveniently dumped on the victim him/herself, whether as a “genetic flaw” or as some form of “character defect.” In such cases, the source of trauma can be neither denied nor effectively equivocated. It must therefore be acknowledged and condemned. In this, however, it is imperative that they be restricted to those which can readily defined as “deviant” or “anomalous,” and thus either correctable within the parameters of the extant system (e.g., rape) or outside it altogether (e.g., the Holocaust).166 Both diagnoses of trauma and attribution of its sources are thereby constrained to very narrow limits, susceptible to individuated responses. Consequently, the institutional posture is one devoted only marginally to “healing,” emphatically to minimization and containment.
In cases like Leah’s, where peeling the onion inevitably reveals systemic sources of trauma – “50-60 percent of psychiatric inpatients and 40-60 percent of outpatients,” as well as untold numbers of people who’ve never been diagnosed or treated at all – obfuscation is very much the rule. 167 For the real nature of their malady to be admitted would be to condemn the system itself, pointing to the urgency of the need for fundamental change in the existing social/political/economic order. An outcome more diametrically opposed to the mission embraced by the “caregiving” establishment is inconceivable. Of structural necessity, then, as well as the perceived self-interests of practitioners, patients, en masse and systematically, are simply herded, misled and deliberately confused, onto a conveyer belt into the oblivion of expendability.
So Leah was consigned, quite cynically, by those who knew better or had reason to, to wander about in the living hell of her “splitting,” her “good” self seeking frantically to excel, to please, to be well, to be happy even, while her “bad” self or selves waged what was for her an audible and visible campaign to subvert her every thought, move and gesture, transforming them into ghastly mirror images of themselves.168 The question is not why she drank to the point of undoing so much of what she might have been and said and done. The wonder is – and it truly is a wonder – that she was able to accomplish anything at all.
Leah spent the last day of her life, May 31, 2000, in her studio, finishing one of a series of large, painterly canvases for a fall show of her work at a Denver gallery. 169 I stayed mostly in my study, reading, writing letters, reviewing a manuscript. We’d planned a quiet evening, dinner and a video at home, maybe a late night ride on the motorcycle I’d bought her for her graduation just two weeks before.
A sort of softness settled on us that May. Like weary boxers, we’d retired to our respective corners at the end of our long bout, awaiting the magical decision of judges who never materialized. Exhausted and flat, there were small signs of turning a corner. Leah had planted herbs just days earlier in a small plot I’d long ago shown her how to prepare and then quietly joined me planting vegetables, moving on to flowers, something she’d never done, in pots and the beds around our house.
We were resting up, gaining space, taking our time, regrouping for what would come next. Leah had interviewed well with Encore and applied to Canada’s Aboriginal Television Network. She spoke of learning Avid video editing at the Vancouver Film School, or Toronto’s. One morning she asked me if would I marry her again, renewing my vows. Embracing her so tightly she was startled, I’d said yes, oh yes, and this time by the Pipe, in a traditional way, taking tobacco to her Uncle Peter for the ceremony. She’d glowed then, briefly, showing me in that moment a glimpse of the radiance I’d neither seen nor felt for far too long.
Her new program seemed to be helping: the counseling engaged her more, the Antabuse slammed a lid down hard on her drinking. Still, there were undercurrents always leading in the opposite direction, as when despite all indications that she’d be hired in the field of her training and desire, she told me she was thinking of taking a job waiting tables in a nearby Italian restaurant. There was a sense of deflation about it, a peculiarly world-weary sadness, as if, rather than a triumph, her graduation marked the end of an illusion, a silly pretense. As if now she would resume her place in the life from whence she’d come.
When she finished her painting, she came inside, showered and sat a while at a table working with her Ojibwe tapes and flash cards. I went out to start the coals, then to buy the meat for dinner. At about seven, I went in to ask whether I should start to cook. She was on the phone, smiling, glassy-eyed, voice thickening, a nearly empty glass of dark beer on the floor by her foot. “Oops,” she said to whomever she was talking, “I gotta go now.” Then, hanging up, to me, the beginnings of belligerence in her tone: ‘What’s the problem, buddy?”
“You don’t know?” I replied.
And she, suddenly meek, “Yes. I do.”
She’d taken Antabuse that morning; drinking against the drug could make her violently ill.170 As she’d said I should, I told her to call her pager number. Without a word, she did. Fifteen minutes later, she called again. A few minutes after that, still again. She was starting to feel queasy, her face flushed, so I called, twice more. An hour after she’d first phoned, I asked her whether she was sure we were using the right number. She handed me a slip of paper on which was scribbled, in her counselor’s handwriting, that “for emergency intervention, day or night” she should ring the sequence we’d been dialing. By then my frustration was showing, and since she had talked up Centennial Peaks for weeks on end, she not only looked sick but embarrassed. She said she needed to walk a bit and since she wasn’t really drunk, I told her to go ahead, get some air, that I would wait for someone to call.
It dawned on me about five minutes later that I might’ve made a wrong move; a liquor store had recently opened less than a quarter-mile away. Walking to the corner, trying to spot her, she was nowhere in view. Returning to the house, I hopped on the motorcycle, thinking to find her, get her on the back, take her for a ride, reassure her that things would be all right. No luck. After a while, I went back to the house, parked the bike, and sat down on the porch to wait. About twenty minutes later – full dark – I saw her beneath a streetlamp, reeling towards me. Meeting her in the driveway, I said, “Well, did you manage to get good and drunk?” “You bet,” she answered. “Happy?” I asked. “Nope.”
I led her to a chair on the porch and lit her one of the filterless Pall Malls she liked so much, settling into a chair next to her for what looked like another long night. I expected her to throw up any moment, and I was unsure what to do if convulsions set in. Instead, after a few minutes of muttering, she dropped her cigarette on the floor, her head began to loll and she passed out. She was breathing regularly, so I decided to let things ride.
About 10 pm, two-and-a-half hours after we’d first called for an intervention, the phone finally rang. I went inside to answer. The counselor explained that she’d gone out for a movie, “forgetting” to take her pager along. After absorbing the initial blast of my anger, she asked me to outline the situation in more detail. When I’d finished, she sounded worried, telling me I should bring Leah to the clinic immediately and that she’d meet me there. In all, the conversation lasted less than ten minutes. I was still receiving directions when I walked back out onto the porch, intending to pick Leah up bodily, plop her in my truck and head for town. However, Leah was gone.
Then I saw the blue strobes flashing two blocks away on Arapahoe Road. Dropping the phone, I ran towards the corner, seeing people gathering around, emergency vehicles now arriving in droves, a hollow, sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach, hoping against hope. But there she lay, on the centerline of the road, like some broken little bird.
As they loaded Leah into an ambulance, I trotted back to the house to get my truck and follow, only stopping long enough to fetch an eagle feather and a small bag of white sage and cedar kept for times of need. At the small local hospital, they solemnly told me a flight-for-life helicopter was already en route, that she’d be taken to St. Joseph’s, a much larger place in Denver, and that I should stay close at hand as I’d soon be taken to the emergency room.
Knowing even then that she’d be lost, that loved ones are never ushered into such settings unless no other time remains, I went outside and squatted, back against a wall as I had in Vietnam, sightless, mind empty, chain-smoking, awaiting what I could not change.
There were no tears just then. I was not yet ready, and neither, I think, was she. A cop stopped, asking if I were alright. When I said “No problem,” he looked at me oddly as if to say more, but thought better of it and moved awkwardly away.
After, in the emergency room, witnessing the terrible damage for the first time close up – her broken knees and shattered hands, the missing teeth, the tongue bitten through – hearing her struggle for every breath through all the blood, someone was all the while explaining that the worst damage could not be seen: her shattered pelvis and her skull, brain bruised and swelling against the fragments.
“You should talk to her,” a nurse said and knowing it was true, I knelt, taking one of Leah’s hands in both my own, speaking gently in her ear, telling her for the last time how very much I loved her, how proud I was to be with her, what a rare privilege it was even to have known her, how destitute I’d be in her absence. Then, first turning away to search for strength and calmness, I let her go.
“Be at peace, my angel,” I whispered. “You’ve suffered much too much.”
They didn’t allow me in the helicopter, of course, because if she died in transit, they feared I might lose control, become a danger to everyone within the small, unstable space. So I drove the thirty miles alone in my pickup, knowing she was lost to me forever, howling my despair. There were forms to sign and waits, an hour for the coroner to finish so that I could get permission to see but not touch her, prevented from even placing a kiss on her cheek, kneeling again beside the gurney she lay on, now so quiet, so pale and still, praying for the safety of her journey, offering a smudge, my feather, trying with all my heart to sing an honoring song. The tears came then, suddenly, against my will, driving me, impotent in my voicelessness, to the floor.
She Burned Too Briefly
I wrote this essay partly from my personal need to express the profundity of the sorrow I’ve incurred in the destruction of Leah Kelly…. Had she lived, had she even been whole, the measure of what she might have contributed is incalculable. But a point so easy and obvious would scarcely need my elaboration. My task, then, has been to avert the probability that such easy realization will be converted into the equally comfortable conclusion that her life and death add up to no more than an individual “tragedy.” What happened to Leah was indeed tragic, but it was no tragedy. To the contrary, it was a crime, an offense against humanity remarkable not in its singularity but because it is so common, conveniently and all but universally ignored, hushed up, pushed far from the most peripheral vision of polite society.
Give the crime its name. Call it, as I have, colonialism. Or, as I also have, call it genocide. Better still, join in my communion with Sartre, observing that the two while not identical are inseparable, comprising only different dimensions of the same process.171 Whichever descriptor you prefer, what’s described remains the most bedrock feature of business-as-usual in contemporary North America. It will be found in the relationship imposed by the continent’s settler population upon the peoples native to this land, a sociopolitical and economic structuration without which neither Canada nor the United States would or could ever have come to exist.
