‘The Knowing’ Has The Feel Of Propaganda

Canadian journalist Tanya Talaga has a new book coming out this summer called “The Knowing.” In this CBC report about it, Talaga is quoted as saying: “We have all heard of […]

Canadian journalist Tanya Talaga has a new book coming out this summer called “The Knowing.” In this CBC report about it, Talaga is quoted as saying: “We have all heard of someone who didn’t come home — this is The Knowing. It is Canada’s shame. If every Indigenous person looked for our missing family, found out what happened to them, we could change the narrative of the story of Canada. Family by family. Truth by truth.”

Okay, Tanya. Give us the list of names, besides your twice-married great-great-grandmother, Annie (nee Carpenter) Gauthier (1871-1937), who never went to a residential school.

Turns out there aren’t lists.

Turns out many who people claim went missing, were often willingly given over to a state-run home or committed by loved ones, to an institution for care, likely the case for Tanya’s great-great-grandmother, as their health or mental condition was such that the family could not care for them. This was very common practice in North America well into the 1970s, until broader community social services were developed to help such vulnerable people live safely in their homes or independently in their communities.

The only shame about it is that at the time people with disabilities, disease, dementia (often caused by Tuberculosis) were societal outcasts. A further shame is that no one today is grateful that the state cared for their loved ones, when the family could not.

This is the case for several of the children cited in “Sacred Responsibility,” Kimberly Murray’s interim report on missing children.

Marieyvonne Alaka Ukaliannuk would be a typical example of a child who ended up in care of the state for similar reasons to that of Tanya Talaga’s great great-grandmother… Too great a burden for the family.

There are many people who, decades later, “have a knowing” and say they had family members who “never came home” and a nefarious end has been ascribed to their absence.  Decades later! Only now you “know?”

Nina Green in an independent researcher who offers detailed information from the archives on her Indian Residential School Records website. In dozens of cases that Nina Green has researched about Indian Residential Schools, she found death certificates showing that the parent or guardian signed off and the child’s body was typically sent home for burial on reserve. Subsequent generations have just forgotten about them. That’s how they became ‘missing.’

“Every Indigenous family shares part of the same story. We all have been touched by Indian Residential Schools, Indian Day Schools, Indian Hospitals and sanitariums — we’ve had family, community members or friends who were taken away or forced to attend,” said Talaga in an email to CBC.

The cover of Talaga’s new book shows the painting by Kent Monkman of a collection of RCMP officers and nuns and priests dragging children from the arms of anguished mothers, one native man laying flat out on the ground, presumably knocked out in the battle.

How do we square this modern, incendiary interpretation with the historical evidence of dozens of admission forms, signed by parents, months in advance, showing that they wanted their children to learn the skills necessary for the ‘just transition’ to the new economy and mainstream society languages of English or French?

“Forced to attend” has become the basis for the claim of a Canadian indigenous genocide because it is one of the elements that formed the post WWII genocide convention definition: Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Yet the use of “forced to attend” falls apart when applied to Canadian Indian Residential School history.

The children were enrolled by their parents at age seven or higher, according to historical records. They had a medical examination, and many children were rejected due to signs of active tuberculosis, like Michel Red Crow in 1904, a relative of today’s Leah Red Crow of Blue Quills First Nation (formerly known as Saddle Lake). The evidence of the death certificates and related documentation destroys the claims of a nefarious or clandestine end.

The relevant documents in the Library and Archives Canada School Files Series microfilms are available here.

Nina Green’s research below offers a specific and important example showing that the claim that 150,000 children were ‘ripped from their parents’ arms’ and forced to attend federally-funded Indian residential schools is a recently-invented myth, one which assumes that Indigenous parents had no agency or foresight for their children’s future.

Mildred and her husband Gus Gottfriedson raised a family of twelve children and several foster children. In 1964, she was named Mother of the Year and in 1977 was awarded the Order of Canada.

According to this short video about her daughter Muriel Sasakamoose, and according to testimony from her son Garry Gottfriedson, Mildred Gottfriedson simply decided that her children were going to attend public schools in Kamloops in the 1940s.

And they did. All of them.

The quarterly returns for the Kamloops Indian Residential School for the years 1943-1952 show no Gottfriedson children enrolled at the Kamloops Indian Residential School apart from Frank Gottfriedson, Register #740, who was enrolled in September 1943 at the age of seven, but was discharged a few months later.

Mildred Gottfriedson then enrolled Frank in Stuart Wood Elementary School in downtown Kamloops. Class photos show him in Miss Ross’s Grade 3 class in the 1945-1946 school year, in a split Grade 3-4 class in 1946-1947, and in Miss Diveen’s split Grade 4-5 class in the 1947-1948 school year.

Mildred’s son Robert Gottfriedson, later a professional rodeo rider, also received all his education in Kamloops public schools, a fact which was considered worthy of mention in his 1991 obituary in the Calgary Herald:

“Bob was the first native Indian, along with his sister, to attend a public school in Kamloops, subsequently receiving all his education in the school system.”

And as she explains in the video mentioned above, Mildred’s daughter Muriel also went to public school, enrolling at Stuart Wood Elementary at the age of eight, and graduating from Kamloops High School in 1959.  Muriel married Peter Sasakamoose, brother of NHL hockey player, Fred Sasakamoose and, like her mother, went on to a life filled with accomplishments.  In April of this year she was awarded an honorary degree from Thompson Rivers University.

In a letter to the editor of Kamloops This Week on 8 June 2016, a friend of Muriel’s and a fellow student at Stuart Wood Elementary recalled the Gottfriedson children walking to school from the reserve across the river:

‘Ripped from their parents’ arms’ and forced to attend residential school?  Obviously not.

The claim that 150,000 children were forced to attend federally-funded Indian residential schools is a myth, as this and thousands of other examples establish. Yet, Canadian taxpayers have paid out billions in compensation based on this heinous, false mythology.

Truth by truth, the myth of “The Knowing” falls apart.

First published in the Western Standard here.


Writers Michelle Stirling and Nina Green have researched many aspects of the Canadian residential school narrative.

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