Before We Talk About The Indigenous And Alcohol
Examining The Assumptions And “Narrative Truth” Of Substance Abuse On Canadian Indigenous Reserves
To some new friends, I have committed myself to write a deep dive essay on the issue of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and substance abuse - specifically, to write about things like the disproportionate level of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), more commonly known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), and alcohol related abuse, occurring on many Canadian reserves. For a number of reasons I have found the subject too large to tackle in a single essay. So I have settled on crafting a proper series approaching the topic from various angles that I’ve determined to be at least interesting, if not revealing of those tricky hidden mechanisms that operate to confound the truth. There are far too many questions not being asked, and for this reason my examination begins with questions.
My first set of questions are the ones that could lead the introductions to everything I write on the topic of wokeism: Are we ok with media reports and academic papers consisting of woke language and assumptions? Are we ok with lawmakers and the general public not noticing language tricks that, in fairness, seem designed to obfuscate? Are we able to tell the difference between a person, study, or article that uses regular language, albeit academic language and often jargon specific to various disciplines, and a person, study, or article that uses the language of woke postmodern identity politics?
This particular series of questions leads one, as it did me, to also ask: why are many regular people taking up this woke language (possibly without realizing it and often with good intentions) and the diverse array of woke assumptions that go with it? Are people incorporating woke-speak in their regular discourse believing that they are in line with a new morality that at long last recognizes and supports the historically oppressed? Maybe. A less generous interpretation sees much of wokeism as vacuous “do-gooding” and virtue signalling.
The language used by academics eventually bleeds out into society, which is fine, except woke ideological language has baggage in the form of a hardwired intolerance and totalitarian tendency that will not allow peaceful co-existence with opposing schools of thought. But my purpose here is to discuss the Indigenous and substance abuse. That being the case, should I not also extend my inquiry to include the generally held perceptions of this relationship? After all, many common perceptions are formed through woke language and assumptions. But to understand the actual truth that exists beyond public perception requires recognizing not only that there is an objective truth, but that it exists outside of what, for our purpose here, I will call “narrative truth” or woke truth.
As the name implies, narrative truth is a version of events that is generally accepted as true regardless of its actual adherence to veracity. A perceived but untruthful alternative universe can be accepted as narrative truth. Reality is not a prerequisite. Ideological political interests, which subvert through emotional manipulation and other coercive tactics drive narrative truth —not facts.
The woke excuse the manipulation of truth as being an essential service to a greater good. Though they might not be well-versed in postmodern philosophy, they also generally accept the ideas of repressive tolerance laid out by 1960s postmodernist Herbert Marcuse, where it is thought that suppressing voices from the political right is acceptable and even desirable as it is conceived to be the silencing of evil. Indeed, the ends justify the means for today’s ideologues: silencing and canceling those that disagree are common tactics deployed in their ongoing revolutionary work dismantling the oppressive systems of western society.
The studies on fetal alcohol syndrome that I have so far reviewed (in no way exhaustively) appear to be captured by ideological advocacy — it is evident by the language they use and the assumptions that permeate. It is difficult to distinguish between what is rigorous research, and what is politically motivated. Because language is central to the encroachment of wokeism, it is necessary to linger on these points before we move on to the core focus, that of the devastating effects of substance abuse on Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
What has been described as a highly undemocratic political movement, as seen in the capture of institutions from within by woke advocates, is driven by language. Charles Pincourt’s book “Counter Wokecraft” does an excellent and concise job of explaining the coded language of the woke and the many rhetorical tactics they deploy. It is through obfuscation and confounding language games that the woke make many of their gains.
What does woke language and assumptions on the topic of substance abuse and Canada’s Indigenous look like?
Woke assumptions come in various forms, namely using postcolonial and relativist frameworks. Postcolonial theory is a set of ahistorical assumptions used as a means of exaggerating past wrongs and oppressions committed by Europeans. Relativism is an assumptive world of “individual truths,” where storytelling is prioritized over objective sense making and is said to be representative of diverse and inclusive perspectives and therefore somehow better. Thousands of people telling their stories of individual truths is useful to activists who collect multiple accounts of only those that reinforce their ideological beliefs and mission, but as a means of uncovering objective truth, subjective storytelling has limited utility.
Other assumptions revolve around the concepts of harm and violence. Here the woke will try to convince us that words are violence. Or that the lack of words — the failure to use someone's correct pronouns or to speak as an exemplary ally, for example — can amount to serious perceived harm (as in silence is violence).