With many others, I have tried to address this reality in various ways, mostly resorting to the language and pretensions of “objective scholarship,” deploying our graphs and charts, our proportionalities and other statistics, our historiographical, sociological and legal definitions.172 Despite our best intentions, in doing so, we have in many respects, perhaps most, served mainly to consummate the very crime we purport to oppose, objectifying and thus dehumanizing its victims, making the nature and magnitude of their suffering seem sterile, academic, as lifeless and inconsequential as even the most vile of perpetrators might wish them to be. There is a distinctly repugnant aroma of detachment, of distance and unreality about it all, as if what were at issue amounted only to grist for study groups and parlor debates.173
Yet, undeniably, the victims are real. They were always real. They are not objects, and never were. Each of them was, as each victim continues, a human being, an historico-sociological subject, imbued with and therefore entitled to exercise agency. This holds true both in their individuality and within the collectivities of group nomenclature and processing to which they have been rendered increasingly subjacent. How then to (re)humanize them, to restore their agency, accord them their own meaning, redeem their stolen lives from the stultifying realm of “scholarly” abstraction, or worse still, the sanitizing sound bites of “news” commentary and “analysis”?174
Inverted, it becomes a question of visibility: How best to compel those fancying themselves outside the crime’s functioning, most especially the more smugly complacent strata of settler society, to confront full force the human costs of the colonial order from which they benefit, apprehending the actuality of business-as-usual not in the facile illusions of shopping malls and the Dow Jones Average, but in the faces of terrified three-year-olds, gaunt with privation, already trembling with the despair of being devalued and discarded? How to force such realities upon people who’ve made an art form of equivocating and avoiding them? How to overcome the genocidal mentality?
Such queries do not readily admit answers. The route to a solution, however partial or otherwise imperfect, can nonetheless be discerned in focusing attention upon the accounts of particular victims – that is, of individual people – in such a way as to inform the whole. The story of a single nine-year-old gasoline sniffer, properly told, can be used to illuminate the horror of gasoline sniffing in general in ways impossible through even the most sensitive and studied recitation of data. The same can be said with respect to native alcoholism and all the rest. A key, however, resides in the words “properly told.” Such stories, if they are to serve the desired purpose, cannot be recounted in the reductionist fashion of so much biographical/personal narrative.175 They must be contextualized, deeply and quite explicitly, the articulation of clearly-defined objective conditions explicating the character, actions and experience of the subject, the emotions elicited by the subject bringing home the import of objective conditions, subject and object interacting in a complex manner precipitating a synthesis of understanding unattainable by focusing upon either at the expense of the other.176
When I observed that Leah’s is “the quintessential North American story,” I meant the statement in precisely this way. Not because she was so special or unique – although she was by any reasonable estimation among the “best and brightest” of her generation – but because her experience so clearly resonates with what so many others have undergone. Best, worst, brightest, dumbest, it makes no matter. If you’re native, the settler system evidences no qualms in devouring you, your life, those you love, your very soul indiscriminately, without regard to attributes. Yes, Leah was special, but this merely exemplifies the situation. Every victim was special – is special, each in his or her own way. In their individuation, their uniqueness, they are united in the commonality of their destruction, finding solidarity in their dance of degeneration and death.177 Leah’s is thus the story of her people. Through her, with her, I’ve sought to tell it, to make it come alive….
We arrive here at a crux point. This concerns the veil of silence with which victims so often surround the facts of their victimization and its consequences. Clarity is absolutely vital in such connections: silence implies shame; shame, in turn, implies guilt. To this must be counterpoised a smattering of simple questions: Of what was Leah guilty? Or John? What was it either had done as children to warrant what was done to them? Without guilt, there can be no basis for shame; without shame, no reason not to speak openly. By our silence, we internalize the onus of a guilt belonging not to victims but to perpetrators, effectively absolving the criminals of their crimes, letting them slide off the moral and legal hooks of their culpability.178
Such behavior is truly pathological, integral to the much wider pathology or complex of pathologies, afflicting Native North America increasingly over the past half-century. The pathologies are unquestionably and increasingly there, but in acknowledging them, we must refuse to be “pathologized.”179 Leah was not “sick.” Neither is John. Both were wounded, mortally, she by him, he by the residential schools, each by their unwilling encapsulation within the society of which the schools were and remain emblematic.180 To be sick is one thing, wounded another; the latter requires healing, the former a cure. To describe and assert that distinction is an act of empowerment for native people, displacing the burden of guilt from our own shoulders to those upon whom it rightly belongs.181
In this way and most likely only in this way, can those who are truly sick be exposed for who and what they really are. They cannot be counted among the victims. That is a certainty. Those evidencing the characteristics of psychological illness and imbalance will be found all but exclusively among the victimizers, those inflicting the wounds, presuming that they are somehow vested with a right to do so, turning a blind eye to the resultant suffering, inventing pretexts to revile the maimed for the misfortune of their maiming. At issue is the virtual entirety of the settler population. Theirs is a genuinely diseased – delusional, narcissistic, sadistic, plainly sociopathic – mental condition.182
There has been much banter lately, mostly from settlers, about the need for “reconciliation” between natives and non-natives.183 While this makes for glowing rhetoric, under present conditions it is about as likely – and appropriate – as a rapist advancing a similar proposal to his victim while the rape is still in progress. For rape victims, the most elementary prerequisite to reconciliation with their rapist is that the crime stop. Usually, there will also need to be unambiguous indications that the rapist has been cured of whatever psychic disorder compelled him to rape in the first place, and that he sincerely wishes to atone for the injuries he’s dispensed. As well, the victim will typically have had time to heal from the trauma of her/his violation. Then, sometimes, a certain form of rapprochement is possible.184 For native people, it is no different. We have suffered violation every bit as intimate, and often rape as well.
Fortunately, however, in our case a process by which victims can be healed while perpetrators are cured of their psychoses immediately presents itself as a dialectical unity (a “reconciliation” of sorts). By speaking clearly, consistently and, above all, publicly, to the facts of what has been/is being done to us, and by whom, native people can force admissions from the perpetrators that they have done what we contend. On this foundation, we position ourselves to confront the question of why such things have occurred, asserting with ever-increasing force our right to the repossession of that which has always been ours, eroding their fictive claims to our sovereignty and our property, incrementally compelling a relinquishment of both. While this sketch is quite simplistic, it represents an essentially Fanonesque conception of decolonization, the material and the psychological interacting in ways engendering the emancipation of colonized and colonizer alike. 185
Is it possible to effect such a dismantlement of the internal colonial structures of North America’s “super states” (or any such state, for that matter)? Of this, one cannot be certain, although the place to begin any assessment of the prospects might be with asking the leaders of the former Soviet Union. In any event, it was exactly this sort of transcendent vision that Leah was refining in her last years, conceiving for herself a transformation of quantity into quality manifested through a social order entirely different from that we now inhabit, one in which not just she but all of us might fit, a place where we might at last be both well and whole.
Were she here, I believe Leah would have said or written something similar to what I’ve produced, validating its imperative as she always did, through the fragile contours of her life. Nevertheless, I’ve not attempted to speak for her, knowing that if I did I’d fail, as I failed her so often while she was alive….
But I will not allow her to be silenced by her fate. My waning years will be spent in truth to who she was, to the way we were and how it might have been for us, to how it might yet be for others. I can never cease in trying to be the one she thought and hoped I was. It is the very least I owe her, my own girl of the north country, my bright, bright star, the solitary gleam within the darkness of my night.
Oh Leah, I miss you so…
1 Roland J. Lamarine, “Alcohol Abuse among Native Americans,” Journal of Community Health, No. 13, 1988.
2 Anastasia M. Shkilnyk A Poison Stronger than Love: The Destruction of an Ojibuya Community (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985); Geoffrey York, The Dispossessed: Life and Death in Native Canada (Boston: Little, Brown, 1992) pp. 175-200.
3 York, Dispossessed, p. 10; Gary Remington and Brian Hoffrnan, “Gas Sniffing as Substance Abuse,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, No. 29,1984. The same pattern prevails on at least some reservations in the US; see, e.g., Arthur Kaufman, “Gasoline Sniffing among Children in a Pueblo Village,” Pediatrics, No. 51, 1973.
4 Steven Unger, ed., The Destruction of American Indian Families (New York: Association on American Indian Affairs, 1977); Patrick Johnson, Native Children and the Child Welfare System (Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 1983).
5 Deborah Jones-Saumty, et al.,”Psychological Factors of Familial Alcoholism in American Indians and Caucasians,” Journal of Clinical Psychology, No. 39, 1983; Lawrence R. Burger and Judith Kitzes, “Injuries to Children in a Native American Community,” Pediatrics, No. 84, 1989; Carol Lujan, et al., “Profile of Abused and Neglected American Indian Children in the Southwest,” Child Abuse and Neglect, No. 13, 1989.
6 Richard Goodman, et al., “Alcohol and Fatal Injuries in Oklahoma,” Journal of Substance Abuse, No. 52, 1991; Margaret M. Gallegher, et al., “Pedestrian and Hypothermia Deaths Among Native Americans in New Mexico,” JAMA, No. 267, 1992; George K. Jarvis and Menno Boldt, “Death Styles Among Canadas Indians,” Social Science Medicine, No. 16, 1982.
7 See, e.g., Steven J. Kunitz, Jerrold E. Levy and Michael Everett, “Alcohol Cirrhosis among the Navajo,” Quarterly Journal of Substance Abuse, No. 30, 1969.
8 Michael Dorris, The Broken Cord (New York: Harper & Row, 1989).
9 Dwight B. Heath, “American Indians and Alcohol: Epidemiological and Sociocultural Relevance,” in Daniel Speigler, et al., eds., Alcohol Use among US Ethnic Minorities (Rockville, MD: National Inst. on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Monograph 18, 1989) pp. 207-22.
10 T. Kue Young, “The Canadian North and the Third World: Is the Analogy Appropriate?” Canadian Journal of Public Health, No. 74, 1983; Rennard Strickland, Tonto’s Revenge: Reflections on American Indian Culture and Policy (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997) p. 53.
11 Strickland, Tonto’s Revenge, p. 53.
12 T. Kue Young, “Epidemiology of Tuberculosis in Remote Native Communities,” Canadian Family Physician, No. 28, Jan. 1982; Donald A. Enarson, et al., “Incidence of Active Tuberculosis in the Native Population of Canada,” Canadian Medical Association Journal, No. 134, 1986; Strickland, Tonto’s Revenge, p. 53.
13 Strickland, Tonto’s Revenge, p. 53; US Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Indian Health Care (Washington, DC: 99th Cong., 2nd Sess., 1986); Brian Postl, et al., Report of the Subcommittee on Indian Health Care (Winnipeg: Manitoba Health Services Review Committee, 1985); Berenice L Muir, Health Status of Canadian Indians and Inuit: 1987 Update (Ottawa: Health and Welfare Canada, 1987).
14 Strickland, Tonto’s Revenge, p. 53. Also see J.A. Ward and Joseph Fox, “A Suicide Epidemic on an Indian Reserve,” Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, No. 22, 1977; Thomas R. Thompson, “Childhood and Adolescent Suicide in Manitoba: A Demographic Study,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, No. 32, May 1987; Task Force on Suicide, Report on Suicide in Canada (Ottawa: Dept. of Health and Welfare, 1987); Paul Kettl and Edward 0. Bixler, “Alcohol and Suicide in Alaska Natives,” American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1993.
15 Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs, Indian Conditions: A Survey (Ottawa: Dept. of Indian Affairs, 1980); Yang Mao, et al., Mortality on Canadian Indian Reserves, 1977-1982,” Canadian Journal of Public Health, No. 77, 1986; US Bureau of the Census, US Census of the Population: General Population Characteristics, United States (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Div., 1991).
16 See generally, Indian Housing and Living Conditions (Ottawa: Assembly of First Nations, 1987); Public Health Service, Chart Series Book (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1988).
17 Joseph Westermeyer, “The Drunken Indian: Myths and Realities,” Psychiatric Annals, No. 4, 1974; Joy Leland, Firewater Myths: North American Indian Drinking and Alcohol Addiction (New Brunswick. Rutgers University Center for Alcohol Studies No. 11, 1976); Frederick A. May, “The Epidemiology of Alcohol Abuse among American Indians: Mythical and Real Properties,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1994.
18 For surveys of findings, see the booklet entitled Alcoholism: An Inherited Disease (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Substance Abuse and Alcoholism, 1985) and the special 1987 issue of Progress in Clinical and Biological Research, edited by H. Warner Geode and Dharam P. Agrawal under the title “Genetics and Alcoholism.” On AA, see Charles Bufe, Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? (San Francisco: See Sharp Press, 1991). The extent to which this may be true is revealed in the interviews included by Brian Maracle in his Crazywater: Native Voices on Addiction and Recovery (New York, 1993).
19 See, e.g., Kirby A. Miller, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) pp. 112, 319-20, 506. Joan Weibel-Orlando, “Indians, Ethnicity, and Alcohol: Contrasting Perceptions of the Ethnic Self and Alcohol Use,” in Linda A. Bennett and Genevieve M. Ames, eds., The American Experience with Alcohol: Contrasting Cultural Perspectives (New York: Plenum, 1985) pp. 201-26.
20 Dennis Calahan, Understanding America’s Drinking Problem (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987) p. 31.
21 One can turn to rather conservative sources to find firm rebuttals of the genetic argument; see, e.g., Edward 0. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (New York: Vintage, 1998) p. 154. Also see Lillian Dyke, “Are North American Indians Biochemically More Susceptible to the Effects of Alcohol?” Native Studies Review, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1986; Herbert Fingarette, Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).
22 The word “normal” is used here not in the sense of meaning “okay” but “usual and predictable.”
23 Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1966) esp. pp. 206-51; Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967) esp. pp. 90-118.
24 Janet McDonnell, The Dispossession of the American Indian, 1887-1934 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991); Brian Slattery, The Land Rights of Indigenous Canadian Peoples (Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan Native Law Centre, 1979); Donald Purich, Our Land: Native Rights in Canada (Toronto: James Lorimer, 1986). The extension of “trust authority” by one nation over another on a sustained basis is the clinical definition of colonialism in international law; John Howard Clinebell and Jim Thompson, “Sovereignty and Self-Determination: The Rights of Native Americans Under International Law,” Buffalo Law Review, No. 27, 1978; Thomas Berger, “Native Rights and Self-Determination,” Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1983; A. Kienetz, “Decolonization in the North: Canada and the United States,” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1986.
25 Michael Garrity, “The US Colonial Empire is as Close as the Nearest Reservation,” in Holly Sklar, ed., Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Government (Boston: South End Press, 1980) pp. 238-60.
26 Teresa L. Amott and Julie A. Matthaei, Race, Gender and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States (Boston: South End Press, 1991) pp. 56-61.
27 Ibid. Also see Fred Wien, Rebuilding the Economic Base of Native Communities (Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1986); US Dept of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Service Population and Labor Force Estimates (Washington, DC: 101st Cong., 1st Sess., 1989).
28 On the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, for example, 88 percent of all housing units were found to be “substandard” in 1990, Strickland, Tonto’s Revenge, p. 53.
29 Rennard Strickland, “Indian Law and the Miner’s Canary: The Signs of Poison Gas,” Cleveland State Law Review, No. 39, 1991.
30 Fred Beauvais, “The Consequences of Drug and Alcohol Use for Native Youth,” American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1992; Roland Chrisjohn, Suicide and Aboriginal Peoples: Professional Sins (Toronto: Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention, 1996).
31 Raul Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe, 1944-1945 (New York: Harper Collins, 1992) pp. 170-2.
32 Donald Kenrick and Grattan Paxton, Gypsies under the Swastika (Hertfordshire, UK: University of Hertfordshire Press, (1995) p. 101.
33 Richard Grunberger, The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971) p. 89.
34 For a dated but still excellent examination of the mechanics by which this psychosocial process of transference is undertaken, see William Ryan, Blaming the Victim (New York: Vintage, 1971).
35 The classic articulation of this proposition will be found in Craig MacAndrew’s and Robert B. Edgerton’s Drunken Comportment: A Social Explanation (Chicago: Aldine, 1969). Also see Dwight B. Heath, Jack 0. Waddell and Martin Topper, eds., Cultural Factors in Alcohol Research and Treatment of Drinking Problems Journal of Substance Abuse, Supp. No. 9, 1981) and Mary Douglas, ed., Constructive Drinking: Perspectives on Drink from Anthropology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
36 For explication, the essay entitled “The Relativity of Privilege” in Albert Memmi, Racism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000) pp. 197-203.
37 This dynamic is explored rather thoroughly by Memmi in his Dominated Man (New York: Orion, 1968).
38 Francis E. Leupp, The Indian and His Problem (New York: Scribner\rquote s, 1910) p. 93. For background, see Frederick E. Hoxie, A Final Promise: The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880-1920 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985); J. Tobias, “Protection, Civilization, Assimilation: An Outline History of Canada’s Indian Policy,” Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 13, No. 3, 1976.
39 Quoted in E. Brian Titley, A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986) p. 50.
40 “Our Indian Schools,” Calgary Herald, Feb. 10, 1892.
41 Richard Henry Pratt, “The Advantages of Mingling Indians with Whites,” Proceedings and Addresses of the National Education Association, 1895 (Washington, DC: National Educational Association, 1895) pp. 761-2. On Pratt’s background, see his autobiography, Battlefield and Classroom: Four Decades with the American Indian, 1867-1904 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967 reprint of 1906 original).
42 Anonymous teacher to Deputy Minister of Education, Dec. 1, 1918; quoted in Fraser Symington, The Canadian Indian: The Illustrated History of the Great Tribes of Canada (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1968) p. 228.
43 For a voluminous selection of quotations drawn from the Canadian context, see J.R. Miller, Shingwauk’s Vision: The History of Residential Schools (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996). On the US, see, e.g., Michael C. Coleman, American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993); Estelle Fuchs and Robert Havighurst, To Live on This Earth: American Indian Education (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, [2nd ed.] 1983).
44 E. Brian Titley, “Red Deer Indian Industrial School: A Case Study of the History of Indian Education,” in Nick Kach and Kaz Mazurek, eds., Exploring Our Educational Past: Schooling in the Northwest Territories and Alberta (Calgary: Detselig, 1992) p. 55. The idea that students were “caught” is lifted from Nicholas Flood Davin, reputedly 19th century Canada’s foremost authority on Indian education; Nicholas F. Davin, Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Halfbreeds (Ottawa: Ministry of Indian Affairs, Mar. 14, 1879) p. 12.
45 “The children were awakened between five and six in the morning and went to bed between eight and nine at night. In between there was little time for recreation. The daily routine was much like a military school”; Margaret Connell Szasz, Education and the American Indian: The Road to Self- Determination Since 1928 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, [3rd ed.] 1999) p. 20.