Perhaps one of the most disturbing assumptions found riddled throughout woke scholarship is the deferral of blame away from anyone perceived as holding victim status, and redirected upward through the intersectional hierarchy toward the usual European colonizer suspects. It is to commit the ultimate taboo to suggest that Indigenous mothers who abuse alcohol during pregnancy are in any way responsible for their child's fetal alcohol syndrome. The paper I’m reading currently is making its best case for shifting that blame to Indian Residential Schools (IRS). This is typical of woke anti-racism as well — where any and all disparities in social or education outcomes are determined to be the result of antipathy. Intelligence researchers, like James Flynn, paid a big price for pointing out that at least some of the responsibility of negative education outcomes is due to the study habits indicative of the subcultures of those groups performing the poorest.
From a section of a 2003 study by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Alcohol Related Birth Effects (ARBE):
Although no research studies exist that specifically examine the ways in which residential school experiences contributed to current rates of FAS/ARBEs among Aboriginal people, this report concludes that the residential school system contributed to high rates of alcohol abuse among those who previously attended the schools and among significant numbers of parents and community members who had their children removed from their care because of the school system.
The above statement includes historical revision, falsehood, omission and contradiction. It is illogical. But the illogicality is hidden inside the well established assumptions that now make up the common conception of the Indigenous Residential School system due to aggressive and sustained woke advocacy.
Let's examine it more closely. Claiming children were removed from the care of families because of the school system, or that IRSs caused high rates of alcohol abuse in communities where children were removed is a gross revision of history. The truth is that the school system most often removed kids from homes where alcohol was being abused and children were being neglected. If many former IRS students went on to become alcohol abusers, how can IRS be blamed for this without mentioning these children came from families that also abused alcohol?
A fact, according to the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but seemingly lost to the general public in Canada, is that - “From the 1940s onwards, residential schools increasingly served as orphanages and child-welfare facilities. By 1960, the federal government estimated that 50% of the children in residential schools were there for child-welfare reasons.”1
By many accounts, including that of retired judge Brian Geisbrecht, it was common for Indigenous parents to tell their children (or allow them to believe) that it was the fault of the system for making them attend residential school. Not that of the parents' alcoholism and neglect. The issue was, and is, in taking personal responsibility, or at least in claiming one's rightful share of it. Wokeness is a state of mind. It's a victim mentality that has been around much longer than we’ve been using “woke” to describe it. At its core is a narcissistic tendency to blame others and avoid accountability at all costs.
The CBC has been covering the story of Debbie Paul, an Indigenous woman who had attended the Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia in the 1960s for 5 years and afterwards was sent to stay with an American family for one year. Why this happened is unclear. However, the CBC and Debbie Paul seem to have left out some important details regarding Debbie’s story.
Debbie Paul claims she was taken by a nun on the last day of school to an American city to live with the Nuns brother and family for one year. The CBC assists Debbie Paul in tracking down the records they believe will prove Debbie’s story. They find evidence that Debbie was indeed enrolled in an American elementary school and under the care of the people she claimed. Although, the CBC characterizes Debbie’s story in such a way as to place the blame for Debbie’s circumstances and experiences squarely on the Canadian government (just another example of the terrible abuse and injustice many Indigenous children experienced at IRS and as a consequence of the “sixties scoop”). However, previously, in 2015, Debbie Paul was interviewed at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission event2 in Nova Scotia and the following was reported - “Paul said her mother had four children before she married. When she did marry, the step-father promptly announced that ‘he didn’t want her bastards.’ Paul and her younger sister went to the residential school, an older sister was sent to live with relatives in Eskasoni and another sister went to live with a family in Indian Brook.”
When the CBC published pieces3 on Debbie Paul’s story in 2022 there was no mention of Debbie’s step father and his wish for Debbie’s mother to abandon her into the systems the Canadian government had available at the time, able to deal with such issues. The truth appears to be that Debbie Paul and her sisters were not wanted by their mother. In this case, the IRS system and the year spent with the white American family were both part of an attempt to help an abandoned child.