46 Tuberculosis, for example, was present at a rate 6.5 times that evident among the general population. Trachoma also ran unchecked; Lewis Meriam, et al., The Problem of Indian Administration (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1928) p. 13; US Senate, Subcommittee of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Survey of Conditions of the Indians (Washington, DC: 70th Cong., 1st Sess, 1928) pp. 5,217. In the US, 35 cents per day was required to support each student, 11 cents spent; Meriam, et al., Problems of Indian Administration, p. 12. Also see Walter W. Woehlke, “Starving the Nation’s Wards,” Sunset, No. 61, Nov. 1928, p. 14. On comparable conditions in Canadian institutions, see, e.g., Roland Chrisjohn and Sherri Young with Michael Maraun, The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School Experience in Canada (Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 1997) p. 75; Carl Urion, “The Experience of Indian Residential Schooling,” Canadian Journal of Native Education, No. 18 (Supp.), 1991.
47 Documentation in this area is substantial. See, as examples, David Wallace Adams, “From Bullets to Boarding Schools: The Educational Assault on the American Indian Identity,” in Philip Weeks, ed., The American Indian Experience: A Profile (Arlington Heights, IL: Forum Press, 1988) pp. 218-39; Robert A. Trennert, Jr., The Phoenix Indian School: Forced Assimilation in Arizona (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988); Robert A. Trennert, Jr., “Corporal Punishment and the Politics of Indian Reform,” History of Education Quarterly, No. 29, Winter 1989; Elizabeth M. Furniss, Victims of Benevolence: Discipline and Death at the Williams Lake Indian Residential School, 1891-1920 (Williams Lake, BC: Cariboo Tribal Council, 1992); Assembly of First Nations, Breaking the Silence: An Interpretive Study of Residential School Impact and Healing as Illustrated by the Stories of First Nations Individuals (Ottawa: Assembly of First Nations, 1994); Chrisjohn and Young with Maraun, Circle Game, esp. pp. 26-39, 230.
48 Chrisjohn and Young with Maraun, Circle Game, pp. 31-3. Also see Isabelle Knockwood, Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi`kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Schubenacadie, Nova Scotia (Lockeport, NS: Roseway, 1992).
49 York, Dispossessed, pp. 28-32. According to a recent issue of the New York Times, the Anglican Church of Canada has claimed it would be bankrupted if it were compelled to pay damages to those students already proven to have suffered sexual abuse in its residential schools. The Catholic Church is in much the same position. For in-depth case studies, see Elizabeth M. Furniss, Conspiracy of Silence: The Case of the Native Students at St. Joseph’s Residential School, 1891-1920 (Williams Lake, BC: Cariboo Tribal Council, 1991; Roland Chrisjohn, et al., “Faith Misplaced: The Lasting Effects of Abuse on a First Nations Community,” Canadian Journal of Native Education, No. 18, 1991.
50 An especially poignant treatment will be found in Ingrid Adams’ “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack” Maclean’s, Feb. 1967. For additional details, see John S. Milloy, A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879-1986 (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999) pp. 142-6,152-3, 285-7.
51 David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995).
52 The best overall study of Cameron and MK-ULTRA is John Marks’ The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate”:The CIA and Mind Control (New York: Times Books, 1979).
53 See, e.g., Richard Korn, M.D., “Report on the Effects of Confinement in the Lexington High Security Unit,” excerpted in Ward Churchill and J.J. Vander Wall, eds., Cages of Steel: The Politics of Imprisonment in the United States (Washington, DC: Maisonneuve Press, 1992) pp. 123-7.
54 Francis Paul Prucha, The Churches and the Indian Schools, 1888-1912 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979); Charles E. Hendry, Beyond Traplines: Towards an Assessment of the Work of the Anglican Church of Canada and Canada’s Native Peoples (Toronto: Anglican Church of Canada, 1969); Thomas A. Lascelles, “Indian Residential Schools,” Canadian Catholic Review, 1992.
55 Linda R. Bull, “Indian Residential Schooling: A Native Perspective,” Canadian Journal of Native Education, No.18 (Supp.), 1991, p. 39; Knockwood, Out of the Depths, chap. 3.
56 Anglican Church of Canada, brief submitted to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Affairs (Nov. 8-9, 1993, p. 4),quoted in Chrisjohn and Young with Maraun, Circle Game, p. 46.
57 The phenomenon is by no means unique either to American Indians or to the residential school system. Rather it seems typical of all colonial settings; see Martin Carnoy, Education as Cultural Imperialism (New York: David McKay, 1974); Philip G. Altbach and Gail P. Kelly, eds., Education and the Colonial Experience (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1984). Of particular interest may be the “educational” objectives pursued by the English against the Irish: “The chief lesson to be learned by the school children was ignorance – not to say contempt – of Ireland and everything Irish, and reverence for England and everything English”; Miller, Immigrants and Exiles, p.75.
58 This sort of drooling insanity has deep roots in Christian tradition; see, e.g., Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980). Also see Miroslav Hroch and Anna Skybovi, Ecclesia Militans: The Inquisition (New York: Dorset Press, 1990); Carol F. Karlson, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York: Vintage, 1989); Anne Barstow, Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts (San Francisco: Pandora, 1994).
59 Roland Chrisjohn and Sherri Young, “Among School Children: Psychological Imperialism and the Residential School Experience in Canada,” included as Appendix E in Chrisjohn and Young with Maraun, Circle Game, pp. 237-49. Also see T. Gladwin and A. Saidin, Slaves of the White Myth: The Psychology of Neocolonialism (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1980); Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983).
60 At issue is the Ost Politik Plan of spring 1940, in which the nazis detailed their intent to reduce the Slavic population by some 30 million people, remove another 31 million so that their land could be “resettled” by Germans, and concentrating the balance on reservations where they would provide a ready pool of manual labor for their conquerors; Georgily A. Kumanev, “The German Occupation Regime on Occupied Territory in the USSR” in Michael Berenbaum, ed., A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis (New York: New York University Press, 1990) pp. 130-1. For complete details, see Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945: A Study of Occupation Policies (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1957). Titley, “Red Deer,” p. 55.
61 Hana Samek, The Blackfoot Confederacy, 1880-1920: A Comparative Study of Canadian and US Indian Policy (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991) p. 140. As SS leader Heinrich Himmler put it with respect to the Slavs, it was enough for them to be able to “count to 500, sign their names, and [believe] that the essence of God’s Law [was] to be subservient to the Germans”; quoted in Kumanev, “German Occupation,” p. 130.
62 Meriam, et al., Problem of Indian Administration, p. 13; Milloy, National Crime, pp. 169-71.
63 See, as examples, E. Brian Titley “Indian Industrial Schools in Western Canada,” in Nancy M. Sheehan, J. Donald Wilson and David C. Jones, eds., Schools in the West: Essays on Canadian Educational History (Calgary: Detselig, 1986); “Dunbow Indian Industrial School: An Oblate Experiment in Education,” Western Oblate Studies, No. 2, 1991; Jacqueline Gresko, “Everyday Life at Qu’Appelle Industrial School,” Western Oblate Studies, No. 2, 1991.
64 For a good case study, see Kenneth Coates, “‘Betwixt and Between’ : The Anglican Church and the Children of the Carcoss (Choutla) Residential School, 1911-1954,” BC Studies, No. 64, Winter 1984-85. Also see M. Hodgson, Impact of Residential Schools and Other Root Causes of Poor Mental Health (Edmonton: Nechi Institute on Alcohol and Drug Education, 1990). More broadly, see T. Gladwin and A. Saidin, Slaves of the White Myth: The Psychology of Neocolonialism (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1980).
65 Chrisjohn and Young with Maraun, Circle Game, p. 121; York, Dispossessed, p. 24. According to Szasz (Education and the American Indian, p. 18), the proportion in the US was only about one-third. She bases this only upon enrollment in a single year, 1928, however.
66 During World War 1, the traumatic effects of combat were referred to as “shell shock,” during World War II as “battle fatigue”; Abram Kardiner and Herbert Spiegel, The Traumatic Neuroses of War (New York: Hoeber, 1947). For more recent interpretations, see Herbert Hendin and Ann P. Haas, Wounds of War: The Psychological Aftermath of Combat in Vietnam (New York: Basic Books, 1984).
67 Robert Jay Lifton, “The Concept of the Survivor,” in Joel E. Dimsdale, ed., Survivors, Victim, and Perpetrators: Essays on the Nazi Holocaust (New York: Hemisphere, 1980) pp. 113-26; Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (New York: Basic Books, 12th ed., 1982). Also see Emmanuel Tanay, “Psychotherapy with Survivors of Nazi Persecution,” in Henry Krystal, ed., Massive Psychic Trauma (New York: International Universities Press, 1968).
68 Ann W. Burgess and Lynda Holmstrom, “Rape Trauma Syndrome,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 131, 1974; D.S.Rose, “‘Worse Than Death’ : Psychodynamics of Rape Victims and the Need for Psychotherapy,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 143, 1986; Richard Mollica, “The Trauma Story: Psychiatric Care for Refugee Survivors of Violence and Torture,” in Frank Ochberg, ed., Post-Traumatic Therapy and Victims of Violence (New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1988); L. Comas-Diaz and A. Padilla, “Countertransference in Working with Victims of Political Repression,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, No. 61, 1991; Y. Fischman, “Interacting with Trauma: Clinicians’ Responses to Treating Psychological Aftereffects of Political Repression,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, No. 61, 1991; Metin Basoglu, ed., Torture and Its Consequences: Current Treatment Approaches (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
69 Herbert Krystal, “Trauma and Effects,” Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, No. 33, 1978; A.H. Green, “Dimensions of Psychological Trauma in Abused Children,” Journal of the American Association of Child Psychiatry, No. 22, 1983.
70 Leonard Shengold, Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989).
71 Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery (New York: Basic Books, [2nd ed.] 1997) pp. 115-29. On the more “standard” form of PTSD, see B.L. Green, J.P. Wilson and J. D. Lindy, “Conceptualizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Psychosocial Framework,” in C.R. Figley, ed., Trauma and Its Wake, Vol. I (New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1985).
72 I use the term “Residential School Syndrome” with some trepidation, mindful of the critique advanced by Chrisjohn and his colleagues in The Circle Game (pp. 77-83). I believe, however, both that I employ the term in a manner avoiding the pitfalls described therein, and that it describes something real (which even they acknowledge at p. 81).
73 R.M. Scurfield, “Post-Trauma Stress Assessment and Treatment: Overview and Formulations,” in Figley, Trauma and Its Wake, pp. 219-56.
74 To be fair, it should be noted that the now discredited “good intentions” defense used to be standard with respect to several categories of child abusers; see Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983). For analogous polemics on behalf of rapists, see Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975) esp. pp. 283-308.
75 E. Bass and L. Davis, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (New York: Harper & Row, 1988); J.P. Wilson, Trauma, Transformation and Healing: An Integrative Approach to Theory, Research and Post-Traumatic Therapy (New York: Brunner/ Mazel, 1990).
76 D. A. Pollack, M. S. Rhodes and C. A. Boyle, et al., “Estimating the Number of Suicides Among Vietnam Veterans,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 147, 1990; Herbert Hendin and Ann P. Haas, “Suicide and Guilt as Manifestations of PTSD in Vietnam Combat Veterans,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 148, 1991.
77 See, e.g., Safiya Bukhari-Alston, “We Too Are Veterans: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders and the Black Panther Party,” The Black Panther, Feb. 1991.
78 Milloy, National Crime, p. 302.
79 Ibid., p. 301.
80 See, e.g., the apologist gush spewed by Szasz in Education and the American Indian.
81 For especially astute insights in this connection, see Jimmie Durham’s essay “Cowboys and…” in his A Certain Lack of Coherence: Writings on Art and Cultural Politics (London: Kala, 1993) pp. 170-86. This is certainly true of the public school system through which a majority of aboriginal youth are now “mainstreamed.” Unfortunately, it also seems more true than not of most reserve-situated day schools, including the “Indian-controlled” ones, through which the balance are processed. Educational “control” is doled out to Aboriginal Peoples as they “prove” themselves “worthy” by performing in a manner indistinguishable from what non- Aboriginals have been doing all along. Of course, when we are indistinguishable from our oppressors, we are our oppressors; Chrisjohn, Young and Maraun, Circle Game, p. 145.
82 See generally, the title essay in my Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema and the Colonization of American Indians (San Francisco: City Lights, [2nd ed.] 1998) pp. 177-224; Daniel Francis, The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture (Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992). It should be noted that the term “redskin” comes from a 1755 proclamation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony wherein a bounty was offered for proof of death of Indians in the form of their heads, scalps or “bloody red skins”; Susan Lobos and Steve Talbot, eds., Native American Voices: A Reader (New York: Longman, 1998) p. 176. For further analysis of the implications of the sports team mascot issue, see the essays “Let’s Spread the ‘Fun’ Around: The Issue of Sports Team Names and Mascots” and “In the Matter of Julius Streicher,” in my From a Native Son: Essays in Indigenism, 1985-1995 (Boston: South End Press, 1996) pp. 439-54. The term “squaw” derives from the Mohawk word for female genitalia; Barbara Alice Mann, Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas (New York: Peter Lang, 2000) p. 364. Used colloquially, as it is by the settler society, it is the equivalent of the English word “cunt.” On prevalence of the word’s current usage in place names, see Lobos and Talbot, Voices, p. 176.
83 Although a mass psychology of denial is at issue here, the amplifying effect upon the pathologies of trauma victims is in many ways comparable to those witnessed in instances where the denials of individual rapists, child molesters/abusers and wife batterers are treated as credible; see, e.g., Brownmiller, Against Our Will, pp. 228-34.
84 Analogously, see Ann W. Burgess and Lynda L Holmstrom, “Adaptive Strategies and Recovery from Rape,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 136, 1979; Joel Dimsdale, “The Coping Behavior of Nazi Concentration Camp Survivors,” in his Survivors, Victims, and Perpetrators, pp. 163-74; E. Kahana, B. Kahana, Z. Harel, et al., “Coping with Extreme Trauma,” in J. Wilson, Z Harel and B. Kahana, eds., Human Adaptation to Extreme Stress: From the Holocaust to Vietnam (New York: Plenum, 1988) pp. 55-80.
85 For an overview, see the essay entitled “The Tragedy and the Travesty: The Subversion of Indigenous Sovereignty in North America,” in my Struggle for the Land: Native North American Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide and Colonization (Winnipeg: Arbiter Ring, [2nd ed.] 1999) pp. 37-92.
86 The complete text will be found in Ian Brownlie, ed., Basic Documents on Human Rights (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, [3rd ed.] 1992) pp. 31-2.
87 Ibid., p. 31.
88 Jean-Paul Sartre, “On Genocide,” Ramparts, Feb. 1968. For critique, see Leo Kuper, Genocide (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981) pp. 44-6. It should be noted that while Kuper reacts almost viscerally to Sartre’s formulation, he ends up accepting its validity.
89 Brownlie, Documents, p. 32.
90 There is a burgeoning literature on this point. See, as examples, Pierre Vidal-Niquet, Assassins of Memory. Essays on the Denial of the Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992); Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: Free Press, 1993); Michael Shermer and Alex Grobmam Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
91 Explication will be found in Bradley F. Smith, Reaching Judgement at Nuremberg (New York: Basic Books, 1977).
92 See Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel, Incomparable Crime-Mass Extermination in the 20th Century: The Legacy of Guilt (London: Hinemann, 1967).
93 On the “Good German” thesis, see Eugene Davidson, The Trial of the Germans, 1945-1946 (New York: Macmillan, 1966) p. 7. On the comparable culpability of Euroamericans and Eurocanadians, see J. Sakai, Settlers: The Myth of the White Proletariat
(Chicago: Seeds Beneath the Snow, 1987).
94 Quoted in Bertrand Russell, War Crimes in Vietnam (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967) p. 125.
95 Text will be found in Burns H. Weston, Richard A. Falk and Anthony D\rquote Amato, eds., Basic Documents in International Law and World Order (St. Paul, MN: West, 1990) p. 140.
96 This is true in exactly the same sense that the personal consent and agreement of each citizen is unnecessary to bind all citizens to comply with given statutes within their country’s legal codes. Such codes, of course, are themselves required to conform at least in their generalities to the higher body of legal articulation embodied in international law. A country is no more entitled to self-exemption from the latter than is an individual citizen from the former. A time-honored principle of international customary law, it was invoked against the nazi defendants at Nuremberg. For further explanation, see Adam Roberts and Richard Guelff, eds., Documents on the Laws of War (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1982) pp. 5,10,16. More broadly, see Theodor Meron, Human Rights and Humanitarian Norm as Customary Law (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1989).
97 Bradley F. Smith, The Road to Nuremberg (New York: Basic Books, 1981). In 1986, the US formally repudiated the prerogatives of the International Court of Justice with respect to matters other than resolution of trade disputes, thereby becoming the only United Nations member-state to refuse ICJ jurisdiction; “US Terminates Acceptance of ICJ Compulsory Jurisdiction,” Department of State Bulletin, No. 86, Jan. 1986. In 1997, it followed up by rejecting jurisdiction of the incipient International Criminal Court; Phyllis Bennis, Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today’s UN (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2000) pp. 274-9.
98 Lawrence J. LeBlanc, The United States and the Genocide Convention (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991); text of the so-called Sovereignty Package included as Appendix C, pp. 253-4.
99 Among many others, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (1960), International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966), Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families (1990) are at issue; a more comprehensive itemization will be found in William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000) pp. 184-99. Most recently, the US refused to sign off on the 1994 Convention on the Rights of the Child on the basis that the law would impair its “sovereign right” to declare kids as young as 12 “adults” for purposes of criminal prosecution/punishment (including, theoretically, imposition of the death penalty); Bennis, Calling the Shots, pp. 280-1.
100 Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada: The Pacification of the North (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1973) pp. 21-4.
101 Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46.
102 McPherson’s preference seems to have been for the 7th College Edition of Webster’s Dictionary, although he quotes the OED and Shorter OED as well; Daishowa Inc. v. Friends of the Lubicon, Ontario Court of justice (Gen. Div.), File No. 95-CQ-59707, Verdict of Judge J. McPherson (Apr. 14,1998) p. 71.
103 Ibid., pp. 72, 76.
104 For further analysis, see the essay entitled “Last Stand at Lubicon Lake: Genocide and Ecocide in the Canadian North,” in my Struggle for the Land, esp. pp. 226-8.
105 See, e.g., Alan T. Davies, “The Queen Versus James Keegstra: Reflections on Christian Antisemitism in Canada,” American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, Vol. 9, Nos. 1-2, Jan-May 1988; Leonidas E. Hill, “The Trial of Ernst Zundel: Revisionism and the Law in Canada,” Simon Wiesenthal Annual, 1989. The term is Adolf Hitler’s; Norman Rich, Hitler’s War Aims: Ideology, the Nazi State, and the Course of Expansion (New York: W.W. Norton, 1973) p. 8, citing the 2-volume 1939 edition of Mein Kampf at pp. 403, 591. Also see Hitler’s Secret Book (New York: Grove Press, 1961) pp. 106-8.