Both Debbie Paul and the CBC do not see it that way. They are pretending that Debbie’s previous comments don’t exist. Debbie is looking for compensation from the governments Sixties Scoop Class Action Settlement agreement. She claims she is one of the children of the “sixties scoop” who were separated from their families and assigned to live in foster care. But children who were abandoned (or needed to be removed from abusive or neglectful situations) were rescued by the “sixties scoop” initiative, not victims of it. The truth is Debbie is a victim of abandonment by her family. It is an incredibly sad story, and I can’t help myself from thinking that we should just give this nice old lady the money she is looking for (Debbie Paul did suffer as a child). But who is to blame? And what of a non-Indigenous person who may have been abandoned as a child and subjected to the unloving systems of institutional child welfare? Does that person get compensation for the suffering they endured?
Debbie Paul’s case does not meet the criteria for the “sixties scoop” settlement agreement. An outcome that seems at odds with what most Canadians generally accept as narrative truth around Indigenous issues. The CBC and Debbie do not mention Debbie’s mother and step father. I think it is fair to assume they want the blame relayed to the Canadian government. Understandably, the potential for compensation seems to prevent many with a chance of receiving it from being able to consider and accept the truth of their circumstances. The relativism found throughout the postmodern infrastructure pervading our psychic lives encourages Debbie’s misplaced hopes.
Another example of blame and avoidance of personal responsibility can be found in the book Alcohol Problems in Native America (2006) by Don L. Coyhis and William L. White. In the forward to the book an explanation for Indigenous alcohol abuse is given. Here is the first paragraph:
“We want to begin with a simple proposition - the proposition that the character of the Indian people has been deformed by the sustained assault on Native cultures. To take our lands, non-native people have had to convince us of something other than what we were. To kill our ancestors and take our lands, they had to define us as something less than human. To colonize or exterminate a people, you must first define them as a weed. You must transform them from a person to pestilence. Once objectified, they can be killed without thought or remorse. But this process is even more insidious. The ultimate evil inflicted on Indian people was teaching us to hate ourselves so deeply as a people that we began killing ourselves and killing each other.”
It appears to me that the above falsehoods and exaggerations are intended to shift blame and avoid accountability. I’m not saying Europeans are blameless; woke advocacy says the Indigenous are blameless. Clearly the truth is somewhere in the middle.
The forward goes on to tell “A Story About Chickens And Eagles,” in which a farmer encounters two abandoned baby eagles in the forest. Not knowing what to do, he brings the baby eagles back to his farm and puts them in the chicken coop with the rest of the chickens. The two eagles grow up thinking they are chickens. One day one notices something and mentions to the other - “you know, we’re different. We don’t look like them.” After some protesting, the passage of a little time, further back and forth exchange between the imposter chicken eagles, and finally a fateful meeting one day in the forest between one of the eagles and a wise old owl, the truth is revealed.
To summarize, the wise owl shows the eagles that they are in fact eagles by taking them on his back high up into the sky and dropping them. Upon their rapid descent back to earth, the owl flies down and convinces them to spread their wings. Once they do, they begin to soar.
The authors explain that they heard this story some time ago and it had strongly affected them. They then explain, “Except when you write grants and other things, because you have to do those things in chicken language. We’ve learned that we have to do that. But we can’t forget, we’re not chickens. We’re eagles.”
While not always out front and on the surface, there is a well established unwritten woke rule that, as Barbara Kay put it in her book Acknowledgments, “the rights of cultures trump the achievements of civilization.” This often manifests in a sense of superiority felt by some people of non-European cultures, over “oppressive white colonizers.” If you view Europeans as nothing more than evil colonizers, I’d say it's a fair bet you think you are superior to them. In the above example the European settlers are just lowly chickens pecking around on the ground, tricking the majestic eagles into believing that they are also lowly grub-pecking ground dwellers, and holding them back from realizing their true nature to soar through the skies, far above those dishonest chickens (who the eagles will presumably continue to write grant applications in chicken language, looking for financing so more dishonest and racist slander against European people can be produced in similarly barely veiled fashion).
So far I’ve just scratched the surface. I will continue digging deeper and report back on my discoveries as I go. As always, thank you for reading.
N.S. School Survivors Unimpressed With Report by Francis Campbell & Truro Bureau - http://nova0000scotia.blogspot.com/2015/06/canada-military-news-idle-no-more-its.html
Burden of proof: After the residential school in Nova Scotia closed in the late ‘60s, Debbie Paul was kidnapped by a nun and brought to a white family in the U.S. She always told people this, but was missing the evidence. Until now.
'The door's been slammed shut on me': Sixties Scoop survivor from N.S. denied compensation