106 Robert Jay Lifton and Eric Markusen, The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat (New York: Basic Books, 1990).
107 At issue here are attempts to recast offenses such as those embodied in forced assimilation policies as “ethnocide,” a presumptively different and lesser crime than genocide. This is mere semantic subterfuge. According to Raphael Lemkin, who coined both terms, they are synonyms; Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposal for Redress (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944) p. 79. A similar contrivance can be detected in dismissive observations that, “at worst,” the residential schools inflicted “only” cultural genocide upon native people, as if cultural were that less significant than physical or biological genocide. Be it noted that Lemkin, who devised all three classifications in the “Secretariat’s Draft” of the Genocide Convention he prepared in 1946, stated explicitly, repeatedly and emphatically that they were of equal significance and intended to carry the same weight in law; Morris Lippman, “The Drafting of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” Boston University Journal of International Law, No. 3, 1984.
108 Even in optimal circumstances – a decisive termination of the active source of trauma and a social environment facilitating potential recovery – there can be no realistic expectation that the aftershocks of traumatic damage ever completely dissipate; see W.W. Eaton, J.J. Sigal and M. Weinfeld, “Impairment in Holocaust Survivors after 33 Years: An Unbiased Community Sample,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 139, 1982, C.C. Tennant, K.G. Goulston and O.F. Dent, “The Psychological Effects of Being a Prisoner of War: Forty Years After Release,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 143, 1986.
109 C. Van Dyke, N.J. Zilberg and J.A. McKinnon, “PTSD: A 30-year Delay in a World War II Combat Veteran,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 142, 1985.
110 Kai T. Erikson, Everything in Its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976); J.L. Tichener and F.T. Kapp, “Family and Character Change at Buffalo Creek, American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 133, 1976; B.L. Green, J.D. Lindy, M.C. Grace, et al., “Buffalo Creek Survivors in the Second Decade: Stability of Stress Symptoms,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, No. 60, 1990.
111 There is a copious literature on this topic. See, as examples, J. Segal, E.J. Hunter and Z. Segal, “Universal Consequences of Captivity: Stress Reactions Among Divergent Populations of Prisoners of War and Their Families,” International Journal of Social Science, No. 28, 1976; Axel Russel, “Late Effects: Influence on the Children of a Concentration Camp Survivor,” in Dimsdale, Survivors, Victim, and Perpetrators; S. Haley,” The Vietnam Veteran and His Pre-School Child: Child-Rearing as a Delayed Stress in Combat Veterans,” Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, No. 41, 1983; Janice Bistritz, “Transgenerational Pathology in Families of Holocaust Survivors” and William Niederland, “The Clinical Aftereffects of the Holocaust in Survivors and Their Offspring,” in Randolph Braham, ed., The Psychological Perspectives of the Holocaust and Its Aftermath (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988); Norman Solkoff, “The Holocaust. Survivors and Their Children,” in Basoglu, Torture and Its Consequences; Yael Danieli, “Treating Survivors and Children of Survivors of the Nazi Holocaust” in Ochberg, Post-Traumatic Therapy, pp. 278-94.
112 See, e.g., Native Women’s Association of the Northwest Territories, Communications Strategy: Child Sexual Abuse in Residential Schools (Yellowknife, NWT: Native Women’s Association of the Northwest Territories, n.d.); Child Advocacy Project, New Justice for Indian Children (Winnipeg: Children’s Hospital, 1987).
113 First Nations Health Commission, Indian Residential School Study, Draft No. 4 (Ottawa: Assembly of First Nations, May 1992) p. 3. For further discussion of the transmissive principle articulated, see Rosalyn Ing, “The Effects of Residential Schools on Native Child Rearing Practices,” Canadian Journal of Native Education, No. 18 (Supp.), 1991.
114 For elaboration of symptomologies, see Herman, Trauma, esp. 122-9. Also see L.C. Kolb and L.R. Multipassi, “The Conditioned Emotional Response: A Subclass of Chronic and Delayed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Psychiatric Annals, No. 12, 1982; B.A. van der Kolk, R. Blitz, W. Burr, et al., “Nightmares and Trauma,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 141, 1984; E.A. Brett and R Ostroff, “Imagery in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: An Overview,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 142, 1985; T.M. Keane, R.T. Zimmering and J.M. Caddell, “A Behavioral Formulation of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Vietnam Veterans,” Behavior Therapist, No. 8, 1985; R.J. Ross, W.A. Ball, K.A. SuIlivan, et al., “Sleep Disturbance as the Hallmark of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 148, 1989; W. De Loos, “Psychosomatic Manifestations of Chronic PTSD,” in M.E. Wolf and A.D. Mosnaim., Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Etiology, Phenomenology, and Treatment (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1990) pp. 94-105; Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1990).
115 H.B. Lewis, Shame and Guilt in Neurosis (New York: International University Press, 1971).
116 This is in many respects straight out of Fanon, who concluded in Wretched of the Earth that violence of the sort at issue is an inherent and thus unavoidable byproduct of colonial relations. For analysis, see Hussein Abdilahi, Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression (New York: Plenum, 1985).
117 G.T. Hotaling and D.G. Sugarman, “An Analysis of Risk Markers in Husband-to-Wife Violence: The Current State of Knowledge,” Violence and Victims, No. 1, 1986; L.H. Bowker, M. Arbitel and J.R. McFerron, “On the Relationship Between Wife-Beating and Child Abuse” in K. Yllo and M. Bograd, Feminist Perspectives in Wife Abuse (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1988) pp. 158- 74; Steven Krugman, “Trauma in the Family: Perspectives on Intergenerational Transmission of Violence,” in Bessel A. van der Kolk, Psychological Trauma (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1987) pp. 127-52; K.A. Dodge, J.E, Bates and G.S. Pettit, “Mechanisms in the Cycle of Violence,\’94 Science, No. 250,1990.
118 A.H. Green, “Dimensions of Psychological Trauma in Abused Children,” Journal of the American Association of Child Psychiatry, No. 22, 1983; Judith L. Herman, Diana E.H. Russell and Karen Trocki, “Long-Term Effects of Incestuous Abuse in Childhood,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 143,1986; J.B. Bryer, B.A. Nelson, J.B. Miller and P.A. Krol, “Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse as Factors in Adult Psychiatric Illness,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 144, 1987; V.E. Pollack, J. Briere and L Schneider, et al., “Childhood Antecedents of Antisocial Behavior: Parental Alcoholism and Physical Abuse,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 147, 1990; Lenore C. Terr, “Childhood Traumas: An Overview and Outline,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 148, 1991. Additional background will be found in Lenore C. Terr, Too Scared to Cry: How Trauma Affects Children and Ultimately Us All (New York: Basic Books,1990).
119 R.M. Clark, The Forgotten Children (Toronto: Alcohol and Addiction Research Foundation, 1969); Charles Deutsch, Broken Bottles, Broken Dreams (New York: Teachers College Press, 1982); Judith S. Seixas and Geraldine Youcha, Children of Alcoholism: A Survivor’s Manual (New York: Harper Row, 1985).
120 Herman, Trauma, p. 101.
121 Ibid., pp. 102-3.
122 Mary Rogan, “Please Take Our Children Away,” New York Times Magazine, Mar. 4, 2001.
123 This has always been a mainstay of “conservative” settler discourse, and has over the past generation come to infest the rhetoric of liberalism as well. See the conversational and more formal snippets included in Chrisjohn and Young with Maraun, Circle Game, pp. 262-4.
124 Her two sisters by birth are Rhonda and Dawn, her three brothers, Mike, Byron and Ben. The eldest, Rhonda, was born seven years before Leah. Another girl, Krissy, was adopted by the family after Leah was grown and gone. Nonetheless, Leah was very clear that she considered Krissy her “little sister.”
125 On the Fort Francis School, see Milloy, National Crime, pp. 113, 240; J.R. Miller, Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996) pp. 175-6, 233, 303, 346, 353.
126 Although John has never been able to effect a reintegration of Ojibwe tradition into his life, he long ago reconciled with his people. His route to this end was to take a leading role in organizing a boycott during the mid-70s which resulted in Sabaskong Bay wresting control over their schools from Canada (his MA thesis was ultimately devoted to explaining the process). Having served a stint as Grand Chief of Treaty 3 during the early 1980s, he still works as an administrator in the educational system he helped create; York, Dispossessed, pp. 26, 282.
127 This is only partially true. Two of the children, Ben and Dawn, now in their mid-30s, still live in their parents’ basement. Rhonda also resides close at hand. Mike, Byron and Leah all left at very young ages, however.
128 One of the things that struck me early was that, whenever she’d call on the phone, Leah would identify herself in a tone blending hope and hesitancy in a way suggesting strong doubts that I – or anyone else – might actually want to hear from her.
129 This would sometimes work itself out in rages concerning the fact that I and others were doing what she imagined that John might like to have done.
130 It was never completely clear to me whether the physical violence was inflicted at home, elsewhere, or both. On several occasions, she did remark upon being “smacked around” by unnamed parties outside the family. One of the problems I’ve had in trying to reconstruct Leah’s early years is that she herself would/could provide only fragmentary glimpses. John honestly doesn’t recall a lot of what he might have done to whom, or exactly when. Beyond acknowledging that “there were things that happened in her childhood,” the rest of the family adopts a frozen silence on the matter. This is characteristic of those, including victims of RSS, suffering the effects of acute trauma; see Assembly of First Nations, Breaking the Silence; Emily Schatzow and Judith Herman, “Breaking Secrecy: Adult Survivors Disclose to Their Families,” Psychiatric Clinics of America, No. 12, 1989.
131 These are, of course, all classic stereotypes implanted in the residential schools and reinforced at every turn by settler discourse; see Assembly of First Nations, Breaking the Silence; Bull, “Residential Schools,” esp. pp. 40-1. One upshot for Leah was an abiding preoccupation with personal cleanliness. She usually changed socks and underwear twice a day, and washed her hands with astonishing frequency. At times I’d find her scrubbing herself so harshly that it appeared she was trying to remove her skin. Her explanation was that she was trying to rid herself of a “dingy” or “yellowish” tinge.
132 This behavior, often misleadingly characterized as “reverse racism,” is a predictable reaction of those most arbitrarily victimized by the “hierarchy of color” imposed by settler society. It exists to a greater or lesser extent in virtually every community of color in North America, and will undoubtedly continue to do so until the settlers’ system of white skin privilege is finally abolished. For a good background reading, see Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks: The Experiences of a Black Man in a White World (New York: Grove Press, 1967).
133 Leah was in almost continuous – one could say obsessive – need of reassurance about her appearance. After her death I discovered a small box of photos, including school pictures taken during her early grades. On some, the face has been scribbled out with a ballpoint. Another is disfigured with horns and a Hitler mustache. One bears the hand-printed caption, “Ugly, Ugly, Ugly!” Yet as photos of her attest, she was by no means unattractive.
134 John’s four brothers were also victims of the residential schools, where at least two were sexually abused. All five of “the Kelly boys” became serious alcoholics. One still is. A decisive majority of their children now suffer or are recovering from alcoholism, and several exhibit other forms of psychological damage. In one uncle’s family, two teenagers committed suicide in a single year and it is suspected that a third, killed in a car wreck died by his own hand as well. This simple and decidedly incomplete recitation doesn’t begin to convey the magnitude or quality of the senses of pain and loss swirling through this “really fucked-up family” (Leah’s words). Nor is their situation atypical.
135 To me, Leah mentioned only a single such incident, and only when she’d been drinking heavily. When I’d ask who had done this to her, she’d invariably look confused, and reply that it had been her “uncle.” When I’d ask which uncle, she’d either claim not to remember, or confirm any name I posed, responses causing me to question whether the incident had occurred at all. It turns out, however, that she told the whole story to a woman friend, also sexually abused as a child – and thus inspiring of a certain intimacy – who shared it with me after Leah’s death. The predator was not an actual relative, but nonetheless trusted enough to be viewed as “an uncle” by his victim. The psychological damage inflicted by his betrayal was thus to all intents and purposes the equivalent of what she described.
136 I doubt this is all there was to the incident, since it seems to have resulted in a particularly severe scarring. Leah recounted the story as I’ve recapitulated it here on at least a dozen occasions, often tearfully, during the six years we were together.
137 Leah once explained to me that the only reason she’d gone to Laval was because her “dad said it would be a good place to learn a ‘useful language,’ like French.” She was a quick study, picking up French in less than a year, and reasonable degrees of fluency in Spanish and German thereafter. With her own language, however, she was stymied, attributing her “block” to John’s marked disinterest in teaching her. Towards the end of her life she struggled valiantly to learn it anyway, spending at least an hour each day with tapes and flashcards she’d made, increasingly frustrated that there were no Ojibwe speakers in the Denver area with whom she could converse or even check pronunciations. It is noteworthy, I think, that an hour spent learning ten new words comprised her last sober moments.
138 These were mostly other waiters. One of them, Wendy Lewis, would become by far the most committed and longlasting friend in Leah’s life. They talked on the phone regularly the entire time Leah lived in Boulder, and whenever we were in Winnipeg there was always time spent with Wendy. More importantly, in some respects, she always made time for Leah when we were up there, and actually undertook the effort of visiting her down here. The importance of this last, from Leah’s frame of reference, cannot be overstated.
139 This was actually her second. She’d had the first during her stint at Laval. According to Leah, the pregnancy resulted from casual sex and the loss of the child was thus inconsequential. On the other hand, this version of events may well have been one of her many defensive covers, the sex casual only for her partner, and the abortion a reason she left Quebec so abruptly. Either way, the fact that she’d had it, and the Winnipeg abortion as well, induced a lingering anxiety about how her mom might react if she found out. In fact, Barb knew, but kept it to herself.
140 “Why am I always such a fool? They’re all laughing at me again. How is it possible for one person to be so stupid? Nothing ever works out for me. I wish I could just die.”
141 Again, this is not quite true. She kept certain things, among them a dinner service for two she very carefully packed away and placed in storage. I remember being struck by the depth of the yearning this signified when she ever-so-shyly brought them forth after coming to Boulder. I have them still: a nicely-matched set of blue plates, saucers and wine glasses, complete with candle holders, collected for a couple.
142 See van der Kolk, Blitz, and Burr, “Nightmares and Trauma.”
143 “Explosive or extremely uninhibited anger” is listed as an indicator of Complex PTSD; Herman, Trauma and Recovery, p.121.
144 “The survivor’s intimate relationships are driven by the need for protection and care and are haunted by the fear of abandonment or exploitation. In a quest for rescue, she may seek out powerful authority figures who seem to offer the promise of a special caretaking relationship… Inevitably, however, the person fails to live up to her fantastic expectations. When disappointed, she may furiously denigrate the person she so recently adored… In the mind of the survivor, even minor slights evoke past experiences of callous neglect and minor hurts evoke past experiences of deliberate cruelty. These distortions are not easily corrected by experience”; Herman, Trauma and Recovery, p. 111.
145 “Abused children [often] form symbiotic relationships as adults in order to avoid reexperiencing the anxieties and vulnerabilities of childhood… Feelings of helplessness, inadequacy, and low self-esteem drive them towards this symbiotic merging. Any disruption of the symbiosis causes rage. Any thought, feeling, or action that suggests autonomy is a reminder of separateness, which reawakens memories of trauma and renders the traumatized individual to experience intolerable feelings of abandonment and helplessness. In such relationships, violence serves to punish the other for being autonomous, while also allowing intense emotional contact and the fantasy of repairing the damaged bond”; Steven Krugman, “Trauma in the Family: Perspectives on the Intergenerational Transmission of Violence,” in van der Kolk, ed., Psychological Trauma, pp. 135-6.
146 She did to others, however, including my sister and several women who sought to befriend her. An especially noteworthy incident occurred during the winter of 1997, when I received a phone call from the manager of a stereo store explaining that she was there, very drunk, and I had told him I’d come pick her up. By the time I arrived, the police were there, and Leah was being questioned – not very successfully, from the look of it – in the parking lot. Upon seeing me pull up, and apparently deciding I’d make an excellent means of get-away, she hauled off and kicked a cop (being much dismayed when she was promptly wrestled to the ground and cuffed). It took me about 20 minutes to convince them not to charge her with assaulting an officer, in Colorado a felony carrying a potential 5-year prison sentence.
147 I’ve never been certain whether Leah genuinely believed this to be true, whether the idea merely served as a useful cover for things she was feeling or some combination. Both the woman and I – we’d had a momentary “thing” two years before I met Leah, subsequently becoming friends – went to great lengths to convince her that no “affair” existed (or ever really had). Leah remained unconvinced, however, or said she did, and acted out, presumably on that basis, for years. Although I eventually jettisoned the friendship altogether, in what proved a useless attempt to quell her fears, she was still worrying to her diary that I was attracted to the “other woman” during the last month of her life. Such “persistent distrust” is a characteristic of Complex PTSD. “In the aftermath of traumatic events, survivors doubt both others and themselves… The damage to the survivor’s faith and sense of community is particularly severe when the traumatic events themselves involve the betrayal of important relationships” at an early age; Herman, Trauma and Recovery, pp. 121, 53, 55.
148 Ibid., pp. 102-3. Overall, see Frank W. Putnam, Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder (New York: Guilford, 1989).
149 “There is overwhelming evidence that [Multiple Personality Disorder] results from child abuse”; Bessel van der Kolk, “The Psychological Consequences of Overwhelming Life Experiences,” in van der Kolk, ed., Psychological Trauma,pp. 6-7.
150 Shengold, Soul Murder, p. 26.
151 This, of course, indicates that she was actively visualizing these “others,” at least intermittently, during waking states. Such visualization is symptomatic of acute trauma/Complex PTSD; Brett and Ostroff, “Imagery in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”; Herman, Trauma and Recovery, p. 121.
152 Such scenes, repeated perhaps two dozen times, are burned indelibly into my memory. Leah always said precisely the same thing, in precisely the same tone, accompanied by precisely the same gestures.
153 On “alters,” see Herman, Trauma and Recovery, pp. 102-3; Sylvia Fraser, My Father’s House: A Memoir of Incest and Healing (New York: Harper & Row, 1987) pp. 220-1.
154 This is the standard AA line; see, e.g., Margaret Bean, “Alcoholics Anonymous Principles and Methods,” Psychiatric Annals, Feb. 1975.
155 We’ve entered an area of behavior where it is difficult to distinguish severe alcohol dependency in an anesthetic sense from efforts to use the substance as a means of achieving outright suicide; see, e.g., Shkilnyk, Poison Stronger Than Love, pp. 16-8.
156 To get the drift of what I thought I was doing, see Peter M. Miller, Behavioral Treatment of Alcoholism (New York: Pergamon, 1976).
157 For insight into my reasoning, see Andrew Polsky, The Rise of the Therapeutic State (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991). Although there are exceptions, and I’ve cited many of them herein, I tend to view psychiatrists as participants in a criminal enterprise, psychiatry itself as a Crime Against Humanity. Its longstanding position at the forefront of the eugenics movement, its habitual usage of human beings as test animals, its routine employment of techniques like psychosurgery and electroshock, as well as its core reliance upon psychotropics and other such drugs leaves me no alternative. See generally, Thomas Szasz, The Therapeutic State: Psychiatry in the Mirror of Current Events (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1984); Thomas Roder Volker Kubillus and Anthony Burwell, Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler (Los Angeles: Freedom Press, 1994); Stephan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). “Bipolar Disorder,” which was once and more instructively known as “Manic Depressive Psychosis,” has become the state-of-the-art catch-all term of the psychiatric vernacular.
158 Irvin Yalom, Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy (New York: Basic Books, 1989).
159 “70 percent of patients with an established diagnosis of multiple personality disorder also qualified for the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder”; Herman and van der Kolk, “Traumatic Antecedents,” p. 117. Also see Herman, Trauma and Recovery, p. 123. Letter to the Editor, American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 147, 1990, p. 1390.
160 A serious problem with this approach is that those suffering Complex PTSD accruing from childhood manifest a “disguised presentation” designed to protect the traumatic source. This renders them quite suggestible to anything that might conveniently serve as a cover. Leah’s case is a perfect example. A diary entry dating from the fall of 1996, when she first began to consume large amounts of alcohol, observes that, “My drinking is making my relationship with my husband crazy.” After a couple of weeks with the Centennial Peaks counselors during the spring of 2000, she noted in the diary that, “The craziness of my relationship with Ward makes me drink.” Nowhere in her assessment questionnaires was Leah asked a single question bearing on her childhood experiences (this is standard; Herman and van der Kolk, “Traumatic Antecedents,” (p. 116). One can only assume the counseling sessions followed suit. By implication, she was being led towards conclusions convenient for the therapist rather than probed as to the source of her problem. The effect – with BPD at least – can be to reinforce aspects of the problem itself.
Trauma “may produce long-lasting alteration in the regulation of endogenous opioids, which are natural substances having the same effects as opiates within the central nervous system.” If such organic chemical imbalances are detected by clinicians, and a patient’s background of trauma is not, the tendency is to attribute their malady to the imbalance rather than vice versa; Roger K. Pitman and van der Kolk, et al., “Naxoline Reversible Analgesic Response to Combat-Related Stimuli in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study,” Archives of General Psychiatry, No. 47,1990, pp. 541-7. The longterm organic chemical imbalances generated by protracted trauma and/or Complex PTSD are now believed to bring about physiological alterations of the brain structure. Should the deep traumatic source of imbalance go undetected in therapy – as is all but invariably the case with BPD – and abnormalities of the brain structure discovered during postmortem examination, the tendency is to treat the abnormality as the source of symptoms rather than the other way around. This, in turn, suggests – quite erroneously – a “genetic predisposition”; van der Kolk, “The Body Keeps Score: Approaches to the Psychobiology of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” in van der Kolk, A.C. MacFarlane and L. Weisbach, eds., Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind and Body (New York Guilford, 1996) pp. 214-41.
161 Herman and van der Kolk, “Traumatic Antecedents,” p. 114; quoting John G. Gunderson. Borderline Personality Disorder (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1984).
162 Herman and van der Kolk, “Traumatic Antecedents,” p. 118; citing, among other sources, M.H. Stone, “Borderline Syndrome: A Consideration of Subtypes and an Overview, Psychiatric Clinics of North America, No. 4, 1981; Judith L. Herman, “Histories of Violence in Outpatient Population,” American Journal of Ortho-psychiatry, No. 57, 1986. Also see M.C. Zanarini, J.G. Gunderson, M.F. Marino, et al., “Childhood Experiences of Borderline Patients,” Comprehensive Psychiatry, No. 30, 1989; Judith L. Herman, J. Perry and Bessel A. van der Kolk, “Childhood Trauma in Borderline Personality Disorder,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 146, 1989; S.N. Ogata, K.R. Silk, S. Goodrich, et al., “Childhood Sexual and Physical Abuse in Adult Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 151, 1990.
163 Herman and van der Kolk, “Traumatic Antecedents,” p. 119.
164 Ibid.; citing, among other sources, Henry Krystal, “Trauma and Its Affects,” Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, No. 33, 1978; Judith L. Herman, Father-Daughter Incest (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Trauma Response as a Biopsychosocial Entity in Long-Term Effects of Violence: Cross-Cultural Treatment and Research Issues in PTSD (Washington, DC: National Institutes of Health Monographs, 1986); and Yael Danieli, “The Treatment and Prevention of Long-Term Effects and Intergenerational Transmission of Victimization: A Lesson from Holocaust Survivors and Their Children,” in Figley, Trauma and Its Wake.
165 Szasz, Therapeutic State; Polsky, Rise of the Therapeutic State. Also see R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (New York: Ballantine, 1968); Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Against Therapy (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, [2nd ed.] 1994).
166 Even with Vietnam vets, where the systemic linkages to trauma cannot be denied, it is, – can be, and usually is – argued that victimization resulted from a “mistake,” since corrected – the war is over, after all – and that the system itself is sound. This is as opposed to the general, and entirely correct, recognition that what the nazis did they did for reasons of structural imperative, and that it is thus the nazi system itself which must be condemned; see generally, Hendin and Haas, Wounds of War.
167 Herman, Trauma and Recovery, pp. 122-6. Also see J.B. Bryer, B.A. Nelson, J.B. Miller and P.A. Krol, “Childhood Sexual and Physical Abuse as Factors in Adult Psychiatric Illness,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 144,1987.
168 Fish-Murray, Koby and van der Kolk, “Effects of Abuse,” pp. 102-3; Herman, Trauma and Recovery, pp. 101-7, 125; Otto Kernberg, “Borderline Personality Organization,” American Journal of Psychiatry, No. 15, 1967.
169 The painting, entitled “Rug Motif #9,” was the centerpiece of a group exhibition conducted in conjunction with American Indian Awareness Week at the University of Colorado, April 19-27, 2001. The show was dedicated to Leah’s memory.
170 Antabuse is contraindicated to alcohol in such a way as to induce nausea, headache, hot flashes and other unpleasant side effects when the latter is ingested in small amounts. When combined with large amounts of alcohol, it can be dangerous, sometimes fatal.
171 Sartre, “On Genocide”; Churchill, Little Matter of Genocide, pp. 416, 433, 441.
172 As examples, see Drinnon, Facing West; Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other (New York: Harper & Row, 1984); David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
173 Aspects of the problem are explored quite well by Noam Chomsky, albeit in another connection, in the essay “Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship,” included in his American Power and the New Mandarins (New York: Pantheon, 1967) pp. 23-158.
174 For elaboration, see Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Boston: South End Press, 1989); Michael Parenti, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the News Media (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993).
175 For a classic example of emphasis upon personal experience to the virtual exclusion of much-needed contextualization, see Basil H. Johnson, Indian School Days (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988).
176 Even the best and most beautifully-composed examples of the extant biographical/personal narrative literature – e.g., Rudy Wiebe and Yvonne Johnson, Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman (Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998) – fall about as far short of bringing out the objective conditions and processes shaping the context of their subjects’ lives as objective studies do in addressing more subjective considerations.
177 The point here is important insofar as one of the primary defensive strategies deployed by apologists for the status quo has been to privilege analytical individuation to the exclusion of group and systemic analyses; Rajeev Bhargava, Individualism in Social Science: Forms and Limits of a Methodology (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1992).
178 For treatment of a somewhat analogous context, see John Duffet, ed., Against the Crime of Silence: Proceedings of the International War Crimes Tribunal (New York: Clarion Books, 1970). More directly, see Assembly of First Nations, Breaking the Silence; Furniss, Conspiracy of Silence.
179 Chrisjohn and Young with Maraun, Circle Game, pp. 81, 255, 277.
180 This is the exactly the distinction made in behalf of combat veterans by Hendin and Haas in Wounds of War.
181 Had candor rather than silence been the behavioral norm among native people, or at least her family, things might well have worked out very differently for Leah. Presumably, the same holds true for many others; Schatzow and Herman, “Breaking Secrecy.”
182 “If it is sickness you seek don’t look for it in the victims of genocide; it resides in the minds and hearts of the people who planned, designed, implemented, and operated the machinery of genocide, and who now seek to cover it up. The ‘meaning’ of Indian Residential Schooling is not the pathology it may have created in some Aboriginal Peoples; it is the pathology it reveals in the ‘system of order’ giving rise to it”; Chrisjohn and Young with Maraun, Circle Game, pp. 80-1.
183 And not just with native people here. Settler elites all over the planet have recently taken to offering apologies to and calling for reconciliation with those they’ve ravaged, meanwhile making no move to relinquish either the privileges or the lion’s share of the spoils they obtained in the process. For a global survey, see Roy L Brooks, When Sorry Isn’t Enough: The Controversy Over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice (New York: New York University Press, 1999).
184 “Folk wisdom recognizes that forgiveness is divine. And even divine forgiveness, in most religious systems, is not unconditional. True forgiveness cannot be granted until the perpetrator has sought and earned it through confession, repentance and restitution. Genuine contrition in a perpetrator is a rare miracle”; Herman, Trauma and Recovery, p. 190.
185 There is presently a tendency among the more radical native intellectuals – for which I am myself in significant part responsible – to privilege the material at the expense or even to the exclusion of the psychological. This is just as dangerous as discounting material considerations in favor of primarily “therapeutic” remedies. Leah’s example offers proof positive that alterations in material circumstance alone are not sufficient. Much of the material in Wretched of the Earth is of course relevant to this point. More germane still is Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism (New York: Grove Press, 1967) esp. pp. 147-62. Also see Lewis R. Gordon, Fanon and the Crisis of Western Man: An Essay on Philosophy and the Social Sciences (New York: Routledge, 1995) esp. pp. 37-66.